“What is life if we don’t help each other?”: Pinky Reddy

She knows how to `Live Life Queen Size’ and how to `Give Life King Size.’ When she does the former, the world sits up and gapes in awe and when she does the latter, nobody gets to know except the recipient whose life gets better forever. In today’s day and age where people brag more than they do, her actions remain personal, known only to two people – herself and the beneficiary. So when she says “What is Life if we don’t help each other?” you tend to believe her. Say hello to Pinky Reddy, a high profile socialite, super successful entrepreneur and a large-hearted philanthropist!

Text: Vanaja Banagiri

Photography: Arvind Chenji and Smita Rao

Her life story reads like the script of a happily-ever-after movie minus the melodrama. For the little dramas that unfolded if they did were handled effortlessly by the even keeled Pinky. Christened Aparna by her parents soon after she was born, her sobriquet Pinky became so famous that her husband Sanjay wasn’t sure if their wedding card should have her real name. “Sanjay wondered if people would think he’s marrying somebody else because our wedding card carried my real name Aparna,” says Pinky laughing out loud at the memory. Their easy chemistry and camaraderie is palpable every time you meet the high profile couple. “We have always been great friends,” says Pinky referring to Sanjay, “I always knew I would marry him when I grew up. We have had a beautiful life together with wonderful children. Touch wood!” Their son Keshav’s marriage to Veena recently was performed in the trademark Pinky style. Attended by the who’s who of films, business, fashion and art, the 3-day affair provided much fun and gaiety to everybody who was a part of it. That’s what Pinky is popularly known for – style, splendour and savvy. However, much as it looks like she’s breezing through life, she packs in incredible amounts of work besides being a hands-on mother to her two children and a doting wife. “I have been fortunate in many ways but I have also taken all my roles seriously. Whether it being a wife to an industrialist, mother to Mallika and Keshav and now mother-in-law to Sidharth and Veena or being a team leader at my business ventures, I give my 100%,” she emphasises and that is quite evident from the way every venture and every person in her life has turned out.

When it comes to her own businesses, Pinky has always had her hands full. She can easily be described as one of the most dynamic and popular women leaders we have in the country today. A successful entrepreneur with interests in diverse challenging fields of retail, infrastructure, hospitality and social causes, she astutely juggles her home, business ventures and philanthropic interests. She is also happens one of the promoters of GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd and other GVK Group companies.

“We may have arguments but those too are far and few in between. Once, I picked up a fight just for the heck of it to see how it feels but when Sanjay sent me a huge flower arrangement, I felt so stupid. That was the beginning and end of my so called itch to fight”

In terms of her personal contribution, Pinky spearheaded the art team at Mumbai International Airport and was one of the key design advisors for the airport, mainly for the new Terminal 2 or T2. An ardent lover of art and antiques, she has been one of the pioneers for initiating the ‘Jaya He, GVK New Museum’ at Terminal 2, the first elaborate museum inside any airport in the world. She personally led the T2’s design team on a road trip across the country to give them a firsthand feel of India and Indian architecture that defined the overall design and aesthetic components of the airport.  The Jaya He, GVK New Museum is being appreciated in large numbers by discerning travellers, both Indian and foreigners, who currently pass through T2. Her work was duly recognised when in January, 2015, she and Sanjay were jointly felicitated by CNBC Awaaz for creating the iconic Terminal 2 at Mumbai Airport.

“Sanjay is a super organised guy and plans every detail meticulously. I am at the other end of the spectrum,” she remarks. Obviously, it’s a classic case of attraction between the opposites. “A lot of people find it hard to fathom but the truth is we never fight. We may have arguments but those too are far and few in between. Once, I picked up a fight just for the heck of it to see how it feels but when Sanjay sent me a huge flower arrangement, I felt so stupid. That was the beginning and end of my so called itch to fight,” she narrates with her signature laughter.

Married when she was all of 17, Pinky has grown organically learning lessons in keeping a home, building businesses and being the `Lucky Mascot’ for other budding businesses. She is believed to have the `Midas touch’ and there is a constant beeline of people who are keen to get their enterprises and shows inaugurated by her. “It happened gradually. The first time somebody asked me to inaugurate their store; I went along without making a big deal of it. One thing led to another and I was cutting ribbons left, right and centre. The businesses flourished and I became the lucky mascot by default, you see,” she says in an even tone.

