“If you want to reach a particular stage in life, you will have to work hard for it or, more than that, work smart for it.” – Ritika Saraswat, Founder of Re-Defined
Ritika Saraswat is a fourth-year Kinesiology student at UBC. She had always aimed to help others from non-target schools. Since she had the chance to work with numerous startups, non-profit organizations, and other businesses, and since she knows that hundreds of other students want to do the same, she wants to lend a hand. Her goal is to raise awareness of students, particularly international students from non-traditional backgrounds, and assist them in becoming winners.
Ms. Ritika Saraswat shares her entrepreneurial journey, mission and success mantra with Business Upside India. Here is an edited excerpt of the interview.
Edited Excerpt of the Interview
Business Upside [BU]: What Inspired you to Start your Journey as an Entrepreneur with Re-Defined?
Ritika Saraswat [RS]: Well, regarding my journey as an entrepreneur with Re-Defined, it’s not something I thought of from the very beginning. I knew I would want to be one day, but I never knew it would be for my non-profit. So initially, when we started with Re-Defined, almost like a year ago, it started as a non-profit purely for social impact purposes, which was to empower people from marginalized communities. However, slowly along the way, we realize that one of the significant challenges, a lot of other founders would agree with me, is the organization’s financial sustainability, and that’s when we want to become self-sustaining. That’s when we decided to transition to a social enterprise whereby we were now making revenue. However, the only difference was that revenue would still go back to fund our social impact initiatives. It was a process and was very natural.
It should not be something I planned. Still, it just came about because I was lucky to be surrounded by friends, teachers, etc., who are supportive and knowledgeable in entrepreneurship. I’m also high on networking and talking to many entrepreneurs, and that space helped me. Understand what entrepreneurship is. It doesn’t mean you need to develop an outstanding, innovative idea, it’s all about identifying and meeting that need.
So it’s pretty simple that way. And that’s what I did. I looked around and saw exactly where that need was and how I could help fulfil those needs. And not to say it remained the same throughout. Initially, we started specifically catering to Canada, where we’re catering to the homeless community. But eventually, I realized there’s much more that we can do. It’s really what we want to stick to. Does he define stand for something else? So entrepreneurship is also like this journey of figuring things out. Becoming an entrepreneur was like a process. It has become an organization or company that has been a process over this entire time, and we have kept adapting, kept changing things because that’s the beauty of it.
[BU]: What is your Mission with Re-Defined?
[RS]: Our mission was Re-Defined to empower people from marginalized communities. Being a South Asian woman of color, I came to a foreign nation to study without knowing anyone. As a result, I came up with the Re-Defined. I also noticed that even before I left India, there were many presumptions, ideologies, judgments, etc. I frequently felt that I had to challenge these ideals and judgments and perhaps even reframe my abilities, value, and value proposition. It was true of my capacities, the teams, professions, etc., that I could join even based on my degree. That’s why I came up with the term Re-Defined, because a lot of us are, daily, judged based on our skin color, the way we speak, our nationality, religion, etcetera. Often, it’s all about redefining those judgments, what you can do, what you can achieve, and what you’re capable of, and then believing in those redefinitions and going beyond. That was the whole idea of Re-Defined, which is why a lot of work we do is not just around providing resources to people but also around running educational workshops as education empowers people. Once they understand why things should not be how they are or vice versa, people will be more driven and confident to assert themselves.
[BU]: What are you Most Passionate About and Why?
[RS]: I am passionate about bringing a smile to people’s faces, empowering them, and having them realize their value. Because of the various judgments that society and even the media hold, many of us frequently come to question our identity. We sometimes see ourselves from a third-person perspective due to social media and the other billion channels, which is not good for us. We often judge ourselves harshly and believe we are our worst version. People post on social media and appear flawless while we are in this never-ending loop of comparing ourselves to others. Comparing yourself to that flawless version can be challenging because you see so many flaws that society says you have. Having people realize and pick them up in a way that stops listening and believing what you see because they are invalid. What is true about yourself is you. You are the one who knows your capabilities. Let yourself define your capabilities and limitations instead of letting others do so.
[BU]: How does this Non-profit Organization Inspire Students to Pursue their Passion, Irrespective of their Educational Background?
[RS]: Re-Defined primarily inspires students to pursue their passion, irrespective of their educational background. We help students by running various workshops on different careers like consulting, engineering, etc. If you have ever attended our workshops, we ensure that people we get on board be a part of those workshops. These will be people from different educational backgrounds. For example, if you are hosting a consulting workshop, all three people we have on the panel do not come from a business background. One is from a science background, one is from music, and one is from an engineering background. All three of them went into consulting successfully. Within those workshops, there was diversity in the representation of people from non-traditional backgrounds. The purpose is not only to share the story with the students regarding how they did it and created that value proposition for themselves but also to provide actionable things that students can take away with them. It would be really effective, like how making the transition from science to consulting is. I sometimes wish I had mentors and people who could tell me, “Hey, I have done this before, and trust me, you can do it too.” I had to tell myself that and did not have someone else to say that to me. I am not saying that it’s good or bad. Still, it could have definitely made the journey a bit smoother and shorter, but not necessarily that lengthier. Not having that mentor or people who have done those transitions like you, at least in your surroundings or people who are exposed to who have not done that, can be very, very difficult because you may think you are the only one trying to do so.
