When Puja Kohli first began working in the Human Resources field, she was fascinated by human nature and relationships. She had no idea that she would be forging some very important ones over the course of her career. Her passion for interpersonal interactions kickstarted her journey, and today Puja specialises in giving people a new lease on life – a special path indeed!
As the famous Roman philosopher, Seneca, once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” For many retirees and people who haven’t been an active part of the workforce for years, ‘new beginnings’ aren’t a simple process. Despite their skills and expertise, it remains difficult to jump back into the rat race. Puja and her team saw that there was a gap in the market and knew that they had found their niche! Soon after, Unfold Second Innings was born.
Finding Her Passion
Intrigued by human interaction, Puja initially wanted to pursue Psychology but ended up specialising in Management Studies. She says, “When I began my management studies, I intuitively gravitated to the field of HR since it explored human relations in the context of organisations, teams, leadership, and culture or values.”
Puja says, “I started my career as an HR trainee at The Park hotel in Calcutta post my management studies. Within a year I got the opportunity to join a startup IT firm in Calcutta that was in the domain of airlines. It was a huge learning experience in the early days of my career to help set up the HR function and work with a management team that was empowering, and willing to teach. The stint gave me a headstart in my career and helped me develop a strategic mindset.”
Her startup experiences served her well and gave Puja the leverage required to move forward. She explains, “It was an experience that gave me the wings to take my next leap to come to Bangalore and join Accenture. It was also a large startup of sorts when I joined them in mid-2004. The 5 years I spent there was all in first-time roles to start programs, initiatives, set up processes and operating models.”
It was also the first role that allowed her to fully explore the field, and find her place in it. She says, “I got the opportunity to explore the field of Diversity and shape the mindset for being sensitive and inclusive of gender in the workplace. When I moved to CGI, I got the opportunity to explore the impact of generations, and this led me to eventually do a study on looking at the impact of multi-generational workplaces that was sponsored by Nasscom and Iprimed.”
Her work yielded interesting results, and Puja realised that employment opportunities for post-retirement professionals were scarce – and the demand was higher than people realised. She decided to take a leap of faith and start her own business – Unfold.
Puja says, “We are a consulting firm that works with organisations and communities to build winning cultures and mindsets. We work with corporates to build cultures that are inclusive, intrapreneurial and dynamic. We explore unconscious biases that are barriers to embrace gender, age, cultural, thinking and working styles.”
If that isn’t impressive enough, she further explains, “We work with seniors, retired professionals and homemakers to enable them to Work, Learn and Interact. Our endeavour is to break the stereotype of age, gender and circumstance. We are nurturing and building a community of those either looking to build second innings, learning new skills or networking to stay socially or intellectually engaged. We promote active living and ageing through our interventions.”
Puja adds, “While the millennial story is the story of a young and youthful India, there is a population that is physically ageing but remains young at heart looking to keep contributing and staying actively engaged.”
Striking Out On Her Own
Though today Unfold is unquestionably a success, starting it was a gamble. Despite scepticism, Puja was sure of her facts and that there was a market for her work. She says, “Our agendas are complex as we are building thinking around realities that are emerging but not yet accepted or has an established market. Hence building believers and influencing the need is one of our biggest challenges. We are gazing at the future and holding a crystal ball to others to show them what is to come and be prepared for it.”
As for the joys of starting her own company, she says, “It was a pure desire to challenge myself as an entrepreneur and continue to explore diverse thinking around my areas of interest i.e. people, change, innovation. The pursuit of looking at organisational contexts and cultural dilemmas coupled with a desire to work with communities, diverse generational cohorts, and innovative, entrepreneurial work models. Unfold Second Innings was born to explore cohorts that are outside the purview of organisations but have a huge potential as a talent pool with a strong desire to be productive and intellectually included.”
Well, we can definitely applaud any venture that makes the world a more inclusive place. We love the idea of giving older and more experienced people the chance to explore new things and create new experiences. It just goes to show that it’s never too late for a fresh start!
Takeaway – Habits That Help!
We asked Puja if she had any habits or traits that have helped make her successful.
She shared, “Being flexible, having the ability to link the dots, and the resilience to keep believing in the path that that has been set on.”
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