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
N Anandha Ramanujam (AKA) Anand, Director NAC jewellers, CEO & Founder Stylori
This young Turk is a combination of the traditional and the modern – he understands how new trends work, adapts to them at the speed of lightning, changes the rules of the game and has his vision fixed on achieving the heights of glory in his line of work. N Anandha Ramanujam who is trained at the GIA, one of the premier gemological institutions in the world, possesses the experience and insight to make a distinct mark in the world of jewellery. He handles his family business NAC Jewellers with great confidence and passion and the love for jewellery is in his DNA.
Getting into the family business – was it a natural progression in your life? Considering your youth, how difficult was it to win the trust of the older generation of people who have been working with your firm for a long time?
(Laughs) For me, I don’t think there was any option of doing anything else but my family business. But then I have a natural flair for jewellery and I have always wanted to be totally involved in the business.
As for our staff, well, most of them have been around for 20 to 25 years and they have all seen me as a little kid playing around in the shop. They have treated me as a child in their own family and then to find that they had to take orders from me must have been tough for them too. But things changed and they started adjusting to the new scenario.
Winds of change are always difficult and with your background of an MSC in International Business and GIA qualification, what changes did you initiate into an already flourishing business?
I had to change certain things about the way they were operating – for instance, ours was too much of a family run business. I had to usher in the corporate culture for I felt that that is the only way we would grow. The thing is most of them were too close to my dad and didn’t see him as an MD but as family; of course for us too, our employees are our extended family, but one has to draw the line clearly as work is work. It was a little hard for me initially but now they understand me and we work well as a team.
What kind of a turnover have you brought about?
We are hopefully touching the four-figure mark this year – about Rs 1000 crores. Or at least we are poised for that.
Has this been gradual growth? And how do you make a mark with so many jewellers around?
Being creative is imperative. Right now, the Chennai market is all about being price-competitive. I still feel there is opportunity to survive when there is creativity and you look to do things differently. We were the first to introduce branded jewellery for kids. The market already existed but we just made it more acceptable by making it a brand. It is very successful as we see many people walk in with kids. Every time we do a campaign it is just not about giving a discount – it is also about giving a different product or introducing something new or putting the word out in a different way. We have had one the best marketing campaigns of the year for three years in a row.
They say you can’t talk to the young without being young yourself. What have you done to bring in young people into the store?
The youth today prefer the white metal to the yellow. And they like something light and airy. Even my wife for that matter prefers silver to gold. So to win young people over, you need to give them something different. Yet any girl after a certain age will go for diamonds. So the challenge is to make something lightweight and not chunky and heavy.
What has been the impact of demonetisation on the business?
It’s definitely had an impact on the business but it’s all in the game. If something good is going to happen to the country through this, then we are okay with it. The good thing is the love for the yellow metal will definitely bring the crowds back. It is January and we are already seeing things improving. And by March- April, things should be back to normal.
How do you personally respond to marketing plans? Bring about innovative ideas? Deal with the competition?
I did the kids’ jewellery campaign. I also handled my father’s pet project, Rewind, a collection of antique jewellery. My father has been working on it for the past 20 years. It involves a lot of work because when you endeavor to take someone back in time to how things were, you change the entire experience – so apart from the collection itself, we worked on changing everything, right from the display to the counters, the packaging and more. The Rewind collection had to be an experience and not just something you buy over a counter. We also design jewellery for the Oscars’ red carpet. We have had our presence on the red carpet for two editions and we are going in for the third one with something very unique. We have designed a collection based on the pieces worn on the red carpet called Fabula. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the affordable collection of diamond jewellery where you can get something for as low as Rs 4000. They were stones set in 14 carat gold and with high quality gems. It was an experiment and it worked wonders for us. We came up with the Rs 81,000 pendant set for five pieces of diamonds – earrings, pendant, ring and a bracelet. And then there was our nose pin collection with interchangeable jackets for Rs 18000 where you get two nose studs and three jackets. According to me, the game-changing project is stylori.com, an online portal for jewellery. It was completely my pet project, which was successfully launched. As a brand, NAC Jewelllers is on expansion mode as we have four more stores coming up this year. Right now our presence is in two states – Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
What is uniquely you?
I am always looking to experiment and give the customer something new. Till I do that, I won’t be happy. If I am not doing something innovative and different, I will be bored. I don’t come from a background where we just sit over the counter and sell something. I feel the future of this business is not just going to be about the price. When you buy jewellery you must be happy. It should be an experience. When you compare our stores to those abroad, there is a vast difference. There you feel you are buying jewellery. Here you feel like you are in a super market. I want to change that.
Your personal mantra?
Be innovative. Be creative and always be happy doing what you are doing. If you are not, then what you do is not going to be effective.