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Episode 1: Parmesh Shahani

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26th November 2021

True to his style - Parmesh Shahani wears many ‘fabulous and stylish’ hats, One of which includes being a writer and his most prominent hat is that of a scholar at MIT, Yale, The World Economic Forum and he’s also a Ted senior fellow; all of which gave him an opportunity to learn and understand the different aspects of the world we live in. Let's dive right into the conversation

About Parmesh:

True to his style - Parmesh Shahani wears many ‘fabulous and stylish’ hats, One of which includes being a writer and his most prominent hat is that of a scholar at MIT, Yale, The World Economic Forum and he’s also a Ted senior fellow; all of which gave him an opportunity to learn and understand the different aspects of the world we live in.

Let’s dive right into the conversation:

Audiophiles:


Bibliophiles

Sandeep

Welcome everyone to the first episode of our podcast - That’s Lit. Our guest today is Parmesh Shahani. I quite honestly can't, figure out one specific way to describe him by a job or a role. I would say he's generally been an evangelist of inclusion in the world. I think, from our first conversations, which now go back about 15 years, you’ve talked about just the importance of how we need to be mindful of society as we start to build businesses and over time, you've integrated a lot more of the thinking around LGBTQ as well, which has been eye opening.

But to give a more formal structural introduction, Parmesh has been leading the Godrej culture lab, for the last 10 years and has really managed to bring to the forefront topics that perhaps have been in the shadows for a long time and has demonstrated what a positive impact it can have. We'll get into more of that as we go, but Parmesh, is there a more formal title that you go by that you feel like more adequately describes what you do. 

Parmesh

“ Your Royal Highness” That’s a good place to start. You know, it's 2021. What about hyperbole? Right? Trump's gone! exaggeration is still  here

No, but seriously, as you described, right? I mean, I like to think that I wear three different hats, fabulous stylish ones at that. I think of myself first as a writer and as a scholar. Whether it's Gay Bombay, my first book, or Queeristan, which just now came out a couple of months ago in the middle of the pandemic. I've been blessed, to not just study, but also like, be a scholar at places like MIT or Yale or with programs like the Ted senior fellows or the world economic forum. Each of these have been such great opportunities to learn and to understand the connections between the different aspects of the world as we live in. The second is business and this is where we first met. I remember meeting you and, we had co-invested in ClearTrip and I was doing a different role at that time at Mahindra focusing on innovation

Sandeep

At that time, you were still the purveyor of fashion and style in conservative environment. I remember having a, a meeting with Arun Nanda and him pointing out that he was always curious to see what color socks you would show up in

Parmesh

Yeah, you would send me notes in the middle of investment meetings saying “They are very boring today. I'm not impressed. I don't think I want to say yes to this funding opportunity” and I was like “damn it!” hahaha and since then, it's been Godrej and the culture lab, now through diversity and inclusion through the portfolio and other ways, working with leaders and really helping business reimagine itself as a force for good and for change. The third is on culture and creative industries. So, I spent some time editing work, but even before that had a long run in print journalism with Elle, with the times of India group, etc And yeah, I love fashion so alot of what I do is also at these intersections, right? So whether it's with the different fashion weeks, or with things like the India Art Fair or Serendipity, the art festival. I mean, so many of these art fashion design kind of linkages that drive me personally, and in some strange ways seem to find me. Very broadly, I would think I'm a dot connector. 

Sandeep

That’s a very good name. Dot connector. I think that's how people should refer to you from now on.15 years ago, you wrote the first book, you had a certain perspective. Now with the new books coming out, you've had a chance to work at a large company and push this whole idea of LGBTQ and push the envelope to talk about it. Do you see a change? Has the world moved at all? Is it moving fast enough? What's your perspective on that? 

Parmesh

Yeah, I see a fundamental change for sure, but I don't think the world is moving fast enough at all. On any dimension - whether it's climate change, whether it's social justice… we just have to look at the news, right. All over the world, as well as in our own country. 

If you look at the rise of all the important movements in the past couple of years, which have actually been there for decades, but have recently come to  prominence once again, because of the urgency, right? Whether it's Greta and climate change - the push really toward climate change and recognizing that if we don't act together as a planet, there's really no going back. Or black lives matter, or the  me too movement for gender equality. These are just some which have been like, prominent say in the U S and other parts of the Western world and India as well. We continue face multiple struggles which are ongoing on the ground.

