Why Namrata Set Out to Help Indian Women Find Financial Freedom

Namrata B Durgan was at a dinner party when the hostess introduced her as an investment consultant to other guests. One woman commented airily, “Oh, I’ll invest once I have money.” Namrata stared at the woman, somewhat stunned.

“How much did your Louis Vuitton bag cost?” she asked the woman. “About eighty thousand,” the woman replied.

“And what about your lipstick? How much did that cost?”

“Twelve hundred,” the guest said.

“Well, then,” said Namrata, “you can definitely start investing. You only need five hundred to begin a systematic investment plan (SIP).”

The woman thought Namrata was joking but after a few minutes of hearing Namrata out, the woman said, “You’ve opened my eyes.”

“Likewise,” said Namrata, wonderingly. Taken aback at the lack of information even among educated upper-class women about finance and investments, Namrata went home and looked at the client list at her husband’s firm Abundanze, where she heads administration. It had 80 to 90 percent male names.

“What are the women doing with their savings?” she wondered. The same night she told her husband: “I know what I have to do.”

Namrata and Sanjay Durgan
With her husband Sanjay at a conference in Jaipur

And so, her firm MIRR was born. The 46-year-old gave the professional exam to be an independent financial advisor, and began educating women. She started working on her female employees and domestic help, cajoling them to invest their money in mutual funds instead of tucking it inside mattresses.

A few months later, she was invited to give a talk at India International Centre to an audience full of women entrepreneurs, many of whom had never considered investing their own money themselves.

“Why hand over your money to husbands or dads? Take full responsibility for your money. Let your money earn for you,” she said, “Indulgence is freedom. Take the step from financial independence to financial freedom.”

Within months, scores of women started coming up to Namrata to advise them on where to invest. And then they came back with success stories – and a newfound sense of power.

namrata durgan
L-R: Namrata (in red) giving a talk to Avani employees in Pithoragarh; at India International Centre, Delhi

“When you leave the earth, leave it more beautiful than before.” Namrata came across this Osho quote early in her life and took it to heart. The youngest of four siblings, she was raised in Nairobi and later moved to Delhi.

Her journalist father and homemaker mother had joined Osho’s spiritual movement in the early 1970s, and Namrata was brought up with large doses of the international guru’s philosophy.

She practises it even today; last year she went for a 21-day retreat at Osho’s meditation centre. “Now, my work is my meditation,” she says, her eyes twinkling softly. “I want to be a medium, the catalyst for change in these women’s lives.”

A few months after launching MIRR, Namrata was invited by the founder of Avani – a women-led craft collective in Uttarakhand – to give its employees in Pithoragarh a talk on money matters. “I first had to explain nivesh kya hai [what is investment],” she narrates.

Namrata MIRR
Namrata in her Greater Kailash II office in Delhi

She used examples the villagers could relate to: “The money you earn is a seed. Keep it idle, and it serves no purpose. But plant it in the ground, and it will become a tree and give shade to your whole family.”

Not only the women but their men too started investing in small SIPs based on Namrata’s advice. Today, she consults almost 100 people from all walks of life – from her 32-year-old housemaid to an 82-year-old housewife. “What you do is amazing,” they tell her. “We have an extra source of income, and our husbands are proud of us.”

Spreading the message is now Namrata’s mission. While in Pithoragarh, a craftswoman asked her: “You came all the way from Delhi to talk about making our money grow? What for?”

With her warm smile, Namrata shrugged and replied, “For you.”

First published in the June 2018 issue of eShe magazine