I connected with her through a common friend and we spoke regarding a project that was close to her heart. I liked her passion towards her vocation and then we have been bumping into each other on many occasions – all of them have been pleasant interactions! We share common interests too that of positive psychology and people development. She is an inspirational lady and has a very empowering and friendly aura.
She believes in the adage – ‘Quality is a habit’. Here’s the incredible story of Ms. Nirupama Hukku, Founder of FiTA- The Final Touch Academy a postgraduate in Marketing Management from Bajaj Institute, she has spent ten years in the IT Education and Training industry before embarking on her own in 2001. Her interest has always been in people development. She is a RESULTS-certified coach and has successfully completed the Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) from the ICF (International Coach Federation). She is also a certified NLP Master Practitioner. Her strength lies in the ability to go beyond what coachees feel are their limitations. She facilitates the self-discovery and development process with ease and a clear focus on the coachee’s takeaway. Being a certified Psychotherapist helps her achieve this.
Ms. Hukku has successfully coached professionals across hierarchies. Her coachees include MDs of drug and manufacturing companies, a German Expatriate Head of a pharmaceutical company, a VP of a UK based IT company, to name a few. She has also successfully coached many middle and junior level executives from industries like Finance, Education, Pharmaceutical and Construction.
She founded FiTA in 2001. Currently FiTA offers services in 4 areas 1) Coaching and Mentoring 2) Soft Skills training 3) Business English Language Development 4) Media Training. She has trained over 10000 professionals in the last two decades, through corporate programs and open workshops.
Nirupama Hukku is a Chevening scholar. She was awarded the prestigious Chevening scholarship for its program, Women in Leadership and Management. This was fully sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth office the UK government. She was the only entrepreneur selected across India. In the course of the scholarship she did her project on measuring the impact of training in partnership with EDS, Lucent Technologies, British Council and the University of Bradford.
Her other achievements include:
We had a few questions for her and she graciously answered them. Here’s the glimpse of her life, ideology and goals.
IWH: Tell us something about you, your growing up years, life through school, college etc.
Nirupama: Being the youngest of four siblings life was always about sharing. I cannot recall a time, perhaps till today, of eating a full chocolate all by myself. My parents being the gentle folks they were, I never heard raised voices or reprimand. But somehow the rules were clear. I was encouraged and supported to be myself, my individuality was nourished as was the focus on being a good, global citizen. I learnt that your personal achievement benefitted only you, but what impacted others was your behaviour- so don’t offend anyone by bad behaviour was a clear message.
Schooling in Mumbai was at Loreto Convent – a school straight out of an Enid Blyton book. Two storyed buildings, pale green and pink, with a beautiful rock garden on one side and a playground bordered with Ashoka trees on the other. A quiet chapel where kids loved being as it gave them a peek into the nuns’ lives, is a vivid memory.
Between such a tranquil home and school what got left out was that nursing an ambition and being competitive were an integral part of most people’s lives. So while I set my own standards to better with passing time, it never occurred to me that I must look at what others are doing too.With these beliefs I entered Junior College with the aim of getting into Medicine. However that was not to be. I missed it by a percent or so. I opted out of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy. On the insistence of a friend I went to IHM Mumbai to apply. Till then I had no idea about Hotel Management. I was very reluctant and gave only one preference of the institute – IHM Mumbai. And I got selected.
IWH: What made you select a career in hospitality? Was it easy making that decision?
Nirupama: As I said the choice was made for me by process of elimination rather than selection. But once I was there I decided to do my best. But it took me some time to accept that I would be studying subjects like food production and F&B service instead of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The day of the interview is etched in my memory. I understand now that it was a privilege. I was interviewed by none other than Ms. Thangam Philip and a few other senior gentlemen. I have never been as terrified in my life as I was that day. I forgot answers to very basic questions. But she smiled very kindly and let me go. I came back home, quite certain that I had messed up. But evidently I hadn’t.
I worked for a couple of years in the hospitality industry before I decided to qualify myself further and enrolled for the Masters in Management program at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute. I then worked for a decade with NIIT before branching out on my own.
IWH: What is your current role?
