Smriti Nagpal from Atulyakala in Conversation with VamaIndia

At the age of 16, Smriti started working as a sign language interpreter in India- the country with the world’s largest deaf population. When she was 20, she started interpreting news for the hearing impaired on national television. She went on to found Atulyakala, India’s first deaf-run lifestyle brand. Her aim is to empower deaf artists in India and to increase their interaction with the rest of society through business. Recently, she also founded Hearken which is a deaf-run co-working cafe in New Delhi. Her initiatives have earned her worldwide recognition, including a place in the BBC’s 100 Inspirational Women List in 2015.

Today, we are glad to have a conversation with Smriti Nagpal on VamaIndia

VamaIndia: Tell us Something About you and your family ??

Smriti :I was born in Delhi in a business family; I have two elder siblings who are deaf and mute, so sign language was like my mother tongue. I grew up with extreme love and pampering, perks of being the youngest. My family was the primary inspiration for me to pick up sign language. I always had freedom of choice while growing up, I don’t really remember ever being told: “how a girl should behave”. I got married last year to a guy who respects me and loves me for who I am. He is a pilot and thanks to his profession my travel bug is always up and flying.

VamaIndia: When have you decided to be a Business Women?

Smriti : Surprisingly very early in life !! I knew one thing at the age of 17 that I wouldn’t want to confine myself to a 9-5 job . Obviously took me a few more years to finally start something of my own.

VamaIndia : How Entrepreneur life is different from any 9-6 job?

Smriti: To be honest the company becomes your life, it’s like raising a child. There are no time limits- especially in the early days of starting a business. Later when the business is stable and self- reliant, that’s the time when you can see how different it is from a 9-5 job. Entrepreneurship is for people who prefer living on their own terms.

VamaIndia: Tell us something about your brand Atulyakala?

Smriti : India’s first Deaf lifestyle brand, Atulyakala entered the limelight about 6 years ago with its first attempt towards creating a barrier-free and inclusive brand for the deaf. At atulyakala we design and create lifestyle products, all designed and curated by deaf designers. Our company is based on a double bottom approach, focusing on upliftment of deaf community in India. Our mission is to create awareness for Indian sign language as India has the largest population of deaf and mute people in the world and yet there is no awareness about deaf culture.

VamaIndia: Biggest challenge you faced in life and how you dealt with it?

Smriti: The biggest challenge would be determination. To be able to commit and follow, follow something that many must have called “impossible” . Any business or any change comes with million hurdles and bummers but the biggest challenge of all is to not them these speed breakers slow you down. I had many such moments when everyone told me to “stop my hobby job”. Many called it impossible, many said a cause driven business could never be self-sustained. These questions didn’t stop me, rather motivated me to prove myself. Show what is the power of passion and commitment

smriti nagpal from atulyakal
Smriti Nagpal from Atulyakala

VamaIndia: What is the contribution of your family to your success as Business Women?

Smriti: Freedom and support. My parents always gave me the freedom to choose my life, my career, and respected my decisions. They are with me in every aspect of life. My husband and my in-laws again have always been very supportive and proud of me

VamaIndia: According to you, How important is for a woman to be financially independent?

Smriti :Extremely! Financial independence provides a sense of freedom and confidence. Being married recently, I have realized that it’s essential to have a balance in life – financially and emotionally. Being able to contribute financially makes any person feel confident and independent.

VamaIndia : Any important/memorable moment in your life?

Smriti: It was World Disability Day back in 2006 and I was 16 at that time. We deaf community had a major protest and it took hours and hours at India gate. The shortage of interpreters was always there and back then we were just a few in numbers. I was told to get on a stage and interpret for thousands of audience, I was a very introvert and shy person back then. This was a challenge for me, I straight up interpreted for hours and the daylight was dim now, we didn’t have enough light for people to see my signing and interpreting. During the dark hour, around 10 people gathered around me holding candles, the reflection of candlelight brighten my hands and allowed people to see my hand while I was interpreting. I still feel that was a very profound moment for me. It led me to decide what I love the most.

VamaIndia:What are your hobbies?

Smriti: I would straightaway say traveling! It gives me immense peace and happiness. Exploring faraway lands, at my own pace. Staying in offbeat places; spending hours walking around the alleys. Just my way of finding joy Of course, this lockdown gave me many more hobbies, one is pottery! I have recently started pottery and thoroughly enjoying it

VamaIndia: Any Message for readers of VamaIndia?

Smriti: I would just like to say that to find the true essence of life, it is absolutely important to find your own self. It is like figuring out what you are made of, things that defines you. Once you know that then anything you pick up will turn into happiness. Also, never underestimate the power of dreams. Dreams will always help you find your path in life ! just stick to it – no matter how long the journey is !!

We at VamaIndia wish Smriti all the best for her future endeavors 🙂

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