A lot of this is also because more governments, companies, corporations, and other institutional players are recognizing that these are important forces, but in terms of the actual structural changes to make things better, I think that we are working a lot slower. Certainly what has happened over the past decade is that, businesses understood that, this is not something that you can any longer just afford to pay lip service to, for example, post COVID, diversity and inclusion is not something that is a cherry on the cake. It can really become the whole cake because if you look at, even from a needs basis, if you look at the job numbers in terms of who's been excluded, the latest CMI data says that, women's employment fell from 20% some years ago to about 7% post COVID, right? That means this. If we are in a country where women are like, losing jobs faster than men and not recovering them as fast as men. In this case, right, focusing on some of these issues of equality and equity is more important. Focusing on gender at this point would be even more important

Parmesh

Yeah. Across multiple dimensions. I can just tell you about LGBTQ inclusion, which is what I work on, but the same would be true on any other dimension, whether it's people with disabilities, whether it's regional, whether it's cost, whether it's whichever dimension of inclusion, race, whichever dimension of inclusion you want to look. Right. There is enough, in terms of just the numbers - countries have realized this, but there's enough data that says that, $200 billion is the Indian LGBTQ economy. The global LGBTQ economy is worth about $5 trillion. This is not me. This is companies like PWc and others who are saying this. The world bank did a report, in 2014, which specifically measured the cost of homophobia in India. And, that was $32 billion in 2014. The economist who conducted that Lee Badgett is a friend of mine. 

 Sandeep

What does that mean in terms of the cost of homophobia? 

Parmesh

The report is available online, but it means that if we had better policies, processes, systems, and were not homophobic, then we would have gotten an economic bump of this. We lost $32 billion in revenue because were homophobic. I urge everyone to go read the report it. The point is in  2014, $32 billion was about 1% of our country's GDP. Again, people have started measuring it. They started realizing that, exclusion has a cost and inclusion has benefits. People realize this at the country level, so there are multiple countries now in the world, which are going out to attract talent, people have realized that at the state level, and, in America, for example, there are states where when homophobic bills come up, corporations petition these states, for example, transgender washrooms or things like that. There are enough cases of corporations petitioning these states. They say we will not set our company, let our companies operate in states, which are, homophobic. We have enough example of, states changing their policies, because they want to keep attracting business and so on. There's enough data in terms of money that can be made. I cite a book about, Todd Sears who used to work at Merrill Lynch. I cite this in the book when they just started in the early 2000s saying that, can we make a couple of million dollars, off the LGBTQ market in terms of, identifying them as potential buyers of our financial services and products, and his team raised $1.4 billion in two years, instead of a couple million dollars that they had thought they would go out and raise from queer people. Of course, then there's enough financial services companies that offer products to specifically, they leverage LGBTQ individuals, right? So there's enough money to be made. There's enough data that says – Deloitte, for example says that if you have inclusive workplaces, you are eight times more likely to have better outcomes and six times more likely to be more innovative. 

Sandeep

And so have you seen these benefits as you guys have implemented this at the workplace?

Parmesh

Not just us, but companies across India and across the world have seen these benefits. I can give you one a very specific example and, you are on the Godrej board. So, I mean, this will be the warm the cockles of your heart to hear. One of our biggest investors in board, rich consumer products, has gone on record…they've gone on record to tell us that one of the reasons why they continue investing in that institutionally is because they really value, our diversity and inclusion impetus, especially that we focus on LGBTQ inclusion as other forms of inclusion as well. This is because, the investor, the person making these decisions happens to be lesbian. And then she visited Godrej, she was just so enthused by Nisa’s, strong commitment to LGBTQ inclusion. She went back and told her wife that - this is amazing. I'm glad that this happening out of India and they remain committed to being invested in us for the long term. This is just one example. 

