Our photo shoot with Sudha Reddy takes place at her Greco-Roman-styled house in one of Hyderabad’s toniest neighbourhoods, Jubilee Hills. The mansion, situated on a lane popularly known as ‘Billionaire’s Row’ among the city’s hoi polloi, is replete with marble statues in the carefully manicured lawns that surround it. Fountains spout here and there, water bodies are scattered in picturesque corners of the expansive gardens, and an impressive set of stairs lead to the front door. There’s a lot of security around, as would be expected at the home of one of Hyderabad’s fastest growing infrastructure barons. MEIL was founded by uncle-nephew duo PP Reddy and Krishna Reddy in the late 80s to make small pipes for municipalities. Today, the conglomerate has interests in hydrocarbons, irrigation, general infrastructure, drinking water, power and buildings spread out over several countries, including Zambia, Tanzania, Kuwait and Bangladesh, apart from India.
Sudha, who is a director at MEIL, is the wife of Krishna Reddy and mother to their two sons Manas and Pranav, aged 16 and 18. She is also the head of the Sudha Reddy Foundation and involved in the company’s philanthropic interests, which are surprisingly wide-ranging. What’s brought Sudha to the fore, however, is her extreme humility and grounded nature. The almost childlike attitude and innocence the grand dame sports is a marvel, if anything, given that she has all the trappings of a billionaire. The Rolls Royces, the fleet of private jets, a retinue of bodyguards that would put a world leader’s entourage to shame. Then of course there was last year’s MeT Gala appearance, something that put Sudha on the global map, being the only Indian to attend the most coveted event of the year in 2021.
Having grown up in the small town of Vijayawada, Sudha got married at the young age of 19 to Krishna, something she says helped, since it was the both of them growing up together. Today, that little girl is touted by the local papers as the ‘Queen Bee of Hyderabad’, a title she doesn’t take to fondly, explaining, “I’m more like a child at heart. There’s no attitude with me. Do I come off as a ‘Queen Bee’ to you?” Here are excerpts from our tête-à-tête with the lady...
HELLO!: Tell us about your journey with philanthropy. What are the causes you like to give your time to?
Sudha Reddy: “I had made a commitment to continually pledge out of my personal wealth, which led to the genesis of my association with two impactful charities — Action Against Hunger and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation with Elizabeth Hurley.
I’m a humanitarian at heart. The figures on malnourished children dying because of hunger really grieved me, and to learn that India carries 40 percent of the global load of malnutrition was a complete shocker. It was then that I decided to take a firm step in the direction with impactful outcomes. Honestly, it feels immensely satisfying to be able to become a voice for the underprivileged. India is on the verge of a healthcare revolution, and I believe it’s our responsibility to give back in whatever way we can. Access to affordable, quality healthcare has always been a pertinent issue in the country. So the Sudha Reddy Foundation aims to aid in the government’s National Health Mission through initiatives directed towards cancer care, the welfare of women and children, and more. Our goal is to create an India where equitable care is not an aspiration for the future, but a reality in the present. Children are our future, and the best way to secure our future is to provide quality education to children of all ages. I have always believed that the education of our nation’s youth is of utmost importance, and through my foundation, I hope to improve the quality of and accessibility to education for one and all.”
H: You are considered a formidable fashionista. Tell us how you got into appreciating fashion, and how you would describe your personal sense of style.
SR: “When it comes to my day-to-day life, I can say that I live and breathe fashion. That’s the reason I opted for a professional degree in the field — to understand the nuances of fashion with an expert eye. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been drawn to the glamour and artistry of the international fashion fraternity. My personal style has always been a blend of the modern and the traditional, the West and the East. Fashion is reflective, and must mirror not only the pulse of the season but the emotions and personality of the wearer. I gravitate towards bright, happy colours and innovative design, but some of my favourite looks are more understated, intricate in their simplicity. Currently, I’m in love with flowy silhouettes, and neutral and nude bases sparkled up where necessary to help me stand out. While I’m always up for minimalist aesthetics, I do like to jazz things up once in a while for a special occasion—just the way my personality has both the sophisticated and fun sides to it!”
H: How do you manage to balance your work commitments, family and charity efforts?
