Familial Tableaux | Verve Magazine
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Verve People
November 17, 2010

Familial Tableaux

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena and Nasrin Modak. Photographs by Ankur Chaturvedi (Mumbai), Shibu Arakkal (Bengaluru) and Amit Dey (New Delhi)

Boasting a bloodline that catapults them into the boss’s swivel chair, these young women are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and get down to business, from the shop floor upwards. Caught in an exchange with Verve, six Gen Next heiresses speak about their parental influences, corporate visions and dreams for the future

Though born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth, these ladies are not content with being known only as the boss’s daughter. Completely hands on with the businesses they are in line to inherit, they are willing to dig deep into the logistics of the workplace and come up with formulae they believe in. They are the Gen Next Inheritors who are most likely to shape the face of their fiefdoms.

Before she stepped into her father Raj Saraf’s workplace, Devita Saraf of Vu Tech, a spin off from Zenith Computers, completed her graduation from the University of California. And yet she is known to have often said modestly, when asked if she sees herself as the true successor, “I have a lot to learn”.

Having grown up in the lush playgrounds of green vineyards, Karishma Grover was not pressured to join the family business. But ‘completely captivated by the wine industry’, she made up her mind when she was just 16 that this was where she wanted to be. And she returned to India armed with a Bachelors Degree in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California, Davis ‘to take the company to the next level’.

Bloodline does make a difference in making the critical choice. When asked once how she got interested in her father’s retail business, Ashni Biyani replied, “I have been working for the last 15 years!” Several visits to malls were dad Kishore Biyani’s way of grooming the next generation into his business. Post doing her Textile Design from Bengaluru’s Shrishti School of Art & Design, Design Management from the Parsons School of Design in New York and General Business Program from Stanford, Ashni Biyani headed straight into the family business at 22.

Educated at NIFT Delhi, Priya Jain feels “I owe my existence to my family. It’s because of their support and faith that I’m here.” It was a real honour and matter of pride for her and the family when Prince Charles, during his visit to the Commonwealth Games inauguration ceremony, agreed to bless a Luxor event with his presence as a guest of honour.

As for Aishwarya and Amruda Nair, they were to the manor born. Granddaughters of Capt. C.P. Krishnan Nair, who started the famed Leela Group, the siblings believe that their passion for their work is inherited. Amruda says, “I’ve got my love for arts and literature from my mother but my passion for sports comes from my grandfather. I look up to my father for a lot of things. He is calm and self-motivated. Aishwarya adds, “Everyone, including my granddad, says I am a reincarnation of him.” They emphasise, “We are only adding younger dynamics to the Leela group, doing a lot of different things like pastry exhibitions or gourmet pet food in the food and beverage division.”

They – like Roshni Nadar, Nisa Godrej, Pallavi Gopinath, Radhika Piramal and Lara Balsara – are all women who are the  heirs of India Inc. Poised to take some of the largest and oldest family concerns into the next decade.

Karishma Grover, 26
Brand Manager, Grover Vineyards Ltd.
Mother company: Grover Vineyards Ltd. Started by Kanwal Grover (grandfather)

Family affair
My parents have always been very encouraging; I never really felt the pressure to join the family business.

Biggest influence
Michel Rolland, our consultant, who is known as the flying winemaker, convinced me that the wine industry was my career. When I was about 16, and he was visiting, dad allowed me to follow him and observe the industry. Despite the intense work hours, I was completely captivated!

Gender apprehensions
My main apprehension was about the response I would get being a woman in this so far male driven industry. However, I was met with a certain amount of enthusiasm and felt welcomed by everyone – including the workers who had seen me grow up.

Corporate mantra
Without passion and dedication, work will be quite a drag!

Vision for the company
Notwithstanding the generation divide, it is pretty much the same as my grandfather’s and father’s! We firmly believe that India is capable of producing international quality wine.

Favourite wine

Gadgets to play with
I love gadgets. Currently, I really want the iPad!

I am tech savvy. I stay connected via email and now bbm. I am on a couple of social networking sites, but have recently gotten a bit bored with them!

Preferred corporate attire
I mostly wear jeans and a t-shirt, as work in the winery can be messy. Otherwise, I would be seen in jeans, pants or a skirt and a shirt.

Most-loved designer
I currently love Rajesh Pratap Singh and have always been a fan of Wendell Rodricks. I am comfortable in a number of different things, but mainly I like vibrant colours.

Shopping delights
I am a fairly impulsive shopper, especially when it comes to shoes.

Stress factors
I am calm, but get stressed out about things like getting to places on time.

De-stressing formulae
I love swimming or doing something for myself as a stressbuster. I find foot massages very relaxing.

Most expensive jewel owned
A necklace gifted to me by my grand-aunt, which was her mother’s. I feel that it is priceless.  This is something that goes beyond money.

Aspirational buy
To tel you the truth, I would really like to own a yacht!