Sandeep

I think you're absolutely right in the sense that it makes a difference with the people who care and with the people who understand it. In our fund, environmental issues and social issues are really important in how we look at building companies. Yeah, it's not an ESG requirement by an LP that we were given. It's been more a feeling that we have because we have kids that are going to grow up here and they're going to have to deal with the world after we're gone and It's a question of what kind of world do you want to leave and what kind of impact can you have? And I think that you made this decision a long time ago, that I guess with your academia perspective, you took a call. I remember us having this conversation saying, look, I'm only going to get so far in that world. I need to be in an environment where I can actually influence and drive a change. I think that finding that opportunity to get in there and do it. That was, I think the, I mean, it was unheard of at the time when you went in, I don't think the role that I know for a fact, the role didn't exist. Maybe we can talk about that. How did you create this role? How did you convince… how did you go in and say, guys, this is what we're going to do. This is why it makes sense because you didn't have any of the data that you have today. You had an idea, you had a belief, you had a view, but what was the story? Cause this is the ultimate pitch quite honestly. 

Parmesh

Well, you played an important role in that as well. I'm very grateful to you for introducing me to Nisa. I think often, and I talk about this in my book as well, I talk about two frameworks with which I view the change-making process.

One is cultural acupuncture and which is renewing really, and what points you have to press, because, when you have, when you are someone like me who has zero power, but a capacity to influence knowing where you press to get your influence running is the most important thing that you will do. Right? so, in this case, it was very clearly that the point of press at Godrej was Nisa. How do we influence Nisa, right? And you really helped with that and I'm so grateful because how do we get someone, who is in that moment of transformation themselves to understand that this kind of ambiguous thing that we're talking about saying, let's start a lab, like space to look at changes, taking place in the world. I remember the early conversations were very much about, even with her, right, who's been to IVO, who knows about design thinking, who's travelled in the world. She's like, I don't get what this means. We had some of that with her. I think there was just that early kind of strange fit. We were two misfits, trying to make sense of the world were living in. I think you saw that because when I came to you with the idea after dropping out of U Penn with a PhD, you very clearly told me, you said, I think this is crazy. I can only think of one other crazy person in the world who might get this, which is her. So go talk to her. And, you set us up on this, get to know each other date. We hung out and we realized that, we can talk to each other! So at some point she was like, I still don't know what you want to do, but I think I kinda like you and I want you to be here, because we are in this moment of transformation. I think some of what you say can stick and help us. So do this culture lab thing or whatever. Of course the questions that were asked were very much, is this going to make us money? Were like, no, it's good to spend some money. This going to help us sell more soap? So I was like, no and she’s like okay, so why are we doing this? Right. How do you make that translation between when we are looking at changes in the world outside, you're able to capture trends that we can perhaps learned from when we invite others and expose ourselves to the world. There's this dialogue, there's an understanding. I think, I mean, that journey took time. 

Sandeep

I think that you talked about something in a very open, vulnerable way, and we're able to establish that connection. I think that once you did that, you then brought that openness to everything. I remember participating in a conversation there on subcultures, and you brought a group of people together who were very interesting and you pushed a thought process around this idea of how things grow and how they happen. You've ended up creating a platform that I think that allows for discussion that wouldn't have otherwise happened in the same way. And the fact that you were able to get a large company to buy into that is a testament to the importance of the conversation and the importance of the thought and the fact that it's sustained for 10 years. I mean, I think that the whole thing would have been fine for you. When Nisa and you had a moment in time and felt good about something and thought let's try something, but you built on it and you sustained it and ran it for 10 years. It's growing. But maybe talk about how that changed. I mean, you went in and took perhaps what was a semblance of an idea and a thought of what could happen, but if you sit back now and look back, did you expect to accomplish what you did? Did you expect to be in a different place? Did you, and I'm not saying good or bad, I'm just saying, is it different from where you may have thought? And what do you think you've learnt along? 

Parmesh

In that sense, it's very much like your investee companies – you start in a direction. You get your first round or whatever, based on, the plans you show, but then 10 years later it's like, okay, what did we fund exactly? Who is this? 

Sandeep

No, no no all our companies operate to the perfect plan that they told us at the beginning … I don't know what you're talking about haha

Parmesh

You must be the only venture capitalist in the world then. No, I think we've iterated along the way. That's been, that's, what's been exciting. We went in with the premise that maybe there's a need for an open kind of for a platform, which is, format agnostic, but which brings together people from different parts of the world and different walks of life, all of who are interested in investigating what it means to be modern in india. And, that's grown over the years into, an event space, an art space, a think tank kind of space that produces resources and white papers, a learning kind of space that, produces, fellowships for students in the humanities, a particular kind of students who are very underserved, because you're mandate internships and programs. 