Pinky is passionate about socially relevant and beneficial causes and has been actively engaged in activities ranging from FICCI, Hyderabad 10K run, Young Indians, Indian School Of business (ISB), Young Presidents Organization (YPO) to associating with and organising fund raising events for charitable institutions such as CRY, Save the Child apart from establishing her own charitable trust ‘Aparna Foundation’ committed to supporting the less privileged and supporting the cause of artisans of traditional and dying Indian art forms.

“My father (T Subbarami Reddy) always told me right from my childhood that giving to the needy is of utmost importance. He would tell me that 10% of whatever we earn must be allocated to charitable activities. That is the seed for “Aparna Foundation’, my NGO. Though my focus is on supporting and reviving traditional art forms, I do deviate when necessary for a worthy cause of an individual. Being the Founder-Trustee gives me that freedom,” she says speaking about her need to give. Stories abound about her generosity from students she helped to entrepreneurs she supported not to forget her gestures of helping young talented sports persons. “I called her to ask for a few leads for sponsorship for a promising cyclist who needed a professional bicycle,” narrates a beneficiary, “She could have passed on a few references and be done with it. After all, that’s what I had approached her for. Instead, Pinky offered to pick up the tab for the new bicycle.” She brushes it off uncomfortably when you compliment her for such gestures. “End of the day it’s their effort. What is life if we don’t help each other?”

The Foundation has been supporting the cause of artisans and families engaged in such creations, promoting such well-known albeit fading forms through sales at her enterprise, the Lotus House stores.
Under her leadership, the Foundation has engaged itself in various activities, associated with organisations conducting charitable events, supported individuals in diverse ways including financial assistance, running cultural programs at the airport supporting the cause of Hindustani and Carnatic music and amateur artistes. The most recent initiatives include setting up of Centres of excellence (Craft-a-life project) to promote and nurture art, craft and artists such as Chivurachitrangal of Kerala, Leather Puppetry of AP and Ganjifa Folk Art of Karnataka.
An ardent aficionado of Indian culture and heritage, Pinky is closely associated with causes supporting the preservation and promotion of Indian heritage objects and artefacts. This has been the foremost motivation for her involvement with the Lotus House Group, of which she is the Managing Director that aims to achieve the twin objectives of sourcing authentic, beautiful and delicately worked products from diverse, fragmented, talented artists across the country and also making it accessible at convenient stores located at Airports and Malls.

“The Lotus House Group is a retail chain that operates stores at international airports and malls in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin. Besides the business aspects, I also look at the creative aspects because I believe the key to any brand’s success is closely linked to supervising the branding aspects, product display and creating an ecosystem for them to thrive and become visible,” she says sounding every bit a pro that she is. The various brands that it created and owns are the Lotus House (Handicrafts), Poperazzi (Pop Art products) and The Local, a unique concept being launched shortly to bring under one roof diverse food products from the delicious bylanes of India.

As if all these activities don’t fill up her plate enough, Pinky has always been associated with FICCI FLO since 2001. As its Chairperson, Pinky has spearheaded the organisation’s activities and has been a catalyst in their expansion. She is also an active member of the Young Indians of Confederation of Indian Industry. Under her stewardship as the Education Chairperson, Hyderabad was rated the best region for the initiatives taken to support education projects. Pinky is also a part of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), which is considered the most powerful network for business leaders in the World and seeks to serve as a forum for peer network, ongoing education and sharing of ideas.

“The first time somebody asked me to inaugurate their store; I went along without making a big deal of it. One thing led to another and I was cutting ribbons left, right and centre. The businesses flourished and I became the lucky mascot by default, you see”

Since 2002, she has been one of the founding members of the support group at ISB named Aikya which seeks to integrate the students with life in the city and provide an opportunity to interact with families like her renowned for business acumen, their entrepreneurial spirit and involvement with social causes. Year on year, she has been chosen by ISB to be the host to a large group of management students, to be groomed, mentored and taken care of.

Of all the hats she wears, the one closest to her heart is the one that enriches lives and empowers people. “Whether it is 10k run or Lotus House, I would like to engage in work that makes a tangible difference in the lives of people,” she says. And when you look at the good will she is showered with or the popularity she enjoys in the higher echelons, one thing stands out. Gunupati Aparna Reddy (Yes, that’s her official name!) is an embodiment of a host of virtues that very few people can even come close to. That’s what makes her who she is!