Usha currently resides in Pune, India, and holds a Masters in Commerce, Master’s in Business Administration and is a Law Graduate [Mcom, MBA, LLB]. She has been in the business of Liquified Petroleum Gas [LPG] for the past 35 years and has recently diversified into the business of Compressed Natural Gas [CNG], being the First Woman Licensee in India in partnership with her daughter Natasha. She stated, “I have more than 40,000 clients from all walks of life and there lies my communication skills.” Though this is a field dominated by men, she feels female representation is key. However, the gap lies in how women are perceived and actually are. Thus, self-awareness is a place to start. This also translates to the field of mediation from her point of view.

Entrepreneurship and Mediation

From the beginning of her career, Usha felt entrepreneurship and mediation was her calling. Thus, she got involved with Rotary as a member of the Rotary Club of Pune Cantonment, Rotary International District 3131 [RID 3131] in 1989, the year when Rotary International officially started to accept women membership. She was one of the first five outstanding presidents in her District. She held several positions in her Rotary career in RID 3131 and has received many awards and accolades, as a President, Assistant Governor, Governor’s Aide, Zonal Representative. She has also held the position of a Director in the Community, International, Vocational, Club Administration Avenues. District Chairmen of various Committees, especially of Rotary Foundation. She is a Second Level Major Donor to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. She was the First Lady Rotarian to be the Group Study Exchange [GSE] Team Leader from Rotary International District 3131 to visit two countries, namely USA and Canada to promote primarily the Internationality of Rotary, World Understanding and Peace. Every year she attends the Rotary International Conventions to spread the message of peace and world understanding. When she attended the one in Toronto, Canada in 2018, she met Veronica Jacob, an active member of MBBI. Thus, Usha decided to join MBBI and enrolled herself as a peacebuilder of MBBI. She stated, “I joined MBBI because I felt like I could make a difference even in my own small way.” Her educational background in the field of law has permitted her to continue making a difference helping women learn about their rights. Usha has spearheaded a number of efforts within the Indian court to make space for women and represent them fully especially among those who come from low economic backgrounds.

Usha has been able to use her mediation experience as part of all her efforts in the legal arena. However, at the same time, she aims to continue mentoring young women in the field, continue being an ongoing activist in her city, and provide legal resources and knowledge regarding people’s basic rights and duties in India. She stated, “the first principle I follow as a mediator is that I always feel cooperation is a better option than confrontation. I feel cooperation has a deeper solution to a conflict. It could be between family and friends or communities one is living with. I always say there are two sides of a coin and you need to rationalize which is the legitimate appropriate style.”

This philosophy has been highly influenced by Rotary International’s motto on truth and therefore, she has always tried to incorporate this philosophy into her mediation toolbox. She further stated, “you need to have information on the official interpretation of the issue. A lot of issues have legal implications. When you are in a professional setting, you need to have official information on the situation.” In her professional career , she was able to tap into this knowledge and got involved with a number of projects in rehabilitating those who were coming out of jail. She helped create a system that could help several people reintegrate back into the community. She stated, “I took that risk and today, they are my best employees. This is my way to contribute in my own unique way.” She specifically focused on supporting women and children.

Mentoring Women and Youth

As a Vice President of the All India LPG Distributors’ Federation [AILDF] , India , and as a Senior Vice President of the All India Bharatgas Distributors’ Association [AIBDA], India she is able to also play a key role in her community working on cooperation matters and helping her LPG fraternity. As the first woman in this leadership role, she stated, “I have struggled as a woman and as a youngster .” She is a greatly motivated person who faces ongoing challenges but she has stressed the importance of gratitude and attitude. She stated, “if you are happy within and positive within, there is nothing you cannot do.” She further stated, “I do a SWOT analysis of myself in terms of where I was 30 years ago, where I am now and where I want to be and then create my long and short term goals.”

Additionally, she also leads another organization as the President of the English Speaking Union of India, [ESU], Pune Chapter, India, guiding young students in international public speaking competitions. She represented India at the International Conference on International Current Affairs, Oxford, UK on behalf of ESU. This position opened the doors to take on as a Senior Vice Chairperson of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry [FICCI], Women’s Wing,Pune Chapter, India, which strongly believes in Women Empowerment. She stated, “one of my long term dream projects is to empower women at all levels from various strata of society .”

Spirit of Sportsmanship

Usha has been an active sportswoman and has played at several national and international levels in Hockey, Netball and athletics. She represented India at the Netball World Cup Championship held in Toronto, Canada in 1994. Her sportsmanship attitude has certainly come from here and has helped her in overcoming the various hurdles in life with a smile.

Though she is a dynamic leader, on a personal scale, she is also extremely impressive. However, she also got into teaching roles, and eventually formed a family while trying to balance her own business. Usha’s elder daughter Alisha is a lawyer and a Indian Classical Bharatnatyam dancer and Natasha, her younger daughter is a Social Entrepreneur, an Indian Kathak dancer, writer and a classical vocalist. Both her daughters are in the business Petroleum products. Further, her husband Badri, is an interior designer and voluntarily shares his expertise most times without any monetary consideration-his contribution to the society at large.

 Her mother was a state advisor, a single mother and a social worker. She stated, “seeing her do all the community work was inspiring, seeing the people around me that grew bigger and bigger was also inspiring.”

Overall, Usha enjoys public speaking, empowering those around her and engaging in mediation efforts for a greater goal. She stated, “at the end of everything, a smile on a face takes you miles.” At the same time, she stressed the importance of self-awareness for the best outcome possible. She stated, “you need to know how you are going to travel from A to Z.” Usha highlighted that the pandemic “is the new normal.” Therefore, we should adjust. There are many women who have lost their jobs, but this leaves a lot of opportunities for women to settle mentally and physically. The outcome of this, according to Usha, would be fruitful. For Usha, this makes an enormous difference at a personal, community and global scale.

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer