She crafts smiles on everyone’s face and literally so! Yes, Dr. Prerna Taneja, the owner of Shriram Dental Clinic, is a dentist by profession, an expert in cosmetic dentistry, an oral cancer specialist and a dentomaxillofacial radiologist. But what is most striking about Dr. Prerna is that she wants to transform lives and not just smiles. And thus, she founded Global Women Network along with her two other partners Nidhi Lal and Kanchan Mittal. Here also she crafts smiles on the faces of women entrepreneurs, not with medical tools but with her determination to bring a positive change in their lives.
Whether in her clinic or through her women entrepreneurs networking community, Prerna Taneja is committed to make people happy. Why a doctor becomes an entrepreneur and what is the driving force behind such a noble thought as empowering women? Who else can answer these questions other than Prerna herself! So, let’s talk to her and know why she chose to be what she is now.
Q. Hello Prerna, please tell us something about your childhood?
Ans. I come from a middle class family. My father worked in Syndicate bank and my mother was a teacher. Since beginning, I got an atmosphere at home where I learned to be totally independent. I still remember when I was barely 10 years old, I was supposed to go to the bank and get entries done in my passbook myself. My father pushed me to be independent. He always stood up for himself and for whatever he believed in. As a child, I also learnt that you must stand up for whatever you believe in. Till date I try to do that, to do justice to what I believe in and once you have this passion, you just have to do time management and things fall into place. My father used to get transferred every 2-3 year and we used to move to different places. Over time, I realized its worth as you get to meet new people and also get over your old memories. Making new friends, trying to understand others’ perspective, getting adjusting to the new environment and then again moving on to a new place, all this gave me a lot of exposure. As I was frequently thrown out of my comfort zone, it helped me a lot in my growth.
Q. You are a medical professional. How did you get into this field?
Ans. I always wanted to be a doctor but I could not get through the MBBS exams; I missed by only 3 seats. Then I studied in Manipal University, did BDS and became a dentist. I have also done specialization to become an MDS doctor. I completed my graduation in the year 2000 and was among the top 10 in the class, I was thoroughly recognized in the college. However, in 2000 itself, my father suddenly passed away. It was a setback to my family and to me as a person. The same year, I cleared the all India entrance test and got 13th rank in Manipal University. In spite of all that had happened, I was able to achieve this only due to my Dad’s wishes and blessings. Then I did my post graduation in 2002 from Manipal itself. After that, I started practising and I am still a practising doctor. My clinic, Shriram Dental is in Karkardooma East Delhi.
Q. So, what specialization do you have in dentistry?
Ans. I am an oral cancer specialist and dentomaxillofacial radiologist. I have been into practice for 17 years now. My core area is oral cancer detection and dental maxillofacial radiology. With the advent of CBCT i.e. three dimensional CT scan in dentistry, it has come up in a long way. I also have expertise in cosmetic dentistry and I take personal interest in it. I have taken up courses to become an expert in Digital Smile Designing. These days, the concept of cosmetic dentistry is very different. Earlier, if a tooth had a particular shape, we used to shape it like that. Now the whole concept of cosmetic dentistry has changed from teeth specific to patient specific. Your smile is the first thing that people notice when they see you and it has to go with your personality rather than the normal regular shape of the teeth. So, with subtle changes, your teeth are aligned in a way that may go with your personality so that you have the most effective smile. Treatments can vary from normal reshaping of the teeth to something like a braces treatment or veneers or laminates. Sometimes, it takes just one session of teeth bleaching to bring total change in your personality. I too got my smile designing done because whatever I do, I try it on myself first (laughter)
Q. Talking about cosmetic dentistry and smile designing, how important it is to look good?
Ans. I think that’s totally subjective but then I feel it’s very important to look good. Every day when I stand in front of the mirror, look at myself, I should feel good about myself, I should feel pleasant.
