Name: Harini Madhira | Designation: Founder & CEO | Company: Cisne Events | Place: Dallas
(October 29, 2023) Harini Madhira calls her childhood very privileged. “By privilege, I don’t mean that I was born with a silver spoon, but born to a couple that wholeheartedly wanted a girl child in a time and place when everyone just wanted a male child,” she explains.
Born in Dehradun, she grew up in Delhi and says another great privilege of her childhood was being exposed to Indian art forms as a way of life.
This combination of childhood and adulthood in a small town and a metropolis balanced her outlook on life. While Dehradun made her a people person with a happy-go attitude, Delhi added confidence.
The big move
Harini moved to Dallas in August 2019 for her husband’s (Satish Madhira) work before the world reached a standstill in 2020 due to COVID-19. Along with various other odds like changes in lifestyle, professional adjustments, nurturing new personal relationships, and many such things, the family had one more beast to deal with.
The entrepreneur laughs, “But as the saying goes, life is about making lemonade with the lemons thrown at you. COVID made running my professional life easier as the world had to shift and adapt to remote working, which worked well for me.”
She also used the lean period of 2020–22 to upskill and return to school to pursue her Executive MBA from one of the most reputed colleges in Texas – SMU, COX School of Business. She incorporated her company in Dallas, truly making her a global Indian.
Making it work
The passionate entrepreneur founded Cisne Events in 2009, transforming ideas into visual stories, connecting art and audience, and conducting events for Fortune 50 companies like Salesforce, Novartis, Synchrony, AMD, and Micron.
The mother-of-two states, “We help these corporations conceptualize, design, and execute internal employee engagement and external client-facing events.”
The biggest challenge she faces in the US market is that while it is easier to gain traction for Indian talent in the technology and financial sectors in sectors like entertainment, marketing, and media, it is exceedingly difficult.
Harini explains, “To break this mindset and embrace us as international players in the events and entertainment segment, especially if you are a woman of colour and an entrepreneur, is a considerable challenge. But we are taking baby steps towards breaking that glass ceiling, and I am confident we will achieve that, too.”
Adept at juggling
While Harini has been operating her business from Dallas, the whole team sits out of Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Depending on the workload, she travels to India twice to three times a year. She tells Global Indian, “Being in the US, typically, the work ends by 6 p.m., so the rest of the evening is my family time, but that gets compensated when I am in India as I am not only away from the family but also working long hours. So sometimes, if I were to do the math of the number of hours that go into work and in family time and draw an analogy, I feel like Kumbhakarna—six months of work and six months of sleep!”
Her personal and professional lives are equally important to her, the entrepreneur says and adds that the lived-in experiences during COVID made it more flexible to work out of home and, in her case, from any continent.
In the USA, professional networking does wonders. Meeting as many people as possible and showcasing your work/skillset is critical. – Harini
For someone who has a hectic job, one wonders how she de-stresses. She smiles and says, “My biggest stressbuster is music, singing, hosting, and cooking for my friends. When I am stressed, other than my time with my lovely daughters and husband, my spiritual and classical music rescues me.”
Harini’s husband runs a software company (Zemoso Technology), and the couple has two teenage daughters; the elder one is 19-years-old (Hamsa) and is studying at Northeastern University in Boston, while the younger one (Maitreyi) is 14-years and is a high schooler.
“We are a very close-knit, music-loving, movie-freak family, so much so that we sometimes even have conversations in movie dialogues. We aim to share most of our meals. Of course, it’s only possible with our older one in college when she returns home during vacations. As a ground rule, we keep communications amongst each other very open, whether between our girls with us or between us, the husband and wife,” she shares.
An Indian at heart
The 47-year-old loves learning and exploring new things. A key to being a successful entrepreneur is that one can never afford to become complacent. She agrees, “I call myself a farmer who, no matter what needs to show up to his field to ensure his crop is protected and well-nurtured and eventually ripe well for him. There are days when I am down and lack motivation, but then I use that time to read, learn, or watch something that bounces me back to the track.”
Living abroad has taught her many things, including the belief that it is always possible to start anything and to keep going. Her move to the US also opened the doors for her to learn, upskill, and have a global outlook for her business.
She puts it in a nutshell when she calls herself a hardcore Indian at heart. “Our traditions and culture intrigue me. Indian music is an integral part of my existence.”
Tips for women to succeed abroad
My biggest tip for women of color would be that “it’s imperative to be comfortable in your skin and not to ape anyone. Once you present yourself with confidence, people see your potential and start valuing you”. The other tip I would like to share is that in the USA, professional networking does wonders. Meeting as many people as possible and showcasing your work/skillset is critical.”