Married at 20, this woman entrepreneur reinvented herself to become an image consultant for Fortune 500 companies
Being raised in a conservative South Indian family, Chitra Balasubramaniam had her life planned for her. Her orthodox parents believed an ideal daughter was all about studying well, getting a job, marriage, and settling down.
“My parents weren’t happy that I was a rebel who did not want to explore the conventional route of becoming a doctor or an engineer. I always wanted to nurture my creative streak and do something related to it. I had a lot of dreams for myself. But my parents got me married after I finished my graduation in Psychology at the age of 20, fearing my unconventional ambitions would be a threat to my future duties as a family person. Since I wasn’t confident enough to counter them, I agreed to get married,” she recalls.
Onward with courage and confidence
At the age of 30, Chitra finally gathered the courage and confidence to transform herself. Armed with a love for fashion and an instinctive understanding of design, she transformed herself from an introverted personality to “a fashion-forward woman with a distinct understanding of style and trends”.
She enrolled in the Certified Image Consultant course at the Image Consulting Business Institute, India and Conselle, USA. She freelanced as an image consultant for a while, which involved make-up sessions, personal shopping, image management, soft skills management, and personal branding.
At the age of 40, she realised her entrepreneurial dream and started Tres'Chic Academe in 2008.
“I realised that a soft skill gap can be filled by having an image consultant. It’s an array of services like positive first impression, body language, communication skills, digital footprint, emotional intelligence, etc. I wanted to empower more women in terms of achieving their dreams through customised programmes for each individual building their confidence and self esteem,” says Chitra.
Building an image
Tres'chic Academe is a premium etiquette and image consultancy company that contours and customises topics of training based on individual requirements. Tres’Chic Academe professionals and experts work with a spectrum of working professionals - be it successful entrepreneurs, business professionals, working professionals, celebrities, etc., and help them maximise their potential through empowering workshops.
Corporate organisations including Fortune 500 companies form its portfolio of clients. Apart from being a certified image consultant, Chitra is also a Nabet Certified TTT Trainer, SQA Certified Soft Skills Trainer, Certified Make-Up Artist from JD Institute, Trained Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Consultant, Member of AICI and mentor in the Cherie Blair Foundation UK for Women Entrepreneurs.
Chitra says, in the initial years, there was not much support from her family as they were not very happy with her leaving the house to work. “They thought I could not survive in the entrepreneur world. It was hard to survive each day motivating myself to stick on to the game with negativity from inside and outside as I wasn’t succeeding much. But I never gave up my passion and continued working on myself to have the mindset to succeed, irrespective of the opinions of others,” she says.
The Bengaluru-based entrepreneur believes image consultancy as a career gave her a new perspective about self empowerment and self-love, which in turn translated in helping her clients to follow their passion, irrespective of their situation.
“At the age of 40, I have completely transformed myself and want to help others achieve the same success and positive mental health. I have a deep and genuine passion for doing good. My passion enables me to push the boundaries and be limitless,” she says.
Array of services
Tres'Chic Academe offers an array of services that include image consulting, soft skills training, a Train the Trainer programme, personal branding, and how to achieve entrepreneurial success through an exhaustive plan that includes all aspects of building a business.
“I encourage my clients to set SMART goals. The acronym stands for – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals. Depending on my clients needs, whether it’s individual training or corporate training, its either one-on-one or group sessions, which includes activities outbound and inbound training as well. Depending on each topic, it’s mostly activity based, skill set tests involved, spotlight training involving the participants, etc.”
Tres’chic Academe also works with NGOs like Sparsha, Girl Child NGO, and Bhairavi Foundation by providing trainers to help enhance the quality of education in terms of providing grooming skills like etiquette, communication skills, confidence building, discovering oneself, goal setting, and interpersonal skills; thus focusing on holistic personality development.
“I conduct workshops for the underprivileged children every month in all these skills. I realise it’s not easy to make it in the rat-race, and I'm grateful everyday for everyone who supported me as I got on my feet. I hope to be the same force of nature in someone else’s life who are unprivileged and don’t have the resources to begin with,” she adds.
Chitra works with a team of assistants, trainers, and experts. Over the years, Tres’chic Academe has conducted around 600 group sessions, events, fashion shows, beauty pageants, and online sessions. Chitra claims it has achieved a 600 percent growth.
Since most of the consultation sessions take place online, the company has not been severely impacted by COVID-19. “The current situation has definitely helped me to innovate my business to stay afloat in dire situations like this. It made me give my clients the same impact for them to innovate to survive in their business,” she says.
Chitra is looking forward to the future with a number of plans in place. These include tapping into international markets and geographies, collaborations with other emerging and established ventures/experts with similar core beliefs and values in order to multiply the effects of its emotional-intelligence framework, and empowering women from all walks of life by helping them attain financial independence and make a quantum leap in life.