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IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEURS

How I Came Here as an Arranged Bride and Became My Own Boss

Sundeep Bhandal of IT staffing firm Anjaneyap let her father choose her husband but not her career path.
Breaking the Mold Sundeep Bhandal wanted more than her patriarchal Indian town could offer.
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Sundeep Bhandal let her father choose her husband. Since then, she has made a point and a career of defying expectations. As told to Issie Lapowsky.

I grew up in a small town in India, where parents educate their daughters so they can marry into good families, not so they can be somebody. I was lucky, because my family pushed me to do things no other girls did. I was the only girl in town who drove a car. I would ride around in a big Jeep, and people would stare, but my father was always standing by me. That made me bold and brave. If my grandma caught me embroidering, even as a hobby, she'd tell me to go study instead.

The first time I saw my husband, Gurlal, was the day we got married in India, 10 years ago. I was almost 23 and had graduated from college and law school. It was an arranged marriage, which was pretty common. I was given a lot of freedom, but I wanted my dad to make that decision for me.

A year later, I flew to San Francisco to move in with my husband and his family. There were 10 of us in the same house. Even though my in-laws had moved from India to the Bay Area when Gurlal was 16, their way of thinking was so much more backward than my family's. It was a shock for me, and I'm sure it was for them, too.

The adjustment wasn't easy. My husband would say, "You're not like other girls." And he didn't say it as a compliment. I have a very aggressive, headstrong personality. I wanted to be somebody people know about and respect. It took me a long time to make my husband understand that's a good thing.

Two years after I moved here, I had my son and started to feel a change in my marriage. I guess my husband decided it would be easier to be supportive. We had finances to take care of, so I got a job as an assistant payroll manager at an IT consulting company and worked my way up to manager.

After three years, I decided I wanted to be my own boss. Using some of my savings and money from my parents, in 2008, I started Anjaneyap, a company that provides contract, full-time, and temporary IT staffing. Initially, a friend and I did all the work. When we hired employees from other staffing firms, they brought more clients with them. Then, around 2009, things started taking off. We had built a good reputation, and our clients started calling us with more work, instead of us calling our clients. That was a good feeling.

The support I got from my husband at that time was exceptional. Back in India, a lot of men would never help their wives with the housework. At times, Gurlal was doing even more than I was on the home front. I wouldn't have been able to do it if he hadn't backed me.

Growing up, my family had high expectations for me. But I don't think anyone thought I would be a successful business owner. My parents, who live with us now, often talk about me to their friends in India. I don't mind if they brag. Being an example to other daughters back home makes me feel so good.




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