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Tell it like it is

Tell it like it is

By Manisha Kadagathur

Explore the concepts of purpose, performance, and reward through the lens of the guests with Manisha Kadagathur, management consultant and entrepreneur. Each week, I will bring you stories of their journeys and fill in the missing lines in ways we can all use to do more and feel better in our lives.

Read full interview transcripts at: and catch trailers to future episodes.

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Women at work in India

Tell it like it isFeb 16, 2021

Women at work in India

Women at work in India

Today’s episode is the third in our series on women’s participation in the workforce in India. Every year, class XII grades show girls outperforming boys in science subjects. A McKinsey study, shows that in India women make up 43% of those graduating but only 25% of those in entry level jobs. That is a huge drop. There are many explanations including marriage, childbirth, care for elders, being the trailing spouse, safety, and all of this compounds as you go higher in the career ladder. The burden of childcare and elder care almost entirely falls on women. The effect shows on the labor participation rate. At an effective 11% participation in manufacturing and services, we trail many mature and emerging countries. 

For some time now, I’ve brought you individual stories of guests with outsized abilities and wisdom. So, in a break from tradition, today, I bring you a panel discussion with 3 leaders, who have the unique distinction of being able to shape the participation of women at work in India and with a different perspective and background. Joining me are Hema Hattangady, former CEO of Conzerv, an Indian family-owned enterprise acquired by Schneider Electric, who sits on the board of multiple companies and an alumnus of IIM Calcutta, Dr. Murali Padmanabhan, Senior VP for Global Talent & OD at Virtusa, leadership coach and a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Hyderabad and Shonalie Gupta, Senior Director Organization Development at Indegene, diversity and inclusion coach and an alumnus of XLRI, Jamshedpur.  

In this episode, we discuss awareness of India’s dismal female participation, societal stereotypes, and challenges. But that is not all. We go further and give you practical, tested, tips and ideas on how to have the conversation around increasing female labor participation, beginning with small changes at an individual level to large scale organization impact. To cap it off, each of the panelists include their wish list of how they see corporate India 20 years from now. Go on, grab a cuppa joe, a note pad and tune in. 

Read a transcript of this interview at: 

Recommended reading:  

Feb 16, 202158:02
Bring back the midwife

Bring back the midwife

One of the reasons women drop out of the workforce is childbirth. Troubling as that is, even today, many women lose their lives during pregnancy and childbirth. A key indicator of maternal mortality is the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR). Recently, the Government of India published MMR for 2016-18 which stood at 113. To put this into context, the target 3.1 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by United Nations aims at reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births. So, what can be done? Countries like Canada, Sri Lanka and the UK have combated MMR by introducing trained midwives into the process, vital to the care and delivery of low-risk pregnant women. It is important to mention here that about 75% of all pregnant women fall in the low-risk category and it is the 25% cases that are complicated and require an obstetrician’s attention. With over 25 million children born every year in India, and only 86,000 professionally trained midwives, there is a huge gap. 

This episode focuses on maternal mortality and helping women enjoy motherhood without the inherent risks of childbirth through a simple, effective, and forgotten method. My guest is Dr. Evita Fernandez, Chairperson-Fernandez Foundation, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She is the recipient of The Lifetime Achievement in Healthcare Award by FICCI, Hyderabad, besides other awards. In 2017, the Government of Telangana felicitated her for rendering exemplary services in the Field of Medicine. In 2011, she introduced a Professional Midwifery Education and Training Programme, committed to creating a national cadre of professional midwives. I caught up with her to understand how midwifery could be the solution to helping millions of women enjoy childbirth and have agency over their own bodies.

Contact Fernandez Foundation:

Read a transcript of this interview at:

Recommended reading:

1. Woman centred care: Has the definition been morphing of late? Elizabeth Rigg & Hannah Grace Dahlen

2. WHO: The case for midwifery

Feb 04, 202137:29
Voice for Girls

Voice for Girls

India ranks pretty low in female labor participation. In 2019, female labor participation stood at a meagre 27% in comparison to China’s female labor participation at 60%. In India, over 60% of those who are employed are in agriculture, resulting effectively, in 11% female labor participation in services and manufacturing. It is well understood that if we are to go grow as a nation, then we need more women at the workplace. Prima facie, this should be easy, given our female to male ratio. Per the United Nations, women make up 48.04% of the population. However, in reality, getting women to participate in the formal workforce is far from easy. Especially since a large section of women are ill equipped with the basic skills and do not possess a high school degree. Why is that? This is so because a large number of girls simply drop out of school when they hit puberty, acerbated by unique socio-cultural stereotypes.

