Hey Everyone !
My childhood came to an abrupt end when my mother passed away when I was 9 years old. My father soon remarried and I was sent to a Jain boarding school. Still trying to come to terms with my loss, I was lost in apathy with the sudden change in my life. I was failing in subjects and had no interest in anything. Then one day during the prayers, a classmate of mine claimed that she would top the exams and nobody could beat her. Her bold claim struck in my mind and the thrill of a challenge diverted me from my apathy and depression. I suddenly had a goal, a direction. Though I wasn’t able to beat her, my efforts helped me secure third place in the final exams and thus began my quest for new challenges and an increasing self confidence to achieve whatever I set out to do.I completed my 10th as the second topper of my school, with distinction in Hindi and secured the 32nd rank in Rajasthan Board’s merit list.
During the vacations, my father was not amenable to my further studies and wanted to just marry me off. But I wanted to study further and ran away from home to Vanasthali to study further. My father came and took me back home, where there was a furore in the neighbourhood and among my relatives that I had run away. Weird stories were made up and they all insisted that I should be married off immediately. I stood my ground and told them that I was a minor and if they tried to marry me off, I would file a legal complaint. That got them worried, as they knew I had the courage to do it and I was allowed to complete my 11th and 12th. In school I was an active participant in extracurricular activities and got many prizes.
My entry into college opened up a whole new horizon for me and with my love for challenges I was very actively involved in extracurricular activities. Initially as a participant and thereafter, also in the conduct and organisation. It was from there that I discovered my love for the field of event management. My tenure in the NCC, as a cadet and as an instructor gave me adequate chances to apply and hone my organisational and leadership skills.
When the time for college came, Financial problems cropped up. Luckily for me, I managed to get a scholarship. I would also do part time jobs to make ends meet and thus I progressed ahead through my college life.
During this phase of my life, I didn’t have any financial support. I had savings of about Rs 8000/- from the prizes I received in competitions, but that did not last for long. By the time I reached the second year of my college, my savings had run out and I had to look for ways to earn. I couldn’t afford a laptop so I would use my senior’s laptops at night while they slept. When I prepared my projects, my batch mates would come and say “Neetu, give your report, we will edit this and submit.” I decided to capitalise on this and offered to make them a new project report at Rs 15/- a page. Usually the per page cost of printout was Rs 10/-. I started working for a few friends. A project report would normally be about 50-70 pages. I tied up with a printer shop for bulk printing of 500 pages at a discounted rate, he agreed to give me a print in Rs 7/- per page, so I was earning a profit of Rs 8/- per page. That’s how I started earning. After that Friendship Day arrived, which was celebrated with much enthusiasm in the hostel. Since freshmen were not allowed outings, they could be seen begging the seniors to buy Friendship Bands for them. It struck me as an opportunity and I went to an Archie’s shop and managed to negotiate a bulk deal. I managed to get 500 bands which retailed at Rs 10/- for Rs 6/- each and then sold them for Rs 8/-. The bands were very much in demand by even my batch mates and seniors that I went and bought another 250 bands, at Rs 5/- this time, and they were all sold out. Being an active participant, I also got involved in the planning and conduct of various college functions like Fresher’s Day, Teachers Day, Batch Farewell Parties. Most of these events required gift items in bulk, which gave me an opportunity to make some pocket/survival money. This was also a learning experience and I learnt a simple business principle- Buy in bulk and sell lower than the market price. This is a principle that I still follow.
Then one day at a juice shop I came across some advertisements in the newspaper- on one side was a person who required a tutor and on the other a person offering his services for tuitions. I called up the tutor and asked if he had seen the newspaper today. He said “No, I paid Rs 400/-for a two-line advertisement which has been published. what is there to see?” Smiling to myself, I took his resume and asked for his charges saying there was a requirement in my colony and I would get back to him. He quoted Rs 1200/-. I then called up the family who required a home tutor and finalised for Rs 1500/-. I then called the tutor and negotiated him down to Rs 1000/- and while sitting in the juice shop, I made a profit of Rs 500/-. That is how I utilised every opportunity that came my way and earned my survival.
