Chiara Lo Faro is an award winning professional who spent 7 years living and working in New Delhi and who is today running her own India-focused business. A young and dynamic professional, Chiara’s wish to experience the world from a different perspective lead her to quit Italy at the age of 22 to move to India, where she worked in strategy consulting for foreign companies entering the market, while teaching herself Hindi. She then moved to the financial sector and worked in the regional corporate office of one of India’s largest private banks, supporting foreign corporates all over India for cross-border transactions and funding requirements. She has now registered a business aimed at providing cultural, language and strategy support to European and Indian companies working together, thanks to her current knowledge of Italian, English, French, Hindi and other languages. She has been awarded as Top 40 under 40 Europe India Young Leaders by EICBI at the European Parliament in 2019 and has also been a TEDx speaker.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I recently moved back to Europe after spending 7 years living and working in the international business sector in New Delhi. Upon my arrival there many years ago, I was just like anyone of us, seeing India as per those categories we often associate this country with: spirituality, rituals, traditions but also poverty, chaos and so on. My understanding of it was very limited. As time went by, I deep dived into everyday customs, taught myself Hindi and ended up realizing that there is much more about India that should be told to the world. We are also much more similar than what we think. As I moved back to Europe, I felt it was the right time to take things in hand and so I started working on this project.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I generally start the day by looking at emails and answering or completing any urgent or pending work. I then keep a to do list and once that is completed, I spend time learning, reading, practicing or connecting with people. I also go to the gym and while I don’t always manage to be regular because of projects I need to deliver, I do my best to be. As a friend who is also a personal trainer suggested, you should not keep the gym as the last priority of your day, rather, try to plan your day as per your gym schedule.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Just like many of us, I too get intimidated by big or challenging ideas. And just like many of us, I tend to get many of them. What I generally do with ideas is, I take note of those that come to my mind and let them be for a few days. I then go back to the page where I wrote them down: by then the subjectivity and excitement of the moment is gone and I become a third person to my own self. This allows me to judge whether that idea should be developed or discarded. If the answer is yes, I then look at it by breaking down the steps to make it happen, and then I start working on it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
India is increasingly becoming a preferred destination, be it for business or for leisure. In this kind of a scenario, this means not only more professional opportunities to develop, but, honestly, an occasion for me to talk about the things of India I love the most and that, more often than not, are completely unknown to international audiences.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I tend to dissociate myself from myself. This allows me to feel less emotional or scared and as a result, it allows me to work better. When you are not afraid of what you do, you work as you were doing work for somebody else: you see it more objectively and you are not interrupted by your own emotions!
What advice would you give your younger self?
As a child and later as a student, there was a sort of battle inside me: on one side I wanted to throw myself into things, on the other one I was afraid of failure and of not measuring up. I later realized that perfection comes from studies as well as experience, and if we don’t make mistakes, experience will not come.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Fighting and working for a cause you value, irrespective of the outcome. Society is set up in such a way that those who put themselves in the front row to break a negative trend or tradition, are criticized or discouraged, maybe by their families in an attempt to protect them. The truth is that over the course of history, there have always been people who have put themselves in the front row, taking huge risks for the betterment of the society. They did not shy away. It is our duty to continue to do so and improve the life for those who will come after us.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Connect and don’t be afraid to ask. The professional world is a place where it’s not just companies and organisations, it’s first of all people. And as social beings, people like to connect, and more often than not, help! We are often scared of asking for help or proposing a service, and as long as it is done politely and it is not pushy, the person at the receiving end will most probably do their best to offer their support in whichever way they can. Of course, it works both ways. When you are asked for help, do your best to help back.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Again, don’t be afraid to create connections. And once you do, be yourself and be humble.
Over the course of my professional career, be it as an entrepreneur and, prior to that, as an employee, I made it a point to create connect with people. Creating connections means not only more opportunities for your business but it also means broadening your own mind.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When you are just starting out as an entrepreneur, and especially after a substantial stint in a corporate environment, you may feel you just want to do everything possible. The sudden ownership of time at your end combined with your own enthusiasm, makes you feel overwhelmed and maybe over-enthusiastic. I fell into this trap for a while and spent considerable time trying to learn too many new things and thinking about too many new ideas. After a few months, I realized that this needed to stop and I would rather had to decide on few points I really wanted to develop and then focus my energy there.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If you can speak a language that is considered difficult, like Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. specialize yourself in a vertical (business, medical, IT etc.) and learn how to translate. It will be highly valuable and better paid than other more commonly known languages. And if you are still studying, then learn as many languages as you can! That’s what I did in school many years back, without even knowing where I would end up some day, I just felt it was useful!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a new chair for my desk, with much more cushion and softness than the one I had before. I now feel like staying at my desk, rather than having to look for alternative arrangements as it used to be the case before.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Last year I made a considerable investment in SDL Trados Studio. It is the best and most professional translation tool I ever worked on. It is a little difficult to learn at first, but post that, it really helps!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Recasting India, by Hindol Sengupta. It is probably the first book I read after I left my job and it was of great inspiration to see how people from different backgrounds, from business families to the poorest, started businesses that helped and are helping shape the new India and how they managed to drastically change their conditions and that of those around them. The book also gave me the best definition of the word “entrepreneur” which is my motto today. An entrepreneur is anyone who works to improve the life of others.
What is your favorite quote?
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers… to turn on the light!” (Albus Dumbledore, in Harry Potter)
I grew up with the Harry Potter books and, while it may seem a contradiction in the world of entrepreneurs, this is a quote that actually helps. It is very easy to get frustrated and disheartened when things don’t go as well as we hoped for. And in those situations, we can feel really low. No matter how dark it has become around us, there is always an idea or a person or anything valuable to us that will help us find that strength back. As long as we make a the little effort to turn on that “light” inside ourselves.
- Don’t be afraid of failure, experience only comes from there!
- Make connections and don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Detach yourself from your work, become your own analyst and leave emotions aside
- Keep learning, reading and expanding your horizons
- Fight for the things you believe in