About Me


Monica Pillai

People function expert. Coach.

About

A People professional with over 20 years in corporate India. As a leader with a seat at the decision making table across industries, I have rich insights on the evolution of culture and practices. As a woman navigating these tides, my take on topics like diversity of workplace participation, measuring performance and attrition patterns are sharp but nuanced.

I currently hold the People fort at Obvious.


The course of true love never did run smooth, as the Bard prophesied and for me, it did not run straight either. It all began as a threefold path to “understanding humans”, by way of a curious undergrad quest of cognitive science (to understand the individual), political science (to understand the logic of thinking in groups) and English (to navigate these oft-dark forces through beauty borne of wordsmithy). Armed post haste with a mostly harmless Masters in Business, I landed a role that was the most fertile training ground in the early aughts in Bangalore: A bootstrapped startup in a sunrise industry. 247.ai was my first safe home. It introduced me to ideas of leading intentionally, applied ethics and kindness at work. The cherry on top: I made lifelong friends. I took some skills learnt here and applied them at scale during a short stint at Accenture. Seven years into working, I briefly owned an HR systems consultancy, and then my first stint heading HR at India’s first Private Equity funded real estate organisation, QVC. I worked there as we expended to multiple geographies, ran smack into the 2008 recession and came out stronger.

The path then led to The Fuller Life, an organisation of giants that has housed people impacting sports, journalism, retail, theatre and more. In addition to leading the HR and Comms teams, I worked with businesses such as Runners for Life and a team that created boardgames.

The next few years were spent consulting with organisations to run their People teams, facilitate life skills workshops and coach. I’ve experienced the joys of supporting businesses like Crankmeister through inception/ growth.

It has been a meandering path, with courageous (or foolhardy) choices to leave behind the safe roads. Not all paths were safe, sunlit trails, or the romantic “road not taken”. Sometimes, it meant beating out routes with ankle snagging vines and bushes with skin scratching thorns and things that slither in the underbrush. Not without many moments of tension, but in balance, richly rewarding for how I’ve grown and what I’ve learnt.

Get in touch

I am selectively available for collaborations and talks. If you want to chat about the evolution of the People function in the corporate Indian context (Personnel to HR to People, if we are being technical), the long lens usually piques my interest. If you are checking out yet unexplored paths on emotional wellbeing, the interconnectedness of things, mindfulness and equanimity through meditation, coaching, music and dance, endurance sports, or anything unrelated to these but wildly interesting, don’t hesitate in reaching out.

The person behind the profession

I’m an erstwhile Indian classical dancer and reluctant actor. A tree admirer, distance runner & cyclist, Yoga practitioner. I seek out beauty. Having lived in the south, north and centre of India, I don’t have, nor seek a place of origin or belonging. Socio-politically dravidian. Comfortable holding opposing tensions and contradicting beliefs.