Aakanksha Bhargava knew she wanted to be a part of her family’s moving business since she was a child. In 1986 when she was just six months old, her father and his friend started their packing and moving company, PM Packers & Movers, which is today known as PM Relocations (PMR).
“I was fascinated by the idea of moving people to different countries,” Bhargava says. “I joined because of family, but I stayed because it was my calling.”
In 2007, Bhargava graduated with her MBA and began her career with PM Relocations, where she eventually took over as CEO from her father (who continues to serve as managing director) in 2013. The company now offers a comprehensive range of moving and logistics services, including commercial relocation support, cultural orientations and fine art transport.
Under Bhargava’s leadership, PM Relocations has grown from 30 employees in India to more than 650 and a global network across 150 countries. That growth, however, has also been the company’s largest challenge, she says. “We had no money to scale up,” Bhargava says. “We had no investors. We literally grew ourselves 40 times in the last 15 years. Whatever money we earned, we put back into the company.”
In a field dominated by men, Bhargava has always been acutely aware of her presence and the way others viewed her. Often, she was the only woman on the warehouse floor and in the boardroom pitching to corporations. At first, many saw her as the “boss’ daughter”, insinuating that she was not qualified to run the business—or that she’d get married, have children and not be able to run the business.
Bhargava did get married and have a daughter, but that has not stopped her from growing PM Relocations. In fact, as motherhood introduced a different set of challenges, she navigated new ways to work while raising a child, like bringing her daughter to the office. “I had a room made for her,” she says. “And we took a lot of flights together. She did almost 65 flights in her first year and half.”
About a year after engaging with WEConnect International in 2017, Bhargava was invited by the procurement team at Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to meet the following day in Mumbai; she was in Delhi. The P&G associate offered to meet virtually, but Bhargava believes strongly in the value of face-to-face communication. The next day, she was on a flight to Bombay with her daughter and mother. Three months later, PM Relocations finalized its contract with P&G, the first of many business relationships the company has developed through WEConnect International’s networking and matchmaking events with members.
“WEConnect International provides opportunities to meet the right people in a business,” she says, as evidenced by the quick turnaround with P&G. “Sometimes you get lost and don’t know who to catch up with, and WEConnect International gives you that platform.”
As a result of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, PM Relocations has shifted to support clients in new ways, but not without some difficulty.
PM Relocations—and the moving industry as a whole—was classified as a non-essential business. Overnight, Bhargava says, trucks were deserted on highways. With flights cancelled and visa processes suspended, no one was moving.
The pandemic’s immediate effects on PM Relocations left Bhargava lost and overwhelmed. For three weeks, she took time to clear her mind and take care of her daughter before working with her team to reach out to corporate partners. Most told her they had no need for PM Relocations services. Finally, one client mentioned a need to transport technology to employees’ homes. Bhargava accepted the opportunity on the spot, without any idea how they would complete the project.
“We had no experience with this type of work,” she explains. “We’re not a courier, we’re a mover. But we pulled our team together and figured it out.”
Now, PM Relocations is working with over 15 clients in this space, moving nearly 2000 laptops and desktops each week. Their experience “figuring it out” made them the perfect partner for regional and national NGOs that needed to transport oxygen concentrators and cylinders. Their largest project required them to move 12,000 concentrators across the subcontinent in three weeks.
“The best thing is, being in a business that is so dynamic, we could be useful to people,” Bhargava says. “I’m proud of the fact that we have been able to do well, so far, through COVID, specifically not having to lay off a single person.”
PM Relocations won WEConnect International’s 2021 Rise to the Challenge Transportation and Logistics Award.