Speaker 1: Hi, I'm Shamali Kara and welcome to my podcast Daughters of Tomorrow. In this podcast, we feature some phenomenal women who are writing the new norms or may I say rewriting the new norms? These are also women who are raising the daughters of tomorrow who are not just empowered themselves but are paving a unique way for our empowered daughters. These women are way ahead of their times and have inspiring journeys to share.
Speaker 2: Welcome to Daughters of Tomorrow with me, Shali Kera. I'm very excited to kickstart the first episode of this podcast with someone like Samara. Samara Mahindra is the founder and CEO of Kera India's first Integrative Oncology company that uses scientific insights and a digital platform to provide evidence-based customized solutions for cancer patients. Samara, welcome to the show.
Speaker 2: Thank you so much for having me, Samara. You're responsible for India's first personalized cancer care movement. What inspired you to start Cara
Speaker 2: uh Carol's uh inspiration was from a personal endeavor. Unfortunately, um I was exposed to cancer up close and personal um to my mother, she was diagnosed with the illness many, many years ago. Uh But we lived beside her as a caregiver
Speaker 2: over 6.5 years. And um that's when I kind of got first, you know, firsthand, glance into what's happening in the cancer care spectrum and the problems that patients and caregivers are encountering. And that was um the inspiration for care,
Speaker 2: what according to you was missing when you were going through that experience multiple things. So, um you know, unfortunately, when my mother was diagnosed, like I mentioned, this was over 10 years ago. Um and treatment
Speaker 2: and the way cancer is treated today, um you know, personalized approach and interventions have really evolved. So at that time, there was really nothing, it was just having access to medical treatment. And if you were lucky enough, you would get access to the great medical doctors out there. Uh But nothing beyond that. Now, the we were fortunate
Speaker 2: and we were grateful enough to actually get um you know, access to the top oncologists and the medical interventions. But um there are so many other aspects of care that the patient requires when they're diagnosed with cancer, whether that's, you know, supporting them nutritionally, physically, psychologically, quality of life for the patient and the family member
Speaker 2: depreciate to a large extent, we had no idea how to manage this. Um We had no idea, you know, how to manage her side effects. We didn't know how to manage her emotional distresses that were taking place. She was a very, very active woman, very successful business woman and slowly but surely we saw her changing, you know, um I remember there was a time where, you know, we were
Speaker 2: together, we were wondering whether we rather have stable medical reports or, you know, our mother back, she had changed so much. So um a lot of problems, the biggest being the gap in providing personalized supportive care to patients, to enhance quality of life and help them get through the treatment journey. So that I I believe was one of our biggest problems that we
Speaker 2: did you ever face an issue or any kind of obstacle? Because you were a woman entrepreneur. Did you any time experience that you know, I get asked this question many times and
Speaker 2: no, not really. Actually, it's never been such that there has been an additional obstacle because of, you know, my gender. In fact, on the contrary, it's probably kind of opened up ways for me. Um you know, that I'm working with the medical fraternity, which at that time and even to date is pretty
Speaker 2: still dominated. I think that being able to, you know, go in there and speak their language, great care to their patients has only been welcomed by the medical fraternity. So nothing really has, you know, been in the way just because of me being a female entrepreneur.
