I don't think like that, how can spouses be independent of each other? They are meant for collaboration. For keeping the family together, for bringing peace and harmony.

How We Raised Two Kids & Two Startups With Emotional Equity: Iti & Ashutosh

iti rawat, ashutosh, startup couple

Today, Iti Rawat has many prefixes to her name - Emerging Leaders League 40 Under 40 by Economic Times HR; Emerging Leader of the Year 2021 by Brilliant Read; and Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Indian Business Woman. But there was a time when this entrepreneur was rising like a phoenix from an emotional overhaul. What is the story behind this? Who helped her emerge from this journey? 

This is the story of a couple, who, despite being two independent individuals who went through a rough patch, stuck to each other only to inspire not just the world, but their own toddler daughters as well! The real life story of Iti Rawat and Ashutosh Sabharwal .. an exclusive only at Baely.


She was working with the world's biggest software and hardware conglomerate when Iti Rawat and her husband, Ashutosh Sabharwal got the great news that they were pregnant with their first child. Iti Rawat was leading business development as well as sales in 2012, when the software giant was expanding its India wings. All was great, along with the birth of the child and the maternity break, until the leadership in the organization changed. 

"I was asked to reduce my maternity leave and join back; I was told it was the need of the hour. Like any other mother who wanted the best for her child, I joined back, thinking I would be able to balance the act. I was a feeding mother at one of the best employers of the modern day world, the most valuable global company, where I used to carry my infant daughter. Pump out milk, and fridge it up. That time feeding in the open or the pump use was a very ahead-of-its time act perhaps that made the organization and staff feel awkward. No amount of talks during those days (when the work culture wasn't that inclusive) worked. I demanded fewer travel assignments, which didn't work out. The HR wanted me not to quit the job, but I knew the situation so I had to take a call for my child and quit the job to bring her up in the desired manner."

It's early October 2022, and winter is slowly creeping in, but there was a different kind of chill that ran down my spine when I heard this. We advocate women's empowerment, and this is what mothers face? 

Bengaluru, Karnataka based Iti Rawat shrugs off the past, but yes, she recalls how, as two fiercely financially independent individuals in an equal partnership, she felt so let down by the thinking of people on how a working mother cannot nurse the baby at work. 

"Mahima, even while at work, when I left the child behind with her grandmother, it was my husband who was a great support. Whenever I was home with the kid or if I was away, he looked after the kid as an amazing second mother. Still, there was a feeling of emptiness, which grew after I quit the job. I wanted to restart something of my own that could be inclusive not just for me but for other women as well," recalls Iti. 

That's when she asserts that her decision to marry Ashutosh was one of the best in her life.


Iti fondly smiles and blushes like a new bride, "It was 2003. We were college mates at NIFT Bangalore. We actually started dating or spending more time with each other once we were out of college. We both worked at the same place, and we were neighbors too. He was an extremely persistent and practical person. We started dating in 2005. It was he who was looking after his mother, who lived with him. I knew that a man who respected his mother so much would obviously be a true gentleman and will equally care for his wife and kids; we got married in 2008."


Her love and belief in him proved true. One fine winter morning in 2013, she discussed the idea of Thinkhall Academy with Ashutosh. She recalls how Ashutosh, who was managing all finances alone along with other things for the whole family, didn't bat an eyelid and rather helped her brainstorm to start the academy. For the readers - Thinkhall Academy - a training and content development company that helps organizations and individuals drive productivity, sales, and develop skills to be ready for future industry requirements. 

Iti informs, "Working from home, while nurturing my child, was a bigger challenge as the kid also had to be looked after. To build a startup, I had to be out meeting people, but there I was at home, doing virtual meetings! Not because the husband couldn't be home, but because I had to feed the baby and give her the motherly time she deserved. We took off well, but ThinkHall took a nosedive in 2015. I had to raise funds for a business that was being seen as the hobby of a woman! Funding didn't come our way! These were those misogynistic times, but my husband managed all the home finances as a very strong partner without any complaints. He literally stood as a wall behind me."

