Smita Suchde Gruetter
Growing up in a traditional Indian family, one never really questioned or challenged the status quo. Not until my mother, Hemlata, insisted that her daughter would study in the best English medium school in Bombay, over the family’s decision of a Gujarati school. This decision of my mother’s was to change my life. As I embarked on my studies in Economics, Political Science and later Law, as my interests in Public Speaking grew and even when I turned Entrepreneur, I understood the impact of her decision. It was education that empowered me, made me question beliefs, and challenge the status quo.
Education also provided the opportunity to study in NYC, at the Parsons School of Fashion. Studying in NYC, meeting people from diverse nationalities and learning about cultural nuances, fascinated me. If education defined me, travel challenged me, bringing in fresh perspectives and new ideas. When the Swiss trade commission asked me to present my couture collection in Zurich, little did I know that this would become the city that I would one day call home. Integration into the Swiss way of life meant learning German. And even though I spoke English (and 3 Indian languages), learning a new language opened new doors to an international, multicultural working environment.
Today I can truly say, that every one of these ventures into new arenas has helped me to evolve, taught me resilience and to think outside the box.
My education and entrepreneurial experience led me to establish businesses in jewellery and in couture, offered me the opportunity to work with Glass Art and Porcelain, launch a successful hospitality business and facilitate a project to bring in awareness of bottled water. But years of being a serial entrepreneur had enveloped my imagination and it was time for a change. I needed a break to nurture the mind and become a student again.
After 18 months of grueling work at IMD, in Lausanne, I had my MBA and the vision for my next chapter.
It was time to scale my NPO, HEMLATA, whose groundwork had been laid more than 2 decades ago. Named after my mother, HEMLATA works to empower girls from India’s lowest socio-economic class. The HEMLATA100 initiative aims to support 100 talented girls, with full college scholarships, in their chosen fields. Accompanied by a Mentor and a Peer, we hope to empower our scholars, the first in their families, to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty. Adhering to 6 of the 17, UN sustainable development goals of 2030, the H100 initiative is about innovative philanthropy, inspiration, collaboration, and creating real impact for the future.
It seems like my journey has only just begun.