Friday 1 July 2022
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Woman who attempted suicide at 22 on being rejected, bullied is CEO at 33

It was her physical deformity, her accent, her frequent change of base… nothing was working for this woman until she was told she could make it and was perfect for the job

“I was born with a crooked neck. If that wasn’t enough to single me out, I was always the new kid in the school,” says the woman who has charted a success story in India’s ruthless corporate sector, looking back at her years of struggle. Her father was a diplomat. “I lived in Pakistan, New York and Delhi before I arrived in Nigeria. My Indian accent was judged. They named me ‘Apu’, a character from The Simpsons. And they compared me to my mom, who worked at my school. She’s a stunning woman and people always told me how ugly I looked in comparison; my confidence plummeted,” said Radhika Gupta, the chief executive officer of Edelweiss MF in an interview with the Humans of Bombay as one of the youngest CEOs today in India.

When the bullying became unbearable, she attempted to end her life. She was 22 back then. Radhika Gupta moved on to climb the corporate ladder to become one of the youngest CEOs in the country at the age of 33. “I’d bury my insecurities… At 22, when I got my 7th job rejection, I looked out the window & said, ‘I’ll jump.’ My friend called for help! I was wheeled into a psychiatric ward, & diagnosed as depressed. The only reason they let me go was that I said, ‘I have a job interview–it’s my only shot’,” Radhika Gupta recalled.

Eventually, she bagged the job at McKinsey and life fell on the right track.

At 25, she moved to India and started her own asset management firm with her husband and friend. “A few years later, our company was acquired by Edelweiss MF. I climbed the corporate ladder. I became a saree in a room full of suits and I wanted to raise my hand for opportunities. Yet, when talk of hiring a new CEO at Edelweiss MF began, I hesitated, but my husband encouraged me, ‘You’re the best person for the job!’” the promising corporate woman said.

A few months later, at 33, the intimidated girl-turned-confident woman became one of the youngest CEOs in India. “I was invited to speak at an event–I shared my childhood insecurities and my suicide attempt. I let go of my baggage. And my talk travelled; I became known as ‘the girl with the broken neck.’ People shared their stories with me,” she said.

Sharing what gave her confidence ultimately was the decision to fully embrace her ‘flaws’, and over the past four years, “I’ve shared more about my story and the stories of people who’d confided in me… I even wrote a book, Limitless!”

Gupta shared, “But my biggest accomplishment has been accepting myself as imperfect but beautiful. So now, when I receive comments on my appearance, I just say, ‘Yes, I have a squint in the eyes and a broken neck. What’s unique about you?’”

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