Learnathon founder Niharika Dutt always viewed the world with a childlike curiosity. An enthusiastic traveller, she would often observe people and how they connected. There were so many ways in which people communicated, she thought to herself. She was fascinated with how culture and ethics played a pivotal role in enabling the depth of these connections.
To nurture this newfound interest, during her MBA, she interned at the Indian Oil Corporation in the L&D department, where she was exposed to the nuances of human resource management. “I learned that there was much more than just talking and exchanging gestures while communicating. There were competencies and assessments to understand organisational roles backed by science and research,” explains Niharika.
After her internship, Niharika worked with Hindustan Unilever under the human resource talent learning wing. She collaborated with managers, identified gaps, and set up learning programs as part of her work. Having spent nearly six years in the learning and development space, Niharika felt the need to simplify learning and decided to start her venture - Learnathon.
“At Learnathon, we provide training and coaching to organisations to educate them about the nuances of effective communication. Our training is not restricted to the traditional way of coaching but focuses more on the experiential way of learning.”
Although Niharika thrived in human resources, she felt like she was limiting herself and had the urge to take a plunge to experience the world that lay beyond. “I was young, so I knew I could take risks. Even if I failed, I knew I could go back, but if I didn’t, I would regret it later.”
With a stellar career spanning a decade and a half, Niharika has been helping medium, small and large organisations accelerate their growth and tap into their unexplored potential. Empanelled with 65 seasoned trainers spread across India, Learnathon also provides impetus to women by making communication accessible clubbed with financial awareness.
Upbringing and influences
Born and raised in Mumbai with her ancestral roots in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, Niharika had a bold upbringing. A banker’s daughter and eldest of three siblings, she was always taught to speak her mind and be fearless.
“My family would describe me as vivacious and nurturing. I’m really sensitive and love helping people in any capacity.”
Though she recognised her potential as an entrepreneur much later in life, the spirit to lead was ingrained in her by her grandmother, whom she believed to be the greatest influence on her life. At a time when women weren’t even allowed to go out of their houses, Niharika’s grandmother took business decisions inspiring values of leadership and making an impact by creating opportunities for those around her.
In her free time, which is rare, Niharika enjoys taking care of stray animals and spending time with her daughter Navika, whom she calls her biggest cheerleader. “When I’m stuck with a complex problem, my daughter helps me with simple solutions. Kids remind you of your roots with their innocence,” she quips.
Aside from travelling, Niharika also loves to read. She’s currently leafing through Multipliers by Greg McKeown and Liz Wisemen. Her last read, Atomic Habits by James Clear, helped her understand the process of habit stacking, creating a more organised personal space for her.
Also read: Five Ayurvedic Books You Must Read
Currently working on two start-ups simultaneously, Niharika starts her day as early as 6 AM. She loves indulging in an Ayurvedic regime. Her upbringing rooted in natural living prompts her to exercise deep care when caring for her health and wellness. “I don’t apply chemical-infused products on my hair or skin,” she adds.
Experience with Kuntal Care DIY Hair Spa
A couple of years ago, when Niharika was struck with COVID, she started experiencing extreme hair fall. She already struggled with dry and frizzy hair, and the bald patches took a toll on her confidence. Frustrated, she tried every possible remedy, but nothing helped. Until one day, she laid her hands on Kuntal Care DIY Hair Spa.
“I didn’t know about Amrutam until I received a bottle of the hair spa during a networking event. I read on the label that I could apply it and leave it overnight, and honestly, that alone was enough to make me try it because I’m always running short of time!”
Niharika experienced dramatic changes in her hair health right after the first wash! “I rinsed my hair and I just couldn’t stop touching it!” she shares. Over time, consistent usage made her hair thicker and longer, which she claims is a big deal for a woman in her mid-30s. Even the bald patches have gone away.
Special accomplishments and superpowers
In 2022, Niharika was awarded the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in the Training and Development space by WE and shortlisted under India’s Super 30 Business Women by Business Magazine. This year, she will be representing India at the Asia HRM Forum happening in Malaysia.
“It was a monumental moment for me to see my parents find my name in the magazine for the award! My father looked at me and said, “I’m proud of you”. It meant a lot to me!”
For Niharika, seeing her name on the company's registration documents also made her feel incredibly empowered. She was also recently invited to deliver cross-cultural training in the US, something she had set her sights on for a while.
Niharika believes that her ability to multitask and compartmentalise her work is her superpower that helps her excel at work. “I don't get distracted easily when I’m focused on a task. I get in a state of flow. I’m also good at maintaining stakeholder relationships. The clients we onboarded when we first started in 2018 are with us even today,” she explains. Staying calm in facing challenges is another important skill she takes pride in.
Her parting message to the readers
“Do not let the world define who you are. Be yourself, and the rest shall follow. People will always tell you where you lack, but it is your responsibility to identify your potential and work on it. Once you’ve gone over the worst-case scenarios and have the data to help you take a calculated risk, don’t hold back from chasing your dreams!”