‘If I can, you can too,’ is the motto of her life. A successful social activist, a budding entrepreneur, a motivational speaker, and an immensely beautiful girl by heart and soul, Poonam Shroti is no less but an epitome of achievements. Despite suffering from a rare brittle bone disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta by birth, Poonam stepped out to fulfill her dreams.
Born to Rajendra Prasad Shroti and Kalpana Shroti, Poonam resides in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Poonam has been awarded by the then President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, for her work. She is also listed among the top 100 women of India. But, she does not stop here. Poonam is launching her own brand of clothing ‘Samanta’ in association with fashion designers. A clothing brand which will cater only to the clothing for the specially-abled.
On World Entrepreneurs’ Day, OpenGrowth takes this opportunity to give you a glimpse of her struggle and journey from a specially-abled child to being listed as the top 100 women of India.
You are a life coach, mentor, and inspiration to many. Tell us about the experiences and learnings.
My struggles in life commenced the moment I was born. My struggles are my experiences. And truly, they taught me a lot. These challenges and hurdles have made me a better person. Struggles motivate me. It is because of these struggles only, I have become a motivational speaker. I often tell people that I am a practical example of motivation.
I was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a very rare bone disease. Because of this, I have suffered many fractures and have undergone many operations. I am totally dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Even performing my daily chores is a challenge for me. So, there is only one thing that I would like to share that be whatever the circumstances, so not lose hope.
You are living a life full of challenges which you call an adventurous life. Any one challenge you feel was the toughest for you and how did you overcome it?
Yes, for me every day is adventurous. I have a dream, a dream of having an inclusive society, where a disabled person is treated like a normal person. You asked about challenges? The toughest challenge for me is overcoming discrimination. Why are we not treated like any normal person? We might be physically limited, but mind, heart, and soul sees no boundaries. And I think it is high time, people should realize this.
I do not want people to do me a favor because I am like this. I want to be rewarded for my abilities and not my disabilities. Whatever today I am is because of this discrimination. This discrimination always provoked me to prove my worth and despite all challenges, I have done it. I will continue proving myself to people who think I am just a specially-abled woman. I feel a disabled person is more capable enough to carry out responsibilities than a normal person.
You left your job to pursue your dreams, first become a social activist and then an entrepreneur. What motivated you to do so?
Like I said before, discrimination. This is my biggest motivation. This always pushed me towards my goals. I always wanted to prove myself not because people thought I was specially-abled, but because I wanted to show them that differently-abled people also can perform duties like any other individual.
How did you come up with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur with such a unique approach? How did Samanta come to you?
There is a very famous saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ since childhood, I have been very fond of clothing. You know, getting properly dressed for every occasion, I love doing it. But, there was one problem. I never got ready-made clothes for me. My mother had to customize them for me. This is the problem with every specially-abled person.
This gave me an idea of bringing up my own brand of clothes, which would suit the needs of people like me. My clothing brand will be called Samanta., which means equality.
How did Samanta come to you?
I run an NGO called Uddip Welfare Society. We work on equality for all. Through Uddip, I focus on making the differently-abled self-dependent by providing them skill development. I do not want any specially-abled child to be a burden on their families, especially financially. So, the first step to give them confidence is educating them, making them aware and making them financially independent.
We also host anniversary events of Uddip, which is named Samanta. We had organized two mini-marathons, named Samanta - run for Equality. This is how I thought of naming this clothing brand Samanta. This brand will include clothes for both specially-abled and normal people. But, we are focused more on the aged and specially-abled people.
How are you going to scale your business?
I am collaborating with a few fashion designers for this. Also, I am planning to open outlets and online sales.
Tell us about the funding or investment in this venture?
I have drafted a proposal for a few investors. I am also approaching banks for finance. Actually, we are at a very early stage of this start-up. Also, lockdowns and the pandemic delayed this a bit. Let us see how things work out.
How are you going to approach your target market?
I am planning to reach my target audience through print, electronic and social media platforms.
Do you plan to rope in any celebrities for branding?
No, Not as of now.
Few lines to motivate our budding entrepreneurs?
I am a firm believer in positivity. I only have one message, ‘If I can, you can too.’
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