BizzTalk World interviews Bijetri Roy. Bijetri Roy is the Managing Director & Chief Strategist of her startup company, Institute for Pioneering Insightful Research and Edutech Pvt. Ltd. (Ins-PIRE in Economics & Sustainability).She is also a fiction writer and has recently published two thriller novels, The Enemy Within: An espionage thriller and Journey to the Tenth Dimension: A collection of science fictions and thrillers.
Host: Please brief us about your journey so far.
Bijetri: I was brought up in the beautiful hub of culture, art and food, Lucknow where I studied at the renowned City Montessori School, Gomti Nagar Lucknow. I decided to take up the study of law after high school and enrolled in the 5-year integrated BA-LLB honours course in India in 2008. I then went on to study in London in 2013 and earned a merit (first class) Master’s degree in Public International Law from one of the top-ranking universities, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London.
I opted for niche areas such as International Economic Law, Climate Change Policy, International Law of the Seas and my master’s thesis on Trade Liberalization and the Poor which was a study on the impacts of globalization, liberalization and international trade on developing nations. So, as you see… I have never kept my avenues limited to the core law areas but have explored the multidisciplinary aspects of world trade, policy and economics. I am now looking forward to pursuing my PhD soon sometime from 2022 in a field that is again experimental for me, Fiction Writing and Climate Change.
Having donned professional roles from being researcher under celebrated veteran feminist, Adv Flavia Agnes to a banking and finance lawyer at a boutique law firm Orbit Law Services, Mumbai for a while, then a plunge into teaching banking and commercial laws, moving on to the edutech industry and now finally, a research and edutech startup entrepreneur of my organization, Institute for Pioneering Insightful Research & Edutech Pvt Ltd (Ins-PIRE). Since last year, I have collaborated with my father, Dr Debesh Roy, an economist who has more than 33 years’ experience. Recently, we have formalized our collaboration to form our venture, Ins-PIRE. I am the Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer for Ins-PIRE. We have two verticals, ERCA and ESDT.
The vertical Economic Research, Consultancy and Advisory (ERCA) will be involved in policy and empirical research and analysis in global and Indian macroeconomic and developmental issues. We will also focus on growth and structural transformation in the agricultural and rural economy, MSMEs and the financial sector.
Another area of research is economic, social, legal and environmental sustainability, through a multi-disciplinary approach. Consultancy services will include: feasibility studies and potential surveys and research in agriculture and food security, financial inclusion, livelihoods, women empowerment, economics of climate change adaptation and agriculture, MSMEs, and the financial sector. Publications will include newsletter, policy briefs, research reports, working papers, etc. We are also planning to bring out book publications, with chapters by experts apart from our internally developed research papers.
The vertical Edutech, Skill Development and Training (ESDT) will include edutech content in niche areas of literature, economics and sustainability, international trade, climate change, creative writing, soft skills training programmes, women empowerment training programmes in association with NGOs, research institutes, etc.
We intend to collaborate/ associate with research institutions, think tanks, developmental organisations, industry associations, corporate entities, NGOs, government departments, financial institutions, etc.
There is a flagship initiative that I am working on developing at the moment, which is a digital magazine called Inspire Spectrum. This will be part of the company’s aegis itself. The content won’t just be limited to economics etc, but I also plan to collate and curate interesting content on Sports, Food history, Movie and Books, Technology, Science trivia, etc. So, basically you know, a spectrum of content, therefore, the name Inspire Spectrum. Plus, content won’t really be limited to written articles and blogs, but you can look forward to podcasts, videos and artistic content. There is an initiative under the ESDT vertical of Inspire, which is to bring Inspiring content, and the first series of videos that I am working towards are interviews of self-made experts from various fields, their journey and they success mantra.
An important chapter from my journey so far has been pursuing my passion and first love, writing fictions. I have recently published my first two works, novels "The Enemy Within: An espionage thriller" and "Journey to the Tenth Dimension: A collection of science fictions and thrillers".
Host: What is your time management mantra?
