The OG Amrutam Community would recognise Stuti Ashok Gupta, Principal: Brand & Vision, as the face of the brand. But they may not know that she led a completely different life – of a clinical psychologist, nomadic traveller, social worker and writer.
Small-town girl with big dreams
Stuti was born and raised in Gwalior – where Amrutam is based. During the early 2010s, when the term ‘mental health’ was not nearly as popular as it is today, Stuti opted for psychology as her elective in high school. Her reason for choosing psychology was innocent: she simply could not imagine herself attending the PE class.
The subject intrigued her so much that she decided to pursue a bachelor’s in psychology from Christ University, Bangalore. It was a big new world for a young girl of 17 who had left her sheltered life to start afresh. Around the same time, Stuti also began working with an NGO called Gramiksha, which works for children’s education.
“Gramiksha started out in Gwalior but later took roots in different parts of the country. I started out as a volunteer where I taught school-going children and helped in establishing the Bangalore Chapter.”
Given her sincerity and devotion to the cause, she was entrusted with extensive responsibilities of managing projects and running campaigns. Finally, she became the National Head managing over 500 volunteers under her leadership. “Now, when I think about it, that was when my leadership qualities first came to the forefront,” she says. In the process, Stuti also learned the importance of working together and building a community of like-minded people.
Exploring the unexplored
She then pursued a master’s in clinical psychology from TISS, Calicut. Away from the bustle of city life, she discovered a new side of hers that loved to explore and travel. “Bangalore is where I was exposed to a world full of possibilities. But Calicut is where I grew as a person,” says Stuti. Calicut was also the place that created space to nurture her creativity and birth her collection of poems, ‘Sublimation’.
What started with a couple of weekend getaways soon turned into numerous trips across the country. From down south to the northern mountains, Stuti had covered a large part of the country in the 40-odd trips she took in the span of two years of her master’s course.
While Stuti had interned with organisations in the past, she could not quite see herself working for someone else. Given her business background, she had always imagined doing something of her own, and so, at 22, she started a chain of backpacker hostels called The Lost Tribe Hostel in the quiet village of Jagathsukh in Manali.
“I had met some people who were running their own hostels during my travels. I resonated with the idea of starting something with the value of community in the centre,” she explains.
Stuti and her partners took care of the day-to-day work of the hostel, where they had experienced and learned lessons that no MBA could ever teach. During her time at The Lost Tribe, Stuti travelled frequently and was exposed to different cultures and philosophies of leading life. Not following a conventional career path and living like a nomad was surely a cause of concern for her parents but they continued to show faith in their daughter’s judgment.
Joining the family business
To further her profession as a psychologist, Stuti later took up a job as a Psychologist - Business Design at the Hank Nunn Institute, Bangalore. But the 9-5 life did not seem to work for her, and she began contemplating her career goals. This was back in 2017, around the same time when Stuti’s family business Amrutam suffered a major setback.
“My parents were struggling with a major financial crisis, so my brother Agnim and I decided to quit our jobs and join our family business of manufacturing and distributing Ayurvedic medicines,” recalls Stuti.
Having gone through the rigmarole of running the business offline through their father’s struggles, Stuti and Agnim knew they wanted to explore the online world for Amrutam. “We were new to the business but knew how the internet worked and decided to sell online.”
Also read: The Amrutam Origin Story
The first few months were spent finalising the logo, rebranding Amrutam, redesigning the packaging and establishing an online presence through their website and social media. In the process, Stuti took up designing, a skill she did not know she had a knack for.
“I remember learning Illustrator from the designer we had hired. Later on, it would be me who would design our product labels.”
Slowly, from receiving its first-ever order in August 2017 to now receiving thousands of orders every month, Amrutam has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 5 years.
Building community and integrating mental health
Stuti brought the community aspect and has been instrumental in shaping Amrutam’s identity as a wellness community. As a psychologist by qualification, Stuti also introduced the mental health element at Amrutam where the focus is on holistic health, which includes physical, mental and spiritual health. This led to the birth of Rediscovering Self with Amrutam: A mental health podcast featuring mental health practitioners.
From featuring yoga teachers and practitioners, she met during her days at The Lost Tribe Hostel in Amrutam’s blog series to celebrating the stories of up-and-coming local musicians of Gwalior Gharana in Amrutam Raga Project, Stuti’s life has come in full circle with the work she is doing at Amrutam.
A big believer in making communities work in powerful ways, Stuti also emphasizes the importance of Emotional Intelligence.
“I sincerely believe in the power of the human connect. It’s the only thing that cannot be automated and will distinguish the brands in the future. A world where everything is tech-based and automated, giving personalized responses, tending to people’s unique needs and helping them navigate is what will make a brand truly stand out.”
On gaining new experiences
What has helped Stuti stand out as an entrepreneur is the diversity of experiences she gained as a traveler and writer.
At 21, she wrote and published her book Sublimation – A collection of poems. “I wrote something and wanted to get it published. That really was my agenda. It had never really occurred to me that I wanted to write a bestseller because my business mind doesn’t apply to my creation. Or perhaps, because it is my creation, I forget to apply any business tactics to it,” she explains.
