Dublin – Catching Up with Shilpi and Norah
Alex Maple, Vital Voices Program Coordinator, Economic Empowerment and Entrepreneurship
Shilpi Singh, co-founder of Unhotel, is an experiential travel innovator in India. She was paired with Global Ambassador Norah Casey, a business and media icon in Ireland committed to women’s equality and entrepreneurship.
Why are you here?
I have a colleague and very, very dear friend (Sarika Gupta Bhattacharyya) who has been a part of GAP since 2012. I’ve seen how it has impacted our organization, which is working in the space of diversity and inclusion. The kind of global network and the mentoring she got and the way the company really grew and its impact in India was amazing.
When I applied and got through, I had to go for it because the quality of mentors, the global network and the access is simply mind-boggling. Of course, coming to Dublin was an incentive.
Shilpi Singh describes the concept of her travel experience business
Were you surprised by your match?
I was delighted. We connected a lot before we came here and for all sorts of reasons. One, because I mentor an awful lot of women and in other corners of the world, but never in India. My heritage is Indian and in fact we have a little relationship with Varanasi where my grandmother’s father came from. I was in Delhi earlier this year for the Women’s Economic Forum and I consciously was hoping I would get a mentee from India.
Secondly, the space she’s in — I’ve been a travel writer all my life as well as an entrepreneur. In my personal life my passion is travel and Shilpi’s company is in the travel and experience area — exactly where I am all of the time. I write for Tatler and Food & Wine and I spend a lot of time in Africa. Shilpi’s model is about escaping the fast-paced life we lead and going out to enjoy experiences in nature — I feel quite passionately about it.
Shilpi has a huge track record in coaching and human resources so I’m not starting with a clean sheet of paper, I’m starting with a brilliant woman already. I always approach mentoring as a “reverse” mentoring opportunity so as much as I hope to help Shilpi’s business, I hope she will help me too.
The areas I think her business needs, especially strategy, clarity and focus, are the ones that I probably would rely on working with SMEs. I know those particular areas and figures, and Shilpi will have a head for figures by the end of the week! We have a good partnership.
Norah Casey introduces herself on the first day in Dublin
What helps also is Norah is completely out there on social media and she’s a great influencer. I’m pretty decent at social media — but I won’t say I’m really great. We connected immediately on different platforms and that helped me understand her work and how I could prepare. Before I came here, she fixed up meetings for me, gave ideas and sent links. I think that’s amazing. Unhotel is now at the right stage for a springboard jump and GAP is just the right place for the impetus required in business.
I have a secret weapon because I come from here. I know people who can help Shilpi, who would be good partnerships for her. Also, there are a number of key events for her here — she’s says I’m like Mahatma Gandhi, that I walk very fast, racing her around all over the place. In addition to the absolute high energy of the program, the drowning in strategy, and wonderful models — she’s also getting an explosion of experiences outside.
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Photography: David Hume Kennerly