It's grown over the years, it's gone into a collaboration space, the culture lab earlier used to be things that we did only on our campus, but over the past few years, we've kind of popped up in different cities.

Sandeep

What hasn't worked over the years. What did you do that? You're like, whoa, were just off base  on this. 

Parmesh

What hasn't worked is when we've tried to listen to people say here's what the public needs it's never worked and which why we stopped doing this kind of surveys of what people want post events and whatever, because, I think in that sense, curation and connection, which is what, we do, I think, has to come from this, the space of understanding the world, but also can't come through like asking people what they want and what they need. It has to come from like some of subliminal understanding of what is lying below the surface. In that sense, I think it's not that different from being a good venture capitalists, right. If you're not imagining what people want today, you’re imagining what will they want tomorrow? I'm taking bets on it today. , 

Sandeep

Let's talk about that for a second. If you look at COVID the last year things that shifted, I think we talked about how in our own lives, things have evolved and changed, and you can talk about that, but I mean, do you see, do sense? Do you, have you guys done any work to figure out what is fundamentally changed in what people want now? 

 Parmesh

Yeah, I think fundamentally, a lot of ‘braham’ that people had, a lot of illusions that people had, about, systems, spaces and relationships whether that is between individuals or between individuals and organization like workplace and an employee. So I think organizations and individuals who are, who have, remain authentic, remained value based, remained committed to like, something deeper and longer term are certainly going to benefit them, more than others who have used this moment to like lay bare, and leave quite naked, the transactional nature of their, either of who they are as individuals or who they are as organizatons. COVID I think has realigned everyone into a deeper quest for authenticity, whether it is within one's own selfs, whether it’s in one's personal relationships or professional relationships. I see it happening, in my own life with my friends in, the company I work with and another company. People's capacity for like accepting bullshit or manufacturing it or not pretending that it exists, is going down.  

Sandeep

Absolutely right. I mean, it's funny. We, we did a whole analysis at one point on, or our own thought process on what's going to be different. In the typical, I guess, venture jargon, where we said transparency and hygiene and, but the transparency part that you're talking about, I think it's very interesting. You point out that this is kind of essential in every aspect of life now you're, it's not just about…I just want my companies to tel, you make a great point. I want my relationships with my friends to be more transparent. I want my relationships with my partners to be more transparent. I want whatever it may because you're absolutely right, because, I guess it did evolve the view now that says, all this stuff is going to change on a dime tomorrow again. 

Whether it's this pandemic or something else you want to be invested in relationships that matter. I guess people go through these evolutions in life where it's, if somebody has a major illness or a death for that moment in time, you say, well, life is so precious. We must live everyday like it’s the last, then you go back to forgetting about that, and I don't know how long this stuff lasts. I wonder a lot about the idea or these changes. Like right now - I'm recording this from my house. I know you're in the office, but, I'm gonna have a view that says that, it's okay, it's, I can be more productive. I can do this. I can do that when I'm not traveling, but tomorrow when suddenly the world is very free and open to go around, am I going to maintain this new perspective on life? Am I going to regress to the mean, what are we really going to take out of this transparency of relationships. Are brands going to matter the same way to Indian consumers, who are very specifically, let's say in the nicest way possible value conscious and not necessarily quality driven per se all the time. Are they going to migrate towards brands that are inclusive? If it's a premium to be inclusive, are they going to migrate towards brands that are environmentally for the aware, if it's a premium to do that, I'm hopeful that the role of technology will make it such that you can be environmentally conscious, inclusive, and still deliver a better product at a better price. 

That is the responsibility I think that we have as investors to make that happen. You have within Godrej as a large company to deliver products with that mind frame. I'm not sure if the consumers are ready to really make decisions driven by that. Are you finding that's happening? Are you thinking that's a permanent shift?  

Parmesh

I am finding that's happening with employees and consumers because, certainly I work. I mean, employees are also consumers, right? Because in a sense you have to attract employees to your group and I'm seeing more and more amongst because I go, I recruit, I talk to large groups of people. I'm seeing young India being very, as you said, value conscious and values conscious. I am seeing very clearly the questions being asked about sustainability, about the environment, about treating everyone fairly and equally. What's incredible is that, in my case since, I work primarily around LGBTQ inclusion, what's amazing now is that it's not just the queer students asking it's the straight students asking as well. They’re like: I am straight, but I want to work for a company that treats my queer friends well..and this was different than years ago because I remember when I joined Mahindra first, I was like - I'm gay, I want to be treated well. Then, at Godrej I was like – I’m Gay, tell me about the policies so that everyone who's queer is treated better. It took me also some years to go into that link between. 