One day while visiting the National Handloom Emporium in Jodhpur I saw a big crowd of people applying for a job. The emporium had just launched “personalised mugs” and were looking to hire a designer. However, the amount they were offering for a full time employee was not enough for anyone to accept. I offered to do their work from home and accepted a monthly salary of Rs 3200/-. There was a lot of burden and I would work through the night, on borrowed laptops, exploring new software and using my creativity and after a few days I started enjoying the work. This gave me a steady income for a while and exploring and learning new software became my hobby.
In my final year of college, we were required to do an internship. I had chosen “Institutional housekeeping & Hospitality Management” as my vocational subject. Most of my batch mates went out looking for internships in small organisations where they would not have to do much work and the establishments would happily give them experience certificates for free trainees. I researched the best hotel in Udaipur and applied at Hotel Lalit Laxmi Vilas. I was called for an interview and selected. My friends teased me that they were very strict and I will have to work very hard.I ignored all this and just wanted my internship to be the best learning experience. I was enrolled in the 6 am to 3 pm slot. Simultaneously I also took up a job in the restaurant Bistro 1559AD. The things I learnt in the Hotel Lalit Laxmi Vilas internship each morning, I tried to implement them with my colleagues at the Bistro. This was a big success and my hard work and innovative methods were much appreciated. Thus I earned a good salary and gained good experience. I was offered a permanent job at Hotel Lalit Laxmi Vilas but decided to move on to new experiences by applying for an internship at the Rkay Mall. I always go for learning new things rather than stopping at one.
Rkay mall was the first mall of Udaipur and had recently opened. Mr Raju Kothari, owner of Rkay Mall, taking note of my enthusiasm and dedication offered me a job after my internship, which I gladly accepted. To popularise the Mall and attract customers, we would organise summer camps, promotional events, exhibitions etc. One day, an event organiser was arranging an exhibition and I observed what he did with immense curiosity, setting up stalls, promotional material, footfalls etc. I found the entire process very fascinating and exciting. The next day I went up to Mr Raju Kothari and told him that I wanted to hire the exhibition hall. I was working there for a salary of Rs 8000/-, so he was a little surprised as to why I wanted to hire the hall. He made me sit down and over a cup of coffee and asked me what I had in mind. I explained to him that I had a business plan and wanted to make a profit and if I got a good offer from him otherwise I would do my event at Mangalam Square(another mall in Udaipur ). He was impressed with my plan and confidence and offered a partnership, to which I gladly agreed. I managed to organise a very successful exhibition and we made a profit of Rs 36000/-. This was a turning point for me and I realised that I had good organisational skills and it was something I really enjoyed doing.
At that time I was simultaneously doing my MBA and I also got selected as a Girl Cadet Instructor at 6 Raj Air Sqn NCC, Udaipur. I was very keen to join the Armed Forces and appeared for the SSB, unfortunately I was not selected. This was a big disappointment to me and it took me a while to recover and find my direction in life again.
A junior from college who was also a very good friend, was an avid dancer and wanted to learn dance from a good institution. So we moved to Vadodara which is a hub for celebrity dancers. In Vadodara, I came in contact with numerous good dancers who were of national fame and came up with the idea of organising a dance workshop in Bhilwara. Though the workshop was not very successful and it was an avid learning experience and I gained many insights in the field of organising an event. Failure is my teacher and I try to find opportunities in adversity. Not disheartened, I set about organising a bigger event- “Tap Your Toe”, a pan Rajasthan Dance competition, with Sushant Khatri (India Dancing Super Star fame) as judge. It was during the conduct of this event that I decided to open my own Event Company called Nitanju Events in memory of my mother who passed away when I was 9 years old. The genesis of the idea for “Tap Your Toe” came when I was visiting Dwarka printers in Bhilwara and happened to see a Pamphlet for a dance competition. The audition was to be carried out in 19 cities and the contact details of all the dance classes involved was mentioned there. I too decided to organise a similar dance competition and whereas this organiser was charging Rs 300/- for appearing in the audition, I decided to make the audition free. I contacted all the dance classes in various cities as given in the pamphlet and convinced them to host my audition a day prior to the other event. We conducted the auditions and gave a certificate to all participants there itself, for the second round of auditions, to create brand awareness for Nitanju Events. We collected Rs 300/- for the second round of auditions. Three rounds of auditions were conducted in different cities around Rajasthan and the semi-final and final at Rkay Mall and Lake City Mall, Udaipur respectively. The event was a big success and the Nitanju event got brand value and popularity.
