From acting to entrepreneurship, how Preeti Jhangiani launched India’s first professional arm-wrestling league
Bollywood actor Preeti Jhangiani, remembered for her debut film Mohabbatein, has been keeping busy juggling between running Swen Entertainment, a company she co-founded with her husband, actor Parvin Dabas; film projects, fitness; and launching India’s first professional arm-wrestling league, Pro Panja League in February 2020.
“The Pro Panja League has teamed up with Indian Arm Wrestling Federation (IAF) who have been conducting amateur arm wrestling competitions for years now. Once we conceptualised the idea, we had our first event last year at the Thyagaraj Stadium in New Delhi, inaugurated by former sports minister Kiren Rijuju and Olympic champion, Vijender Singh. It was a huge success and there has been no looking back since,” Preeti tells HerStory, adding that they have had three major tournaments since.
The Pro Panja League has two weight categories for women and for differently-abled people, and the prize money in all three tournaments including men, women, and differently-abled people is the same, shares Preeti. “We decided to give equal opportunity and reward to everyone.”
She adds that the Pro Panja League also focuses on supporting women players in training and balancing their families and the sport as well.
While the sports industry has been male-dominated globally, Preeti, who is leading the Pro Panja League, believes that it is becoming more welcoming and accepting of women leaders. “Initially it was difficult for men to take orders from a woman, but now that has changed. Women have also found ways to be a part of such a predominantly male world of sports in leadership roles.”
“I didn’t feel the need to change myself to be more assertive as I am an inherently soft-spoken person, but I realised that your colleagues will work for you if they know that you have respect for them and the expertise they bring to their work. Polite but firm is how I like to lead as the founder and director. A woman doesn’t need to become a man in order to exert their position,” she says on being a leader in the sports industry.
Fitness India Show
For the past couple of years, Preeti has been focussing on fitness and running the Fitness India Show, which she started in 2017. “Luckily, for me, I had good metabolism, so I never thought that I needed to workout but it was only in my early 30s that I realised that the body doesn’t remain the same. It isn’t just about having a great body or figure, but holistic wellbeing. As women, we wear so many hats at home and at work so it’s imperative for us to look after ourselves,” she says. She tried gym, yoga, pilates, etc., before she realised what works for her best.
She shares that after she had her second son Dev in 2016, she gained 25 kgs. “Once I realised that I got determined to lose weight and coincidentally my trainer put up one of my videos online. That’s when a lot of people started reaching out to me and told me how inspired they were so we decided to start the Fitness India Show. The show caters to people who have never worked out in their lives and are looking for motivation and we focus on how after pregnancy, women can get back into shape and get their strength back,” she says.
While the lockdowns in the last two years due to COVID brought work to halt for Preeti much like everyone in the country, she is determined to get back to work as soon as it's safe to organise the tournaments.
Finally, for all those who find workouts a chore, Preeti advises to just get out of bed and get to work. “If you aren’t self-motivated, then join a workout session. A small start goes a long way,” Preeti signs off.
Edited by Megha Reddy