women in business interview© HelloIndia

4 Creative Women In Business On What Makes Them Tick

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Nayare Ali

HELLO! plays host to four dynamic and creative women — the embodiment of #workmeetsfun — as they enjoy playing fashionistas.

When four successful and enterprising women meet for a shoot for HELLO!, the mood is lit with glamour and enlightening chats. The energy was palpable when digital creator Mallika Singhani, fashion entrepreneur Smita Padwal, corporate mind Disha Sanghvi, and interiors and textile expert Rohina Anand Khira got together under one roof for some exciting moments and scintillating insights into what makes them tick…

Mallika Singhania (Digital Content Creator)

HELLO!: You’re a prominent content creator with interests in fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Can you tell us a little more about yourself ?

Mallika Singhania: “I’ve always enjoyed fashion, but I got into this space by accident when I was finishing my masters at London School of Economics. I realised there were no shopping guides in India, and so my best friend and I decided to author such guides. Luckily, we found publishers and have been in the fashion space ever since. I also ran a one-of-a-kind ecommerce business, I wrote a fashion column for DNA for four years, presented on TV shows and also had a fashion podcast. Apart from work, I love being a mom to my kids, Revant and Ranvir. It brings me immense joy.”

H!: Describe yourself in three words:

MS: “Introspective, compassionate and fun. But also impatient!”

H!: How would you define your personal sense of style?

MS: “I’m a classic dresser. While I like knowing what’s in vogue, I don’t chase trends. Now, at 40, I’ve pretty much nailed what looks good on me and what doesn’t. So I don’t try too hard, and I keep it fairly easy — something that’s reflected on my Instagram page, too.”

H!: Your favourite designers:

MS: “I love Payal Singhal, Anamika Khanna, Advait, and Nvious by Neha Shah, and Anaar for festive sneakers. I feel Indian designers are now at par with international ones, and I love promoting our homegrown labels.”

H!: Best fashion moments:

MS: “I loved being Abu-Sandeep’s muse and wearing their creations at their ‘Caring with Style’ show. It felt surreal to be chosen by them and to represent their brand.”

H!: Three beauty steps you follow before a party:

MS: “I don’t leave home without under-eye cream. I love a luxe look with nude lips from Kiro. And bronzers always come to the rescue for that extra shine.”

H!: Your favourite luxe experience:

MS: “I love my holidays with the family in Europe. They feel super luxurious to me. Right from the sightseeing and the restaurants to the shopping — it’s all so picturesque!”

H!: Your personal and professional goals for 2023:

MS: “My goals are simple — I want to keep growing and coming more and more into my own, professionally. I also want to be kinder and more helpful on the personal front.”

Disha Sanghvi (Director, Good Glamm Group)

H!: Tell us a little about your work.

DS: “I’m one of the founding members, director and board member of G3 and also head of new product development. I’ve developed a highly innovative portfolio of over 1,500 stock-keeping units in five years, and I also work closely with marketing, strategy, mergers and acquisitions for business growth.”

H!: You launched wellness spas in India in 2010, when the segment was in its nascent stages. What prompted this?

DS: “While travelling within India, we realised that hotels were struggling to get a good, branded spa with great service. So in 2010, we brought L’Occitane spas to India and opened them across some gorgeous locations in the country.”

H!: How was it to get married mid-pandemic? 

DS: “From dreaming of having a big, fat destination wedding to having an intimate ceremony in my backyard… From wanting to travel the world for my trousseau to completing it all online (including my wedding lehenga!)... From wanting to go over the top with the best mehndi, hair and makeup artists to going for a simple hair and makeup look… From dreaming of doing the traditional saat pheras to taking pandit-less pheras with our own vows… We got to reinvent our wedding, and it truly felt magical!”

H!: You’re quite the avid traveller. Which are your favourite destinations?

DS: “There are so many! But my favourites would be Cabo San Lucas in Mexico (I love the vibe, the restaurants, the beaches and the energy!) and Capri and Positano in the south of Italy (they have breathtaking views and amazing food!).”

H!: The most luxurious holiday you’ve had: 

DS: “The Maldives offers a different kind of luxe. You enjoy an exotic pool villa that opens into the sea, but you also love the calm that surrounds you.”

H!: What’s your fitness routine like?

DS: “I wake up by 5am. Between 5am and 6am is when I get my ‘me’ time. I do some breathing exercises that help me recharge for the day. I clock 10,000 steps daily, workout thrice a week and follow a healthy lifestyle. I also dance to not only burn calories but also to boost my mood!”

H!: Define your personal sense of style.

DS: “I’d say chic glam! Though I think it depends a lot on how I’m feeling on a particular day. I absolutely love being in my lounge wear, but I also love dressing up for a party. I’m more dressy than casual, but prioritise comfort over trends.”

H!: Your personal and professional goals for 2023:

DS: “Personally, I want to be the fittest version of myself and also be the best mother to my twins, by showering them with love and teaching them the right values that would help build a strong foundation. Professionally, I wish to launch our existing brands in the international market, besides unveiling three more exciting brands in the country.”

