“It’s a dream come true!”
The multi-talented diva-esque Sushmita Sen has always believed in wearing many hats and excelling in all that she undertakes. Be it winning the first Miss Universe crown for India, becoming a top-notch Bollywood actor, adopting a baby girl at the age of 24 or establishing a business house way ahead of most of her contemporaries, Sushmita has been a forerunner of sorts.
However, the Ex-Miss Universe’s heart was still pining to attain one particular thing: “I have always maintained that I am what I am because of Miss Universe, and I always wanted to take that association ahead in some way. Due to an array of reasons, it had remained a pipe dream till about 1 ½ months back, when Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organisation made a fateful call to me, asking if my company Tantra Entertainment Private Limited (TEPL) would like to become the India franchise owner for holding the preliminary to Miss Universe 2010, which also would entrust TEPL the responsibility of holding a national pageant to select Miss Universe India 2010? I have always believed that the universe conspires to give you what you really want, and that too all in good time. Well, I just had an exemplary revelation of the Universe’s way of working. What better an association could I have asked for?” smiles Sushmita, whose company has thus become the India franchise owner for holding the preliminary to Miss Universe 2010. Primarily into feature film production and distribution, TEPL has ventured into the pageant industry with this franchise and calling the national pageant.
Elaborating about this new business venture of hers, Sushmita says “We’ve launched a mother brand called ‘I AM’ – in keeping with my belief that every individual’s journey begins and blossoms forth from these two words, they’re what define you. This mother brand will work in several verticals, which will be disclosed in good time. However, to begin with, we’ve launched the vertical called ‘I AM She’, a refreshing new platform that will select the next Miss India Universe, who will represent India at the global Miss Universe® competition. ‘I AM She’ has found an able sponsor in the Alchemist group, a leading conglomerate in fields such as healthcare, real estate, F&B etc. We’ve also launched the CSR vertical called ‘I AM Foundation’ which will undertake several CSR initiatives, especially with the participation of the girls chosen as finalists for the Miss Universe India pageant. This year, we’ll be working closely with the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Bal Asha Trust, The Research Society and The ANI Foundation.”
Having bagged the franchise, Sushmita has set her sights firmly on having the best of Indian girls/women get a chance to represent the country on the prestigious platform. “I have been closely involved in the process of choosing the perfect girls, and by perfect I do not mean just physically perfect. We’re looking for girls who have a balanced body and mind, a strong set of values, confidence, and intelligence. More so, I want the participants to be highly people-oriented - they should be able to connect with all kinds of people in a genuine way. I’ve been very keen on inducing academically oriented and highly qualified girls in the pageant, because, I want to send out the message that participating in a beauty pageant does not demean your intelligence or stature – if at all, it helps you use your looks and personality for a larger good. Details regarding the pageant, which will be open for girls between 17-27 years of age, and will be held at the historical Jag Mandir in Udaipur on 27th February 2010, can be found on the website www.iam-she.com.”
Quiz Sushmita about her affiliation towards entrepreneurship, especially considering her busy schedule as an actor, mother and brand ambassador to a number of products, she elaborates “Since childhood I have been a very curious child; one who wanted to ‘do’ things to find out more about them. Business as an avenue had me fascinated since long, for its sheer dynamism and productivity. You touch so many lives by a single venture. Hence, though time has been a constraint, I strove to cull out time to establish TEPL and now the brand ‘I AM’.”
Sushmita however is quick to deny that she followed the trend of Bollywood stars jumping onto the turn-producer-bandwagon by establishing TEPL. “I always say that we all have our individual DNAs and destinies that make things happen in our lives as and when they do. So, where’s the question of me jumping onto a bandwagon? With due respect to all, I just followed my heart and established TEPL when I felt the time was right to turn producer.”
However, Sushmita recently shelved TEPL’s pet project “Rani Laxmibai’ about which she says “It broke my heart to shelve that project after two years of labouring over its groundwork. The subject was also very close to my heart. Nevertheless, everything happens for a good reason and I believe in never saying never.” For now, TEPL has wholeheartedly plunged into ‘I AM’ and especially ‘I AM She’.
Quiz Sushmita about the bumps and dents that ‘I AM’ and ‘I AM She’ had to go through before it saw the light of the say and she exhales saying “Oh my God! It was certainly not a hiccup-free ride. The foremost challenge that we had to overcome was the heavy demand on my time. It indeed was a huge challenge to cull out time to focus exclusively on ‘I AM’ because I was clear about being involved in every minute detail of whatever we did – be it, creating presentation, deciding on the logo, chalking out the gameplan for developing the verticals, contacting numerous people, finding the right sponsors, technical glitches…..it seemed never-ending! Nevertheless, all’s well that ends well; albeit this is definitely not an end of the journey – rather, it is a new beginning.”
On a parting note, when asked about what success mantra does she follow to make her business ventures successful and would also advocate to others who want to toe the line, Sushmita reveals “An entrepreneur has to be immensely aware – not just about his/her subject but about as many things around him/her as possible. That’s because an entrepreneurial venture is connected to and is interdependent on innumerable factors for its success. One cannot take the correct decisions if one doesn’t have the correct information about facts. Secondly, choosing the right people to accompany you in the journey is a crucial factor; and lastly, it is imperative to invest innate trust in those who you’ve thus chosen. That’s my recipe for success.”
-Interviewed by Reshma S Kulkarni for YourStory