Q. As is seen, you are doing really well in medical profession, so what made you create the Global Women Network?
Ans. When I was out of the college with a degree from the best dental college in India, I thought, that was enough to build up a successful practice. But I was so wrong because skill, education etc. are one thing and building up a successful practice is something totally different. You have to be present in the market. I didn’t know about whether the clinic should be a proprietary firm or a company, how taxes had to be handled, how the staff needs to be handled, and many more such things. My friends also faced problems as to how to market themselves and how to make oneself a brand. The digital era was starting when I started my medical career and no one knew how to handle this. I realized, despite being so educated, I face so many challenges, what about the women who are at home and want to do something? Whenever I had to take advice, I could not find people, especially women to go to and take advice from. There’s some comfort level with own gender even if we deny this but it’s there inherently. If I meet a woman, I share it all instantly. Not that I would not share things with my male friends but that level of comfort comes when you meet twice, thrice or more. With women, it comes naturally. I felt if these are the problems that we are all facing so why not walk hand in hand and try to help each other out. Somewhere it got stuck in my mind. However, I got busy with my practice and then I realized, over a period of time that this needs to be done now. By then, my practice had established sufficiently, it was 15 years of my practice and I could take out some time to do other things that I wanted to do. I thought it was the right time that I could do justice to it. That’s the time we started Global Women Network, in 2015.
Q. How your basic idea behind Global Women Network is taking shape and how satisfied you are with its progress?
Ans. There is lot that needs to be done and there are lot of things we have planned. Whenever I think of GWN, I always feel, before I die, I have to make some or the other difference to the lives of at least 100 people, especially women. And I am very close to that number but once you reach that level and see you have touched lives, you always want to give more. That keeps us moving.
Q. Why is that women need specialized help when it comes to running a business?
Ans. 50% of the population doesn’t have access to the kind of knowledge essential to bring financial independence which is very important for personal growth. A lot of women are not able to perform that well in life because somewhere there is this insecurity which is financial in nature. they think that if I do something which my husband , my family doesn’t like, they will shun me, what will I do then, from where will I meet my expenses? Due to this fear, they contain themselves and this makes them frustrated. If you see medical statistics, about 36% of Indian population is on prescription medicine for depression and they are mainly women. We are in a society where men can go out, have a drink and forget everything but if women want to go out and drink, the story doesn’t end here, it might actually become worse. So, I feel that it has to be done somewhere at a level where satisfaction comes from within, where you feel good about yourself.
Q. How can women come out of this mindset, what do you advice them?
Ans. It’s a fight within, rather than a fight with husband or society. You have to get over this fight yourself. You must say, whatever it takes, I will do it; for me it is important. Till the time you put yourself on a pedestal, I think, it cannot be done. You must say to yourself, “I am important”. We are also human beings and we have the right to be ourselves. We should not feel guilty about this. You have to realize, this society is made in such a way that if everybody starts doing their own thing, the society will tear away but the operations are set in a gender specific way. Men have got the priority of being bread earners, we cannot question them. So, first step towards independence is, believe in yourself and second step is financial independence. This doesn’t mean that you go out and do whatever you want to do at the cost of others. Rather, do it in systematic way where you can start with small steps too. If 50% of the society is not happy then you cannot have any kind of growth in society. If woman is not happy, what happiness will she share with her children and family?
Q. What challenges do you face as woman and as a business person?
Ans. There are challenges. Even if I have been a doctor for 17 years, enjoy my reputation and credibility, meet so many people and till date, have 3000 patients in my clinic yet as a woman, even till today, I’ll not be very comfortable when going out for dinner parties and dinner meeting because I have kids and family to take care of. And when you go out, how people perceive of you compared to male counterparts, is totally different because that’s the general trend of our society. But I think that’s more of a reason to believe in yourself.
Q. How do you overcome these challenges?
Ans. Every day I get up and say, “I am important” because every day is a challenge. Even during the day, it’s a challenge when you put yourself into self doubt, “am I doing the right thing? Is this the right way to do it?” On every such occasion, I close my eyes for 2 minutes and say, “I am important to myself” and just think that if I was not doing this, is there anything else which I would want to do and if it comes back again to the same place that I want to do this thing only, my conviction starts building up. I become confident that I can and will do it.
Q. How important is family support for women who want to do something big?
Ans. Family support is important but you never get 100% of it. I don’t think women have it that way. Somewhere it makes you feel so guilty about yourself but what I have realized is that your career graph and biological graph is in total conflict. It is the time when your children need you and it is the only time when you have to push your career. At every point, you have two things to do, have doubts about should I do this or that. Prioritizing yourself is very important and developing support system at home is important too. I make it very clear that whenever I am out for work, my work is my only priority, then I don’t think about anything else. Before coming to work, I make a list of things that need to be done if the kids are around and other things to be done at home. I invest in a help, that is very important. Sometimes you may think you are overpaying them but due to that help you can follow your dreams. So, I try to manage my time in such a way that when I am at work, my 100% focus is on work and when I am with kids, my 100% is with my kids. Even if the time is less, the quality of the time is more important. I might be with kids for the whole day but if both of us are in our own worlds and we hardly have any communication, what’s the use. I don’t count it as important to be just being physically present with my kids. It has to be quality time even if it is 10 minutes a day. The bond that you develop at that time is more important.
