“If women are reminded of the fact that they can be and are equally responsible for managing their family finances, it will motivate them to understand finance,” says Tina Suzanne George in an exclusive interview on International Women’s Day 2021. The eldest daughter of Thomas George Muthoot, Promoter-Director of Muthoot Pappachan Group, she is Impact Director of Restart India and an Associate Vice President with the Group’s only listed entity, Muthoot Capital Services Ltd. (MCSL) she is already leading the company’s Corporate Lending as well as CSR functions, for about a two years now.
She has previously worked with various financial services and consulting firms viz., Deloitte, Haskins & Sells, S R Batliboi & Co. (part of E&Y). Apart from her serious focus on work, Tina has a socially conscious leaning. She has worked for a not-for profit start-up to strategize their fundraising vertical in the past. In the long-term, the Muthoot Pappachan Group foresees her as championing Financial Strategy for the group.
The initiative #RestartIndia was conceptualized amid the lockdown when the country’s small business owners were grappling with the effects of COVID-19. Excerpts from the interview:
Q 1: The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘Choose to Challenge’. What stereotypes did you personally challenge in the past?
What I’ve done isn’t extraordinary. But what I’ve learned over the years is that a woman is not limited by a particular lack of education, skill, or experience at any point in time. My core has been in accounting, but during my working years, I’ve tried my hand at multiple fields and that meant having to start from scratch in many ways, which can be a tedious process.
At one point in my career, I recall being slightly senior in position to my colleagues but at the same time a novice in taxation in my early days of practice. That awareness of my limitation made me try harder to move ahead.
Q 2: How did you decide on pursuing finance?
My parents instilled in me the sense of responsibility that knowledge of finance is a crucial skill. Of course, when I was in my formation years, that was more from the angle of training myself for understanding finance and accounting within the business. But in hindsight, I see how that knowledge transcends outside of just being able to read company financial statements.
If women are reminded of the fact that they can be and are equally responsible for managing their family finances, it will motivate them to understand the subject better.
Q 3: In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up a career in finance?
I wouldn’t say that women need to have a career in Finance, I’m sure they can make a successful living out of anything they choose to do. But they must have a strong foundation in money matters. We’ve observed even among our customers that women are careful when they borrow. There is an earnest desire to repay and they borrow with an intended long-term purpose (children’s education, purchasing stock, etc.). It is important to understand simple savings and investment options, basic tax planning, and mode of funding options. It empowers them to make decisions, especially in the absence of a male counterpart, who is generally viewed as a decision-maker when it comes to such matters.
Q 4: What is the biggest issue facing working women today?
A woman is always faced with choices – does she need to pursue her career or focus on family, and if both, then to what extent? It takes time and effort to improve in any field, whether at work or home. There is a constant need to balance, and I think, every day is a balancing act for women. Throwing into the equation the need to develop and find some quiet time for herself can get overwhelming. But women do have an innate ability to get things done, and at the end of the day, if a woman can cross off a few things from her list of endless to-dos, she has done a phenomenal job.
Q 5: Your newest initiative Restart India works with small business owners. Tell us more about it.
#RestartIndia was conceptualized amid the lockdown when the country’s small business owners were grappling with the effects of COVID-19. It’s not that the problems faced by small business owners are new, COVID-19 simply exacerbated it.
During the initial days of the lockdown, we, as a fairly large business, were privileged to access information on how to get accustomed to the unprecedented changes. However, as we reached out to lakhs of our customer base, we realized they needed hand-holding, guidance, mentoring. And so together with INK Talks, Muthoot FinCorp set up #RestartIndia, a mentoring platform for small businesses.
We have empanelled close to 30 industry experts from fields spanning marketing, branding, technology, retail, finance, human capital, and these experts share their knowledge on how small businesses can address the challenges they face, whether it be through direct questions or conversational sessions we have with them on our social media channels. Our focus at the moment is on empowering small businesses to use digital means to improve their business capabilities.
Q 6: How can aspiring female entrepreneurs take advantage of it?
We engage with small business owners through our live events and social media channels. We would love to have conversations with budding women entrepreneurs to understand their challenges and can work in tandem to come up with solutions for them. We have the backing of our mentor panel and other experts who offer insights and solutions.
Q 7: Which other social issues are you passionate about?
Personally, causes relating to children, are close to my heart. We’ve worked with organizations that help improve their living conditions in shelters and orphanages, in their skill development, and in engaging them in productive activities so they don’t fall prey to illicit behaviour. It’s important to mould them to be better citizens, offer them the kind of education and living standards that we have been privileged to get.
Q 8: What does corporate social responsibility mean to you?
The business exists because the community allows it to exist. There is an acceptance from various stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, regulators, and the general public. To the corporate, CSR is a reminder that it needs to return this debt to the community, whether in activities related to its business or not.
Q 9: In what capacity are you involved with the Muthoot Pappachan Group’s CSR initiatives?
All promoters and those in the lineage, including myself, take an active interest in Muthoot Pappachan Group’s CSR efforts – we study causes that require intervention and work with implementing agencies to address those causes. For example, home construction for those affected by floods, child education and well-being needs, sports facilities for children with limited means, sponsoring patients with terminal illnesses and so on. The areas we work with span health, education, environment, and livelihood.
Q 10: Does the gender equality movement need male allies?
Of course. Peer-to-peer connections make a bigger impact. It’s not that women can’t state their point. But it’s a source of support when there is understanding and acceptance from the male allies, who can also send a message to their peers.
Q 11: On International Women’s Day 2021, what is your message to young women?
Especially in the face of COVID-19, women have taken on alternative job-titles and built job roles for themselves. Entrepreneurs have blossomed almost everywhere. You don’t need a white-collar title to be productive, you can carve a path for yourself – be a writer, photographer, home décor artist – do anything. The world needs your services.
Take advantage of technology and social media – do not fear it. Use these tools to build your profession. Your qualification doesn’t define you, and neither does your job title, or the lack of it.