Rohina Anand Khira (CEO, AA Living)

H!: Describe yourself in three words:

RAK: “Sincere, creative and authentic.”

H!: You have varied interests that extend to décor, travel and even art…

RAK: “Creative people can’t be boxed! I travel the world and attend various fairs and design shows. In my downtime, I love to paint, especially mixed media. I even write poetry.”

H!: Your most favourite artists:

RAK: “Sunil Padwal, Paresh Maity, Shamendu Sonavane and masters like Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and Jackson Pollock.”

H!: The most priceless artwork you own: 

RAK: “It’s a wooden 12x8ft wall mural of horses running. I have no idea who the artist is, as my grandparents had bought it. I found it gorgeous, so I moved it to my home.”

H!: Tell us a little about your work at AA Living. 

RAK: “I am the owner and design co-coordinator. I look into everything closely, be it branding, marketing or social media, among other things. Although the store’s been around for 25 years, I took over in 2009.”

H!: How did growing up in a family of textile experts influence your creativity?

RAK: “My father’s been in the textile industry for 40 years, and now, my brother’s taken over the export business. My childhood was fabulous, having been brought up surrounded by design, textile and innovation. So I organically got drawn to this side of the industry, instead of fashion.”

H!: You’ve helped transform your business from a showroom to a boutique brand… 

RAK: “It was an export showroom when I took over, and realised I had access to amazing international brands. We supplied material to labels like Pottery Barn, DKNY, Vera Vang, Bath & Beyond, etc. Our local clients looked for the same standards in India. And ironically, Indians tend to buy bedsheets, towels, bath mats and other such products from abroad, even though we export them from our shores! That’s why I decided to offer the same quality here. That’s been our USP since I took over.”

H!: Three design tips to spruce up your home: 

RAK: “1. Curtains closer to the ceiling because it gives the illusion of height. 2. Add your artwork at eye level; neither too high nor too low… 3. Mirrors make a space large and bright, and bounce the light around.”

H!: The most luxe holiday you’ve been on:

RAK: “I’ve been to the Maldives several times and have not come across that kind of luxury anywhere else.”

H!: Define your personal sense of style.

RAK: “It’s bohemian. I love large earrings, long maxis and braiding my hair. I only wear heels because I’m tiny!”

H!: Your goals for 2023:

RAK: “I’m always working on myself and am a spiritual person, constantly seeking self-growth. In 2023, we hope to go international, beginning with the Middle Eastern market.”

Smita Padwal (Founder, Savoir – Fashionably Yours)

H!: You’re the founder of a luxe prêt multi-designer store in Mumbai. What does your role entail?

SP: “Everything that an entrepreneur’s role would entail — from looking into the tiniest details to ensuring that I have the right team to help the store run smoothly. Handling HR, marketing and customer relations is also part and parcel of it. I curate a varied mix of designs from known and upcoming designers from across India. I also ensure we have our finger on the pulse of the latest trends and stock accordingly.”

H!: You’re a marketing and communications professor at Jai Hind College, as well. How do you manage the two worlds?

SP: “The intellectual stimulation from interacting with students gives me immense satisfaction. But the store is an extension of my creativity, so I try to judiciously divide my time between the two. Though frankly, I feel like I’m walking a tightrope. When I feel overworked, I take off to the mountains or the riverside, where I like to unwind and rejuvenate amid the sounds of birds, trees and water.”

H!: What are the three tips you’d offer someone struggling with communication issues? 

SP: “1. Don’t avoid uncomfortable conversations in the hope that things will sort themselves out. Tackle them head on. 2. Keep the language clear, leaving no room for misunderstandings. 3. Be courteous, friendly and polite.”

H!: How would you like to raise your daughters? 

SP: “I want to raise them to be strong, confident and independent, so they never let anything question their self-worth. I don’t want them to grow up feeling entitled either. They’re both kind, generous and nature-loving souls.”

H!: Name your fashion favourites.

SP: “Amit Aggarwal for his edgy, structured silhouettes. Gauri & Nainika for their glam quotient. 431-88 by Shweta Kapur for her super-stylish cuts. Plus Anushree Reddy, especially her prêt line, and Advait.”

H!: Define your personal sense of style.

SP: “Classy, sexy, structured and silhouetted. I love solid colours, though I experiment with flirty prints for day looks. Whatever I wear must make me feel confident and comfortable. That’s the whole point of fashion!”

H!: Your fave shopping destinations:

SP: “Dubai is great for an out-and-out shopping experience. Selfridges in London is a lot of fun. Champs-Élysées in Paris is simply perfect!”

H!: Your goals for 2023:

SP: “Personally, I want to maximise my time with my kids, strike a better work-life balance and lead a more disciplined life. Professionally, I want to make the store the go-to western and Indo-western destination in Mumbai and also support homegrown labels with pride. “

Interview: Nayare Ali; Photos: Ryan Martis; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Junior Stylist: Anushree Sardesai; Hair & Makeup: Pooja Chaurasia

This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the April 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!