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Meet some women achievers who might have been sidelined by their illustrious fathers if not for their tenacity and grit and proving themselves to be worthy Daughters of Legacy.
There is a tremendous amount of history behind successful businesses which have continued for generations and time has shown how it has brought its share of challenges and perks in running them. Included in that history is the fact that these age-old legacies were, as a rule, handed down through the male line of succession – from father to son – who, born into privilege, automatically gained a position of power.
Today, however, there are increasing examples of daughters taking the reins in their hands and steering these businesses to newer and greater heights. They have had their share of struggles in navigating the challenges and scaling new peaks, the greatest of which is proving themselves as women in a man’s world.
Rihanna said: “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.” The question remains, though – why are legacy businesses still considered a man’s world?
In Daughters of Legacy, authors Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal show how a new generation of women is redefining India Inc.
The book features twelve women from illustrious families such as the Future Group, Kirloskar Systems, Emami Limited, Parle Agro, Nalli Group of Companies, and MBD, to name a few, and have been chosen from a wide cross section in terms of scale of business, roles and hierarchy. These women have not only kept the legacies alive but have also gone on to carve a niche for themselves as individuals beyond their famous last names.
For Ashni Biyani, Chief Ideator at Future Group and a second-generation entrepreneur, it was witnessing the business being built brick by brick from a modest fabric enterprise her father had built in the 1980s. Every time her father had a store opening, the family would travel to the location, unpack merchandise, and put it up on display to get the shop ready. She remembers sitting in on meetings, while still in school, to understand how decisions were taken and how these impacted the consumer. For her, it was a natural transition and having begun from the grass root level, she believes her early steps were helpful in establishing credibility within the organization.
Manasi Kirloskar returned to India at the age of twenty-two, armed with a degree in Fine Arts from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and two days later found herself attending the board meeting of the holding company – Kirloskar Systems. Her biggest challenge was to break out of the girl-with-an-art-degree image even though she proudly describes how her great-grandfather was the first to spot the business woman in her when she negotiated her maiden deal with him as a little girl, over a bicycle. This fifth-generation entrepreneur who designed a greenfield project – a multi-specialty hospital in Bengaluru – has proved her mettle as both an artist and a businesswoman.
Lavanya Nalli remembers playing with her cousins amongst yards of Kanjeevaram Silks in her ancestral house above the flagship Nalli store in Chennai. It was during her stint on the shop floor as a newbie when she found herself wondering why college-going daughters of their customers looked around the shop with bored expressions while their mothers shopped. It prompted her to engage the services of a research agency to seek feedback from their customers and other saree wearers on brand perception. This resulted in setting up Nalli Next – a brand for the new age customer with a contemporary collection of corporate, casual and cocktail wear – in 2008. As a fifth-generation entrant, she started working at the back end and then went to Harvard to study business before returning to India in 2013 and working at Myntra. Armed with all this experience, she finally re-entered the family business and has been instrumental in setting up their e-commerce division which sells significant volumes with a no-returns policy.
These are just a handful of examples showcasing the remarkable stories you will find in the book. The authors delve into a brief history of each business group and how these women got their start. It is interesting to note that it was not the lack of male heirs in the family but self-drive that prompted them to find a foothold in the company. Often, they had to deal with stereotypical and snide remarks – that they are here to pass time until marriage or, being the boss’s daughter, her presence would have to be endured. But as each one shares about in her journey, it was with sheer grit and hard work that they taught themselves the ropes by starting at the bottom of the pyramid and slowly climbed their way to the top.
It is almost startling to see how, despite their Ivy League education, even their fathers were unable to recognize their true potential. Seeing their determination and ensuing results, they had no choice but to happily hand over control to them. Having older siblings – both male and female – each with their own divisional responsibility, these young entrepreneurs have created a cohesive work environment that continues to grow these lagacy businesses by leaps and bounds.
What these women have learned along the way and how their family ideologies helped them pave the path into a new future makes from some inspiring reading. Letters from the parents to their daughters at the end of each chapter add a special serving of warmth to their journey.
Every story shows how these women have fought perception and patriarchy, and stood their ground in realizing their ambitions. Sure, they may have stumbled with ill-timed decisions but nothing stopped them from picking themselves up and continuing ahead. As successful as they are in the work place, so are they strong, determined and doting mothers and wives at home. Each of their roles complement the other making their lives as fulfilling as they can possibly be.
As Michelle Obama said – “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” These path-breaking stories of women in legacy show you how.
Rinku Paul is an internationally certified life coach and a proponent of women leadership and an inclusive work environment, and has brought together her love for entrepreneurship and writing in her published works. Her previous books – Dare to Be: Fourteen Women Who Gave Wings to Their Dreams and Millionaire Housewives: From Home Makers to Wealth Creators – were released to acclaim. Her passion project is ‘Dare to Be Conversations’-a podcast series and a platform for women to be a part of stirring stories and breakthrough ideas.
In her previous avatar, Rinku has had a corporate career spanning over sixteen years with the news channel Aaj Tak, a part of the India Today Group, till she decided to pursue her dream – impacting people’s lives.
Puja Singhal, having spent more than a decade living the corporate life, strategizing on how best to marry business and people as an HR specialist, decided to take a break to focus on her family and other love, writing. Having co-founded a writing studio, The Muse, and published two books, Dare to Be and Millionaire Housewives, along with Rinku Paul, she is now back to juggling corporate responsibilities along with family duties and, of course, writing. Puja holds an Honours degree in political science and an MBA in human resource management.
If you’d like to pick up Daughters of Legacy : How a New Generation of Women is Redefining India Inc by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal, published by Penguin Random House India, use our affiliate links: at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.
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Top image via Twitter and book cover via Amazon
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