My guest today is Anusha Bharadwaj, Executive Director of Voice4Girls, a social enterprise working with marginalized adolescent girls in rural Telangana and  Andhra with a vision to educate and empower girls against violence and inequality. In our free-wheeling conversation, we touch upon many topics and taboos that are entrenched in our society, gender inequality, stereotypes, violence, early marriage and how keeping adolescent girls in school through high school might just be the way to increasing their participation in the workforce of the future.

Contact Voice4Girls

Read a transcript of this interview at:

Jan 21, 202136:22
Autonomous Vehicles
Jan 14, 202137:28
Trailer - Season 5

Trailer - Season 5

Join me, Manisha Kadagathur, as we return with a brand new season and more stories of phenomenal ideas and committed guests. This season we have stories on innovation, grit, gumption and the role of serendipity, and our stories take us crisscrossing across India from Shillong in the North East to Hyderabad and Bangalore in the South. So, join us for new stories, new inspiration, and hope.

Jan 13, 202101:59
Nai Talim

Nai Talim

For billions of children across the world, schooling and education has taken a new meaning. Bedrooms, kitchen counters, dining tables, a mat on the floor became the new classroom and the noise around EdTech rose to a crescendo. Amidst the din, it is easy to forget that in 1937, Gandhiji conceptualised Nai Talim, an alternate philosophy of education which states that work and knowledge are not separate. The three pillars of Gandhiji's pedagogy were it's focus on the lifelong character of education, it's social character, and it's form as a holistic process. I caught up with Sushama Sharma, the principal of Anand Niketan (a Nai Talim school) in Sewagram in Wardha District of Maharashtra. She is a Gandhian, farmer and activist who strongly believes that sustainability is the way forward. In our conversation, we spoke of what Nai Talim means today, how an alternate education philosophy creates impact, and why consumerism as a lifestyle is unsustainable. She shares exciting snippets of her personal journey so find a comfortable spot to look out the window and partake of an alternate possibility while the soundtrack of your own life plays in the background.

Dec 18, 202037:35


We can choose to stay away from politics, but politics will not stay away from us. Those are the prophetic words from Srikanth Narsimhan, the co-founder and general secretary of Bengaluru NavaNirmana Party (BNP). In an earlier episode on housing societies during the Covid-19 lockdown, a management committee member told me that in a housing society, “Everybody is a CEO”. Listen to that episode here. With egos that large, getting anyone to coalesce takes a lot of energy and time. That’s where Srikanth had his first brush with public service bringing together 1000 housing societies representing 6 lac residents to band together.  Previously, he worked in companies like ICICI Venture, E&Y and Tata Motors. He is an engineer from BITS, Pilani and a management graduate from IIM, Bangalore. Today, it is Bangalore that his heart bleeds for. How did that happen? Why did he float a political party? Join me as I find out more.

Cameo: Pankaj Chopra

Dec 03, 202036:17
Relationship Builder

Relationship Builder

Join me, Manisha Kadagathur, as I chat with Arun D’Silva, co-founder & CEO of Retail Interface Pvt Ltd and the India brand representative for Frederique Constant among other luxury watches. 

Getting fired from your job finds you at a momentous fork in your life that leads you down one of two paths – you can either let that moment define the rest of your life, turn bitter and make bad decisions one after the other or you can see it for what it is and move on. Arun D’Silva’s story begins there. From that fork in the road, Arun went on to build one of India’s largest and best-known luxury retail businesses. How did that happen? What choices did he make? How did he get over the trauma? Today’s fantastic story explores all that and more.

