A HAND TO HOLD
Harper's Bazaar India|April-May 2021
India’s leading business stalwarts, performers, and creative artists talk about their mentors—teachers, gurus, and guides—who motivated them to fulfill their professional destiny.
Humra Afroz Khan

MALIKA SADANI

Founder and CEO, The Moms Co.

My journey to becoming an entrepreneur found its genesis in a personal struggle when my one-year-old daughter developed a skin reaction to the chemicals in her moisturizer. That was when I realized that there was a dearth of natural, safe, and effective skincare, haircare, and baby care products in India, and so I decided to create them myself.

I met Nandu Nandkishore when The Moms Co. was still an idea in my head. My husband and I were looking to start the company and were wondering how to raise our first round of funds to get it off the ground. We had been speaking to family and friends, and someone put us in touch with Nandu. He had recently retired as a global board member at Nestlé, after having spent more than 30 years building consumer brands in countries around the world.

I remember, when I first met him, he made me write down all my struggles and why I wanted to launch The Moms Co.. I wondered how that would help, only to realize later that the exercise had made me even more determined, and my desire to start the company, stronger.

NANDU NANDKISHORE

Advisory Board, Vyntelligence

Nandu went on to become one of our first angel investors and is now a mentor not just to me, but to the firm as well. The confidence that he showed in me during moments of the doubt provided tremendous clarity to my vision and instilled a new wave of zeal in me.

The Moms Co. was founded in 2016, and in the past five years, Nandu has guided us through everything— from team structures to scaling up the business. His expertise and business acumen have been immensely helpful in our journey. There have been times when, like every entrepreneur, I would feel stuck, or not have the answers. Nandu was always there, to help us find solutions and, most importantly, stay true to our mission. What I truly admire about him is that he has always encouraged us to think big, and constantly pushes the company to achieve the next milestone.

I am a firm believer in seeking people whom you can turn to for support. It can truly aid your growth, both as a businessperson as well as an individual. Nandu has been that person for me since the very beginning.

One of the best pieces of advice he has given me is to stay focused on what I stand for since that is crucial to building a powerful brand. And that, above all else, you must always believe in yourself.”

SAMANTHA KOCHHAR

Managing Director, Blossom Kochhar Group of Companies

''I began dabbling in hair and beauty when I was all of 11. From then till now, my mother, Dr. Blossom Kochhar, has been my guru and my guide. She is an icon in the field, and simply observing her at work has been a huge inspiration for me— molding me into the person and the professional I am today.

After I completed my education and entered the hair and beauty industry professionals, I worked in the film and the fashion industry, before becoming a trainer. And I thoroughly enjoyed that environment. However, 10 years ago, my father fell ill and passed away and I decided to join the family business...about which, I had absolutely no idea. I had to shift from an artistic aesthetic to an analytical bent of mind—to do number-crunching and deal with different aspects of the business. It wasn’t easy.

This was also a tough time at Blossom Kochhar, as things weren’t going too smoothly. So here I was: a novice who did not know how to even make a business plan, suddenly carrying the responsibility of reviving the organization.

Soon after I joined, I discovered that there was something called a ‘man’s world’ in business. Women were supposed to act and be like men—and even wear business suits—to establish their place. But I didn’t want to be a man. I wanted to be a woman and still be a successful part of the system.

To make matters worse, there were numerous, and constant, comparisons made between my mother and I. People failed to see that we were two different individuals, with different temperaments and unique ways of working.

While my mother had been my go-to counselor for everything, it was during this phase that she became my absolute rock. She came out of her retirement to help me navigate the journey and pushed me to do things I didn’t even know I was capable of.

DR BLOSSOM KOCHHAR Founder & Chairperson, Blossom Kochhar Group of Companies

One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my mother is to keep my femininity, my softness, intact. That I can be myself and still be a successful businesswoman. She has also taught me to keep learning, and to never get carried away with achievements—you must always have the urge to accomplish more. Another thing I admire about her is that she knows her mind, and is extremely focused and single-minded. She knows what she wants and how to get it.

Even though I have learnt the ropes of the trade well now, I still consult her whenever I feel indecisive or uncertain. It is always a good idea to get a different perspective, one that comes with experience and wisdom. And it is always helpful to have a pillar of support, who assures you that even if you fall down, it is alright...you are not alone. You need someone to pull you up when you feel like you are falling apart.

As a little girl, I loved watching movies. And I would be shattered and sob endlessly if a character died in the end. My mother would simply say, ‘It is okay, baby. They will be alive in the next movie.’. I used to find that such a heartless thing to say! But when I think about it now, it makes so much sense. It means that even when you hit rock bottom, always know that you are going to get up, and get through it. This, too, shall pass.”

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