Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 1, April 16-30, 2023
The year 2010. My wife Prabha’s first book Kadambam, a collection of her short stories in Tamil was being released at a function. The chief guest was Dr. Rekha Shetty. A person who could not read Tamil presiding over a launch of a book in Tamil. No issues. Rekha made her secretary read all the stories to her, made notes, and gave an inspiring speech. That was quintessential Rekha for you. Whatever job was assigned to her she would execute it with full involvement and commitment.
I first met Rekha as the spouse of Tabler Jai Shetty of Table 39, at the Round Table India AGM in Chennai in 1977. She was at that point working with United India Insurance, making waves with a very creative advertising campaign that she had conceived for UI. (At United, It’s always ‘U’ before ‘I’). The incoming President Viji Iyengar of Calcutta was taking over the mantle of Presidentship from my good friend and mentor in Round Table N. Krishnan, the outgoing President. Viji wanted a News Bulletin to be brought out every morning for three days covering the previous day’s proceedings. A tough job those days when there was no technology available and everything had to be done manually. A small committee was formed with Rekha as the editor, another Tabler who was a printer, and me as the co-ordinator. Working with her, what impressed me most, apart from her beauty and charisma, was her enthusiasm. She was full of ideas. While she put together the issue the printer worked the whole night to bring out the issues the next morning. There was all-around appreciation for the first such experiment at a Round Table India AGM.
A Ph.D. from Madras University, on the subject of innovation, Rekha Shetty began her career with a brilliant academic record with two university ranks. Her thoughts come from a deep study of many disciplines: Management, Sociology, Psychology, Economics, History, and Spirituality.
Rekha went on to make waves with many innovative ideas as a professional. After her stint with UI, as Group Vice President of the Apollo Hospitals, she pioneered the concept of hospital marketing and health insurance.
She was the founder and Managing Director of her company Farstar Distribution Network, a unique consultancy company devoted exclusively to innovation and creativity. Popularly known as the ‘Corporate Doctor’, Rekha Shetty had created a new tool for Indian Managers to develop a competitive edge: Innovation and Creativity through Minds power. Some of the region’s major corporates were her clients for whom she consulted on long-term Innovation Initiatives involving everyone from the doorman to the chairman.
Her contribution in the area of academics is also impressive. As a member of the Syndicate of Anna University, she helped introduce a 40-week programme on innovation for budding engineers. She was on the board of studies of the Psychology Department at Madras University. She was a visiting faculty in many leading business schools across India and had conducted Minds power programmes worldwide. She was invited by the U.S. State Department to be part of an expert team from 10 countries to study the problems and solutions to drug addiction.
Apart from all her other achievements she is best known as a trailblazer in the world of Rotary International, a bastion of men for several decades which opened the membership to women only in 1989. Persuaded by her father Rtn. Bhoja Shetty, a popular Past District Governor of RI Dist. 323, she became one of the first lady members and Charter President of the Rotary Club of Madras Temple City, in 1989, a club with an equal number of women and men. It is not surprising that, within ten years, with her enthusiasm and energy she rose to become the first lady Rotary District Governor of RI District 3230 in the year 1999-2000, probably the only father and daughter duo to become District Governors of the same District in Rotary International. Rekha was also one of Asia’s first women District Governors in Rotary International and a much sought-after Rotary leader in India and abroad. She was well known for her work done through Rotary Leadership Institute program. One of the challenging assignments, among many others she got from RI was to be the Chairperson of the Rotary Action Group For Population and Development (RFPD), the largest action group in Rotary (2012-2015). She was the Chairperson of the Child Development Committee for Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM). She was also on the Board of WASRAG, a water and sanitation initiative of Rotary International.
Among the many recognitions she got in life, she received the Rotary’s highest, `Service above Self Award`, in 2004-05 from Rotary District 3230. Getting this award within five years of her becoming a District Governor was a remarkable achievement!
She was the author of several books on personality development, self-confidence, health, and wellness. So far she has published 11 books. When I met her at a get-together of 41 club no 7 (consisting of ex-Round Tablers) just four days before she passed away, she was talking enthusiastically about four more books that she was planning to bring out including a novel.
It is destiny that the author of the book titled “The Zero Heart Attack Path” which she wrote while working with Apollo Hospitals, died of a massive cardiac arrest at a private hospital where she had gone for a check-up when she felt uneasy on the morning of 28th March,2023.
Married to Rtn. PP. Jai Shetty, she was a part of the Rotary family for over 50 years as Rotaractor, Annette, Anne, and Rotarian. Her two sons Adhil and Arjun are entrepreneurs and founders of Bank Bazaar.com. Rekha and Jai were excellent hosts. I fondly remember the many get-togethers that I have attended at their spacious house in Anna Nagar.
A gracious and vibrant person with a smile whose presence in any meeting would light up the room. A favourite daughter, a brilliant student, a caring wife, a loving mother and a fond grandmother, a successful author/orator, and a great friend- she performed with perfection every role that she was called upon to play in life. She touched the lives of everyone she met and left an indelible impression with her positivity and never say die attitude. She was indeed a role model not only for the new generation of women but also men.