Nov 26, 202035:06
All Heart

All Heart

Today’s story is all heart. It is the wonderful and sweet story of Pavitra Chalam, an award-winning documentary film maker and founder of Curley Street Media with a master’s degree in film making from New York Film Academy. Seven years ago, Pavitra became obsessed with telling the story of Baby Roona Begum, a child born with hydrocephalus, a birth defect caused by the build up of fluid leading to a massive swelling in the head. You can catch that story on Netflix as Rooting for Roona. This is not the first such story that Pavitra has featured. In fact, she’s made a career of making documentary films of congenital birth defects and of women’s prenatal health and care. In our conversation, we speak of the reasons that difficult topics like these form the basis of her story telling, the process of fund raising for documentaries and how she measures the impact of those stories.

Nov 19, 202031:52
Public Policy

Public Policy

The discourse on public policy is relatively new in India and the Takshashila Institution is a pioneer in this field having set up in 2010.  I caught up with Nitin Pai, co-founder and director of the Takshashila Institution, an independent centre for research and education in public policy, to understand the mandate of the think tank, how public policy engages with the Executive and how large-scale change is brought about. As citizens, we all owe a responsibility in participating in governance and improving our lives.

Contact Takshashila Institution here 

Nov 12, 202040:47
Leap of Faith
Nov 05, 202031:56
6grams of Gold

6grams of Gold

My guest is Viren Rasquinha, former captain of the Indian hockey team, an Olympian and CEO of Olympic Gold Quest. During his playing career, Viren has represented India in 180 international matches including competing at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He is an Arjuna Awardee and has been a member of the PMO Task Force in 2016 (along with Pullela Gopichand, Abhinav Bindra and others) that prepared India’s plans for the next three Olympics in 2020 (now in 2021), 2024 and 2028.

In today’s conversation we speak of dreams so big that they consume your entire childhood, and you follow them faithfully into later years. Dreams that make an impact on an entire nation and inspire generations of young children to pursue sport and compete at the highest level, the Olympics. We cover the grueling hours of practice that athletes endure day after day, far from the watchful eyes of fans. We flit back and forth between history and the present day so bear with us. We speak of the lessons that sport teaches you, the role of a coach, structural changes required in India’s outlook toward sport and how the Olympic Gold Quest is fueling a dream in over 300 athletes. It’s all about those 6gms of gold.

Contribute: Olympic Gold Quest

Oct 29, 202037:51
Trailer - Season 4

Trailer - Season 4

This season we focus on stories of impact. 


Storybook by Scott Holmes, on, CC Attribution Non Commercial-NoDerivates 4.0

Oct 28, 202002:45


My guest today is Savio John Pereira, award winning celebrity hairstylist and founder of a chain of upscale salons and the Savio John Pereira academy in Mumbai. Savio’s story is one of coming in from the outside and building a personal brand, a story filled with glamour, gloss, high drama, and a never give up attitude. Alongside, it features some gems that go into building a successful luxury salon business. Sometimes the road to the destination is not obvious, its circuitous but with deep observation, thinking ahead, staying visible and paying attention to the little things, you can forge ahead.

Oct 08, 202027:04
AI & Life Sciences

AI & Life Sciences

My guest today is Manish Gupta, co-founder, and CEO of Indegene, a 3000 member global health solutions company specializing in research, content and data solutions to the pharma industry worldwide leveraging analytics and AI. The pharma industry, a highly regulated one, lends itself to the use of AI and digital capabilities since vast data sets exist across the product life cycle and therefore, the genius in spotting this opportunity. 

We cover: 

- Building a global company from India, raising capital from early investors, strength of the core team;

- Pivoting when faced by the headwinds of the dotcom bust and patent cliff; 

- Inflection points and how those translated into opportunities; 

- Clarity of purpose, outsized ambition, precision, and an easy vibe as a leader 

If you are interested in the life sciences industry and get your kicks from applying digital and AI solutions to solve for problems, check Indegene out. They’re hiring.

Sep 30, 202021:32
As you life it
Sep 24, 202029:57
Lift Off
Sep 17, 202048:50
Science of Politics
Sep 10, 202034:21
Cliff Hanger
Sep 03, 202029:01
Trailer - Season 3

Trailer - Season 3

Trailer - Season 3
Sep 02, 202002:07
Indian Boss - Part II

Indian Boss - Part II

Continuation of the conversation with Steve Correa, author of The Indian Boss at Work: Thinking Global, Acting Indian. If you missed Part I, listen here.  