Speaker 2: And when you came up with the idea, because obviously it's one of a kind the first of its kind in India, was there any kind of resistance or uh multiple convictions that you had to show people along the way that you had to convince as an entrepreneur would probably take in a new business idea. How did you overcome um those little things. So the
Speaker 2: assistance that we experienced initially was um you know, justified the concept of what we do, which is integrative oncology, which is providing non clinical lifestyle,
Speaker 2: evidence based lifestyle therapies to improve and to go along with mainstream treatment to improve uh the quality of life of the patient. Now, while they're providing something like that, every doctor hospital, the entire medical fraternity, the patients caregivers are going to be open to it. They're going to accept it. They all recognize the the need for something like this, right? But the resistance was, why should we trust carers protocol? Why should we allow our patients
Speaker 2: who take sessions from, you know, your therapist? We aren't sure if they come from a credible background. They don't show the kind of diet plans are going to be, you know, on nutritionally going to be supporting the patient. What is the credibility, what is the proven uh mechanism of your protocol? So initially for years, actually, we spent so much time on data and on, you know, working on different
Speaker 2: patient pilots, different types of cancers, patient cohorts um just refining our protocol and collecting enough data to, you know, prove our mechanism to prove that what we do works and there's enough evidence to support that. So once we started getting data out, once we started looking at publishing studies into reputed journals, then the doors opened up, there was more
Speaker 2: uh you know, there was more trust in and and reliance on what we were providing and then it's it's a normal effect, right? Um There are doctors who work with us, they see the feedback, they experience the feedback, they experience our program for their patients and nothing is more validating than their own patients coming and speaking to them that this has really helped us. So like that we have been able
Speaker 2: gain momentum and trust and things like that. But but initially the resistance was primarily, you know, what, what, what evidence do you have to support? What? Right. Right. As it might be for a new product before it's entering the market. And I guess those are the initial questions that just have to be answered. Samara, since this is a show focusing on women and girls, I do want to get your views on this
Speaker 2: in your experience within oncology or within the field of health. Did you find any discrepancies whether men and women are taking equal care of their health? I mean, are they aware of their health consequences equally or do you feel there is some sort of educational awareness that needs to be done in any of the genders? So that's a great question because in our experience, what we have noticed is that we have seen a larger
Speaker 2: adoption of our therapies and our program from women. Um Now, I don't know if it's just intrinsically who we are and that we, you know, just indulge in these things when it comes to how to eat better and what to make for ourselves or how we manage our physical condition and, and psychologically as well. So we've seen a much of, I, I would say acceptability of women,
Speaker 2: I mean, they just take to the program much better um in terms of general health. But what we've also noticed is the women take charge, right? So um they will come and they will, you know, indulge with these therapies. But if it is a male member of the family going through cancer, they are still at the forefront, they're still the caregivers, the the the male member will always kind of uh you know, have that distance and the charge
Speaker 2: to be taken over by the female to kind of be the uh the caregiver of that uh that family member. That's just probably interesting intrinsically who we are, right? As, and, and as as Indians per se. But um but yeah, that's the difference that we notice in general health. Um You know, I guess it's the fact that um actually that's changing because if you look at
Speaker 2: just the cases, the the cancer cases rising and the type of cancer that's rising is mainly breast cancer and that's predominantly happening because we are having a huge migration of women moving into the work environment. They are having Children later at age. So they're breastfeeding later, which increases unfortunately, your risk of breast cancer. Um There's more stress, they live sedentary lifestyle, there's
Speaker 2: emotional imbalances, um you know, so on and so forth. So we're seeing a lot of women kind of forgiving their um or not indulging in, you know, their health or prevention or their lifestyle because they are moving more into a work environment. But this is I'm talking for more prevention,
Speaker 2: lifetime perspective. So, Samara, that's great insight. Uh considering a lot of women are now moving into the workforce according to your data and experience, is there any specific age cut off after which breastfeeding and having kids can actually increase the chance of breast cancer?
Speaker 2: Right. So there is um again, I would always recommend getting this information validated by a medical professional, but they say, see the earlier the better and they say uh before 30 it really, really decreases your chances. I've heard that almost by 50%.
Speaker 2: So if you have Children and breastfeed before the age of 30 there's a drastic reduction in your risk of breast cancer. But unfortunately, or fortunately, actually, a lot of women are not doing that and they are choosing to put their care,
Speaker 2: probably get married, they have Children. Eight is a catch 22. I mean, like you rightly said, you first said fortunately then, unfortunately, and I exactly have the same thoughts because biologically we are designed in a way that we should probably be having kids by our thirties. But our self identity, self realization, all of that happens for most women after their thirties, when they start becoming independent individuals,
Speaker 2: you know, coming back to your personal story, I love to know since you're managing so many things, how does work life balance, work for you? You know, if you were to ask me this question a couple of years ago, I would be like, totally fine. I'm focused on work, I'm managing, you know, uh my personal life and to be very honest, like my work was kind of a, you know, a moving into my personal life. So there really wasn't any demarcation of such.