Sandeep

Were there policies then when you joined? At either of those companies?

Parmesh

No. When I joined, we actually began creating the LGBTQ policy and it's taken 10 years to, in a sense where we are now. Again, policies are just the first step. Right? So again, to answer question, am I seeing a shift? Yes. I'm seeing a fundamental shift in young people caring about things, which are not superficial, essentially caring about authenticity. If you’re not big on it, you’re not big on it. Just don't lie because we can find out very easily, ? So for example, if you’re a company and if you don't have same-sex partner benefits, if you're not hiring queer people, you're not paying for insurance or gender affirmation, if you're not doing everything that would make you a good company overall. In the end, when pride month comes, you put one rainbow filter around your brand. Its not okay. And this has happened to so Zomato and all these other for so long. Thankfully  Zomato and others course corrected very quickly.

Sandeep

You have an ability to open source, what companies should do. Like you guys have thought this through. I'm sitting there saying, yeah, what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. But I don't know what the right thing is and how to implement it.

Parmesh

I wrote the book for that. Wrote the book and it's only 699. 

Sandeep

The book will walk me through the policies on what I need to do to be able to actually implement these?

Parmesh

The  book will take you through the business case for inclusion. It will take you step by step through every policy that you need to do. Every program, every cultural shift you need to make every bit of advocacy you need to do. It'll also tell you stories about incredible successes, both individual and organizational in the business world. Who've gone on this journey india and outside and succeeded. As a bonus, it'll be good to like Switzerland for some song and dance sequences, like a Yash Chopra movie. For Rs. 699 that's a really good deal! Cheaper if you get it on Kindle and if you can get it audible in my own voice. It’s made through the pandemic in this very building and in a makeshift studio. 

 Sandeep

Fantastic. Look at that! What a bonus! While we talk about, and I'll come back to LGBTQ in a second, but I want to talk just about generally the consumer, because a large part of what you've done also has been about culture - sitting in Godrej - you touch consumers across the board and think about consumption in different ways? do you have a view on if I guess the nature of consumption or the brands that matter to consumers are shifting because of the content that people are getting exposed to? So today I would argue that, the quality of products at a tech level has to be upgraded because of the fact that we have global companies here because of the fact that consumers are exposed on YouTube and Facebook and Instagram to, let's say marketing in different ways and even to different types of I guess, characters that are being marketed to them. I'll come to that idea of superheroes and everything else in a second. But, but just this idea of has the quality level changed, has the perspective on how to reach consumers changed? And again, not from LGBTQ perspective, I'm saying just general communication. Do you see a shift because of exposure looking different? 

Parmesh

Oh, completely. I think everything has changed because there is now, so much hybridity people are consuming content, which is deeply regional and incredibly global and forning their world views based on a combination of all of that. I think OTT platforms, and YouTube etc has exposed multiple people to think differently. Say for example, around, even five years ago, it was very hard to find, women protagonists in TV shows or movies. But now because of Netflex, Hotstar, Amazon, and so on there are multiple shows now, including in India, there is such strong female characters as well as  female directors and crews. Netflix did a report recently, globally, which was amazing. Saying that Netflix has globally, moved to about 40% of its content globally has central characters which are female, and likewise for crews and directors. They want to push further forward in terms of other representation, like Hispanic, like LGBTQ, etc, which are less than what is there in the population at that time. Right? So you see a strong impetus in the content being created. You're seeing a strong impact on content creators wanting to do that and that is shifting consumption, It’s shifting habits, I mean, certainly, just, for example, around women's day, I mean, it's just interesting to see how conversations around women's day has changed. Years ago in homes with brands, every brand had this cringe kind of conversation around women's day - celebrate the superhuman Woman who can do it on, she can raise a family, she can do it all… as if the woman who has nothing better to do. Whether she wants to or not. Right. Putting so much pressure on this woman who doesn't want to, might be a task she's feeling, insecure, even though she might be in genuinely paid way more than any other man in the world, but she's still feeling this pressure. We all need to challenge our bias. It is about saying we all need to challenge our biases. We all need to relook at how we are looking at this. Certainly all of this has an impact on consumption, on consumer thinking and consumer behavior and choices. The good thing is that it's not just happening in English or Hindi. This is happening all across, multiple parts of India and it's happening, even in parts where one conventionally doesn't look, which is why the culture lab is such a useful place. Right. For example, the most exciting, news network to me right now is Khabar Leheria, which is run by a bunch of incredible women, rural Dalit woman in Boondelkhand in central India

