Actor to author, filmmaker to entrepreneur: Meet Pune’s young and rising
A CEO at 27, an award-winning filmmaker at 29 and a speaker at TED Talks at 11: Pune’s young achievers in our special series ‘30 under 30’ make for a varied lot. They are not just passionate about their area of work but are also persistent in their efforts in bringing about the change they believe in.
Here’s a glimpse into their achievements and what they think is pulling India back:
Manasi Kirloskar, 27, executive director and CEO, Kirloskar Systems Ltd
Passionate about deep sea diving, this young heir to the 150-year-old house of Kirloskar is preparing to shoulder the responsibilities of a big business house. Soon after graduating from The Rhode Island School of Design, Kirloskar began working on the Skara Hospital project initiated by her mother Gitanjali Kirloskar in Bengaluru. She then trained at Toyota Kirloskar Motor and worked at the shopfloor to gather firsthand experience of all aspects of the family business. Her focus now is on the newly launched Lexus vehicles. She is also on the board of Toyota Tsusho Insurance Broker India and eager to expand her understanding of the Indian insurance market.
“I think our greatest challenge right now is employment. We require the development of new and disruptive industries in order to create new and innovative supply chains which will demand skilled/labour. Many industries are moving heavily towards automation and India must find a balance between man and machine in these industries,” says Kirloskar, who is looking forward to climbing up to the Everest Base Camp in 2017.
Soumya Swaminathan, 28, chess player
Swaminathan, who was the Indian junior girls’ champion in 2005 and 2006, tasted her big success after she won the World Junior Girls’ Championship in 2009 held in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. She won Indian women’s championship in 2011 and became the Commonwealth Women’s champion in 2012. An individual bronze during the World Chess Championship in 2013 was followed by the Asian bronze medal at Tashkent, Uzbekistan and then came the Asian individual gold medal in the UAE. She was also part of the Indian team that finished fifth in the Chess Olympiad. She is now preparing for next month’s Commonwealth Chess tournament in New Delhi and the Chess Olympiad next year.
“I feel that corruption is the biggest challenge India is facing currently. Secondly, as a sports person, I believe our efficiency level should be improved ... Despite having a pool of talented sportspersons, we still are far behind other countries,” says Swaminathan.
Abhay Mahajan, 26, actor
Popularly known as Mandal for his role in YouTube’s TVF series “Pitchers”, Mahajan’s Marathi movie Ringan (The Quest) was selected at the prestigious 12th Stuttgart Indian Film Festival. He was also seen in Harishchandrachi Factory, Doh, Khamosh Adalat Jaari Hai and Ranga Patanga. Mahajan has two releases this year - Gacchi and Aranya - and will start shooting for another film in August. He is also writing a Marathi web series and a film script. And, TVF Pitchers Season 2 will be up by the end of the year.
“We have filmmakers who are doing some exceptional work, However, those films are never seen because of lack of funding. It’s not easy to make non-commercial films in any country. But we need to work towards providing a platform for such films,” Mahajan says.
Ishita Katyal, 11, author and motivational speaker
Among the youngest TED speakers and TEDx event organisers from India, Katyal wrote Simran’s Diary – the happy, sad, and funny experiences of an eight-year-old which are quite insightful. The confident girl has spoken at a number of platforms including Josh talks, Nasscom, Mind Mingle and GoaFest 2017. She is working on her second book for tweens and teens and also planning to organise our next edition of TEDxYouth@Balewadi.
“Children are losing their childhood at an early age; peer pressure, being “excellent” in studies, social media, bullying, etc. Also, hatred between many is increasing day by day, shortage of food and water has killed many and apparently, a school which offer “great education” are not affordable by many. If we all come together we can certainly solve these problems,” says Katyal.
Sujay S Dahake, 29, filmmaker
Dahake has given us films such as Shala, Ajoba and Phuntroo. A national award winner for his film Shala, Sujay has also won the best director award at New York Indian Film Festival and Stuttgart Indian Film Festival. He is currently working on Tujhya Aila, a children’s film about verbal violence and slang. The other film Dahake is working on is Kesari, a fitness-oriented movie that talks about the importance of natural endurance than gym training.
“Currently, the news about suppressing art and artists has increased. This is a dangerous trend. Art revives society, if you suppress art it evokes anger and violence as an outlet. Art is by far the most peaceful protest and entices people. The current censorship scenario in India is terrifying, if that continues it is a direct threat to the booming film Industry of India. The entertainment business will steep low in monetary losses,” says the filmmaker.
Shoaib Dar, 27, founder of The Pi Jam
Dar founded The Pi Jam in Pune with an intention to make technology accessible to lower income school groups. The idea is to provide them with an experimental platform that will enhance their abilities and skills through technology.
“The current education system in lower income school groups lacks access to technology, quality of computer education and limited time for experimentation. We conduct workshops to bridge this gap,” says Dar.
Pooja Chopra, 29, model and actor
A national beauty pageant winner, Chopra made her Bollywood debut opposite Vidyut Jamval in 2013. Today, this pretty lady is busy travelling the globe for her shoots and appearances. She will be seen in Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary opposite Siddharth Malhotra. The film also stars Manoj Bajpayee.
“I am a positive person, so instead of looking at what we don’t have. I would prefer looking at how far we have come in the past few years. We are one of the world’s largest populated countries, so we are bound to face challenges. However, we need to think of solutions and move ahead,” says Chopra.
