It might seem like great audacity in the way they leverage emerging trends, technology, finance and sheer brain power to get things done in ways not done before – they are bold leaders in their respective businesses whose growth, innovation and presence in that world is marked by success and something so big and so impactful, that it changes the landscape.
They are change makers. They see things – and it is in their transformational genius, that organisations under them go from being ordinary to exceptional. And how do they get their ideas? Simple – they work at it. They focus on pursing their goals, are never satisfied with the ordinary and are certainly not lucky. They just were and are committed to the pursuit of excellence, dreams, creativity, passion and innovation. They are the doers and are persistent individuals who understand potential is of little value if it fails to be realised! They focus their efforts on shattering the status quo, challenge norms, break conventions and encourage diversity of thought. The message here is simple: don’t just play the game – change it. And above all they are the ones who truly understand the value of serving something beyond themselves.
We have here four such individuals who have literally changed the name of the game. In their respective fields of design and architecture, education, jewellery and the real estate. Meet Krithika Subrahmaniam, architect, Anand, Director NAC jewellers, CEO & Founder Stylori, Srinivasan Gopalan, CEO of Ozone Group and Regeena Jeppiaar, Director of Jeppiaar College of Engineering – all of whom have lots to show for when it comes to their work and the strides made through the years and the difference it has made to the landscape of their pursuit.
Text – Chitra Mahesh
Photographer – Karthik Srinivasan
Make up – Naturals Lounge, TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai
Krithika Subrahmaniam, Architect
How has this journey been till now?
My group of companies evolved out of Transform, a design firm that started 23 years ago. From that I now have COD – construction by design and Decode that works for the arts, through which all my activities take shape. I graduated from Anna University and was always a design junkie. I liked spaces, forms, organising visuals and wanted to become an architect. It was very strange in those days because there were not too many taking to architecture.
But you do come from a building background?
I come from a family of builders; my grandfather was a builder of public buildings, roads, dams and more in the 50s, 60s and the 70s. My father is also very design aware and a sculptor. So I guess it is in my DNA. I am also very sensitive to my environment and find inspiration just about everywhere.
So how did architecture prove to be your mojo?
The five years of formal studies set the ground for all my capabilities. Plus I was spirited enough not to depend on anyone financially. And here I was married into a large family and I didn’t want to be a socialite or a housewife. So I started my own business and in the beginning it was all about meeting my requirements of having my own office, getting new computers and needs like that. Add to that the fact that I am a workaholic and cannot sleep much so it was all about creating a space for myself.
Did you get any support for all this? Or was this a journey all by yourself?
I am a firm self-starter. I didn’t have anyone who was actually in the business – of course my husband is a builder, but then I am not a free loader and didn’t feel the sense of entitlement of designing their projects. I did get one project from them and apart from that in my free time I worked as a supervisor in their company, even doing things like counting cement bags etc. Come to think of it, this worked well for me as I enjoyed going to the site.
What about the business, the commercial part of it all?
I never calculate the bottom line of my business. It is something I always urge everybody in my company not to do. I tell them ‘Don’t set targets for yourself because I believe they are limiting.’ What I do tell them is to keep pushing the boundaries. And don’t copy. If that happens, then it is time to go home.
How would you place yourself in the financial world?
We are one of the more successful firms in Chennai for sure and nationally, well, we are getting an award for being the best service provider in terms of turnover. Without getting into actual numbers, I would say we have been grossing enough to be in the top three firms in Chennai and among the top 7 or 8 in the country. I charge a hefty fee for the high quality work we do. I deliver a quality product and we don’t have price wars. No design wars either; I prefer to call them ‘design dialogues.’ I also drive a hard bargain when it comes to providing the best for my clients from the vendors and that is something I do not dilute.
What about current trends such as the demonetisation – how has it affected business?
It is unfair that political parties have been left out of this, but business has been affected. Business serves society and it provides jobs and opportunities. So yes, in that sense it has affected us all. Avoiding taxes is counter productive and we are super compliant about it. But then, true enterprise will always find a way. We keep working and enjoying what we do.
What would you say is your USP?
It’s my company’s youthfulness. I like to keep it that way. I’m a 43-year old who is on a journey of discovery and I love the fun of it all. I work on several ideas and choose the best of them. I have worked in hospitality, industry, education and retail – across the board and in all areas of design.
You have recently got into the hospitality industry with Swatma, a heritage hotel in Tanjore?
I started a hotel in Tanjore, where we hope to bring the world’s best principles in hospitality for high-end travelers. I do want to create more such hotels in other places in Tamil Nadu, with each being more unique than the previous one. The focus is to make the rich culture of Tamil Nadu approachable and for the intrepid traveler to make a voyage of discovery.
Look ahead. Never forget where you came from. I don’t aim for my group of companies to be the biggest but to be the best.
We are not bound to anything. I don’t have an ego. I can take criticism as well as appreciation. I appreciate critics more because there is more to learn from that than the other. I don’t fear failure and I don’t expect people to like everything I do.
Do you see yourself as a change maker?
I think to a large extent I have changed one game- I’m not scared to push boundaries and it’s not been picnic all the way. I’ve had many failures. I just don’t look at them. I keep going. I didn’t recognize the glass ceiling as a woman and I have been a major dreamer. I see a whole lot more. And I don’t see boundaries.
Your personal mantra?