It's an all woman led newsroom and team, giving you news out of central India from a women centric perspective, kick ass!, right? And these kind of stories don't make it to the mainstream. The fact is that there are multiple Khabar Lehriya’s all over our country, run, operated, producing content, sharing content, with transgender people read, there's an incredible channel called Transvision run by Rachna Mudraboyina who has spoken at  a number of events, showing you stories from a trans-gender perspective. We have great thinks happened that’s changing representation as well as consumption to answer your question

Sandeep

I guess another interesting point you're saying that it's not a Metro specific phenomenon right now, and I guess you're seeing openness inclusion, this conversation take place in the most rural of areas. Why. why is it now shifted there? What has changed there where let's say generations have been structured in a certain way, looked at whether it's women or different types of communities, LGBTQ, disabled, whatever. They've had their different perspective on what role they have to play in their societies. They're now changing their views.  Is it just a sudden openness that came about, is there a sudden shift of power that took place? What has moved in those areas? 

Parmesh

The thing that one can agree upon, if you're going to agree upon anything is that it's extremely complicated. I mean, I even don't believe in urban, rural distinctions, I believe in circularity. I don't think of urban versus, or urban and rural like two separate planes. I think of them as like intersecting spaces as well. But even within that. So, so I think while there is a while in urban spaces that is extreme oppression and extreme ignorance, in some rural places that is extreme, like, a progressiveness and vice versa. 

What is happening though, is that I think a lot of the change, is being youth driven in smaller town, India and rural India, because youth has access to technology - through travel or through migratory patterns of their families, they're able to like see something else. So, one can aspire, better where one is located, one can imagine when there is something else which is possible and hence, what can be created as well. All of that is happenin. In the queer space, for example, some of the most exciting queer organizations are yeah -  All in Manipur or Grace Banu who run the trans community in Thoothukudi. Like in Tamilnadu and what grace has done. I think again, which is, I think something that venture capitalists should be looking at is, new kinds of partnerships. 

Grace -  who is the first ever transgender engineer to get a certificate from Tamilnadu, set up this project in collaboration with Tamil Nadu, state government and well-meaning corporates like Godrej who are supporting in kind. They've set up, the country's first transgender run, dairy farm. It's a full set up with cows with milk production, with products, run and operated by trans people with the collaboration of the state and private players as well. Right? So all this is happening. This is not happening in Bombay, It's happening in Thoothukudi, but it's such a powerful model that it can be scaled and exported anywhere in the world. Right? To me, it's like this can go up with Amil. All these exciting experiments happening in places like this are happening under our noses. We have to look! 

Sandeep

In general, I've had the view that for given the complexity of India and the challenges, and I'm not one to comment on which political parties right or wrong, or I have no political, let's say cred in any way to be able to talk about what the right thing is. I would say that my general approach is government's issues are complicated enough that I'm not relying upon them to figure out answers. Therefore it's going to come out of businesses. What what you just give a, that example of, there was a great partnership among all of the people coming together based on your experience and looking at it, let's just take for the issues or the challenges or the opportunities among the queer community. 

Do you think the best answer is actually to co-op the government and work with them and develop the solutions together, or do you think that market forces can drive the change required? And a policy will catch up to it over time? 

