The story of Simran who manages her social conscience as deftly as her thriving, retail practise

Where to start telling her story? Simran is one of those rare, genuine people one meets who are what they speak and profess. She is a truly empathetic person who loves animals and human beings with the same zeal. She is at the same time a sharp business woman who manages a thriving retail, consultancy. Above all, she is a fun person, a terrific mental health counsellor and if, I may be gushing, then its because she is all this and much more.

 FAB:    You are an MBA and you have worked in top, multinational retail companies. What made you switch to setting up your own consultancy?

Simran: The consultancy happened quite by chance. I had been in the corporate sector for a decade. I had worked largely with the retail sector – which was an upcoming sector at the time. In 1996 I was located in Bangalore as Marketing Manager of Littlewoods (the UK chain of value stores) when Littlewoods decided to divest the retail business internationally. We had opened our first store in Bangalore at that time. Littlewoods was later bought by TATA’s and renamed as Westside. During this period of transition, I decided to move back to Delhi. Retail was a new industry and I already had over 10 years of experience, so I was an expert of sorts – even in my early 30’s.  I started consulting and I started teaching at NIFT -as a sabbatical really- from full time employment. I never looked back.

FAB:  Why did you choose the retail sector? Tell us in brief about your work.

Simran: I didn’t choose the retail sector – the retail sector chose me. It was the job I accepted on campus. And I enjoyed retail so much – the immediacy of the response, the direct connect with the customer, the pace of change – that I never looked elsewhere.  I worked in the industry. I consulted. I taught.  I did executive search.  I even took a break from my own company, and on Fabindia’s invitation, I joined them as Chief of Markets for a period of 3 years. It has been a heady journey.

As a company, we have narrowed down what we do. We are now focused completely on Executive Search. We see ourselves as a high quality, boutique service.  The business is being managed by a small team that has been with me for many years, so it runs like a well-oiled machine. We have good process. We are ethical. And as I like to tell everyone – we are in the business of helping people. That is the approach we bring to our work.

FAB:    How easy or difficult it has been working as a woman and a professional in this sector?

I must say I have not faced any significant problems.  But then I left the industry before I reached the glass ceiling.  There were occasional issues. My male colleagues could go out drinking with the dealers in the evening and be their pal. I could never do that. But that never really came in the way of work. I just focused on doing a good job – and that always worked.

FAB: You have a strong, social conscience. You are also well known for your love for animals, especially strays. Tell us your experience and work in this field.

Simran: I am a bleeding heart!  Yes, I do some amount of work with strays. In the process I have met amazing people doing amazing work. Delhi has a great underbelly is what I say. So much good work being done, so quietly. There is the team at Indigree which provides high quality medical care to animals on the street. There is All Creatures Great and Small – a sanctuary on the outskirts of Delhi which I believe is the world’s happiest place. I feel so privileged to be associated with these wonderful people and organisations.

FAB: What are your thoughts on work – life balance?

Simran: I think work-life balance is a great thing. I wish I could achieve it!  But then my definition of work has changed over the years. Work is what I do in office. It is also what I do when I spend time with the NGO’s that I am associated with. And when I am taking care of the dogs that I am responsible for. All of this is work – though each pays in a different currency.

FAB:  What are your thoughts on family business? Is the retail sector too dynamic for family businesses to succeed?

Simran: On the contrary – if you look around you, the local retail markets are full of mom and pop stores. In fact, some of the world’s biggest retailers started as family business and some continue to run in that manner even to this day. Take Ikea for instance. It continues to be a family run business with a presence in about 50 countries.