Pooja Shah, 27 , owner of More Mischief and Bond
Shah, along with her father Deepak, is the creative force behind the international feel and styles at the renowned bespoke menswear brand More Mischief. Having acquired her master’s in fashion styling and communication from Institute Europeo de Design, Milan, as the head stylist Shah brings a European sartorial etiquette to More Mischief’s current offering of highly stylised and intricate ensembles. She has also dived deep into creating the world of “Bond” - India’s premier Art, Food, Fashion and Lifestyle Theatre. She has been busy these last 6 months building her women’s wear line with the same philosophy that goes behind More Mischief.
“Be it in our connectivity offline or online, infrastructure has been a roadblock, which increases inefficiencies and stops people from achieving their true potential,” Shah, whose range of interests are varied and stretch from fashion to anthropology to architecture and everything in between, says Shah.
Chaitanya Velhal, 29, co-founder and head coach at MultiFit Academy of Triathlon and Endurance Sports
Velhal lives in the world of endurance sports and his goal is to identify and train talent in triathlons at the grass root level and create international level athletes. An ultra-endurance cyclist and a triathlete, Velhal holds the record for being the fastest Indian ultra-cyclist and the fastest Indian to qualify for Race Across America (RAAM).
He is currently training two students from Nashik for a race across Austria. “They will be the first Indians if they do it,” he says. Personally, he is training to be the Fastest Indian Ironman - Project Aug - 2018.
“A lot of talented kids who want to make a career in endurance sports like Running, Cycling, Triathlons do not get much support. And I am talking about support from parents, forget government funding. I spend a lot of times convincing parents of these talented kids to realise the true potential of their kids,” the passionate tri-athlete says.
Rinul Pashankar, 27, co-founder Om Studios
A certified aerial yoga and Sivananda instructor, Pashankar is also a trained sound therapist. An adventure enthusiast, she has won several competitions including the Panchgani Open among others. An adventure enthusiast, Pashankar conducts aerial yoga workshops and is working on aerial dance choreography. She also runs a publication and media company and helps her mother with her baking business.
“India is a land of opportunities. Unfortunately, we have a few factors that are affecting its growth. Discipline among civilians due to lack of education which comes due to the increasing number of population. So, these issues are interlinked and can be solved by working towards one at a time,” says Pashankar.
Daniel Dorabjee, 27, director, Dorabjee’s Royale Heritage Mall
Daniel joined the family’s iconic business at Dorabjee at the age of 18 and runs the Royale Heritage Mall with his dad in the city. He has supervised the mall from its inception to what it offers today and continues to be involved in the process. With a degree in interior designing, his acute design sense reflects in the mall’s architecture. He will soon start an independent residential project.
“The real estate industry needs a boost from its existing problems. We need a smooth and time-saving process when it comes to the approval of our projects and ventures. Water scarcity is another issue that needs to be tackled at the earliest,” says the bike and fitness enthusiast .
Divya Deshpande, 27, international table tennis player; India no 11
Deshpande started her national level title spree in 2003, winning the sub-junior national title in Baroda. At the international level, she tasted her first success in 2004 at the UAE International Open Championship in Dubai where she won double’s bronze. She also won bronze medals at South Asia Cup in Delhi and World Junior Circuit in Canada, followed by a gold at the UAE World Junior Open in 2005. In 2014, she was a member of the Indian squad that won the gold medal in Iran. Her latest feat is a silver medal at the Commonwealth Championship held in Surat in 2016. She is a part of Top Spinners team, which won Mumbai Super League recently.
“I feel women security is the main concern. Day by day the numbers of cases are increasing and I feel this is a very serious issue and it reflected at the international level too ... Then human trafficking, small kids begging on streets is another concern I feel,” says Deshpande.
Kunal Mhaske, 29, director Mhaske Hotels Pvt Ltd and Grandeur Hospitality
After studying in London, Mhaske returned to India to join the family business of budget hotels and real estate and gradually launched his own verticals by first establishing Grandeur Hospitality. He has introduced interesting concepts across the town such as hostels for hospitals. Rasta Cafe is the other business he is busy with. It has three outlets in the city and there will be two more by the year end. Mhaske aims to take Rasta Cafe to Dubai, London and other holiday destinations.
“A small city like Pune is doing well in F&B, generating enough tax for the government. Yet, we are looked upon as high alert and risk businesses. We have cops hovering around us,” says Mhaske.
Rutuja Satpute, 22, cyclist
Satpute’s rise has been pretty spectacular. In 2013, she won a bronze medal at the Asian Cycling Championship, Bangkok, and finished second in the 500m time trial at the Track Asia Cup at New Delhi. In 2015, she won two silver medals in the team event in the 19th National Road Cycling Competition in Karnataka, followed by a gold medal in the 35th National Games at Kerala. The year 2016 started with a team gold medal in the South Asian Games and she then clinched two gold medals in the 20th National Road Cycling Championship in Kerala. She won a team bronze in Asian Cup track event in Delhi, followed by two individual gold medals and team silver in Road Nationals in Uttar Pradesh.
She is now headed to Belgium for training in time for the World Championship in Norway in September and her long-term aim is to win a medal in the Commonwealth Games.
“I think the greatest problem we are facing is a lack of transparency. The government, federations try to hide as much information as they can, which affects our progress. Though the situation is changing, I feel, we should have a completely transparent system,” says Satpute.
Ishan Bhale, 29, owner, blueFROG
Regarded as one of the most enthusiastic club owners in the city, Bhale runs blueFROG Pune that has won numerous national awards as the best live music venue and nightclub in the country. An avid sportsman, he is passionate about taking blueFROG to greater heights with its entertainment and nightlife offerings.
India needs a focused approach to development, says Ishan.
(This is the first part of a series called ‘Thirty under Thirty.)