Q. Many women suffer from a guilt if they go out and work so they postpone getting into a career of their choice. What do you think about this issue?
Ans. Don’t feel bad about yourself if you are not able to cook in the kitchen or do household chores etc. It is not the criteria for you to be judged. They are not something that decide what you are? If you have the passion of cooking and you can take it up then it is ok but if you have to say that I need to cook and so I am not able to follow my dreams, it’s not for you. You will realize after 10 years when kids grow up and go away, your husband would be busy, you would realize what to do now, it might be too late then. So, just start investing in yourself from right now. It’s like Systematic Investment Plan, the SIP mutual fund. Just keep few hours of a day for yourself, do what you have always wanted to do. You might increase this over a period of time with all the things getting in the right place but your SIP is very important. Today is the right time, don’t procrastinate things and don’t think I’ll do this when my kids are grown up. Things always move together.
Q. How do you mentor those women entrepreneurs who don’t have family support but come to you for help?
Ans. Family support is something which is very debatable . In fact, ours is based on this whole purpose, this network is a ‘go to resource’. When there’s no one who supports you, you’ll get support from each other here, in this network. There is growth beyond individual limitation. I feel, something that you cannot change, you must leave it there, change yourself and move on.
Q. What’s the exact way of working of Global Women Network?
Ans. The whole focus of GWN is upon woman entrepreneurship. It stands on three core values- first is mentoring- the advisory support. Second is the learning- the educational trainings that we try to give to the women and third is the support system which we each other are to each other. We are trying to get together to helping women to learn from each other and get inspired. We are just doing it in a formal way where we give education and trainings.
Q. How far are mentoring, support and learning important when you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Ans. Mentoring is needed at all points of time, in personal as well as professional life. Mentoring is a fancy word, it just means advice. Mentor can be a friend or an expert in a field. You don’t need mentor in just one field. For example, I need advice from digital media expert for my social media needs. For my personal problems, I might need a life coach. Don’t think a mentor to be a god who can help you everywhere, it’s not like this. You need to have different support systems. So, what we have tried to do is that we have made a resource pool, approximately 100+ mentors and we are adding more of them. They are people of expertise in their own fields and through a technological platform, you can seek help from them, you can ask questions or fix time for meeting with them. You can mail them, talk to them on Skype, mail them, actually interact with them regarding your specific problems.
Q. How can women become members of GWN?
Ans. Membership model ensures that all members meet at least once in a month. When you meet regularly, you develop relationship with each other and that develops a support system for each other. So, more and more women can get benefit out of this. We have nominal membership, 1000 rupees for student membership, 2500 rupees for women entrepreneurs and professionals and Rs. 4000 for mentorship network. It is for those who want to give, to help, especially people who have a standing of 8-10 years of experience in any field. To take the membership, go to our website www.globalwomennetworks.com and fill up the membership form, make online payment of membership fee and that’s all.
Q. Please tell about the app of Global Women Network.
Ans. We also have an app which is a mentoring app. all the GWN members can access this app. Karma Circles is helping us right now with this mentoring platform. They have developed a specific group for GWN members wherein they can access mentoring support and talk to each other. It is a more professional way to network and take help. This app can be downloaded by first downloading the Karma circle app and then search the Global Woman Network group and then join there. We are also planning to do lots of other things by integrating more and more technology to give many more benefits to the members.
Q. What initiatives of Global Women Network have helped it become so successful in such a short span of time?
Ans. Tipping Point 1.0 was an initiative originally conceptualized by Deepak Goel, the founder and CEO of Karma Circles. We realized, for women entrepreneurs many organizations are initiating courses or pitch competitions but practically speaking these women entrepreneurs find themselves lost about what and how to do the right things to attract investments even if a platform is given to them. People usually forget about them and only the event becomes a major brand. We thought why not add value and make these women entrepreneurs stars. We selected 25 women all across India and identified 10 profile partners all across the globe.