In today’s episode, we continue our conversation focusing on the Indian affinity to communities, balancing a multi-generational workforce, gender fluidity in the Indian leader and imbalance in the way we treat women in society and at the workplace.

Get your free summary:


1. Epic Cinematic by Scott Holmes on; CC Attribution Non Commercial 4.0; Public Domain

Aug 19, 202023:35
Indian Boss - Part I
Aug 13, 202028:50
Beckoning Isle

Beckoning Isle

"The right man at the right place is a devastating weapon”, motto of the US Special Forces, aptly summed up the LTTE says Abhay Sapru in his second combat novel, The Beckoning Isle. We discuss the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, the paucity of war stories in India and the lack of readership of combat novels. We also cover bizarre occurrences in war and life and catch a rare glimpse of the effects of war on soldiers including post traumatic stress.  

Check it out:

Meet the author: 


Free CC Attribute 3.0, Public Domain:  1. Storybook by 2. Ruger 357 Magnum Gun Cock by 3. Deutz-Tractor-Engine - Erdie on 4. Gun War - MysteryMan229 -

Aug 06, 202032:13
Valley of Shadows

Valley of Shadows

"Sense and soldiering often don’t go hand in hand; in fact, in a Special Forces unit, it is taught that it is bad weather that is ideal for surprise and one often hears the remark that a dark night and inclement weather is a commando’s best friend”. Those are the opening lines of Abhay Sapru’s combat novel, In the Valley of Shadows. First in a series of 3 novels, we talk about this book, fighting the mujahideen as a Special Forces officer and the stunning Kashmir valley.

Buy it on Amazon:

Know more: 

Credits: Thunder Strike1 by Mike Koenig under CC Attribution 3.0

Jul 30, 202030:20
Total Rewards

Total Rewards

What should I pay and what is my market worth are top-of-mind questions for any CEO and employee. The fact is rewards are personal, complicated and difficult to measure. Or are they? Join me as I chat with one of Asia's top experts on reward, Tzeitel Fernandes, Partner at Aon. 

In this conversation, we cover: 

- How one should think of rewards 

- The correlation between rewards, performance and underlying behaviour

- Cultural nuances to rewards across Asia 

- Radical transparency of pay and its prevalence in Asia 

- Pay inequity and gender (im) balance 

- Companies' response to disruption due Covid-19 and impact on performance targets, short term incentives and long term grants.  

- How the future of work is being re-defined after the pandemic and more. 

Jul 23, 202033:36
Sole Mates
Jul 15, 202034:16
Trailer - Season 2

Trailer - Season 2

Season 2 promises to be exciting with fantastic new guests and some old friends of the show. Here’s a sneak peak of the stories you can expect this season. We take a journey into the life of a fledgling startup in an industry that’s been severely hit by the virus - footwear. We then hop on over to Hong Kong where a top rewards expert will tell you what no one ever told you about rewards and compensation. Then we scale the mighty Himalayas to hear war stories from an army man and from there dive into Sri Lanka. Those of you old enough to remember the IPKF will be treated to secrets in the lush tropical jungles. We circle back to Bangalore where a corporate leader turned author takes us on a journey of Indianness and the Indian boss.
Jul 14, 202001:12
S1 Finale: What have you done today?

S1 Finale: What have you done today?

Have you heard Heather Small’s iconic number “Proud”? I heard this song for the first time in 2000 at a packed auditorium under dazzling lights, great acoustics and mesmerizing visuals followed by a loud roar of applause as Glaxo and SmithKline announced their merger.  Half a dozen or so corporate executives gathered on stage to unveil the newly formed entity’s vision, mission, values, and strategic priorities. Do more, feel better, live longer - powerful words that make up GlaxoSmithKline’s purpose statement. As an impressionable young executive in her first job, I was gob smacked and filled with pride in the work I was doing and love for the company.

Fast forward a few decades and those words and Heather Small’s song still stay with me and guide my work and life.

In my work with startups and SMEs, advice revolves around 3Ps - purpose, performance, and pay.