Initially, Nitanju Events dealt with Celebrity and Artist Management and then diversified into Dance & Fitness workshops. Soon I started getting enquiries from Corporate Companies and Educational Institutions for providing artists and celebrities for events and also for organising some events.
Initially I started with dance workshops, after a few months my friend who was a dancer, got Zumba and Bokwa certifications and then we started organising fitness workshops simultaneously, to capitalise on the fitness craze. Whenever I got a new enquiry, I never said that I don’t do such events, but instead made use of the opportunity to try something new. Today I provide my services for a wide range of activities like Fitness workshops, destination weddings, CSR / promotional events, talent nurturing and management and so on.
I learnt from my experiences and also managed a decent earning diversified into many other events. I soon realised that if I could earn a decent amount by my own efforts and capabilities, why should I take a job and work for someone else. I started networking in different fields and came in contact with many struggling artists. I helped place these artists get on the right platform to display and capitalise on their talents.
I believe that a company is made up of people working in it and I always try to provide my team with opportunities to grow and the best facilities. Thus with the trust and support of my team, I started a new venture, the First Exclusive Dance Studio of Rajasthan called WINNERS STUDIO, where classes of Dance, Fitness and Martial Arts were conducted with internationally certified trainers. This phase lasted for about two years, when the desire to try something new struck again.
Though I had my feet in many boats,I tried to keep balance everywhere. I am inspired by the Ambani’s & Miraj success stories and desire to become a successful entrepreneur in various fields. Thus, I made my company a Pvt ltd in 2018 and now under Nitanju Pvt Ltd, we are venturing into many fields, i.e. Nitanju events, Winners studio, Different Shades Designing & printing, soon coming up with call centres, digital marketing, web designing etc.
Also in this age of digitization where everything is digital, inspired by Ola, Uber, Paytm, Zomato, Swiggy, etc, I decided to make an app for talent scholarships and support to artists. I also discovered a new field of interest which I am currently exploring in my constant restlessness to try something new. I created an NGO named NAYARA, Nitanju Association of Young Artist & Recreational Activities, where we will raise funds to support artist training and provide them scholarship links to various institutes of the performing arts. This is my dream project and I plan to expand it into providing the participants of Nayara with employment opportunities. It is my vision to build a great huge network and ultimately start our own TV channel, production house and go into filmmaking too.
In 2019 when I heard about the atrocious Priyanka Reddy Gang Rape Case. It shook me to my core and I decided that I had to something about it. When I was talking about Woman Empowerment in one of my Youth Interaction Programs I said I will do a solo ride from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Who knew that I will accomplish that very soon.
I rode an Active 125cc Scooty because it is the most common vehicle used by Indian Women. I wanted to show them that it only takes courage and nothing special to do great things.
I completed a 4300km journey in 18 days where I went from town to town teaching self defense to local women. I gave a message of ‘Ladkiyon Ghar Se Bahar Niklo’ because I believe that women can only be empowered when they are ready to come out of their comfort zones and break these illogical rules of the society.
I have also started Stubborn Stories which is an online platform featuring those who have stood up against painstaking challenges of life with their unmatched stubbornness and audacious courage. We have featured people like ‘Padwoman’ Swati Bedekar, tiny athlete Pooja Bishnoi, World record holder Bhakti Sharma and Kaamya Karthikeyan.
One day in the future, I may finally decide to settle down in one field, but till my mind is curious to discover new things, I will continue to be a roving entrepreneur, exploring new fields. A jack of all trades I am, but my ambition is to also master them all. I love getting awards a lot, a throwback to my school and college days and I aspire to one-day get an International Award for Entrepreneurship. I would also like to one day produce a movie on my life’s journey, which can inspire others like me, who come from humble and impoverished origins to make them realise that no matter how bad the circumstances, never give up, slow down your speed but never stop walking. Thus has been my journey of life till now and how I reached where I am today.
Free Flying Eagle Neetu Chopra