Ribandar Talks, a student-managed club at Goa Institute of Management has hosted a number of renowned speakers. This year Kshama Fernandes has been invited. She took on an adventure of sailing across the Atlantic with a team of eight sailors across 3100 nautical miles over 21 days from Spain to the Caribbean Islands. Faculty alumni and member on the GIM Board of Governors, Kshama speaks to NT KURIOCITY about her humbling and inspiring tales of the ocean
Danuska Da Gama I NT KURIOCITY
- Biking, sky diving, mountaineering, trekking and now sailing. You are truly living the slogan, ‘You’ve got one life to live.’
Indeed – one life to live; and miles to go before I sleep.
- You’ve pushed yourself to do things you wouldn’t have done otherwise, when did this adventure streak surface?
I think the adventure streak was always there. I grew up in a village in Goa climbing trees, jumping into wells, running along the beach. I grew up watching my father and grandfather perform yoga every day. Physical fitness was always important. But the real break happened when I spent three months in Germany as part of a faculty-exchange programme. I was in an environment where everybody was into fitness and adventure sport. Those three months changed my life. Post that I took to adventure sport in a big way, I learned rock-climbing, I learnt sky-diving and paragliding, I began trekking and climbing regularly, doing two climbs a year. Beyond a point adventure got addictive. I just never looked back after that!
- When there’s adventure, there are always risks involved…
True! But there are ways of taking risks in a careful calibrated manner. I never ride my motorbike without wearing a helmet. I’m trained and technically qualified to climb, skydive and sail. I underwent a special Sea Survival Course by Royal Yachting Association in South Hampton before my Atlantic crossing. I believe in taking calculated risks. Ships are the safest at the harbour but that’s not what they were made for.
- Tell us about how you got into sailing?
It’s very strange that I grew and spend all my life in Goa, an end to end coastal state, but only learned sailing when I moved to Chennai. However, I had my first sail-boat experience 14 years ago. This was on Lake Ammersee, a 47 square kilometer lake at the foothills of the Bavarian Alps in the summer of 2002. And for the first time I experienced the raw power of winds and what one could do with it. It took a long time post that first sailing experience to make progress, but I finally enrolled for a Helmsman course and acquired the training required. I am nowhere close to the best sailors I’ve known but I’ve always craved for the immensity of the sea.
- How did you prepare for the sailing expedition across the Atlantic Ocean?
Well, I did my basic training in Chennai at the Royal Madras Yacht Club and then got the certification from the Royal Yachting Association in South Hampton. I sailed on weekends when I could, prior to departing for the Atlantic crossing. The longest I had sailed at one stretch previously was 48 hours off the coast of England. From 48 hours to 21 days on the Atlantic – nothing could have prepared me for this. I must say, experience is a great teacher!
- What were the challenges faced? What lessons did you learn?
Tons of challenges; rough weather, squalls accompanied by heavy rains, electric storms. But the biggest challenge wasn’t outside, the biggest challenge was inside me; my own fears that needed to be conquered. When the ocean gets violent, that is when the need to maintain calm on the inside is required the most.
- You not believe in competitive sports, why?
Competitive sport in itself is great. It’s just that I prefer competing with myself. I’m the biggest hurdle in my progress. And I want to get out of my own limitations.
- How did the expedition help you in your professional life?
The Atlantic crossing was an experience in team-building and in being a team-player. Not everybody in a team is good at everything and the role of a skipper is to make a judgement on what a situation calls for, and to put the best person out there to deal with it.
- How was this sailing expedition a milestone in your life?
I’m not a great sailor. I only learnt to sail two years ago. From the coast of Madras to the Atlantic crossing from Spain to South America, it is a milestone by any standard but given that I was a novice at sailing, it is epic!
- What keeps you motivated?
It is the desire to learn new things and to push myself to get better at old things.
- How do you strike a balance when it comes to leading a team of plus 100 people, hobbies and family?
We all make time for things we consider important. My family, my work and my hobbies are all important and all have their place in my life. I’ve never had to sacrifice one for the other. I don’t believe in work-life balance. I believe in life.
- Tell us something about your company?
I work for IFMR Capital, a NBFC that has applied the structured finance approach very successfully in the financial inclusion space. We work with a 100 plus financial institutions and a similar number of investors reaching more than 25 million last mile borrowers. We started eight years ago and today have a presence in 30 states and union territories of India. Since inception we have enabled 40,000 crores for financing in the sectors we work in which are microfinance, affordable housing finance, small business loans finance, vehicle finance and agri-finance.
- How can micro financing help women achieve their dreams/ become entrepreneurs?
Access to finance is empowering. A timely loan or financial product can change lives of people. A woman with access to finance has the power to say: ‘my daughter will go to school’. I believe access to finance is a fundamental right, that should be provided to every single person in an efficient and reliable manner at a price that reflects the real risk of the borrower.
(Kshama Fernandes will speak at the Goa Institute of Management campus as part of Ribandar Talks on March 17 at 4.30 p.m.)