Welcome to this first in a series of interactions we are doing with professionals who have set up their own ventures or professionals who have switched their careers successfully to follow a passion.
We are in conversation with Tanvi Drolia, who started and runs a successful chain of daycare centres and preschools in Bengaluru.
Before we talk about anything else, Tanvi tell us what this venture is all about?
Tanvi Drolia: It’s called Cubby Tales. It’s a preschool and daycare chain for little children and we call it the happy place for little ones. I started out with the concept of starting a daycare facility for children because I felt that the way kids are spending their time, the definition of childhood itself is being negated. There is a saying you should live like a child, smile like a child and laugh like a child. But if the child is not able to do all those things, where does that leave us. We also wanted open spaces for children along with the idea of giving them this happy place. Children are also not getting enough social interaction, leading to many problems like speech delay and other delayed milestones. We have three preschools now, and take children from the age of 6 months to 8 years. Parents also need a place where they could leave children without any stress.
Your venture is successful today, but I do remember you saying earlier how this idea sprang from a place of adversity in your own life.
Tanvi Drolia: Five years ago, I couldn’t have even thought of this. I had a very sorted life; I got married, had my future planned and once you’re married you have the steps figured out. But things changed and I ended up in a place where I didn’t know what to do. I was given a lot of options by well-wishers, but they were all about doing something temporary to keep myself busy. As a woman, the priority has always been to do what you want until its time to get settled and married. I was told, it’s a temporary phase and I should move on and get married. Even though the option was there, I was clear I didn’t want to join my father’s business, so I was exploring a lot of options. This was something I never thought I would have to do. I have been naturally good with children. I researched many playschools in Bengaluru. Financially, I haven’t had issues and my father was there to support this venture too, but he said to me right at the start that he was considering it at an expense. Although my father is supportive, but he also did not expect anything from this venture. Cubby Tales is now 3.5 years old with 3 outlets and 200 children.
Your journey is about making different decisions and conscious choices. You chose to ignore some advice and make your own mark. How hard was it to set up a venture like this from the word get-go?
Tanvi Drolia: It was very difficult. When you are focused on your vision, you have to move forward and keep at it. There will be a lot of times when you will want to give up and things will look hard. Firstly, it lets us know that it takes time and secondly, never have a Plan B. If you have an exit route, then you will go back to that. For me, it was this venture or nothing at all. When you are very young and look petite, people don’t take you seriously and that was another hurdle for me. People did not take me seriously to begin with. Initially, I did not realise this, I started dressing more seriously and look mature. I had to keep motivating myself and my staff until we had some clientele. Then there was a time I was questioning myself; did I invest too much, is it a waste of time, did I come too far? Thankfully, I also came across some wonderful people who also believed in the same things I did. When you believe in something and put in the hard work. Others saw this passion and hard work, which ultimately worked for me.
Yours is a woman-centric enterprise, does that help you and change the dynamics of what you are offering?
Tanvi Drolia: My industry is such that women fit in naturally and they do have a caring instinct. Parents also prefer women as caregivers. Women make up 95% of my staff. On the one hand, we have young freshers who want to learn and become one with the children and we have experienced staff who are women who have returned to the workforce. It is a dynamic combination of women! Every single woman is different and contributing in her own way.
The struggle you went through to start this venture and the gratification at the end of it, how has this changed you as a person?
Tanvi Drolia: I feel reborn with this venture. There is a saying that a Child gives birth to a Mother, this is how I feel. It has taught me a lot. Financial stability and financial independence mean that I can take many decisions for myself a lot more confidently, I don’t have to do things because I have no choice. I will do something because I want to do it not because society wants me to. It has given me the confidence to believe in myself. I have people employed under me whose families are dependent on me and they trust me. Parents trust their babies with me. I know I am on the right track to make my future secure and stable on my terms without being dependent on anybody else. People still advise me on what to do or not do, without knowing my struggles. Till date when people meet me, the first thing they ask is about my personal life and what plans I have. It is never first about Cubby Tales. What is this obsession about having a family? They say that its ok if Cubby Tales is doing fine but what about you settling in life, to which I reply, what makes you think I am not settled?
Ultimately, it’s your ‘self’ that matter, because only when that is okay can you contribute to others.
Tanvi Drolia: Women are selfless in nature and we don’t realise when we have gone overboard. “Me” time is very important. It is not selfish to have “me” time, it is a necessity if you want to justice to others.
Before I let you go, what is your biggest learning from this experience?
Tanvi Drolia: When I started Cubby Tales, I used to be constantly glued into the reviews on social media. I was obsessed with what people were saying and I used to blow up with even one negative feedback. What I realised is that we can’t please everyone, be it friends, family or even customers. We have to let go, which doesn’t mean that you don’t care. Do what you want to do, everyone is never going to be perfectly happy. Don’t deviate from your conviction.