There is a lonely woman in her who cries remembering her long-dead amma and appa, a child who loves chasing aeroplanes and a mom who rushes back home to attend to her children despite a hectic schedule. Meet Rajshree Pathy, who is more than a celebrated businesswoman from Coimbatore.

A sugar baron; the first woman President of Indian Sugar Mills Association; recipient of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow from the World Economic Forum, Switzerland; former Chairperson of CII National Committee on textiles; an avid pursuer of food and agro business; energy; real estate, travel; health; hospitality and arts... Rajshree Pathy dons multiple hats with ease.

Early days

This 54-year-old Managing Director of Rajshree Group of Companies, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, is as chirpy as a 16-year-old even in the midst of a demanding timetable. But, as a child, Rajshree was quiet, nervous and cocooned; awestruck by the happenings at home. Father G. Vardaraj — industrialist, Parliamentarian, educationist and philanthropist — met stalwarts from various fields and young Rajshree was present at these meetings. She recalls, “It made me strong from within and curious about everything.” I also read a lot. My friend named me ‘ encyclopaedia'.”

Rajshree didn't want to go into the family business but wanted to do a degree in architecture from the U.S. but her parents didn't want to send her so far. When 17, she married industrialist S. Pathy. As time went by, Rajshree worked in her father's retail business (selling cars, jeeps and vans, as she defines it) and then moved to textiles. Interestingly, when she got the license for the sugar business, her father wasn't interested, as he wanted to establish a medical college for philanthropic reasons.

But she went ahead coping with both a growing family and the sugar factory. At 25, it wasn't easy. “During the setting up of the factory, I didn't see my children wake up. When Aishwarya grew up, I sent her to a boarding school in the U.S. as Coimbatore didn't have good schools. She didn't want to go but I had to push her. Whenever my children came home on holiday, I would take them to the villages I was working in and my offices. When they needed me urgently, I cancelled my meetings abroad; took the first flight back and rushed to attend to them. They slowly understood how and why their mother worked so hard.”

Creative bent

After setting up teams to take care of her businesses, Rajshree decided to follow her creative pursuits. She opened the Contemplate Art Museum at Coimbatore recently. “My greatest regret is that I am not a performing artiste. So I promote performing arts through Contemplate and feel good,” she says. Her love for architecture saw her design her office and factory.

Success has its own way of scarring its recipients. Rajshree is no exception. The tragic death of her parents and coping with her family and business often drained her emotionally. “My world came crumbling down when I lost my father in 1992. It shocked my mother so much that she became an invalid for 13 years. I was just 32 and it was tough for me to deal with it. I would pray for her death to relieve her of unbearable pain…” her voice chokes.

Keeping happy

The mood is getting sombre. It seems reasonable to cheer her up. So, how does she pamper the woman in her? And how is she always so chirpy? Rajshree wipes away her tears and smiles, “To pamper myself, I shop, dress well and go to an Ayurveda centre for one month every year and detoxify myself. I don't let the child in me die. Whenever I see an aeroplane flying, I go running out of my house to chase it! Like any child, I want to love people, trust them and be generous to them. I know love comes back. I have promised myself that I will not give anyone a chance to make me unhappy.” Did someone say success is the by product of right values?