Ruchita Dar Shah on how communities are not built from a pedestal.
In the formative years, companies are built around their founders. It is a relationship not unlike the one kids share with their parents. As the founder of First Moms Club (FMC), Ruchita Shah personifies the brand. Her warm, welcoming grin sets the tone for every conversation.
Married to Manish Shah and blessed with two ‘feminist’ sons, she presents a classic story of a community built through trust and two way communication. “We do not talk down to people from a pedestal,” she states, taking us through her journey. Headquartered in Mumbai (India) and with over a lac members spread across 65 countries - Singapore, Dubai and Delhi would soon be witnessing their own FMC chapters.
The early years of her married life were filled with moving homes and traveling across the globe. Ruchita has been an advertising professional, and her work stints had to shift accordingly. After the birth of her first child, she preferred to work from home owing to the demanding nature of full time employment. The long hours at office were not seen as helpful, since she was keen on spending quality time at home with the kid. Ruchita was effectively going through ‘Google Parenting’, not always having her parents or in laws around to help.
Raising her firstborn was an experience like none other, and Ruchita had believed that she’s seen it all. However, what came to the fore was the fact that every child has a mind of its own, and every childbirth is a new experience in itself. She could not find enough support online, since most of the forums and communities were not offering advice from an Asian/Indian context. As this problem was slowly being highlighted, she realised that many of her friends frequently sought her suggestions, since Ruchita was now seen as a ‘veteran’.
It was a natural step for her to start start blogging and boost the conversations through a Facebook Group, bringing everyone together under the same roof. What was strikingly different was the comfort level with which all interactions took place. Everyone has a voice of their own. Subtle, respectable humor bound all conversations together. At FMC, it is understood that parenting is not a job, but a choice. It has to be celebrated.
From a blog and a Facebook group, the brand grew organically. Ruchita shared curated and self written content - thus defining the agenda and driving conversations in the fledgeling community. Mothers meet offline without the obligation of terming it as a community meeting, and Ruchita does not see the necessity of enforcing the brand in such cases. “We are not a cult,” she says emphatically. “We are only a support system.”
The platform has also evolved over time. From its own website and a blog, FMC also allows anonymous posts, thus encouraging members to seek intimate advice. It is overwhelming to witness young mothers from far flung corners of the world open up, rant, express themselves and share issues with a virtual family they consider their own. Ruchita is also exploring avenues of engaging parents offline, through informal talk shows and encouraging participation of Dads - since raising is a child is a joint responsibility.
FMC has been a responsible platform. While engagements with brands have only been to facilitate a healthy conversation with a focus group, the community is known to take a strong stand against beauty pageants and fashion shows that involve children. FMC also works closely with other parenting groups, schools, media platforms and impactful social organizations.
Throughout, people have understood the passion and authenticity that has built the community. Ruchita understands that today’s audience is super informed and super intelligent. She recognizes this to be important and respects it. Staying true to her path, she has always focused on building a brand that young parents can trust. A doodler since her childhood and opting for art over medicine as a career path - Ruchita has definitely sketched a delightful and an inspiring tale.
Written by Sushrut Munje
Photographed by Ayan Roy