Ashutosh asserts here, "I beg to differ, I was not just "financially managing" things; rather it is my moral responsibility to nurture my family. They nurture me back in return. I have never see this as my role alone. I provide for my family the same way Iti is doing, we are in this…together.  In fact, I would say her role is, in many ways, far bigger than mine. She has a very stable and strong mind. She bounces back stronger every time she sees a fall. I don't know how she does it. It's hard for anyone to see so many ups and downs and stay sane. I believe she has this superpower, and only she can manage things by keeping calm. She balances everything so well."

Over the entire year of 2015, the duo didn't lose their determination. Rather, Iti came to me with the idea of WEFT. The WEFT Foundation is a platform for dynamic women entrepreneurs who want to network and get support to build an organized business. We promote the financial independence of women through entrepreneurship. She didn't get support for ThinkHall, she knew it was tough for other women too, so she decided to be the change maker," Ashutosh. 


This is where I am bound to ask Iti, how was she sure that Ashutosh, who has been really stressed with the finances at home, during the ThinkHall nosedive, agreed to her next idea? Because it must be taxing for him to run the errands as well as finances alone?

"Ashutosh is a very balanced person in his thoughts and intellect. If he finds the idea a very viable one, he is open to me experimenting and going ahead with it. But it is not like he will decide for me, he will advise me. We are partners in life, where we can make independent decisions but rely on each other's advice and insights to make things better. So, Ashutosh believed that WEFT - the non-profit organization, would support many women. I can clearly recall that, seeing the wife's struggle as an entrepreneur, he knew women needed support from time to time. Thus, we went ahead with the idea." 

Ashutosh adds that Iti's second pregnancy in 2016 delayed the WEFT plans a bit. Equally, fathering a child did happen here too, Ashutosh had to develop ideas for how to look after the elder daughter so that she didn't feel neglected while the mother was working. "Plus he had to balance his work also at one of the leading Fashion Brands of India. As a very doting father, he toiled hard to give the kids a very good atmosphere at home," asserts the doting wife. 

For the readers - As of October 2022, Ashutosh is the National Retail Head for one of the top fashion brands in India where he heads the sales and retail operations profile for all the stores across the country. So surely it involves a lot of travel too. I am myself biting my nails while hearing their story…as it goes on! 


WEFT finally came up in 2018 and took off very well, in a much better way than THINKHALL. Rather, Iti says that ThinkHall and her other initiatives, like the Red Dot Initiative, got great recognition after WEFT happened. 

And that's where I am again bound to ask, how did this equal partnership blossom amid so much work and life stress? And that too amid taking care of children while two other babies (THINKHALL and WEFT) had to be nurtured too?

Ashutosh smiles at me, and looks at Iti and their daughters playing in the other room, to emphasize, "It's difficult, but I believe you just compartmentalize your time and switch to work mode, fun mode, and family mode at different times of the day. When I am with my children, I don't think about work. The same way I am totally focussed at work when I'm in the office. Thankfully, I have got great support at home, from my mother as well, hence I am able to do this."

During this time, I ask Iti, didn't she at times feel that Ashutosh is managing all finances and she is struggling to make work and things work? How did you find a breakthrough in your thoughts Iti, where you had no guilt feeling - I ask? 

She tells me," See Mahima, every human has a balanced work and home aspect equally. There are times when we are not doing so well financially, and there are ups and downs when we start questioning our credibility. I have gone through this and it was not a great time. I believe it has a lot to do with my grit and stubbornness to get up every time I fall. I make mistakes, we all do but they are also the biggest learning in my life. He also looks after his mother who is with us. He is multitasking a lot, even though I might feel he is in a stable job. We are working together as a couple everyday to give our whole family a very wholesome atmosphere. It kind of becomes my moral responsibility to take the right decisions, be bold at the same time stay grounded so that you don't go overboard with things. So, I take very cautious decisions at work as well as at home, so as to not overburden him." 