Nirupama: I currently run my own company FiTA- The Final Touch Academy. We offer learning solutions in areas of soft skills, individual Coaching and Mentoring, Business Language Development and Media Training.
I was quite an introvert when I joined IHM. I was nervous with all the chatter around me and was not able to say a word. And then, probably due to some divine intervention, I decided to change. It was very challenging to change my personality, hurdles kept coming. But as I worked upon myself these obstacles started becoming smaller and insignificant.
I now help professionals and students to bridge exactly this gap. For shy and introverted people continuous rejection can make them believe that they lack skills and talent. When all they lack is the ability to sell themselves. I step in before they reach this fatal point.
IWH: How has your professional journey been so far? Pros, cons etc?
Nirupama: Today my coaching clients include senior management- MDs and CEOS along with middle management professionals. I also train students for developing their communication and interviewing skills. I coach in the very areas that were challenges in my growing years. The journey from then to now has certainly not been easy but very exciting and full of learning.
When you have the support of a brand (organization) behind you it is probably a bit easier as compared to when you develop your own brand. A person must at some point in time experience both. A very important learning for me has been that don’t let success go to your head and don’t let failure destroy you. Both are very enjoyable and necessary events in the journey of life.
IWH: Who has been your mentor or a role model? In what way has that person helped you?Nirupama: Of the people you meet along life, several of them impact you. I mention three here. My mother was one such person. Her value system was unshakable and combined with her generosity and largeness of heart, it made it impossible not to be impacted by her. From her I learnt to never give up, to avoid judging people and that forgiveness is a wonderful thing- it makes you feel light.
The second was Karekar Sir– my art teacher when I was 5 or 6 years old. He made every child feel so talented and special, never mind what the output. He patiently told you how to improve, with a few master strokes added gently to your piece of art. The drawing was transformed and the child left the class feeling so elated and good about himself/ herself. I learnt from him how support and encouragement can go such a long way in building a person’s confidence.
The third was Ms.Kamla Tina who introduced me to Transcendental Meditation (TM) when I was just out college. Her calmness and soft voice was mesmerising along with her twinkling eyes and mirthful laughter. She was such a gentle soul, so completely non-judgmental and giving. Her soft personality exuded so much of warmth that you were not afraid to ask what you thought were silly questions, you wanted to learn from her. I learnt from her to share your knowledge. By sharing you increase your learning.
IWH: What have been the high points of your career? Highlight at least 3.
Nirupama: The first highlight was completing my Masters in Management along with full time employment with neither suffering. A lot of hard work and desire to perform were the motivators. Moving from strength to strength in the company I worked for and getting recognition like a double promotion within the first two years of joining was most encouraging.
The second was the decision to start out on my own. I realised to my pleasant surprise I had the self-assurance and the confidence to do so, perhaps with a bit of optimism thrown in.
The third was to be selected as the only woman entrepreneur for the prestigious Chevening scholarship, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British Govt.
IWH: What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? How did you deal with them?Nirupama: Honestly I have been lucky in this matter. Irrespective of whether I was working for an organization or running my own business, barring a couple of incidents, I can safely say I had very few challenges. On one occasion I had a male team member who did everything he could to make it difficult for the team to perform since he did not want to report to a female boss. He indicated this in so many words. But here I thank my upbringing, my self -assurance and experience with working with other male colleagues that I was able to sail through this situation. Another thing I experienced twice over was working with women who made it difficult for me to excel and perform. The same bosses were very different with male team members. So I l learnt that gender bias could be within the same gender too.
IWH: If there was anything that you could change about your life or career what would that be?Nirupama: Overall I am quite happy with the way life turned out for me but if I have to answer this question:
1) Out of college, I would have liked to reach out to a professional counsellor, for guidance in managing my career. It would have helped me not make the mistakes I did.
2) I would have been more demanding with team members for a performance and to shape up themselves.
IWH: What do you think of IWH?
Nirupama: IWH is an excellent platform for women to reach out to each other and support enterprise and initiative. More than two thousand women professionals could be a force to reckon with. My best wishes to people who thought of this and executed the entire process of hosting the group. I urge all the members to participate actively and add a lot of value to our individual lives.
IWH: Your advice to the young professionals and students.
IWH: Anything else you wish to share with our readers?