Recently we caught up with Deepika Pillai, founder of a prodigious community focused business
— Kula Village, and more importantly, a beaming proponent of inclusiveness.
As the local business community around the globe stands on the brink of a massive socio-cultural transition, laying most gravity on better representation, we close down on one such story of grit, glory and the origins of the communal movement brought to the center by this remarkable brand.
Read through to learn more about Deepika’s story –
The roots and yields of a diverse familial background –
I grew up in a family that loves to explore & travel. My passion for travel & cultures was instilled at a very young age. By the time I finished High school, I was fluent in 5 languages and my love for languages continues till date. I’m now learning my 6th language as a 30 year old adult but can understand over 10 languages. During my MBA, I lived in Germany and was mentored by Indian as well as German professors. This was the most incredible part of my education, where I was privy to international relations at a very young age. This, along with my already present love for travel sparked a never-ending quest for observing human interactions and languages. I am passionate about sociolinguistics and anthropology; you can often find me nerding out on shows that highlight these aspects of humanity.
I had a successful career in Hospitality Sales & Marketing and was placed in front of c-suite executives at the age of 22. These foundation years consisted of long hours and a lot of struggles, but it has shaped me to have immense confidence and maturity to conduct myself in important and formal engagements. I then moved to Dubai and was part of a Global conglomerate at the time when we were taking the company to an omni-channel experience. This catapulted my purview of the future and had me work as an entrepreneur.
Cut to 2 kids and some more valuable experience in the US, I started working on Kula Village in mid-2020. While a startup life sounds glamorous on the outside, it is ridden with a lot of obstacles every single day, even more so when one is riding solo. My biggest struggle as a start-up founder in this early stage is to find the right set of advisors without having a local network to fall back on. Another huge struggle is managing a work-life balance. Handling kids while fulfilling my lifelong dream was a challenge, but we handed it as a family. My husband and I use our time well, split our responsibilities and ensure both of us have plenty of time and space to work on our respective jobs. The kids have also been supportive and accommodated our crazy hours.
“I could not be here without the unconditional support of my family, starting with my husband. He is as much a part of the success of Kula Village as I am.”
Behind an entrepreneur is an unseen team of mental and physical supporters to fuel that dream. Due to the pandemic, a lot of the external support was cut out. I also have the constant moral support and guidance from my family, friends, ex-colleagues and advisors from virtually all parts of the world.
The story behind ‘Kula’
Kula means ‘community’ in Sanskrit. Kula is the name of some tribes in Africa and the name of a few villages across Europe. Kula also means ‘exchanging gifts’ in some pacific communities. Every interpretation of the name is very close to what we are trying to achieve. We aim to arouse a sense of connection with one’s roots while embracing world cultures. To achieve this holistic environment, we partner with entrepreneurs, artists and artisans who share our vision of creating this seamless and boundless community.
“ Every brand and artist that we partner with, becomes a part of our large community of members whom we always draw inspiration from and hope to inspire with everything we do.”
While there have always been and continue to be large marketplaces and retail spaces, we differentiate ourselves by bringing out the story of each artist, product, performer or indie brand owner in our community. We also have individual relationships with community members and aim to be an all-inclusive community. Having said that, imitation is the best form of flattery. There have been some copycats in the market that launched after us. We constantly engage and encourage even our competitors. There is space for everyone to grow and thrive. We love healthy competition, but above everything else, we love a collaborative environment.
It is always collaboration over competition.
The future is inclusive –
One’s environment strongly determines every decision taken. When you surround yourself with like-minded individuals or those who would agree with everything you do, there is only so far you can go. But when you have diverse community and have an inclusive mindset, you can view every situation with multiple lenses and conclude with more meaningful and wholesome decisions. It is encouraging that several accelerators, grant providers, investors and advisors are now catering to previously under-represented groups. This is the future. Every single employee needs to have a Growth mentality. Values of the company need to be soaked in throughout the company’s culture. Diversity and inclusion mentality needs to be instilled in the most impressionable age for it to become a lifestyle and not just be a program at work.
“The hardest part about being an entrepreneur is that you’ll fail ten times for every success” – Adam Horwitz
With a growth mindset and striving to constantly innovate and a strong community, I am excited for what the future holds. I hope to make all-encompassing culturally diverse ecosystem, encourage entrepreneurs and promote an inclusive mentality every single day!