Preparing Women as powerful as water- Subha Pandian

Subha Pandian

AGUA is a women’s network knit with friendship, sisterhood, and vibe tribe. A tribe of women who support, love, and push each other to be our absolute best but stick by even when we are at our absolute worst. A tribe of women who could choose to compete, but take the higher, better road of collaboration instead. A tribe with a mission to help women create a vibrant, fulfilling life that genuinely makes women feel like the stunning, powerful beings we are. It is more of a need-of-the-hour sisterhood to help other women find their voice, and own their truth thereby garnering strength and spirit in the collective. Our journey started in 2008 with just 12 women and has now grown to be a network of more than 9,000+ women across the globe between the age group of 18 to 73.

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I was born and raised in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, and moved to Chennai in 2000 after marriage, just with a B. Com degree and without a clue of how the job market worked. I was a simple village girl without much fluency in English or any work experience but with loads of aspirations. But life had other plans. Became a single mother in the early 2000s. Juggling between a demanding corporate career and raising a child, gave me a different appreciation for women. Support from a few friends who listened without judgment and strengthened me with words got me through these difficult times of my life. These women friends were my inspiration to start AGUA. I wanted to create a safety net, a support system, and strength pillars for every woman.

AGUA’s mantra is simple. We women already know what is best for us. But sometimes, we need someone to put our perspective in place and steer us back into our path. AGUA does just that. We will be right there, next to every woman, helping them; coaching them; motivating them; kicking them at the back if need be 😊 !!!… to “unlock women’s inner potential, help women find their spark, and add sunshine to the world. We don’t make women rebel against conformity. AGUA just creates a platform for every woman to rise and be their true authentic SELF.

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“Women, be like Water, the most powerful force of nature”

AGUA’s journey started with supporting survivors of domestic abuse, fighting abuse, coaching and mentoring women from tribal colleges with a program called ‘Campus to Corporate’, and helping them navigate their career aspirations. We identified women from lower-income groups and helped them start small businesses by buying them sewing machines and wet grinders, upskilling them with computers, tailoring, and paper bag-making classes. We help put their children through schools and colleges if they experience interest and their grades are consistent. We touched the lives of around 8,000 women across Tamil Nādu in the first 5 years of our journey. All of this we did with support from well-wishers and friends around us who funded us generously to carry forward this dream of AGUA.

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In 2016 we streamlined AGUA and started focussing on changing the inner narrative of women. Empowerment to us was never about bashing society or blaming men. We always believed in the inner strength women possess and we wanted to focus on leveraging the self-awareness path that makes them shine brighter. We worked with women on 4 pillars Self-Love, Self-Empowerment, Self-Leadership, and Self-Mastery. Since then, we have done 31 conferences, and 270 free webinars and made an impact for over 27,000 women. AGUA takes up social problems and engages in pro bono work in the community — contributing to local food banks, environmental clean-up initiatives, or helping local women stand on their feet.

AGUA also has a charitable flagship initiative to support kids in and around Chennai called ‘AGUA Gifting Smiles’. This provides AGUA members with an opportunity to ‘gift’ underprivileged kids in Chennai and truly embrace the spirit of giving. We collect things like toys, books, sweets, color boxes, and shoes, or collect funds to buy brand new toys from people who would like to contribute from across the city. After this, we gift-wrap the items individually by age and distribute them among the less fortunate children across the city. In the beginning, it was just AGUA women, but now we have 600 good samaritans across the country who volunteer for this annual event. 2022 will be our 7th year of this initiative and we have been distributing around 8,000 gifts in the last 6 years and gathering the precious smiles of lovely children. The drive happens between Christmas and New Year.

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Meanwhile, my career progressed at full throttle. worked for Global MNCs like Cognizant, AVIVA 24/7, CSS Corp, Idea Cellular, and Groupon which gave me immense opportunity to learn and thrive. What started as a night shift call-center job, took me to 13 different countries across the globe and gave me a seat at the table in the capacity of a  Director. I worked on myself, breaking my self-limiting beliefs and upskilling myself constantly to contribute to the outcome of the organizations I worked for. In this course of my career path, I completed 16 certifications like Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Lead Auditor for ISO 9001:2008, Lead Auditor for Information Security Management System ISMS 27001, CMMi Scampi, Lean Manufacturing Champion, COPC CSP and COPC Customer Journey Mapping Certified (CXJM) and other auxiliary courses to reach where I aspired to reach. Saved millions of dollars for the companies I worked for and trained and certified companies, executive leaders, teams, and individuals to achieve company goals with specific business skills. Who would have thought a simple village girl from Madurai would become a corporate leader with sheer determination and grit?

2019 was a time of self-retrospection of my corporate journey and I didn’t have to think much about starting my own business. AGUA Women Leadership was registered in 2020 with the mission to make more women thrive as leaders. I dropped my entire corporate experience on business excellence and started a business with a determination to create a meaningful impact for women. So the learning began again..certified myself again, spent hours reading materials, did research on women leadership across the globe, released white papers, and got myself established in that space. No sooner did I realize training women to be leaders is just one aspect, but also important was ensuring the corporate environment is conducive enough for high-potential, high-performing women to thrive in their careers.  Now, AGUA is a global business strategy deployment firm working in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We deeply understand the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and engagement drivers of people and organizations. We specialize in building leadership competencies through performance coaching & cultural transformations. We are deeply committed to helping organizations achieve lasting success. AGUA through our deep work creates space not just for women today but also for LGBTQIA+, persons with disability (PWD), intersectionality, and neurodiversity.

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AGUA operates on two wings now. AGUA WOMEN FOUNDATION which continues to build a beautiful community for women to bloom in their authentic selves and AGUA WOMEN LEADERSHIP PVT LTD strives to make workspaces safe and conducive for every human.

My daughter is 21 now, and my life has come a long way. Oh, by the way, I fell in love and married again in 2012. Life is what we make of it, without giving any excuse. We have one life, and I believe in living it fully. No matter where you come from or what you know, remember you have the power to create your own story – Don’t forget you are the HEROINE of your own LIFE. 😊

Want to leave you with this favorite quote from Maya Angelou – Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. 

-Subha Pandian

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