Wisdom Stories Ep.32: Anita Gupta

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Cultural expectations surrounding the elderly are being challenged today, and with good reason!

While it was the norm to slow down and retreat into a quieter life post-retirement, more men and women are finding purpose and joy in doing the opposite.

WisdomCircle honours such men and women by shining light on their journey through an inspiring series called “Wisdom Stories”. These people have successfully smashed stereotypes, and their stories remind us that life should be lived to the fullest, no matter what age or stage.

My professional journey began at J Walter Thompson, where I spent 25 years as Senior Vice President and Managing partner. For 15 years, I headed 2 of the 5 nationwide offices – Kolkata, and Chennai. In both these markets, JWT was in a leadership position that was twice the size of its nearest competitor.

The opportunity to have cross-category experience in building, launching, and repositioning brands like ITC Limited, Ford Motor Company, Tata Steel and Bata is invaluable. I honed my expertise in brand building and led the team to secure the company’s first award at Cannes.

As a member of the Executive Committee, I was fortunate to help diversify into emerging areas, expand the geographical footprint, and curate leadership development programs for the organisation. This foundational experience laid the groundwork for my subsequent ventures.

Just as a sherpa empowers others in ascending to the highest summits, I use my enriched experience and the tools at my disposal to assist professionals on their odysseys. I have been an ally to over 500 professionals across diverse industries, creating a legacy for myself that spans over 30 years in brand building and people management. At the forefront of my narrative is My Persona, the organisation I co-founded. Dedicated to fostering authentic leadership through coaching and facilitation, it represents the culmination of my enriched experience and tools.

Simultaneously I served as the Past President of CFI Chennai Chapter, contributing to the organisation’s mission of providing guidance and opportunities. My involvement in creating ‘She Leads,’ a Women’s Leadership Program for CFI, stands as a testament to my commitment to impactful leadership.

I volunteered as a Coach for the students at BALM (Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health) where they ran programs for the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. This experience provided great learning in helping young adults in their personal development and growth. I feel deeply enriched by the diversity of issues and concerns that need to be addressed.

We interviewed Anita Gupta, one of the honourees of 58 Over 58, a collaborative endeavour spearheaded by WisdomCircle and INK. The mission is to spotlight the narratives of 58 remarkable individuals annually, individuals who are meaningfully engaged in their post-retirement phase. 

What was a key moment that defined your current path?

My purpose found me! During my internship and certification as a Coach, my peer partner shared my 360 in-depth feedback… “Anita is a brand, there is an Anita Gupta way of doing things.” All my batch mates pounced on me “You can do Personal branding…we need Executive Presence” I was stunned. It was an alien concept for me… it looked and sounded superficial.

Then there was a Eureka moment! I could help people discover their unique differentiator and build a role for themselves.  I found a business partner from my earlier organisation and “My Persona” was born.

 How would you define your purpose? And why did you choose it?

The Universe helped me to find my purpose ——there was no choice.

To touch as many as lives possible in rediscovering their strengths, finding their unique self and helping to find their purpose with an action orientation.

Then there was a Eureka moment! I could help people discover their unique differentiator and build a role for themselves.  I found a business partner from my earlier organisation and “My Persona” was born.

What is your flex today? How is it different from a decade or two ago?

I have a flexible working day which is very different from 12 years ago when I was working almost 9 am to 9 pm in corporate life. Sometimes with different time zones, it could stretch to odd hours of the morning. Now I have time during the day to relax and enjoy family time. I can set my own priorities and work during the hours that are convenient for me. Throughout the year I am fortunate to do short & long trips to enjoy Nature or just meet friends and family.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Adapt to technology at a faster phase.

Is there anyone you look up to, to help chart your post-retirement journey?

Firstly, I did not wait for my retirement, I just quit my job. I had a Mentor in the organisation development/coaching counselling field for the longest time who has inspired me & guided me throughout the different phases of my life.

What are the current gaps in the post-retirement eco-system? Where is the pressing need for attention?

A lot of my friends and acquaintances are completely unaware and struggle to find new areas to continue work post-retirement. They are unsure of their own potential, anxious about their skill sets and unaware of the opportunities where their experience could be of value. There is a pressing need to spread the word that there are endless opportunities for experienced individuals regardless of age whether in the areas where they have worked or exploring new avenues.

What would your advice be to WisdomCircle, to help plug these gaps?

Currently there is a lot of awareness building through LinkedIn. Reaching out through other media may be very impactful. 

Why is leaving a legacy important for you? What would you like yours to be?

I have been fortunate to have learnt & contributed to different businesses at different stages of my career, mentoring people & helping them to achieve their potential has been a great passion wherever I have worked.

As a young person, I did not have the guidance that could have helped me to choose what I was truly good at. The legacy I would like to leave behind is the body of the work that could become an enabler for those who are seeking their unique differentiator so that they could find a purpose and make a mark in whatever they choose to do.

 3 words that describe your life right now.

Letting go, Fly. 

Read more Wisdom Stories on WisdomCircle

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