I have always looked up to Nisha with admiration. I admire her talent as a swimmer and her success as an Indian Olympian. I admire her dedication and work ethic. I love her academy (my children learnt to swim with her) and I admire her as an athlete. She manages to do SO much and still be a phenomenal mother. Nisha is another woman that demonstrates hard work and proves that with a determined attitude and a bit of grit, success will prevail. She is a real super woman!
At what age did you know that swimming was your passion?
My first swimming experience was not nice. I nearly drowned when I was just five years old and had a bit of hydrophobia. When I was nine and living in Chennai, my Dad decided to enrol me in summer swim classes. I had a terrible, untrained teacher and she almost put me off swimming for good. It was my Dad who finally helped me enjoy the water and then learn some basics. At the age of ten, I started training with a competitive team. When I started training with the competitive swim team, I really fell in love with the sport.
Can you tell me about your swimming career?
I guess it all started when I was put on the team at ten. I loved the competitive element in Swimming and I wanted to first race everyone on my team and then everyone on the state. I would push myself to improve and keep setting new goals. My Dad would make me race against older kids so I stopped worrying about how old they were and just gave it my best and tried to swim as fast as I could. This lead to my first state medal at the age of ten and my first national medal shortly after. My international came at the age of eleven in Hong Kong.
When I watched the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 I had my “aha” moment and I set my sights on qualifying for the Olympics. This lead me to another eight years of hard work to qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Can you tell me about your swimming academy and how it started?
When I retired from competitive swimming in 2004 I decided to start teaching both kids and adults swimming and get them to love the water just like I did. It was a family affair and my mum, dad and sister also helped me teach for the first few years. We started at a small pool at the Catholic club, just off Brigade road and suddenly news spread and people wanted us to teach them at different pools all across the city. My husband joined in a few years later to help me run the operations and we went on to hire a great team of swim teachers, many of whom are still with our academy.
What are some valuable lessons you have learnt as an entrepreneur?
Resilience – this is not for the faint hearted! I really felt the strength of my resilience during the initial lockdown in March 2020 and just yesterday when they locked down all of the pools for the second time. Your team and your values are the backbone of who you are and that’s what will get you through the toughest times. We have managed to keep them all employed and in good spirits through 2020 and we have heard that pools will reopen again shortly, so fingers crossed we can do what we love again soon!
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
Definitely my parents just for being my number one support system and putting in time, effort, money and so much more into my competitive career for me and my sister, Reshma.
How do you balance work and parenting?
My husband Bik is a superb Dad/Husband/Partner & helps me to raise our 7 year old twins/run a business and also keep me centered! We both take some “me time” during the day for exercise or work meetings whilst my Mum looks after my kids. We have never had a nanny and because of that we are super hands on. Tiring, yes; but we wouldn’t want it any other way. They play multiple sports and as every mum knows the aim is to tire them out so they sleep in 5 mins!! 🙂
Also 2032 Olympics is around the corner and they will be 19… see I’m quite a tiger mum when it comes to sports!!
What have your parents taught you that is invaluable to you as a Mother?
Both have taught me the value of hard work (they were a hardworking middle class family and put in 80L of their savings, including selling their home to fund my sisters and my swimming careers). They have taught me to respect every individual whatever their religion, colour or financial status.
What are the most important lessons you want to pass onto your children?
Stay grounded but strong and be kind. Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can give to others and it is so impactful.
You are a great inspiration to me and many others. How do you intend to keep inspiring our generation and the next?
Awww … thanks, you made me blush! I will never stop trying to make an impact. I want to motivate people to be the best version of themselves. That also starts with pushing myself to do just that everyday. Never be satisfied and rest on past achievements/glory. There are always more ways you can improve.
What are your goals for the future?
So many! – Always pushing past my comfort zone (as growth only happens there), spreading the joy of swimming to everyone in the city and make them fall in love with the water like I did and the funniest… learning how to cycle at the age of 39!
What are your hopes for the future of India?
I hope we overcome this terrible pandemic and come out stronger. I hope as a nation we take on board the lessons that we have learnt over the last two years. Lastly, unity is diversity; so I hope there will be no more divisive politics (wishful thinking, I know!).