Meet women who took on their father’s business legacies

  • Monica Sharma, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Mar 08, 2016 01:25 IST

For a long time, it was believed that the family business must always be handed over to a son or another male member in the family. But, times have changed. And to a certain extent, so have mindsets. Daughters are said to share a close bond with fathers. And when they join hands to pursue their professional goals, the bond gets even stronger. Hindustan Times takes a look at daughters who have successfully carried their father’s dreams on their shoulders by joining the family business.

‘We don’t need to imitate men’/A legacy in publishing

Who: Monica Malhotra Kandhari, senior director

Age: 44

Educational Qualification: B.Com (honours)

Monica Malhotra

Sonica Malhotra Kandhari, director

Age: 36

Educational Qualification: MBA (finance); program in leadership development (PLD) from Harvard Business School

Father : Ashok Kumar Malhotra, founder of MBD Group that is into publishing

Based out of: New Delhi

Born in Jalandhar, both Monica and Sonica studied from Jesus and Mary College in New Delhi. They are married into the same family and handle the publishing business together.

Monica: It was simply ingrained in me since childhood to join Papa in his business.

I was very impatient to do so because I wanted to learn it the practical way. It’s ironical that we are into publishing but I was not keen on my studies. As a result, I started young and joined the business at the age of 15 and a half. I was always inquisitive to know how different scenarios are handled in business by my father. We are taking forward our father’s legacy. He was a visionary, so our constant endeavour is to improvise solutions offered to students. We had gone online in 2009 and are making applications besides coming up with an English language lab. We have also stepped into e-learning, m-learning, skill development, 3-D learning. When I started, the scenario was quite different and the idea of a woman joining her father’s business was uncommon. I invested a lot in learning the skill; starting right from making books to working in the factory. My father would always say learn the trade rather than learning the tricks of the trade.

If you know your work, people will take you seriously. Be it a man or a woman, one has to prove one’s mettle. We don’t have to imitate men, we have to be original. I have to multitask a lot because I am also a mother to two teenaged boys. Both of us sisters are married into the same family and we both look upto each other when it comes to work or handling family issues.

Sonica: I was completely opposite to Monica. Our father never pushed us or forced his decisions upon us. It was natural that we both wanted to join Papa in the business. I was different from Monica in the sense that she wanted practical knowledge and I was fond of studying. I specialised in finance and also took a sabbatical to go to Harvard. Our father was our role model. Infact, I feel that the woman of the house or the mother sets the value system. We have been brought up in such a liberal environment by our mother that we hardly feel the difference between a man and a woman. Our mother trained us to balance family and work efficiently. I am very particular about not taking calls when I’m spending quality time with family. It’s just my time with my people.

‘Women can achieve whatever they aspire to’/An artist’s daughter

Who: Gagandeep Kaur, managing director, Gary Arts

Age: 44

Based out of: SAS Nagar

Educational qualification: Masters in English and education

Father: Abninder Singh Grewal, artist

Business: Making statues and murals by using various materials like fibre glass, polystone, metal and marble.

Gagandeep Kaur

Taking on a legacy of art inherited from your grandmother is not an easy task. Art requires a free imagination and constant innovation. But Gagandeep Kaur’s childhood passion for art has stood her in good stead. “I grew in a creative environment and so imbibed it from my father. My father, an artist, was always keen that I should join him and would say ‘My daughter is my pillar, like I have two sons’. I’ve been involved in art since childhood,” says 44-year-old Gagandeep.

She further adds, “Since my father was handling the entire work alone, I would assist him and we grew close while working together. My husband, being an armyman, would be posted in remote areas and that was when I would return home to assist my father.”

Her father wanted to hand over the entire responsibility to her and wanted to pursue social work and photography, that were his passions.

She says, “But we had no inkling of what fate had in store for us. My father was diagnosed with blood cancer and passed away in 2013. I got majorly involved in the business even when he was around. He would proudly say, ‘My daughter is doing even better than me’.

She recalls, “I joined the business about six years back in 2010. I can’t say that I knew I would be joining the business, but he always encouraged me to do creative work.”

Hailing from Nabha in Punjab, Gagandeep’s father shifted to Chandigarh for his children’s higher studies. Initially, he had started the work of making murals and statues as a hobby and later expanded his passion into a business.

Gagandeep adds, “We have our factory in SAS Nagar and we hardly have any marketing or networking strategy. We function through word of mouth.”

Referring to managing between family and work, she says, “I keep a balance between family and work and also take out time for my kids. I have a son and a daughter. I also travel a lot for work but I manage to strike a balance between work and home.”