Many people will tell you that you can’t do it, that you’ll fail, and that it’s difficult for you to handle. Thus, I simply plan instructive workshops, having diversity and representation, and putting 50:50 of the attention on telling their experience. I Encourage students by posing queries and offering helpful advice.
[BU]: What Goal do you want to Achieve with Re-Defined?
[RS]: Simply, the goal of Re-defined is to empower people, people of color, including students, to redefine themselves and their capabilities, careers, dreams, etc. Based on what they want to be, we will provide them with the resources, education, and mentorship that can help them do so.
[BU]: What Life Lessons have you Learned Throughout your Entrepreneurial and Professional Journey?
[RS]: For me, there are three main lessons.
- The first one is to be authentic. That is, be yourself; be proud of who you are, whatever it be your cultural background, as those are your uniqueness. That makes you stand out compared to everyone else around you. Be your authentic self, and don’t change for anyone.
- Second is never undersell yourself. Know that you are capable of; you have arrived at a particular job, in a particular position, in a particular role, at a particular stage of your life. You have experienced and learned things along the way and wouldn’t be there if you were incapable. So being confident of your capabilities, experiences, and yourself, and making sure you don’t undersell yourself and advocate for yourself, is incredibly important because no one else will come and do things for you. You have to get things done for yourself.
- The third and last one is to know your priorities. I always say that there are glass balls and plastic balls in life. Know which parts of your life fall under which aspect? A glass ball, for example, is something that, if it falls, will shatter. No matter how much you try to put it together, it will not look the same. On the other hand, a plastic ball will bounce back once it falls. So you must recognize in life a glass ball and a plastic ball. For someone, their mental health and family can be that glass ball. If it’s false or once lost cannot be regained, something like money or grades in life can be a plastic ball as, if you fail in one exam, you can pass in another. There’s always a second chance. These are the three biggest lessons I’ve learned.
[BU]: How do you Keep yourself Motivated when Things are going Bad?
[RS]: The dialogue “Apna Time Ayega” from the movie Gully Boy, I always believe that whatever happens, happens for the best. Many times we don’t realize and feel like things are unfair. But trust me, later on, when you look back, you will realize, thank God, that did not happen, that job didn’t come through, and I failed that exam. Many of those failures and rejections, which we think are negatives, actually are positives that help us move in the direction we’re meant to move in. If it weren’t for those rejections and failures, any of us would not be where we are today, or we won’t be able to reach where we want to reach if we don’t go through those failures and rejections.
I learned from them. I always keep that at the back of my head, like everyone’s journey looks different. We often feel things are not going great because we tend to compare ourselves to others. The tendency to compare ourselves is heightened because of the intense amount of time people spend on social media these days, not just Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, but also LinkedIn and the other platforms that are coming up. I know everyone’s life is like a car on the road; we are that car, and life is that road, and every road has a speed breaker that comes in the way.
You must go slow when a speed breaker comes. You have to relax, and once you get through it, you can again catch up with speed. So our life is similar. There will be times when you have to slow down, which is OK as you need that time to recoup to generate, regenerate, rethink, and re-evaluate if you’re moving in the right direction. Instead, you would take an extra year or two to figure out what you want to do rather than go straight out of university and be given a job. You later regret having it five years down the line. So, it’s all about balance. So be very mindful that everyone’s journey looks different. That’s why it’s their journey because it will be individual to them, their experiences, context, challenges, and knowing. That is going to be speed Breakers every time. There will also be speed Breakers for the rest of your life. We can improve how we deal with those and recover from them.
[BU]: What Advice would you Offer as an Entrepreneur to the Youth of our Country?
[RS]: As an entrepreneur, a very simple piece of advice I would give to the country’s youth would be to. Get started. Especially if you’re in school and have an idea, start pursuing it and implement it. Start researching about it and networking with people about your ideas. Rome was not built in a day. Entrepreneurship is a long-haul process. You don’t get a successful business overnight. It is something that takes time, like some months or some years. It is all about constant learning.
The earlier you start, the better. One thing I always regret is not starting earlier. When it came to starting something on my own, I waited for too long. So, especially when you are in school, you are young and have the flexibility to make mistakes, and you have lesser responsibilities. So use that time wisely. Make sure to get an experience. Start working on your ideas. You never know; it will take you to places you may have never imagined. Ideas don’t have to be innovative or extraordinary. It can be something as simple.
For example, a food delivery service, do you know how all these came out? It is not an extraordinary idea. It was just an identification of a need. Then coming up with a solution on how that need can be met. So be observant, look around you, and get started if you ever find any need or gap.
[BU]: What is your Success Mantra?
[RS]: There are a few, to be honest. One of them is that if you want to be someone who can shop without checking the price tag of things, get used to working without looking at the clock. I think it is very powerful. If you want to reach a particular stage in life, you will have to work hard for it or, more than that, work smart for it. When working towards that goal, don’t count the time, be willing to devote and dedicate yourself to that goal. That would be one of the things and another success mantra.
I am successful, yet I’m not, from my perspective. Another thing, I would say, is to keep working. Don’t worry about the result because the results will vary every time. Our life does not look like a straight line. It is a zigzag one. They are always going to win or lose. So don’t focus on the results; keep working, keep learning along the way, and the results will come. You know the winds will calm themselves. Just stay headstrong.