If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader,” American singer-songwriter and philanthropist Dolly Parton once said.
These words sit perfectly on the slender but astute shoulders of Bina Modi, business leader, textile and fashion protagonist, mother and the voice for one of India’s leading industrialist families. HELLO! ventures into her splendid and resplendent universe and feels instantly enchanted not just with the sheer vitality of her space, but her own vibrant energy that reverberates through her home.
Bina KK Modi personifies that elusive bridge between the two worlds, old and new. In her mind, she’s forward-thinking, progressive and ready to move with the times. Yet, around her, time seems to stand still, captured in her home filled with stories of antiquity and classicism in art. Her farm, where a spectacular bust of KK Modi stands ensconced in a sanctuary of greens, and water body is serene and tranquil. A spiritual air, interspersed with stunning beauty fills this space.
Mother to the founder of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, educationist Charu Modi and conscious businessman Sameer Modi, Bina is also the pampering grandmother to many illustrious grandchildren, the apple of her eye being her great-grandson Zai, who sits beside her as she chats with HELLO!.
“I’m ever so grateful to the grounded upbringing I had as a child, growing up in a rooted city like Agra, around the stoic life we led at St. Mary’s School, Nainital. I got married at 16 into the very large, famous and tradition-bound family of the legendary Gujarmal Modi.”
Married to his progressive son KK Modi, she shares, “I imbibed my professional skills from my husband. He inculcated in me the power to think beyond the brief, yet remain true to the value system of integrity and honesty.”
She sure has done him proud in her journey as a businesswoman, creating a variety of iconic brands that have emerged as leaders in their own category. Little wonder then that she was named in the book India’s Most Powerful Women, awarded ‘Women of the Decade in Business & Leadership’ in 2018 by the Women Economic Forum and is applauded by all for her varied career path that spans over three decades. Bina began her career creating a craft-driven brand of fashion that brought the glory back to the two most revered and complex embroidery schools: Parsi gara and chikankari. An artist herself, she admits that she loves hand embroidery and creates the first sample of complex embroidery herself.
“My mother was a great painter, singer, mathematician and hand embroidery expert. In fact, till a few months before she died, she taught at a school. She taught me hand skills and also the art of respecting aesthetics.”
From fashion to food, she got driven to create a chic and snazzy Thai restaurant, Ego Thai, where vegans and vegetarians could enjoy a green curry full of veggies and no fish sauce as much as meat lovers could indulge in fine recipes. Instantly, Ego Thai got a ‘blue tick’ by the social milieu not just for its culinary prowess, but also for its ambience, polite service and music.
Always pruned to perfection, Bina then brought forth Dessange, a French beauty parlour that changed the way Indians looked at grooming. Yet again ahead of her time, she set the tone for day spas in the country — literally.
Today, with her husband no longer by her side, she’s the mothership at the helm of the billion-dollar empire. Time is testing her stoic will as she wears the tough mantle of taking the KK Modi legacy forward, though it remains her singular mission.
“I don’t think I will ever get over KK going too soon. I never imagined I’d come into this role, that I have, so unexpectedly.”
Bina is at the helm of the family-run business Godfrey Phillips India. As the chairperson, she’s once again relying on “the ethics and morality of steering businesses with a sense of duty”.
A true leader, she gives credit to the human capital that exists in her conglomerate. “It makes it all simple actually, as there’s no second agenda; only me taking KK’s legacy forward for the children and grandchildren to scale it onwards. He was a visionary who, while he was alive, created trusts and allocated his businesses fairly to his inheritors. I saw him take these steps, and even today, when I’m confused, I seek answers from within, guided by his voice.”
She also applauds the team players who rallied around her the moment she took over. Old faithfuls who were recruited by her husband. “The people at the helm are always your most valuable assets.”
Credit, however, must also go to this petite heiress who has infused energy and ensured that there’s no trust deficit in what she calls the ‘GFI family’. The bonhomie came alive at the festival of Holi that Bina celebrated with the rank and file of her organisation. It was invigorating to watch her interact with her people, enjoying the festival of colour with them.
“I think it is karmic that I’m here, building a blue chip group of companies under the KK Modi banner, infusing each vertical with ideas that will grow exponentially and swiftly, and also keep the ‘gen next’ of the family engrossed,” she smiles.
When asked how many verticals she oversees, she softly states, “It’s difficult to count, as it’s a large bouquet of happiness and joy!”
She has walked the talk of the legacy of Gujarmal Modi and KK Modi. Her advice to the youth: “Be focused, don’t deviate, eat, sleep, dream of what you want to achieve. I’m blinkered in my vision, and it works!”
Photography: Anil Chawla; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Hair & Makeup: Dessange
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s August 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!