We took all the 25 women entrepreneurs through a mentoring process of 4 weeks wherein we fine tuned their business models, their obstacles that they were facing by way of expert talks. There were four sections. First was the art of storytelling wherein they understood how important it is to understand your business. It is only when you very clearly understand your business that you can market it. It’s like if you can explain your business to a 5 year old kid then only it can be assumed that you know the nuances of your business. Then they were taught how to handle the content in the context of their businesses and then how to pitch for investment. They had gone from a phase where they did not know how to speak in front of the camera to a phase where they can walk up to anybody and say “Hi, I am this and this is what I do.” This kind of transformation also transforms your business. Also, because we did not want to differentiate among the contestants by covering the stories of only top contestants, we covered and gave visibility to all the selected entrepreneurs. Now we are planning to do the next Tipping Point. This time, it will be bigger and better.
Q. Any other important aspect of GWN that you want readers to know about?
Ans. We have this philanthropic aspect too called Global Women Foundation. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to do justice to it right now as we were totally focussing on Global Women Network but hopefully in next few months, this foundation too will touch the weaker sections of the society. This might include health care, of course, apart from entrepreneurship to make such women self sufficient who don’t have access to anything. We have this vision where women from our network would hire these people from weaker sections too.
Q. Global Women Network has ‘Global’ in its name. Do you really intend to go global?
Ans. Yes, we are also identifying global partners for GWN as we are getting lot of recognition in terms of what we aspire to do. Until and unless we have a community worldwide, I feel, we’ll not be able to help each other in the best ways. Going international is definitely on the agenda and again it will happen within few months from now.
Q. Why should women join such network as yours? Why should they join Global Woman Network?
Ans. If you want to do something in your life, this is the place to be because here we not only give you mentoring support but there is an education aspect too where you learn a lot, right from how to handle your balance sheet, your finance, your PR and all. It’s because even if you don’t acknowledge it, these things are crucial to your business and to your personal growth. We also incorporate topics like work-life balance. We are not only taking you to the path of professional and personal growth but also building up a support system where in all the members can help each other. It’s not a journey which has to be taken alone, everyone definitely needs help. This is the ‘go to resource’ which we have tried to build up in a 360 degrees way wherein you get everything. So, these pillars- mentoring, support and education- give you 360 degree help when you are a part of this networking community solely devoted to women entrepreneurs. Also we have kept the charges very low so that more and more people get benefit from this. The money that you spend on a single meal in a restaurant, we are giving whole year’s membership in that much money. So, it’s worth a try.
Q. Sometime back, you had received the Naari Gaurav Samman for 2017. How do you feel about this recognition and all the other awards you have received in the past?
Ans. Yes, Rajasthan Academy has recognized the efforts that GWN has been putting in and I was awarded the ‘Naari Gaurav Samman’ for 2017. This award gave me satisfaction and a feeling that I might have done something good. In medical field too, I have been widely recognized. We got the award for best dental clinic in Delhi. Any type of recognition makes you move forward.
Q. How do you manage so many things, you look after your clinic and practice as well as run Global Women network?
Ans. I think, it’s all about time management. If you want to do something, you anyway find time to do that.
Q. What’s the next thing you are excited about?
Ans. I am planning to write a book.
Q. What’s that one habit of yours that has helped you a lot in becoming successful?
Ans. My strength comes from my spirituality. I am a very spiritual person. I am an ardent follower of Sadhguru. I take out time for my meditation daily, it’s my daily practice. Every 3-4 months, I go to Isha Ashram in Coimbatore, revving up myself, taking my energy levels to a point where I can do all what I want to do. I derive happiness from my spiritual practices. Other people might derive happiness from other activities like playing games, listening to music, working out or doing some other thing. Everyone has to find their own niche, something which keeps them moving forward.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
Ans. I don’t think there is any person in this world who would not have any regrets but I just try to put it somewhat differently and I say that they are my learnings in life. So, I have had my learnings and I am grateful to have them because they have been instrumental to my growth.
Q. Any advice for women out there?
Ans. No advice but yes, I can make a suggestion- Just believe in yourself. Once you start believing in yourself, you might not realize this, but things will unfold in a very different way. Belief in yourself, however, doesn’t mean you become selfish but it is just that you give importance to yourself too. I think, if you just do that, that’s more than enough, the path will get lighted up.
Q. What’s that one sentence or quote that describes you the best?
Ans. I believe, I am a seeker in life, seeker of everything, be it personally, be it professionally, spiritually or emotionally, I am a seeker. I don’t think, I know it all, I just seek the answer.
A seeker always finds what she is looking for and this is just due to two simple qualities- regular attention and perseverance. Dr. Prerna is an inspiration for all those women who want their lives to be fulfilling. If she can take up the task of transforming lives of others, who says, we can’t even change our own lives!
If SHE Can, YOU Can!