Shallu Arora is a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in Sirca Paints India Limited. The Sirca Paints is the company based in Delhi, India. She joined the organization in the year 2019. Shallu
Shallu Arora loves traveling and prefers offbeat locations that help her connect with her soul.
Give us a bit of background about yourself.
I am currently leading the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position in the Sirca Paints based in Delhi, India. I have done my schooling, graduated from Amritsar, and grew up in a humble middle-class family where I acquired various skill sets from domestic and professional fronts. Post qualification as a Chartered accountant and company secretary in 2014, I worked with different organisations across industries before deciding to start my own consulting firm. The challenges in my professional career shaped me personally and professionally during the journey. It helped me take on more significant responsibilities and efficiently deliver results.
Moreover, I am part of ICAI and deliver keynote speeches on varied subjects. I love traveling and choose to go to offbeat locations because it helps me connect with my soul.
Give us insights into the significant offerings of the company. And how does the company support people with its offerings?
Sirca Paints is into a business of problem solving for its customers. The specific needs that we address revolve around paints, wood coatings, etc customising each solution to the end users taste and requirement. To uncover the customer needs- both intrinsic and extrinsic- we offer a plethora of options ranging from physical product displays, to simulation consultative guidance etc.
We also offer customer support services to assist our customers in using products or services effectively. The customer receives helpdesk support, online resources, FAQs, and dedicated support teams.
We also facilitate financing, discounts, and loyalty programs offered to the customers to make the services accessible and more affordable.
What makes your company stand out in the market?
A clear and compelling Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is essential; we understand it very well. Thus, we focus on providing excellent products to meet customer expectations and solve their problems. It is a conscious statement communicating what sets the company apart from the competitors and why customers should choose its products or services.
Our UVP addresses a specific problem or need and explains how the company offerings provide a superior solution. For any business, effective branding is beyond a logo and color scheme. It involves making a consistent and memorable brand identity that resonates with the target audience. We take pride in assisting our customers with innovative solutions in our offerings. Moreover, a strong brand can evoke emotions and build trust. We make our customers connect with us through all channels for seamless communication and building an ecosystem where we both could have a win-win position. It’s a partnership beyond the relationship with the brand and customer that keeps us relevant in the industry.
We place our brands where our customers are to give them access when they need our assistance.
How do women feel in the male-dominated industry?
It is a sad reality but equally valid that a very prominent glass ceiling exists in a country like India. Women are considered a secondary option in all decisions in the business setup. Although things are changing slowly, there is still a long way to go. Especially in areas such as parity in respects, designation, and equal pay scales would need to be improved.
When a woman entrepreneur enters the business world, the hostile conditions either demotivate her or motivate her to take on new challenges to achieve their goal. In all this disparity, it is worth considering that not all women in a male-dominated world go through the same experience. Some may receive supporting hands from the workplace or their family.
We have to spread awareness about the condition in public and alert people about their unconscious bias decisions. Provide mentorship to the female entrepreneurs and help them build networks to give more positive experiences. Ultimately, the goal is to make the environment inclusive for women and provide them equal opportunity.
What is the most challenging problem for women in the industry?
I believe women in the industry face several challenges, and acceptance is the toughest. Women in the workplace face discrimination and biased decisions. Most women face unequal treatment and barriers to career advancement in the organization.
Strong women are seen as snobbish, and their soft-spoken or friendly nature creates unwanted perceptions. Hence, women must be well-balanced in what they do and how they coordinate with their male coworkers.
Furthermore, discriminatory decisions are more common when hiring a female worker. When women are married or have children, they are placed in the secondary options when selecting the candidate for the job. Therefore, all women should unite to change the industry perception and demonstrate commitment to their professional responsibility.
How do you achieve a balance between your personal and professional life?
Work-life balance is vital and very gender-neutral. Only centuries ago, the male was considered the ‘breadwinner’ in society. But now the situation has changed, and women are equally contributing to the growth of the family. I have set clear goals with the specific time allotted to my professional and personal life. We also have to understand that while you are looking after your personal and professional life, continuous learning is also vital to stay relevant in the industry. Self-development through new skills and adopting new technology to secure your future is very important. On the personal front, building a solid bond between the immediate or extended family and friends holds vital significance; thus, everyone should set priorities and give time to every aspect of life.
Although I am still managing my life on both personal and professional fronts, I will try my best not to have bias on either side. Time management and swiftly switching from one side of my life to another are the key mantras that helped me maintain a work-life balance.
What have you learned about entrepreneurship in your journey?
Entrepreneurship is about two key things – Trust and Ownership. I believe working for Sirca, I am an ‘Intrapreneur.’ Being self-motivated and proactive with an action-oriented mindset are the critical ingredients for success.
We need to understand that people make an organization a success or failure. The organization will never succeed if the leaders cannot instill ownership and trust in the people.
Another essential part of my learning is that ‘One size fits all’ does not work in the real world. Every individual has different motivations and has to be dealt in a unique way. They will have extra motivation levels, life goals, and definitions for success. Effective and transparent communication is crucial when you are dealing with coworkers. It informs the team about the progress, updates, and potential challenges in advance, which may lead to building trust and managing expectations.
List the awards and milestones won.
I have received several awards from the reputed institutes, which are as below.
- Dual professional degree in CA and CS.
- Joining Sirca Paints and leading the finance function at such a young age has been one of the most significant milestones.
- Selected as Top Ten CFOs of India by Women Entrepreneur Magazine and CEO Insights Magazine.
- Indian Achiever Award in 2021 and 2023.
- The Global Choice Awards as ‘Women Icon of the Year.’
- Received honor at Dubai 2.0 Conference as an ‘Excellent Leader in Finance.’
- Young CA leader of the year in 2022 by ICAI.
As a source of inspiration for many, what would your advice be for women planning to enter the business world?
- Confidence is the key to success. Believe in yourself and lay your path.
- Pursue your passion and build the business around your interest to sustain during the challenges and setbacks.
- The business world is constantly changing; thus, learning and self-improvement should be part of your routine. Staying open to new ideas and knowledge is vital to growth.
- Focus on healthy work-life balance. Professional life will be demanding.
- Establish clear business goals and track your progress. It will keep you focused and motivated all the time.
- The journey will be challenging and filled with tough moments. Always remember why you have started your journey and stay consistent even during the difficult time.
Always remember, “You have to be ODD, to be number ONE.”