- Start with “purpose” to define the talent strategy, values, a robust organization structure and a strategic workforce plan tied in with business milestones. All the hard wiring of the soft stuff and the key pillars of a great recruiting machine. 

- Put in place a coaching culture to deliver extraordinary results.

- Finally, craft a meaningful reward strategy that links purpose driven performance.

In my work with more established firms, it is about moving from process to impact.

At a time when corporations around the world are moving beyond the narrow definition of maximizing shareholder value, and expanding their scope to include the well-being of the larger community and all stakeholders, a purpose led goal and culture are at the heart of everything they wish to accomplish. Purpose statements are democratic in that they apply to companies big and small, communities and individuals. 

Are well-crafted purpose statements the purview of large corporations with smart copywriters? How does purpose guide the entrepreneur and the small business owner? To find out, I started interviewing some remarkable people who have gone on to do great things in their lives and put those interviews out in my podcast, Tell it like it is.

Season 1 covered some great stories including some smash hits like Lessons from the Special Forces featuring Abhay Sapru and Help Thy Neighbour featuring the residents’ association of a large condo.  Others that I thought had tremendous potential are the Beer Geek featuring Navin Mittal and Feeding Fellow Indians featuring a bunch of volunteer professionals who went on to provide 5MM meals during the lockdown. 

I’ve had great fun listening to and telling their stories and in the process, I learnt something new from each interview. 

Here are some of the things I learnt:

- Interviewing is an art, it involves tremendous research and even after 21 years spent in interviewing people in my day job, there is still something new to learn each time.

- Building a narrative is key to storytelling.

- Editing is tough, ruthless and I have tremendous respect for editors who literally polish rough stories into shimmering diamonds.

- Once an episode is published, it no longer remains “my story”. It belongs to the listeners. They react to it in ways known and unknown and I don’t think I will ever be able to predict or program audience response.

As Season 1 comes to an end, and I take some time to recharge and research new stories, I thank you for listening and sending me your love, criticism and feedback. 

Season 2 will be out soon with new stories, tighter edits and some fantastic people. Do check in. Stay well, stay safe. 

Jun 30, 202006:17
Beer Geek

Beer Geek

You know you are in for a fun and geeky chat when your guest starts by saying, "Man got civilized because he wanted to drink beer". In conversation with Navin Mittal, a passionate brewer, foodie and the co-founder & partner at the Gateway brewing company in Mumbai. 

In this episode, we cover: 

- Discovering a love for beer and educating oneself through blogs, podcasts and experiments with ingredients, roasting and flavours

- Making the "fear of failure" drive you to perform in everything you do 

- Navigating "babu-dom" to get permissions and setting up a micro brewery 

- The frustrations of a micro and small enterprise owner in the real world of manufacturing and services 

- Lockdown and having to drain craft beer   

- Future of resto-bars, regulations on beer delivery and more...    

You can catch his experiments on

Jun 22, 202040:08
Feeding Fellow Indians

Feeding Fellow Indians

"Khaana hai toh jaan hai, jaan hai to jahaan hai" is the motto that drove the volunteer group of professionals behind the #Feedmycity initiative. As the rest of us wondered what we would watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime at the start of the lock down, a group of friends - Juggy Marwaha, K Ganesh and K Venkat Narayana got together to feed fellow Indians. Starting with a modest target of 500 meals a day, the initiative eventually provided over 5 million meals to daily wage earners spanning 5 cities - Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Noida with the support of 400 volunteers and donors across the world.   Join me as I sit down with K Venkat Narayana & Y Kalyan Chakrabarti as they take me through their 75 days journey. A journey filled with a higher purpose, meticulous planning and performance and soul satisfying reward.  Connect with them here:
Jun 12, 202030:14
Help thy neighbour

Help thy neighbour

"Everybody is a CEO in a housing society" says the Covid committee of a large co-op housing society in South Mumbai. Housing societies have been at the front and centre of managing and enforcing lockdown guidelines and sometimes, notoriously so as this article from the BBC highlights. Tune in to my conversation with Nidhi Pant, Prasad Baji, Pankaj Chopra and Sandeep Gadodia as we unpack what goes into managing housing societies particularly during the lockdown. 