Ashutosh adds, “It's the little things that matter; when two individuals love each other and want to make it work. They naturally become perfect for each other. At the same time, there has to be continuous efforts from both parties to eliminate the negatives and stay positive, happy, and encouraging for each other. I mean, you can choose to stay happy or stay unhappy. 

And suddenly Iti laughs and Ashutosh and I stare at each other in amusement. 

She chuckles," You know Mahima, the best thing I love about Ashu is he keeps his humor on. Even in the toughest of times, he can crack a joke and make you laugh. There have been times when we have fought and then he has managed to make me laugh. And right now I recalled a certain old joke of his and laughed."

A happy yet blushing Ashutosh doesn't want the joke to be revealed and interrupts, "I really don't know how we do it. But it's God's blessings that we are able to take care of each other. It's so natural you don't feel and think you are doing something…it's just a part of you." And they hold hands to smile at each other with a glance at their playful daughters.


I again asked them something that was long lingering on my mind," Ashutosh, when two fiercely independent people live under the same roof, they often think why do we need each other when we are independent in every way? Right now you two are in that financial as well as personal space. What do you think about this worldly perspective?"

Ashutosh gives a deep thought before he answers, "I don't think like that, how can spouses be independent of each other? They are meant for collaboration. For keeping the family together, for bringing peace and harmony. Even workwise, I believe somewhere she puts in her contribution to my life. Her thoughts and beliefs influence mine... Hence, it's always a joint effort when it comes to marriage. We depended on each other in every way, especially emotionally. And emotional health looks after everything else in your life Mahima!"  

Here Iti also adds, "Some of the couples do get it wrong, that leads to lots of expectations from each other. We need spouses more from the angle of moral support, to retain our belief in love, and to have someone who can understand you better than you do yourself. You are like emotional mirrors to each other, but different people, having different lives, different ways of living, understanding and behavior. So materialistic, we are independent of each other but still dependent emotionally on each other.”


Ashutosh also has to assert something more here, "Because Iti is deeply into social work, beyond the WEFT foundation, I can see that being passed on to my daughters. She takes them to visit orphanages on various occasions, to make them realize gratitude towards life. Raya and Sia are just 10 and five respectively, but I see them as kids with a beautiful heart. As they say, charity begins at home, in our case SANSKAAR began at home! I wanted them to be sensitive, with sensibility instilled in them towards the underprivileged. Plus also be careful about being kind, thoughtful and empathetic. Iti as a mother has made my dream come true!"

Iti has the wide smile of a proud wife, but more than that of a spouse who has built a strong bond in and around the home. "Who wouldn't like appreciation for the tough efforts one makes in Mahima? Rather, appreciation and encouragement pave the way towards a good mental health and help build a very strong bond. There have been incidents where we had a bad day at work, we support each other emotionally and encourage them to do better next time. We support each other with the knowledge of some best practices that we may have adapted or would have heard of. We share our pains and joys at work and we do celebrate each other's victory at work quite often. Communication as well as being appreciative about daily efforts in each other's life brings about a lot of gratitude in life. And that's what attracts abundance."

So that's the story of a power couple - 39-year-old Iti Rawat and 40-year-old Ashutosh Sabharwal, who believe the power lies within each couple - the power to have emotional equity where you treat the other with due respect and love. The power they believe is not the money, but the bond that they have built as the five of them - the power of having a happy home behind the two ventures she runs.

If you want to share your inspiring story with other couples, do drop us an email at hello@thebaelyapp.com


The opinions expressed within this interview are the personal opinions of the protagonist/protagonists. The facts & statistics, the work profile details of the protagonist/ protagonists do not reflect the views of Baely or the Journalist. Neither Baely nor the Journalist hold any responsibility or liability for the same.

About the Interviewer
About the Author
Mahima Sharma
Mahima Sharma is a Senior Journalist based in Delhi NCR. She has been in the field of TV, Print & Online Journalism since 2005 and previously an additional three years in allied media.
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