Parmesh

I'm, I'm an opportunist. I, I would just grab whatever is available at that moment and go ahead with it. I write about this in my book as well cultural acupuncture was one framework we spoke about, the other is jugaad resistance, which is located anywhere, do jugaad and resist in the system and create other ways of imagining and being. To answer your question about state versus non-state, I think in India, a lot of good work happens when you collaborate with state governments, because I think that is where you can find, I mean, because various states have various governments and some of them are more ahead of the others in terms of progressive mindsets and values, and like, valuing say, collaborations of different kinds. A lot of the good work india is happening across. Again, these are governments which are, across the political spectrum in that orientation, but to me, are the other governments willing to collaborate in a win-win, partnership? Or are they not? So it's not which political party is it, are they open to collaboration? And in that sense, I think, younger people are finding that state governments are easier to collaborate with because the immediate effect is then for the people in that space. Right? So like, and in that we are seeing amazing stuff. We are saying Chattisgargh pride being supported by the chief minister. Again, or the Kerela minister would go out and support LGBTQ individual and transgender nurses. In Maharashtra also, we are seeing a lot of support as well in terms of either commissions being formed for transgender individuals or other kinds of initiatives, including people, joining political parties and things like that. So we are seeing across the country, various views and shapes. We are seeing a mobilization. I think, I think everyone, as individuals or as a larger queer community, I think one should work with people who want to, that's essense of modern, democratic coalition politics, right? You work with those who want to advance their interests. I personally will work with anyone who wants to give my queer, citizens, jobs, livelihoods rights and  access a better tomorrow. 

Sandeep

I want to ask one question to kind of wrap things up a bit. 10 years ago, you started with a certain idea  - 10 years in, you’ve fructifies that idea. You've got some metrics, you've got some structure, you've got some processes, you got some stuff. If you were to look forward 10 years, what would give you the metric to say that? Yeah. I think we spent the first 10 years gaining knowledge and structure and approach, and we've understood, and we spent the next 10 years, what would you want to have accomplished? What would you like to have seen changed? and it could be metrics. It could be sentiment. It could be anything I'm not giving you the measure of which you say, but what would make you feel satisfied that, we had, we've moved forward in the journey. 

Parmesh

So I think for any success, right. What would make me satisfied is that when I'm not an outlier, I want to see more marginal people in positions of power across, right. I want to see queer. I want to see dalit, I want to see people with disabilities. I want to see underrepresented minorities in general, occupied positions of power across whether in the government, whether in universities, better in forms like ours or yours. Because I think historically you've seen that it's only when you can be when you have a seat at that table. You have the access to actually bring about change. That's how, when other people are to recognize you and your needs as valid, because otherwise, the majority of the mainstream is thinking is imagining what it wants of you.  If your innovation department in any big company has 10 men they are imagining what women need - as opposed to just hiring a couple of women in that team and saying, let's just ask them instead of deciding for them. Right? Likewise. What would, because I think some years ago, we began a journey in talking about looking at, looking below the surface, looking at changes, looking what all of this is about. 10 years later I think I would like my legacy to be that seat at that table, because I'm like, I'm kind of exhausted being, the token, whatever voice, in these panels, in these forums and these conversations whereas I see all around me, incredibly talented people who are much more brilliant than me, but who, I've been very blessed because of the certain kind of privileges I've had to be able to access some of the spaces I've had. I would like there to be much more representation on all tables. I see that in that, there will benefits for not just the people who are having the seats at the table, but for everyone at large

Sandeep

That's a great, that's a fantastic goal. I think that, you make a great point that it's, it just makes sense. It makes, it makes sense for businesses. It makes sense for everybody around the table to have that. And, but that's also what informed our thinking around this idea of environmental and social being issues that we care about. The they're not just because we're altruistic and want the world to be a better place. We actually think that the best way to build the right business is by ensuring that we're considering these issues right now. I'm hopeful that these types of conversations that you and I have had. I'm glad that you're willing to come on to something like this with us and talk about it. We're willing to try to get this conversation out there. 

I hope that this is the start of many more and I'm definitely, and I have been sold on your way of thinking and your propositions and the openness. It brought to my thought process from the very start. So, I'm hopeful that I can do my bit to help expose more people to that. I think that you and I will continue to find opportunities to bring this thought process out there and make that aspiration of yours come through over the next 10 years. 

Thank you. Next time in your office, someone has promised me sushi from KOKO, who know who you are. Over sushi, sitting in your fabulous garden. Face-to-face. 

 

Link to books

http://www.parmesh.net/my-books/

Link to research reports

https://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/SAR/economic-costs-homophobia-lgbt-exlusion-india.pdf

https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/inclusive-cultures-must-follow-new-lgbtq-workforce

Link to Khabar Lehriya

https://khabarlahariya.org/

Link to Transvision

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYjwx0gcDp-C-uPZITPrbJg

 

 

 

 

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