You never are too old to chase your dreams. Much of the success of today’s generation of women in professional world may be owed to the groundwork of earlier generations of incredible female professionals for challenging the stereotypes prevalent in the society during their times. Switch back to the 80s and you may very well imagine the challenges a woman may have had to face in establishing herself in the professional world. Meet Mumbai based Renita Fernandez, founder of Ocean Book Agency and a recipient of India 5000 Best MSME Award 2017, who has seen the Mumbai entrepreneurial ecosystem develop very closely over the last 30 years. Weathering the e-commerce storm, her Ocean Book Agency is standing tall in finding creative and interesting ways to be a part of their customers’ lives.
Renita started working at the age of 16. Back in the 70s, it was the norm for women to take up shorthand and serve as a secretary. She pursued her BA correspondence just after her school and soon went on to become a Personal Assistant in a law firm where she learned the ropes of management. A decade later, in the late 80s, computers had just surfaced in the Indian market. It was the great unknown, but Renita was lucky to work with a small business that saw its relevance even back then, and introduced it in her life.
I remember the first couple of weeks were a comedy of errors, understanding this great machine – it was only later I realized how my early computer literacy proved to be instrumental in the opportunities that came my way.
Renita worked with different MNCs in different roles, from Serdia to Macmillan – handling Sales operations, Communication and Administration. This experience, she believes, rounded her as an individual and exposed her to different facets of business thinking.
In her mid-30s, Renita started feeling thoroughly fatigued with her professional life. She had already been working for 16 years and had exhausted all her reserves of excitement and novelty. She needed a new challenge and that’s when the idea of Ocean Book Agency first came to her mind. She decided to take a leap of faith and face each day as it came. It was the time when her experience at Macmillan and management experience gained over the years proved its mettle. Ocean Book Agency was thus born in 1993.
I still remember the first little nook I rented out – that was Ocean’s first home, the first set of educational children’s books that were published – it was entering a whole new world.
Understanding the curriculum, the world of book design, sourcing and logistics of raw material, printing and mastering the fundamentals of pricing – she kept on navigating the road and has never looked back. While she always had her husband to support her in matters of Finance, she concentrated on the areas that excited her the most – promotions and conducting book fairs across schools.
People often tell me that Ocean Book Agency exhibitions look distinctly different and have a certain character to them – I would like to believe there is something I’m doing right.
Renita has managed to focus her creative elan consistently and continuously throughout a long career. It has been 25 years since she started Ocean Book Agency and everyday is a new challenge. They are constantly adapting to technology and trying to leverage it. They are constantly innovating with their books; and in a world with increasing recreation options, they are doing their bit to keep books relevant and make the next-gen believe that books are truly the best friends to hang out with. She sums it up by saying, There will never be a perfect time to venture out and start something of your own – so let your intuition empower you and take every day as it comes.