Bijetri: You know… there’s no set mantra for time management, it is absolutely upon the person. But if I may share my time management mantra… it is to focus and prioritize.
To start with, every night before going to bed, I make a list for the next day, believe me, this is a tip for a smooth and productive day.
So, in the list, I write down the tasks for the day, priority, is there anything I can put on hold and concentrate on what requires immediate attention, and the time line.
It’s extremely important to learn to prioritize. Some tips that I can share are that you may identify the task, basically there’s something you have to finish… but you need to really have clarity of what exactly you need to do.
You may have been assigned a project so you might feel that the project is your task… but… your project is your goal basically. Your task is to achieve the goal… for that, you may like to break down the task step by step, in terms of the steps involved. So… in short, clarity of process is important to realize and recognize. And this needs to be done before starting the work… else you might end up in a soup!
Then of course… concentrate on the process and steps instead of thinking of the result. My mantra is something I learnt from the Bhagwad Geeta… “karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana” … so applying this learning in work life, I conclude it as concentrate on the process and steps, on your day-to-day work instead of stressing over the final outcome or the deadline from day 1. You can definitely avoid this last-minute rush if you plan ahead and prioritize.
Finally, for time management, don’t let social media and technology control you! This is very important. I have faced this challenge very often, when I consider looking at Facebook between work just for a short break, and in the end, it is probably a 3-hour useless break and then, there’s the mad rush, regret and sitting late at work. Imagine if you had to give yourself marks everyday for your performance, for a day when you wasted time on social media, you will probably end up giving yourself a 40 on 100!
Host: What would you advise to young professionals in your industry?
Bijetri: So, taking cue again from your last question on time management…. It is extremely important to make a list of priorities for every day. Maintain a time table, and definitely eat at intervals.
I have battled obesity and low metabolism because of prioritizing everything else over my health. During my initial job days in 2016 and 2017, I would go without lunch and even 8 glasses of water for weeks, because of deadlines. Now that I reflect back upon those days, when I was 25 or 26, I was making the wrong choice of priorities.
Eating well, exercising, taking breaks, stretching, drinking lots of water… believe me… these may sound useless tips at this stage, but these are what make or break you ultimately. I understand it is a priority to have employment or work in today’s competitive world… but never compromise on your health… both mental and physical. Mental wellness is top priority. I have gone through a phase of depression and severe anxiety issues at an earlier workplace because of being bullied by my boss and colleagues, being body shamed and mocked for having a foreign degree as if it’s something of a disadvantage… but since I was just 2 years into the job grind that time, I wasn’t sure how to react to such situations. I realized after a while that my mental wellness is top priority instead of having a regular salary.
Some more tips for youngsters are to focus and concentrate. Set your habits right. There are studies that indicate that you need around 21 days to make or break a habit. Learn the right habits, have a routine. But again, don’t let the routine bog you down. Keep it flexible.
Reading habits are very important… If nothing else, read quotes by famous people every day. I enjoy reading science and thriller fictions as much as I love reading self-development books by Deepak Chopra. Two fabulous book that youngsters should definitely read …. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. Multitasking is something I do, but this again is a personal trait..., don’t multitask just because it seems fancy. This “hustle” culture needs to slow down. Do what you love. And definitely don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is different.
Finally… celebrate your accomplishments. Even if you finished reading a novel today or finished watching a series on Netflix, celebrate it! Treat yourself for everything you do! Be punctual, time is your best friend and your greatest enemy. Develop a positive environment for everyone around you. Whether you are an intern or whether you are the boss… be polite, calm and watch your words. A little humility, a positive mind, a smiling face does no harm. Don’t be a bully and never let others bully you.
Host: How do constraints and opportunities shape the role of women in world trade?
Bijetri: I am really glad you asked this question! Trade can play an important role in driving women's economic empowerment. So… according to a World Bank report, in an integrated world, the competitive pressure generated by trade raises the cost of discrimination against women. Countries that do not allow women to fully participate in the economy are less competitive internationally—particularly those countries with export industries that globally have high female employment rates.