In this episode we cover: 

- Framing and adapting guidelines in a dynamic and evolving situation, what goes into planning for every conceivable need, 

- Leading without positional authority by aligning interests, walking the talk, transparent communication, show of commitment and consistency

- Managing by consensus and not necessarily by majority, 

- Ascertaining facts from multiple sources and building a hierarchy of news, with social media being at the bottom, 

- Building logic trees for decision making, 

- Taking the bull by the horns at times and addressing the elephant in the room - entry of part time domestic help into the condo, 

- "Put your mask face on", what the future as a resident entails and more...

Connect with me on LinkedIn and DM your feedback

Subscribe here

Episode photo credit : Residents Group

Jun 08, 202034:21
Backing entrepreneurs

Backing entrepreneurs

Use cash wisely and not miserly is the pithy advice that this executive turned entrepreneur turned investor turned entrepreneurial investor has for Indian entrepreneurs. In conversation with Jayanta Banerjee, Managing Partner & Co-Founder of ASK Pravi Capital Advisors. In this episode we cover: 

- The psychology of private equity business and decision making, 

- Using good judgement and rigorous analysis to get a "feel" for the right idea or talent, 

- Leveraging the private equity investor as an aligned partner and not a "client" to be "managed",   

- Challenges of the operating partner model as a minority shareholder in the Indian context, 

- Developing financial sensitivity, focus on cash positive profits, understanding balance sheets and ROCE an entrepreneur or promoter, 

- Moving away from chasing a single metric to creating businesses that are cash-rich and attract good talent as an entrepreneur, 

- Observations on the next 18 months and more

Jun 04, 202041:19
It takes a village

It takes a village

Serendipity, paying it forward, building relationships for life and straight talk sums up this corporate honcho turned entrepreneur turned venture capitalist's journey so far. In conversation with Anuj Jain, CEO & Co-Founder of Startup-O, South East Asia's leading assessment, investment and business scaling platform. In this episode, we talk about:  

- A deep sense of community and building relationships,  

- Being open to opportunities and pivoting in your career, 

- Venture capital as an asset class and the opaqueness in investing,  

- Creating a data-driven, multi-rater, bias eliminating  algorithm led platform for venture investing and building an entrepreneur for entrepreneur eco-system, 

- Why it takes a village to raise a "startup"

- Surviving SARS as an entrepreneur and COVID-19 impact on SMEs and startup founders,   

- Future of work and advice for startup founders raising capital in these times

May 29, 202038:19
Everything is a miracle

Everything is a miracle

In conversation with Leslie & Pearl D'Souza, a father-daughter pair of behaviour experts. In this episode, we cover:  Being driven by purpose and finding one's true calling,  Grid change management framework, the importance of R2:  Relationships between R1: Resources and R3: Results,  Belbin team roles and their impact on team performance,  Differences between coaching and mentoring,  Working together as a family, The future of learning and the importance of re-skilling and focus on mental health.   
May 22, 202034:10
Lessons from the Special Forces

Lessons from the Special Forces

In conversation with Abhay Sapru, ex-Special Forces and currently a banker. A world far removed from corporate life but modern management theories continue to build on lessons from the armed forces. In this episode, we talk about motivation, leadership by example, goal orientation and where the cost of not meeting targets is fatal, or at the very least, loss of pride.
May 18, 202032:40
In the millenial's playground

In the millenial's playground

In conversation with Shilpa Sirdesai, co-founder of an integrated digital marketing agency, Bay Leaf. In this episode, Shilpa and I talk about how there is no age barrier to starting up, channel-agnostic digital marketing, expectations of clients across the US and India, changing consumer behaviour, and the future of digital marketing in pandemic times.
May 14, 202031:34
Never looking back

Never looking back

In conversation with Raj Kalur, entrepreneur and ex-banker covering learning from history, how the old playbook for investment advice is redundant, performance and reward equation for investment advisors, being a life long learner, taking a sabbatical to earn a degree and more.
May 11, 202042:00
Shaping HR Impact in an Economic Blackswan

Shaping HR Impact in an Economic Blackswan

In conversation:  Manisha Kadagathur & Pearl D'Souza. What can HR do in these pandemic times.
May 09, 202055:49