SR: “I believe that 24 hours is enough for the disciplined yet excited mind. Work is a privilege, and to be of service to the larger community is the greatest accomplishment. To me, my work is a form of worship, and I’ve never once felt burdened. It’s this simple philosophy that I’ve woven into my everyday life. No matter how my day looks like, I do have some non- negotiable tasks on the list. Planning my day in advance helps me devote enough time to work, rest, network and focus on family. The key to multitasking is to not consider them ‘tasks’, but habits or practices you can’t do without.”
H: How was your experience at the Met Gala in New York?
SR: “It was surreal to be the only Indian at the 2021 Met Gala. I can’t say if I ever felt this confident, excited, beautiful and proud all together ever before. Memorable would be too small a word to express how I feel about my stance at fashion’s biggest night out! I’m always looking forward to putting India on the world map. For me, this was an opportunity to showcase not just myself but represent my country and my city. While the Met Gala is the greatest fashion night, for me, it was also an opportunity to propel the cause of benevolence, and align with individuals who see the merit and potential in the concept of giving back to society. I’m incredibly grateful and honoured to see billboards at Times Square that acknowledged my presence and contribution at the Met Gala. Meeting Anna Wintour, Serena Williams and the Kardashians was also a lot of fun. The most I gelled with, however, was Gigi Hadid. She was great fun to hang out with, as was Rihanna—beauty with personality.”
H: Why did you choose Falguni and Shane Peacock for your outfit at the Met?
SR: “I worked with my long-time friend Falguni Peacock for the ensemble since she’s very creative and translates my instructions easily. The dress was in keeping with the impressive theme of the Met Gala for the year — ‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion’ —and was inspired by the American Revolution. I did want my designers to retain a sense of Indianness, despite this unique theme. Falguni and Shane are true masters of their craft and have a flair for creating bespoke pieces that hero the intricate cultural fabric of India, with a modern, global twist. The first time I wore the dress, though, was in New York. I just hadn’t had a chance to do a fitting beforehand, thanks to my schedule.”
H: You’re also a jewellery connoisseur. Tell us how your journey into appreciating haute jewellery began.
SR: “Jewellery is an essential part of my lifestyle. I love anything OTT and haute couture. Most South Indian households have a strong affinity towards jewellery, and let’s say I’m an avid connoisseur. Farah Khan has made some bespoke pieces for me in the past, as has Gautam Ji from Jaipur. He knows I like big rocks, which he gets for me from around the world.”
H: Your husband is one of India’s leading industrialists. What is he like as a father and husband?
SR: “He’s one of the most accommodating, kind-hearted and understanding gentlemen I’ve ever known. He’s been extremely supportive of my decisions and continues to encourage me to be a better human being every single day. He’s very hands-on and likes to participate actively in his personal commitments at home. He loves taking the kids out for dinner when they’re here, plays sports with them and is always there to give them guidance. In our own relationship, we have morphed into best friends. Being just husband and wife gets boring after sometime, but we keep ourselves entertained since our lives revolve around our own friendship. I’d give him a 10 on 10 as a husband.I’m sure he’d give me a 20 on 10 (laughs)!”
H: You’ve been a supportive mother and friend to your children. Tell us a bit about your connection with them.
SR: “My children are my world. They inspire me to be the best role model I could ever be. I raised my boys to be fiercely independent and progressive in the way they think. Yet, they are culturally attuned. They imbibe the best of both worlds. One is studying in London, while my other son is with us in Hyderabad. Both grew up to become more like friends to me and my husband.”
H: How do you compare staying in Hyderabad with the other cities you’ve gotten to experience around the world?
SR: “Hyderabad has a sense of diversity attached to it. The city is multidimensional when it comes to culture and tradition, and at the sametime,you can experience luxury and finesse at its very best. There’s a sense of authenticity attached to the city, which I don’t find anywhere else in the world.”
H: Who do you consider your closest pals? Have you ever felt that people at times try to befriend you because of your celebrity status?
SR: “My social circle is very close knit, and I’m an introverted extrovert. I’m very selective with who I’d like to refer to as a friend because I believe friendships need to imbibe a certain level of transparency, respect, loyalty and honesty. I guess the world we live in is made up of all sorts of individuals, and I’ve been lucky not to have met too many opportunists in my lifetime. If someone is my friend, I give them my 100 percent. My best friend, though, would have to be my husband, Krishna.”
Photographer: Rahul Jhangiani; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Make-Up & Hair: Clint Fernandes; Jewellery Courtesy: Kishandas and Co, Hyderabad
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s May 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!