Sinjini Sengupta on the power of storytelling at the workplace

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We interviewed Sinjini Sengupta, Founder of Lighthouse, where she talked about the best way to put across ideas at workplaces, which is storytelling. She gave us highlights of her journey from being an actuary for 12 years to getting her short film (Elixir) shortlisted to be screened at Cannes. She talked about issues such as social conditioning and using the power of storytelling in the HR vertical and how that experience will change in the years ahead.

Sinjini is an alumna of Indian Statistical Institute and an erstwhile Actuary turned into an award-winning Storyteller, author, speaker & columnist. She has spoken on TEDx multiple times. As an author, she has won a number of awards and her first book ELIXIR was shortlisted among the 5 best fictions of 2017 at Gurgaon Library Festival 2018.

Let us walk you through some of the important key takeaways from our interview with Sinjini Sengupta!

Believe in magic to find it

Sinjini worked as an actuary for 12 years. During her pregnancy, she got sick and was unfit to work. She decided to take a few months to recover to go back to the same job, but found out that she was one step away from quadriplegia and got bedridden. The doctor told her that she was really at the brink of it. Hence, she had to put in her papers at her organization.

Before all of this happened, she was once sitting in the office cab coming back to her home, just leaning against the seat behind her. It was more than an hour since she started writing and she had 2000 words on her office’s Blackberry, physically punched in. It was just a short story that she wrote. So, she came home and forgot all about it.

Then her husband read it and got quite blown away. Since he has always been in theaters, he decided to make it into a film, so they actually went on crowdfunding mode. Lending 1000 rupees from one friend, 3000 rupees from somewhere else and liquidated a couple of their small fixed deposits.

Sinjini calls this whole thing magical, not even luck because once they made that film, it got shortlisted to be screened at Canne and they were invited to walk the red carpet.

Use storytelling as a mechanism to put out your best USP in the HR vertical

Sinjini believes that storytelling makes complex matters simple and there are a number of things that need reinvention and re-engineering, which can definitely be achieved through storytelling in the corporate world. It is not just about gender representation, but the enrichment and the expansion of perspective at the table.

All the biggest companies in the world are born out of garages started by the first generation. Irrespective of gender specificity, we need ideas and creativity. Creativity is born in the womb of safety. It cannot be born when we are just defending ourselves.

We need psychological & emotional safety at our workplaces. However, there is a fear psychosis that works around us at the workplaces like, what will happen if I don’t do this, what will happen if somebody finds out, which is not an entrepreneurial mindset, hence we tend to behave in a certain way, which is very different from how people see us when we are relaxed and sitting in our home. 

You become two different people and that belonging is missed out from the scene and more. Also, when we are talking about representation, diversity and inclusion numbers, we are somehow making ourselves fit into a square hole.

It is exactly why when a woman has a menstrual cramp, she has to call up her boss and say I have running temperature. And that is where stories come in. Thus, it is time to challenge that very basics, it is not just for women, it is also for the well being. 

Organisations should start following for best practices across Gender sensitivity

Sinjini shared that even on the surface level, you would see that if there is a birthday in the team, and the birthday boy or girl goes and cuts the cake. Immediately you would see the girls approach and cut the cake and put it on tissue papers and circulate it around and take the last piece themselves.

We don’t have to look far; we just have to remove the lens we are already wearing because we grew up seeing that. It has been ingrained in us. We cannot blame it only on the society, but all of us including ourselves. So there are a whole lot of things that need voice rather than policies.

At lighthouse, Sinjini is working on the voice of individuals. She believes that it is an innate human need to be seen, heard and understood for who we truly are and this is an unmet need, not just for women, but also for men. 

The man box is also very restrictive, and that doesn’t allow a father to want to go back home. So you have to be seen and to be heard and to be felt and to be understood the way we are and she is trying to work on voice. Only if we have our true authentic voice. The culture will shift.

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Priya Bhatt

I cover Employee stories at Springworks.

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