There is enough data to indicate that women are often more economically vulnerable than men. It is extremely important for governments to come up with long term gender inclusive growth by identifying and addressing the constraints that women face. trade can substantially improve economic outcomes for women, by increasing employment and wages, creating better jobs, and lowering costs. But the positive effects of trade will materialize only if the barriers that hold women back are lifted and appropriate policies to deal with adjustment costs are put in place.
I was recently going through the WTO Report on Women and Trade and some key takeaways from the report are really noteworthy. Firms that engage in international trade employ more women. In developing countries women make up 33.2 percent of the workforce of firms that trade internationally, compared with just 24.3 percent of non-exporting firms and 28.1 percent for non-importing firms.
Women are also better represented in firms that are part of global value chains (GVCs), and that are foreign owned. Women constitute 36.7 percent of the workforce of GVC firms and 37.8 percent of the workforce of foreign-owned firms—10.9 and 12.2 percentage points more, respectively, than the proportion for non-GVC and domestically owned firms.
Then… Trade increases women’s wages and increases economic equality. Globally, women take home a smaller share of wages. When developing countries double their manufacturing exports— which is typical for developing countries that open themselves to trade—women’s share of total manufacturing wages rises by 5.8 percentage points on average, through a combination of increased employment and higher salaries.
Then of course, Trade creates better jobs for women. In both developing and emerging economies, workers in sectors with high levels of exports are more likely to be employed formally—giving them opportunities for benefits, training, and job security. For women, the probability of being informal goes from 20 percent in sectors with low levels of exports to 13 percent in sectors with high levels of exports.
Trade can also create incentives for countries to expand women’s legal rights and their access to crucial resources such as education and technology. Improved women’s rights have also promoted more trade. Th is has led to a virtuous circle between increased trade and gender equality. The growing role of services in the global economy and trade, the rise of GVCs, and the adoption of new digital technologies create new and powerful opportunities for women to better reap the benefits of trade. Improving women’s productivity in these sectors is essential to close the gender gap, especially for the most vulnerable women. Better policies can help women overcome the challenges of trade and maximize its benefits for sure.
Digital platforms in both developed and developing economies have witnessed a sharp rise in women-owned companies, in particular micro and small enterprises, over the years. Increasingly, education and health services are traded online, which not only increases women’s access to these services but also provides women better employment opportunities in sectors where they face less discrimination.
Also… The extent to which women can take advantage of trade opportunities depends on factors beyond just trade policies. Investments in education, health systems, and infrastructure can provide women with the human capital they require to benefit from trade, particularly as workers. Improving access to education, financial resources, digital technologies, and information can further reduce some of the constraints that disproportionately affect women. For example, on a macro level, capital and labour markets, macroeconomic stability, and effective governance—including the reduction of gender imbalances—can surely maximize the gains from trade.
For women to fully benefit from trade, changes in sociocultural attitudes are necessary. Trade policies cannot overcome discriminatory legal and sociocultural barriers that prevent women from opening a bank account, running their own businesses, working in certain sectors, or crossing borders. Informality reduces job security and access to resources, including training and financial support. Such discriminatory legal and sociocultural barriers often raise the costs of formalization for women traders and female entrepreneurs, forcing them to earn a living through the informal sector.
Finally… As governments elaborate trade policy, it is important to ensure that certain vulnerable segments of women are not left behind. Benefitting from economic progress involves adjusting to economic change and so does gaining from trade. Greater trade and technological innovation can cause disruption in some sectors as economic activity shifts to more productive areas where a country has a comparative advantage.
Women can be particularly vulnerable to this type of disruption because four out of five women globally work in low- to medium-skill jobs that could be more exposed to the risk of automation. Well-targeted and adequately financed trade adjustment assistance through a mix of labour, competitiveness, and compensation policies can help workers manage the cost of adjusting to trade, while making sure that the economy captures as much as possible the benefits from these changes.
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