Priya Jain, 34
Founder, Luxor Luxury Collection
Mother company: Luxor Group. Started by D K Jain (father)

Living up to the family name
My existence is because of this respected and esteemed family. It’s because of their support and faith that I’m here.

Biggest influences
My father and Mahatma Gandhi. My freedom of thought is because of Mahatma Gandhi. And my values and the positive approach towards life, I have imbibed them from my dad.

Present position
It is really exciting, challenging and experimental. This new venture is like a baby which I want to see spread globally.

Despite the fact that the market is flooded with brands, the Luxor Luxury Collection mantra is to provide high-end quality products to its customers.

Corporate mantra
Slow and steady wins the race. If your vision is clear then through your hard work you can achieve anything under the sun.

Personal pleasures
Watching movies with family, going for long walks at Lodhi Gardens or swimming in our private outhouse.

Favourite airline
Kingfisher, because it’s young and perky. One day I would like to design the outfits for their hostesses.  I usually work on my iPad when I am flying, or else I listen to music or watch movies.

Pet passions
I am passionate about designing jewellery, handbags and saris. I want to bring high-end collections for both the domestic and international buyers. I am a national-level gymnast, passionate about sports and I am really happy that the Commonwealth Games happened in our territory.

Investing rules
I believe in investing. I would love to have handbags, shoes, and jewellery.

Tech awareness
I am big-time tech savvy. I find myself incomplete without my iPad, mobile and Skype.

Charitable intent
I believe in the policy of giving to the needy. I usually help the needy but as of now haven’t got into sponsoring an NGO. May be from next year I would love to do that.

Style quotient
Simple, yet elegant. Glamour comes with the style you carry yourself.

Most loved designers
Chanel and Armani because of their classic and evergreen designs, Ritu Kumar because of her traditional styles and Rohit Bal for his creative Indian apparels.

Best dressed inspiration in the corporate world
Ratan Tata.

An all-time wardrobe favourite
Dress designed by Emilio Pucci.

Signature style
Jeans with tunic giving a Bohemian look with a scarf. Hair tied up gives a cool and casual look. I love carrying rings which are exclusively designed by me.

Shopping paradise
I shop in Paris, Lucknow, Patiala, Delhi and many more places. My impulsive buys are footwear and handbags.

De-stressing formulae
Yoga, meditation, chanting mantras and going to a spa.

Favourite corporate look
Salwaar kameezes, textile weaves in saris.

Most expensive jewel
It has been gifted to me by my parents.

The most luxurious writing instrument owned
A Waterman Carene charcoal grey fountain pen.

Coveted buy
An island exclusively designed for fashion houses to take part in fashion shows.

Devita Saraf, 29
CEO, VU Technologies
Mother company: Zenith Computers. Started by Raj Saraf (father)

Living the big name
This is more of a sense of responsibility than feeling empowered.

Greatest influence
Has been my granddad. When I was four, I used to accompany him to our factory and see how products were made.

Childhood memories
I was this total South-Bombay girl dressed in frilly Catherine dresses who would beat up the boys in the neighbourhood!

Stress factors
When people take too long to finish or if they take things too casually.

Toughest thing
Doing things differently…but making the consumer understand that we are doing something different can get daunting.

Favourite brands
I find shopping irresistible, I like treating myself to spas, I love colours and I dress totally feminine. Karen Millen, Versace and Dior are my favourite brands. Monisha Jaising and Gauri & Nainika are my much-loved Indian designers.

Known earlier for
Being a total Burberry addict. From handbags to bikinis to coats, I had too much Burberry in my wardrobe.

I know what looks good on me and what suits my height and personality. I like the body-con look. I am a CEO and I have to dress like one. I have everything organised on the computer. I click pictures of clothes using my digital camera, tag them according to their colour, type and brand and I’m sorted.

Favourite read
Books and magazines on business, leadership, fashion and dance.

Shopping haven
Mostly in India. My dad always tells me that it’s important to help the economy here.

Favourite airline
Air India business class has become nice but what’s the point…I am the world’s greatest in-flight sleeper — the airhostess has to wake me up at my destination.

Personal investment
Jewellery designed by me. With a diploma in jewellery design, I understand diamonds and their cuts fairly better.

Little known detail
I am an Oddisi classical dancer and am a part of a dance group. This is one place where I am not leading but I’m just a part of the ensemble.

Next big buy
An apartment in Manhattan, New York, that I will design from scratch.

Ashni Biyani, 26
Director, Holii & Future Ideas
Mother Company: Future Group. Started by Kishore Biyani (father)

Major interests
Fashion – I aim to take it beyond clothes. Think handbags and accessories – which is why I started the brand Holii offering accessories for the contemporary urban Indian woman.

Learning lessons
I spend a lot of time visiting stores. It helps in conceptualisation.

On dealing with seniors who worked with dad
They don’t take me as the boss. They are my mentors, so I always have questions for them.

