Latika Kohli is a social entrepreneur and shares with Guardian 20 her journey, achievement as the youngest Consul of Gautemala, and vision for empowered Indian women.
Q. Being in the diplomatic arena, you have had diverse and interesting experiences growing up. You are now engaged in multiple areas ranging from being a faculty of Global Entrepreneurship & Innovation to participating in philanthropic activists. Share with us your journey.
A. While I was growing up as the daughter of a diplomat, I was convinced that our nomadic lifestyle was the norm and lived a transient life wholeheartedly. Born in Hungary, lived in eight different countries, studied across different boards where inclusion and diversity served as the ultimate centerpiece. I think this way of life, enabled me to embrace change with a degree of natural ease, and I might attribute this ability, even to the diversity that unravelled in my adult life. My far and few philanthropic activities are directly attributed to the values instilled in us while growing up. The norm was, if you can’t help in any other way, just smile brightly and say a few kind words to brighten up the world just a wee bit!
Q. You have been one of the youngest Consuls of Guatemala? How did it unfold?
A. I met the Minister of Foreign affairs of Guatemala in Mexico at a cocktail where we had a heated debate on a current affairs. He was a seasoned politician and I was a naïve activist. A match made in heaven! Our conversation was in Spanish with dips of Swahili. At the end of the evening, he said “I have been looking for representation in India, I think I just found the right candidate”. “Not exactly my prognosis”, I immediately conceded, knowing nothing about what the job entailed.
I found out that I was the youngest “head of state” when they declared it in the book of records.
Q. What have been the high points of this exalted position?
A. To my surprise, I received the coveted highest civilian award of Central America, Antonio José de Irizarri by the President at the end of my term of 13 years in recognition of the growth of the bilateral relations between Guatemala and India.
Q. Talk to us about your work responsibility by being on the faculty of Columbia Business School?
A. Your question takes me back to when I was 17 and I received my first college rejection from none other than Columbia. At that point, I felt my life had come to a hard stop and with a broken heart I shared the news with my mother on the phone. I can’t forget the exhilaration in her tone when she expressed “Failure at this young age is a blessing”. From here on, you will build your journey and travel the path that is meant to manifest the best version of you. I must confess that it did not make any sense at that time.
A few years later, Columbia honoured me as a faculty of entrepreneurship & innovation, for their global initiative, venture for all.
Additionally, my education vertical, Young Minds, also entered into a partnership with them to promote entrepreneurship in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.
Lesson learnt—the rejection indeed set me on the right path.
Q. As a woman achiever what are the initiatives that you would like to see in our society for women?
A. As a country, India is coming of age and I feel excited to see the energy and progress, rising due to each individual’s contribution and initiative. I envisage a time, where the dormant female shakti rises to its potential and the enormous powerful nation we would be. From that standpoint, I would like to encourage each girl and woman to view herself as a potential powerhouse and not as a meek gender. Once you feel powerful, you are powerful and then universal energies come into play and help you accomplish your goals.
That said, from each empowered individual [and we all have some superpower], state and corporations, I would like to see them support [in action] empowerment and equal opportunity to women.