Although Stuti doesn’t find the time to write as much as she would like now, she admits she may have become a bit too self-critical. There was a certain comfort in knowing that strangers read her words but now with everything being too refined and polish, there is a lack of rawness that she misses.
“I was a nobody when I used to write on my blog back in college. I was just someone who liked to write and I loved that part of my life. I am just focusing on my book and it’s going well. I am excited about it. But I do feel more responsible for adding value to the world.”
A similar sense of conscientiousness took over her when she was announced as part of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia, class of 2022. “Even though I received my confirmation early in the morning, I kept holding myself back from sharing it with the world,” she confesses, “What if someone was having a really bad day and this just made it worse?” Times like these have called in for inner work that Stuti is always open to doing.
Also read: 5 Ways to Connect with Your Internal Self
On travel, leisure and self-care
Something else that has aided this inner work is her time spent on the road. In Stuti’s words, Amsterdam is simply “the most aesthetic and visually pleasing city in the world!” Just walking around cafes and bakeries filled her up with a sense of awe and wonder. The lush greens of Kodaikanal and the serenity of Ladakh is what she finds herself reminiscing time and again, when she is not busy daydreaming about the sweet sunsets of Varkala. Safe to say, browsing through new destinations is her favourite past-time!
Stuti also enjoys spending time on self-care. So, while on weekdays, she takes up work calls and avoids using too much of her phone, her Sunday mornings are reserved for relaxing spa sessions with her favourite Kuntal Care DIY Hair Spa and Amrutam Charcoal Face Mask.
“Usually, I wake up around 7:30 AM and don’t use my phone for the first hour, as a self-care practice to avoid being overwhelmed. I then complete my morning rituals, have breakfast and start my day. On some days I go to the gym in the morning and other days, I go in the evening. The idea is to do something to stay fit as often as I can.”
When space and time permit for leisure, Stuti can be found being goofy on her Instagram account. Calling her 14K followers a mini cult of sorts would not be an exaggeration. Among all the accounts she follows, the accounts that arrest her the most are that of @morganharpernichols, @larissa_wlc and @thelazyinsomniac. While she enjoys the visual artistry and storytelling of the former, she’s particularly a fan of the detailing and aesthetics of the latter two.
Influences and inspirations
Of all the people that have influenced and shaped her, Stuti continues to remain in gratitude of Krishna Das, the celebrated American vocalist who devoted his life to spiritual learnings. “I’ve met KD and his story has had a deep impact on me. How he was an addict until age 55 and was trying to find himself. The whole aspect of surrendering instead of trying to control everything. Whenever I feel low in life, I just surrender to his music.”
Stuti practiced the art of surrendering during her time in Vipassana. “I have also been in Vipassana and have realized that human beings are incredibly powerful. We are so brilliant and beautifully designed. We often need to remind ourselves of that.”
An entrepreneur that Stuti draws inspiration from is Elon Musk. She likes how he doesn’t worry about how people perceive him. There are certain aspects of his personality that have stayed with her.
“I relate with Elon Musk’s rawness.”
Though Stuti may come off confident and know-it-all as a leader, few know about the struggle she had to endure to cultivate a sense of belief in herself.
Also read: Decoding Elon Musk with Ayurveda
“When you constantly try to fit into a man’s structure – which is how most businesses have been so far – it can make you question yourself. But with time, I have realized that I am bringing a lot to the table as a woman and that in itself is a value addition. I bring in the perspective that nobody else brings and I do not have to measure myself against someone else’s scale.”
With over 5 years of her life at Amrutam, Stuti has seen the kind of impact the brand has been making on the lives of thousands of people. But an impact that she has been especially proud of was the one that rippled into her parents’ lives. “I am proud that I was able to empower my parents by reviving Amrutam and giving them a new life.”
On starting afresh and working with her sibling
Earlier this year, Stuti moved to Bangalore after spending 5 years living at her parental house in Gwalior. She is excited to live an independent life and focus on her health. Practising mindfulness has certainly helped. So has living close to her brother Agnim.
So, when asked what is it like to run a business with your sibling, she responds with a one-liner, “Your work never ends!” and erupts into laughter. And while the whole concept of work and boundaries get shaken up, there are certainly more positives here. Having run businesses in the past where the family was not involved, both siblings have experienced a feeling of being burdened and anxious of not having anyone to rely upon. Working closely with Agnim fills Stuti with a sense of security because there is trust.
“We argue a lot because we have strong opinions about important things to the organization. But that does not mean we disrespect each other. We are very similar as well. And because we know each other’s patterns we are able to bring balance to each other’s ideas. The reliance is very much there. And I think Amrutam has become what it is today because Agnim and I disagree so much with each other, that we end up avoiding a lot of bad decisions.”
Her parting words offer a piece of advice to the readers:
“Don’t waste time. I am not asking you to be productive all the time. But if you are resting, then rest completely. Be fully immersed in the moment. Learn about the power of compounding. If you are working on something or learning something, then make sure it is by choice. Don’t succumb to trends. Start taking charge of your day. Take it one day at a time and trust me, you can achieve anything in life.”