Speaker 2: But um you know, I've been married for 2.5,
Speaker 2: I'm 36. So I'm looking at, you know, starting a family and, yeah, and looking at, you know, spending a little more time at home and, and really kind of indulging in that.
Speaker 2: And it's been very interesting and um I actually don't now believe in any work life balance. I don't think it exists. I I'm yet to come across anybody who um you know, equally manages work and uh their personal lives, 50 50 it just doesn't exist, especially when you are, you know,
Speaker 2: when your career is really important to you and when you want to achieve something over there. And then likewise in your personal life, um I feel that you go through phases, I feel that I spent so much of my early thirties really dedicating my life to work. And then I feel that I can kind of take a step back and now dedicate a little bit of my life to, uh you know, my husband and starting a family and things like that. But that doesn't
Speaker 2: necessarily mean that there's no attention to work, right. So we can very beautifully manage these two elements. But we got, we have to take out that concept of it has to be 50 50 you know, and, and it's more phases, I think it's more appreciation of what phase you're in and balancing that out. Uh ridiculously also in terms of, you know, just a support system, you know, and, and I'm just talking in, in regards to myself and what I'm going to
Speaker 2: um just having a spouse or a support system saying, ok, fine. So I'm going to step in now and, and, and manage other elements because you are kind of re retracting a little bit from working, you know, how many hours a week, which was crazy at one point and looking more into this. So it's, it's uh it's a bit of that, but the balance of 50 50% does not exist. I never experience, I, I don't know anyone who has,
Speaker 2: you know, it reminds me of this line that Michelle Obama had once said, she said that women can have a dog. But each at its own time, I think this whole effort of doing everything all the time is quite unrealistic and it does crush a lot of women. A lot of social media stories today in fact, are so one sided for the sake of headlines that they make most of the readers feel that oh, she's doing it all.
Speaker 2: And these are confused messages that can be more harmful than inspiring in most times. And I guess we have to figure our own pace of growth at our own time.
Speaker 2: So, you know, actually my siblings, my mother, my friends, for some reason, um everyone that I've or at least the majority of people that are very close to me or I'm, you know, regularly in touch with has started their own businesses. So I grew up um looking at that and experiencing that and, and always experiencing what it was to start a business, be an entrepreneur, build something, whether it's small
Speaker 2: or whatever. So whether it is from my family background, whether it's from my friends. Uh today, my siblings all do something and they're really successful. My mother actually built
Speaker 2: humongous business um and uh in government exports and she did exceptionally well by herself. Um So I grew up seeing that as well. So, entrepreneurship and starting something on my own is kind of in my blood. Why I didn't choose something that has already been established. Firstly, just because it's of no interest to me. I mean, I'm being very honest and uh second considering the fact that uh I want to do something else, I wanted to do something that I can shape
Speaker 2: uh or have impact on this world. Um And then when something so personal, uh you know, touches you, when you experience something like cancer and then you experience the loss of the close family member because of it. You can never look at the world the same again. And that's when I call my calling. And I just feel like I want to create my own legacy, my own name. Uh you know, and whether that's creating uh you know, providing holistic care and creating impact or where that goes and not
Speaker 2: uh but was never tempted was always in that frame of mind to do something on my own. I'm sure you must be approached by young women entrepreneurs who are looking up to you. What is that one advice to make sure that you give them?
Speaker 2: I wish there was one There is, there isn't just one advice, there's a lot and I'm no one to give advice because I have a long way to go. I'm fortunate to be around people who uh you know, have whatever we can say, need it or have built something of impact. So I learned from them, I have phenomenal mentors. Um
Speaker 2: Um, so I, I can only give suggestions or based on what I have been through and you're right. I get a lot of, in fact, it's not only women but it's, it's, it's wonderful because I get so many emails and, uh, you know, messages of how can we uh start a company, you know, what can we do and how do we grow it and so on and so forth. It's difficult to give
Speaker 2: advice. It's easier to say that. Um you know, and I would say this for women, we always want to,
Speaker 2: you know, we don't know how to put ourselves first, right? So we want to make sure the our environment is settled. We want to make sure that we have enough, you know, financial stability through our job so that we can kind of start our own company. We want to make sure we get married, we wanna make sure we have kids. Um So we wanna make sure that the environment is ready for us to then kind of dive into say, entrepreneurship.
