Trailblazers share inspiring stories of breaking barriers at ET NOW GBS 2024

A diverse group of disruptors and change-makers recently came together for an empowering panel discussion hosted by moderator Murtaza Ali Khan, Indian Film Critic and Journalist. The session, titled “Change Catalysts: Disruptors who broke the rules for positive change,” featured pioneers who have overcome obstacles to drive impact in their respective fields.

Khan expressed excitement over the esteemed lineup of trailblazers joining the dialogue. He said, “I am honoured to take this discussion forward. We have five trailblazers here. And when I say trailblazers, I don’t use it just like that. I mean it.” Khan emphasized the goal of gleaning insights on “what it takes to be a trailblazer” and serve as an inspiration to others.

Pankaj Bhadouria, India’s 1st MasterChef, shared her journey from being an English teacher to achieving celebrity status in the culinary world. Despite facing challenges in entering a male-dominated industry in her late 30s as a working mother, Bhadouria persevered: “I told them, oh wait, and watch chef, this woman is going to rule your basket.” She eventually earned respect through proving her skills in pop-ups and collaborations.

Ira Singhal made history as the first differently-abled woman to top the Indian Civil Services exam. However, she encountered discrimination in securing a government posting afterwards. “Nobody except for the Indian Revenue Services was willing to accept my disability,” she said. After multiple rejections, Singhal decided, “Maybe this is where my journey starts…I came here to make a difference.” She filed and won a lawsuit but recognises more progress is still needed.

Deepa Pant, Founder & CEO, Svatanya, built fashion merchandising experience over 13 years before questioning the waste she observed in factories. She asked, “Where’s that little even that little impact in someone else’s life?” This drove Pant to start Svatanya, which economically empowers underprivileged women artisans. “While doing that, we do a lot of upcycling and recycled raw material because we try and make conscious products,” she explained.

Sammi Cannold, Director, Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment has directed Broadway shows, advocating for more inclusion. She noticed that women were underrepresented in creative leadership roles several years ago but now sees exponential improvement. Cannold also discussed casting autistic actors in autistic roles to further authentic representation. She said this decision “was something that the industry was very shocked by…I’m hoping that that growth will start to see a bit more of that in film as well.”

Despite progress made, the panelists highlighted ongoing needs to keep driving change. Their stories illustrated the tireless resilience, thoughtful planning, courageous risk-taking and collaboration required to upset the status quo. Khan perfectly captured the spirit of the trailblazers, saying they showed “what it takes to inspire millions.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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