The tough stuff
Putting it all together – designing, manufacturing and making it available to the audience.

Free time
I’m a student of contemporary arts and classical music. I also read, mostly Indian fiction.

Personal fetish
Handbags, they talk to me. I love Fendi handbags.

Next big buy
A Birkin.

Favourite designer
Meera Ali. Her designs are subtle and classy.

Much-loved shopping destination
New York, it’s a discovery each time.

Design preferences
Saris, I find them eternal. The design sensibilities in Spain are commendable. I like the works of Desigual.

Pet passions
Studying Indian culture, literature and mythologies.

Totally adore
My pair of Seven jeans.

Amruda Nair,28
Asset Management Executive, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts

Aishwarya Nair, 26
Food and Wine Merchandising Associate, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts
Mother company: The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. Started by Capt. C.P. Krishnan Nair (grandfather)

Corporate challenges
Amruda: It is when my father raises the bar every time I reach the set standard.
Aishwarya: Working for a company that’s your own is tough. Micromanaging can get cumbersome at times.

Corporate mantra   
Amruda: Consolidating and standardisation for costing as well as brand consistency.
Aishwarya: The fact that we have worked elsewhere gives us a different perspective on things.

Technology aids
Amruda: Aishwarya is a Mac lover while I went back to my dependable old Dell. She needs the funky stuff for all her promotions while I just need Excel.

Favoured airline
Amruda: Singapore Airlines for sentimental reasons as I lived in Singapore and also because they always get it right. I love to watch movies on flights. Also, I’ve gone back to reading classics,
Aishwarya: I prefer Virgin Airlines.

Greatest indulgences
Amruda: Art. I remember spending around $2000 dollars of my first bonus on a painting by an unknown Malaysian artist, Leela, at her first exhibition.
Aishwarya: Really exotic, medieval wine.

Cherished brands
Amruda: I like Prada and the fact that you can’t tell what label it is and a classic Chanel bag.
Aishwarya: Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander Mc Queen and Lanvin. And for bags and purses, Chanel, of course, but also Valentino.

Pet NGOs
Aishwarya: We are both pet lovers, I love dogs and Amruda loves cats so it’s The Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA).
Amruda: Charity was inculcated in our systems by our family right from childhood. I remember being taken on Sunday mornings to donate stuff.

Stresses and de-stressing mantras
Aishwarya: Incompetence stresses me out. I de-stress with music or wine or both.
Amruda: Numbers stress me and I play a game squash or some sports to de-stress.

Signature styles
Aishwarya: For me it is my black eyeliner the Cleopatra way. For Amruda it’s her hairdo.

Impulsive buys
Aishwarya: Mostly high-heeled shoes that we rarely wear. Check out irregular choice.com and you’ll know what I’m talking.

Coveted purchase  
Aishwarya: A 23.3ct Harry Winston ring. I even have a picture of it on my phone.
Amruda: A private island off Bora Bora where I can do all kinds of adventure sports.

In The Hot Seat
Roshni Nadar, 29
Executive Director and CEO, HCL Corporation
Heir to HCL’s founder Shiv Nadar, she has inherited not just his business sense but his charitable intent as well. Roshni is the trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation. Graduating from the Northwestern University, Chicago, Roshni has an MBA in Social Enterprise Management and Strategy from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Her interests include music, yoga and travelling.

Pallavi Gopinath, 28
Associate Manager, Operations, Deccan 360
Her father Captain G R Gopinath redefined flying and rewrote routes in air travel with his low-cost airline Air Deccan.  Part of her father’s logistics venture, Deccan 360 for almost the last two years, the soft-spoken girl with an MBA in Aerospace from Touluse and a MPhil in Media Studies couples the sensitivity of a poet with the mind of an entrepreneur.

Nandini Piramal, 28
Executive Director, Piramal Healthcare Ltd
A Stanford graduate (MBA), she is hands on with the running of the Piramal Healthcare group. Having joined the family business in June 1996 as GM, strategic planning, Nandini looked after the group’s operations in UK and Canada. Heir apparent to the Piramal business empire as the elder child of Ajay Piramal, she believes that it’s important to make the best use of all available time.

Nisaba ‘Nisa’  Godrej, 31
Executive Vice President, Business Development, Godrej Industries
An undergrad degree from Wharton, an MBA from Harvard coupled with the trusted Godrej name, Nisa started off as a management trainee in Godrej Sara Lee. On being a part of Gen Next she has said, “We bring with us our inexperience and with inexperience comes a certain amount of courage to prove ourselves in whatever we are doing.”

Lara Balsara, 29
Business Development and Diversification Manager, Madison World
Her best friend and guide is her father, Sam Balsara. “I will always value his inputs,” she says. With an MA Marketing from Bristol Business School, UK, Lara rose from the ranks, having started off at Madison as a management trainee.
Being ‘papa’s girl’ did not make it easier for Lara; she had to go through the grind before making the grade.

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