Speaker 2: And uh one of the things that I can say is that it will never be ready, right? It's, you have to just dive in and it's all about perseverance. There will be so many obstacles and rejections on the way. You know, it's, you have to believe in what you're doing today. I see people just stop
Speaker 2: starting companies because entrepreneurship is just kind of given this celebratory to and it's really glamorized. In fact, my, I told my husband this, when I met him, he was very keen to start, um, you know, his own company. And I said that please, it's not all that glamorous, like,
Speaker 2: have to really grind it out and you have to be ready for that. And it sounds amazing and it looks amazing, but you have no idea what you will be put through when you start your own business. And, uh you know, he didn't listen to me and then he, and he brings it up and he's like, I, there are days when I look at him and I'm like, I don't want to say this, but I told you so. So, um
Speaker 2: if you have that stable job, amazing that security for you, sometimes it's so much more intelligent to uh hold on to what you have and have that stability and have that job and grow over there. I mean, you're still extremely successful doing that. Not everyone has to go and start their own company and that comes with a certain level of resist, you know, perseverance that you have to have. But it's brutal. It really is brutal. Um So I would just
Speaker 2: apart from that, that if you really believe in something, do it, persevere, but don't do it because the world is doing it or everyone around you is doing it.
Speaker 2: Um That's something that i it, it's really not that glamorous and there are moments where I have questioned and said that, you know, maybe I should have worked for some time. I did work. Uh, but it was a very short and I should have spent more time. I should spend time with data.
Speaker 2: Actually, I should have, you know, kind of learned from their mistakes and then really jumped into this. There's no hurry. So I think let's slow down and let's kind of recalibrate and, and see why we're doing this. And if it's something you believe in, then control it. Wonderful samara before we take your leave, another question that I'd love to take your views on,
Speaker 2: you know, I often say that we have a transition generation where women now are actively pursuing their dreams and figuring out when to have a family. Like you earlier said, women today are marrying late, having kids late. What would your advice be to the daughters of tomorrow who will look to strive a balance
Speaker 1: between their personal
Speaker 2: journey and their journey towards growing a family? So I think we've reached a point in our lives where
Speaker 2: we all have to give back in some way. Um I'm not saying, you know, in a charitable cause or I'm not, I mean, II, I even mean, like, you know, artists who create beautiful paintings and bring uh you know, happiness to someone,
Speaker 2: bring light into someone's office space or whatever it might be, right? I just feel that women of tomorrow and daughters of tomorrow has to um start looking at creating impact in some way because I think that we owe it to this earth that we live in, in some way, shape or form, you know, and, and this can be anything that you do, whether you're a content creator,
Speaker 2: um which is very powerful today and you can literally move the masses by being a content creator. Um It's just that be mindful of what you're creating, you know, or, or like I said, an artist or AAA chef or whatever you want to do,
Speaker 2: I just feel that um creating impact and, and making that a part of your journey is important. But as women, I can always say this and I have been, you know, fortunate to grow up amongst very strong women in my life and multiple sisters and sister in laws. And, you know, again, like I said, my mother was a very strong, dominating uh successful woman uh that we intrinsically have it in us,
Speaker 2: change this world to, you know, like I mentioned, move the masses to do something that is so spectacular that uh it leaves a legacy. So we just have it in us, we have the emotional balance, we have the resistance, we have basically the ability to uh manage everything. And um and yeah, so I say, you know, believe in yourself, do something of impact. And um I think we can kind of make
Speaker 2: our journey and everyone's journey a little bit easier. Fabulous. I personally feel very inspired after listening. Thank you so much for speaking to us. Samara. It's been such a pleasure. No, no. Thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 1: Well, that's all for today. Hope you found this conversation inspiring. Just like I did tune in for a fresh episode every Friday on Binge Pods, Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you get your audio content from. You can also connect with me on my Instagram handle at the Rich Shali dot K. And if you still haven't share this with all the daughters of tomorrow.