Stories that Inspire -4

Don’t ignore your critics; they help you grow

What is criticism? According to me, it is a tool to help reflect, strategize, and change for better!

Today’s story is about Ramya, an entrepreneur, a musician, and a friend next door. Ramya comes from an affluent business family in Mumbai. Life has been good for Ramya with the best of all that one can imagine. She had the blessing of living in a joint family, siblings she could count on, loving parents and extended family, a villa to call home, club memberships, choice to join ancestorial established business house, etc.

While these blessings were served to her in a silver plate, there was one thing she could claim through her own efforts, i.e. her education. At the age of 24, she was a merit student in Hotel Management from a top UK University which she was very proud of and so were her family and friends.

During a family dinner one night, she declared that she did not intend to join the family business, and instead, was planning on opening her own café. The sudden confession was obviously not taken very well by everyone as it was assumed that Ramya would naturally join the family business as soon as she graduates university. Over the next few weeks, Ramya convinced her family and friends that she is aware of the risks and uncertainties of being an entrepreneur and is ready to face it.

As days passed by, Ramya became the proud owner of ‘Café Nexdoor’- a café based on the theme of humble servings from across the world. Her journey as an entrepreneur started in December 2018, with a team of five staff members. The café was a delight to visit in suburban Mumbai.

With time, Ramya’s business thrived, thanks to her apt marketing strategies, humble services, and wide network of people. Ramya also bagged a spot in the list of Fastest Entrepreneurs in their 20s to achieve Success. When she was asked regarding her success, Ramya shared interesting perspectives of her journey, learnings, failures, etc. While each aspect was unique and gave her story more originality, one aspect she highlighted caught my attention; she said that she kept her critics close to her heart and never took them for granted. I inquisitively asked her to elaborate and share what she meant by this.

Ramya shared that she adopted a structured routine of listening to her critics, making notes, and come up with strategies to change.  She said that dealing with criticism is very essential to keep moving ahead in life. Ramya also shared few adopted practices to deal with criticism instead of ignoring her critics. Her critics made her view those areas which either she missed or ignored and helped her to stay agile and keep improving for better.

Ramya shared following tips to effectively deal with criticism:

  1. Listen: Listening to your critics is the first step towards accepting criticism positively. Ramya narrated an incident of a rainy day in August. She had curated a special menu for the day and shared it on her social media handle in the morning. Mumbai was flooding after a terrible night of continuous rains, making it a lazy day for many aside from an unavoidable routine day for others. As we all know, more often than not, there can be consequences-good and/or bad-of what we post. In Ramya’s case, this morning attracted some critical comments, one of which said, “Enjoyment and Eating out when millions may miss a meal today – @Ramya we expected more from you!” Ramya explained that she could have ignored that comment amongst all the other comments and gone ahead with her plans, but she decided to connect with the critic. She sourced her number, called her, and thanked her for her comment. Ramya requested the critic to help her understand her expectations. On further interaction, she discovered that the critic was a social activist and on Ramya’s insistence, she explained her comment and told that the daily wagers living in the same area as her café didn’t get work due to the current rains and was pre-occupied with coming up with solutions to assist them when she saw Ramya’s post. Ramya was quick to empathize with the critic and offered to help her special menu as free service. The critic was overwhelmed by this gesture and immediately took to her social media handle to post about Ramya’s kindness, which worked in Ramya’s favor.

Thus, listening to your critics helps in connecting with people and in showing you different perspectives. Ramya says, even if she would not have offered help, her approach towards listening to the critics would have gone a long way in enhancing her credibility.

  • Assume it is God sent for you: Take criticism positively, consider it as God’s gift for your betterment. Try to see your good in it unless proven otherwise rather than jumping to conclusions or assuming it is intentional to pull you down.
  • Don’t React, Respond: Responding to your critics makes you win half the battle! Ramya says, reacting to critics will only spread more hate, no matter how agitated/unreasonable your customers are it is important for you to keep your cool and not react. Understand and empathize with them.
  • Reflect and strategize your response: Ramya says, it is important to accept and reflect on your critics’ reactions before you respond or change anything. Preparing yourself is essential to be able to work towards influencing your critics positively and hence, prepare well to strategize better.
  • Is it really a critiqueLearn to differentiate between actual constructive criticism and mean, rude hate comments and filter unimportant/vague things coming your way under ‘criticism’.
  • Don’t forget to thank: Ramya says, its most important to thank your critics for being so considerate in pulling out time for their feedback, thanking them makes them feel valued and helps you gain ground for a possible interaction to understand details.

Ramya is an inspiration to many aspiring entrepreneurs and a constant reminder of how one should take criticism.

My take on Ramya’s story is, ‘it does not take much to empathize, show genuine interest in people who are reaching out to you, treat them well irrespective of their attitude towards you while keeping focus on your own journey’.



Certified Coach, Trainer, Human Resources
Employee Engagement & Organisation Development Profession

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