Gagandeep says women can achieve whatever they aspire to. All that one needs is passion and support from family. She adds, “I was a teacher initially, travelling along with my husband who is in the army.”

Talking about her work, she says, “We work on normal clay, take a cast and then make it in fibre. We have no barriers on size. We have a 40 feet-long mural installed at the international airport in SAS Nagar.”

‘Keep developing your skill set’/Queen of textiles

Who: Suchita Jain, executive director, Vardhman Spinning and General Mill

Educational qualification: Masters in commerce

Suchita Jain (HT Photo )

Based out of: Ludhiana

Father: SP Oswal, chairman and managing director, Vardhman Group (textile manufacturer and exporter)

Vardhman is a billion dollar company, a leading textile manufacturer and exporter of yarns, fabrics, sewing thread and acrylic fibre. A business like this requires immense technical knowledge along with marketing and managerial skills. So how did Suchita Jain achieve it all?

“I was just 22 when I joined the business and at that time, about 20 years back, there were not much women in business. I never felt awkward as it came from within,” says Suchita, adding, “There is just one key to success in any field and that is passion. You must have ‘junoon’ for whatever you do.”

Her father’s strong platform of over 50 years in this business prompted her to join in. “It’s a legacy that I’m privileged to take further. Currently I am closely associated with my father and working on strategic direction, reviews, growth plans and setting the future vision.”

The company exports yarn to around 40 countries and the production is spread out in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and employs more than 28,000 people.

“In all these years, I have seen women becoming a force to reckon with. We have 1,000 woman employees in our MP location. We have also provided them with hostel facilities,” she says, adding, “I personally feel that one should keep developing one’s skill set. It is imperative that girls pursue a career in whatever interests them.

Suchita has two daughters Saumya and Sagarika. Both were very young when she joined the business. “I would juggle between work and family but got adequate support from my husband and family members. My husband always encouraged me. Now my girls are grown up so I can dedicate more time to the business.”

Who: Sandeep Riat (Minnie), managing director

Age: 34

Educational qualification: Business management graduate

Based out of: Ludhiana

Father : Manjit Singh

Business: Akal Springs Ltd, a business of manufacturing auto components

Sandeep Riat

‘Pitch me against a man, if I lose I wouldn’t mind’/One-woman army

“I would pray give me this much that I can get my younger brother and sister educated and God gave me in abundance.”

Sandeep Riat’s, fondly called Minnie, story is heartwrenching. For a woman who once lost everything, she now confidently and single-handedly manages her father’s business. She is perhaps the only woman in Asia who is into manufacturing automobile parts. Once bankrupt, the family went through a tough phase with bankers knocking at the door and jewellery and property sold off. To make matters worse, Minnie’s father died an untimely death leaving her with a debt-ridden company. But all hope was not lost. Company workers stood by the young girl and helped her turn a debt-ridden company into a successful business with a turnover of more than 45 crore.

“I was just 22 when I officially joined my father, who was initially not very keen on me taking on the business that was suffering a lot of losses.” Destiny had something else in store for her and that was to make a name in the male bastion and become a successful businesswoman.

Minnie says, “I started working with my father as an intern for about three months which strengthened our bond.”

Minnie, during her internship, got to know that her father was under heavy debt and that he was being cheated by his partners. He separated from his partners soon after and Minnie went on to finish her last semester of business management.

She recalls, “Dad called me and my sister to join the business in 2002. We were going through a tough phase then. Our property and jewellery were sold off and there was a lot of pressure from banks. My father could not take the pressure and died of a cardiac arrest and brain haemorrhage in 2004.”

Minnie not only took on her father’s business but also took care of her two sisters and a brother. Her sister had also joined the business but later got married and went abroad. Coming from an affluent family, no relative came forward for support and Minnie was hell-bent on giving the business a last shot.

“I sold off a portion of my father’s property and floated Akal Impex Company. My company staff stood by me, even though I had no money to pay their salaries. We worked hard and installed more machines, built our capacity and found more customers, installed new chains and soon started gaining the confidence of big companies.”

She adds, “I personally feel managing a house is far more difficult than running a company.” Minnie’s company currently has a turnover worth `45 crore and by next year she says it will cross the 100-crore mark. Minnie feels women should get over the fact that they are women. Women get equal opportunities so why do they want different or special treatment.

Not keen for woman category awards, a headstrong Minnie says, “Pitch me against a man, if I lose I wouldn’t mind but I can compete with the opposite gender.” Recipient of the Punjab Government Parman Patra in 2013 for contribution in business, she has a factory in Ludhiana, two offices and over 350 workers. “I kept setting different benchmarks and deadlines for myself and will continue to do so.”

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