Fashion & lifestyle leader Sunaina Kwatra speaks exclusively to NewsX India A-List on a host of issues including doing business during the pandemic, impact of technology in fashion industry and the future of luxury inc.
Sunaina has proven expertise in international retail management, brand positioning, and turnaround execution. She has almost 20 years work experience, the majority of which has been leading fashion brands at the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesey (LVMH) group in Asia Pacific. Sunaina began her career as an entrepreneur in the homeware and lifestyle industry working with retailers in the United States including Barneys New York and Pottery Barn. She pivoted into luxury fashion brand management after completing her MBA and has held strategic positions to expand and reposition brands within LVMH’s Asia Pacific portfolio.
In her most recent role, Sunaina was the country head of Louis Vuitton in India and legal director for all operations in the country. She was responsible for developing and expanding Louis Vuitton’s omni-channel retail operations, people and brand equity in this high growth market. She successfully led her team to achieve the highest sales, client experience and brand growth that had ever been achieved for Louis Vuitton in India.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. Congratulations on all you have achieved. Could you tell me more about your background and how your Indian roots brought you back to India?
A. I’m from Thailand. I am ethnically Indian but fourth generation, born and brought up in Thailand. I was very blessed to have an International upbringing. I have worked in five continents, travelled extensively. My last few roles have been within the LVMH group based out of Hong Kong.
My first role within the group was as the Regional Head of Asia Pacific for Emilio Pucci. In this role, I managed the entire scope of the brand’s direct retail business in Hong Kong and China as well as franchise, department store and multi-brand distribution in Asia Pacific. My next role within the LVMH group was as the Commercial Director for Givenchy to identify and execute growth strategies to maximise brand development and repositioning. In my tenure, I oversaw 61 locations, opened 24 stores in-line with brand vision and improved productivity across the network.
When they offered me the position to come back to India to amplify the Louis Vuitton business in India, I was thrilled at the opportunity and I am very proud of all we did to build the business and our team in India.
Q. What are the tools that have allowed you to succeed?
A. Growing up my father always said that travel was the best form of education. I had a very international education in Asia, Australia, and Europe and have worked in 5 continents. This allows me to sensitive to people and cultures while executing different strategies to grow businesses. I am a commercially driven leader and am passionate about people and delivering excellence. My general management and end-to-end experience overseeing teams, networks, finance, logistics, merchandising, client development and marketing allow me to be detail oriented yet see and set the big picture.
Q. What have we learned in retail during the pandemic?
A. The biggest learning is that we have to embrace e-commerce and the online experience. The word ‘omni-channel’ was a buzzword a decade ago. I think successful businesses during Covid had to integrate different methods of shopping available to consumers. You have had to expand the supply chain through localites, fulfillment centers or direct consumers. E-commerce has obviously a key to successful businesses in Covid. Businesses had to agile and responsive to different means of reaching the consumers. The lockdown has also led to less physical interaction with consumers. Brands have had to re-think the consumer experience and how they engage with clients. The big thing is how do we engage with clients in a number of different ways.
Q. How do you think technology will impact the fashion industry in the future?
A. Technology will be a key part of the growth of the fashion industry. Coming out of Covid, sustainable materials are important and a key focus for a lot of brands. Materials, that are not only good for the environment, but good for us being non-toxic and more breathable. We know that there are now going to be ways to bridge e-commerce and successful physical presence of stores. We can have VRs, augmented reality to help you try out clothing; jewelry, fashion and many brands have done it successfully. Just the engagement of technology and digitization is key to the success and the supply chain management. This is an exciting time for us and technology will enable future growth in retail.
Q. What advice would you give business owners in India as we come out of our second Covid wave?
A. I am sitting in the US right now and we are starting to see lines in retail stores again. People really want to embrace human connection. I would just like to say that there is hope and light. I hope that businesses now use this time to strategize and further activate their omni-channels, integrate and improve their e-commerce presence, engage with their communities on social media platforms and really use technology to enhance the supply chain and logistics to better prepare themselves for the future.
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Budget 2022-2023: Healthcare sector expects substantial increase in budgetary allocation, tax sops
Coronavirus crisis has brought healthcare to the focus of priorities for the common people and the policymakers alike. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to give a big push to investments in health infrastructure and provide some other financial support to healthcare sector in the Union Budget 2022-23 scheduled to be presented on February 1. Public expenditure on healthcare in India is among the lowest in the world. As per the government data, it stands at around 1.2 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Compare it with other countries: the United States spends over 16 per cent of its GDP in public healthcare. The countries like Japan, France, Germany and Canada spend around 10 per cent. Even the poorer countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh spend around 3 per cent of their GDP on public health system. The world average is around 6 per cent of GDP.
Clearly, India requires to give a big push to investment in health sector. In 2021-22 budget presented in the parliament on February 1, 2021, the finance minister announced to more than double the budgetary allocation for health sector. The budgetary allocation to health sector was increased to Rs 2,23,846 crore for the financial year 2021-22, which is 137 per cent higher when compared with the outlay of Rs 94,452 crore in 2020-21.
Sitharaman not only announced 137 per cent increase in the budgetary allocation to health sector in 2021-22 budget but also gave assurance of continued support and enhanced allocation in the future.
While presenting the 2021-22 union budget, Sitharaman stated that while the investment on health infrastructure in this Budget has increased substantially, “progressively, as institutions absorb more, we shall commit more”.
According to a survey conducted by the industry body ASSOCHAM, the finance minister is likely to give top priority to health sector.
As many as 47 per cent of the respondents in the industry survey expressed hope that the finance minister will give top priority to healthcare in 2022-23 Budget.
According to Covid-19 Induced Healthcare Transformation in India’ report published jointly by FICCI and KPMG in October 2021, public health sector allocation is expected to increase to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2024-25 from around 1.2 per cent of the GDP in 2021-22.
The report notes that the Covid -19 pandemic not only brought into focus that the healthcare sector is the backbone of a country but also opened a floodgate of opportunities for the country to head towards a more resilient and robust healthcare system one that is capable of not only fighting the current situation but also in safeguarding populations against any unanticipated challenges in the future.
“The Covid -19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in our health systems and amplified already existing challenges pertaining to gaps in health infrastructure, workforce, accessibility and equity in health services. But at the same time, it also reinforced an urgent need to make greater investments in augmenting health preparedness and quality of care,” said Alok Roy, Chair, FICCI Health Services Committee & Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has suggested that the public investment in healthcare should be increased to at least 3 per cent of the GDP by FY 2025. The industry body has also pitched for creation of a Medical Innovation Fund that should support private sector and empower them to innovate and conduct research and development (R&D). The Fund should also support in implementation of new digital healthcare platforms and adoption of new technologies. The healthcare sector also expects some tax sops from the finance minister. The industry has been pitching for reduction in GST on raw materials that goes into active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) from 18 per cent to 12 per cent. There has also been demands for reduction import duties on medical devices.
GOVERNMENT SHOULD FOCUS ON EDUCATION IN THIS BUDGET, REDUCE DIGITAL DIVIDE
In comparison to 2021, India is in a much better state to handle the upcoming wave of Covid-19 cases. A majority of the sectors has recovered and is now back on track for rapid growth. One sector, however, has seen the slowest recovery – the Education sector, with students still unable to attend school physically and unable to get vaccinated, either.
We expect the Government to shift a lot of focus to the Education sector in this version of the budget in the following ways:
Higher allocation in overall budget
1. Last year, the Government slashed it’s allocation towards Education in the Annual Budget by 6%, amounting to a total allocation of Rs. 93,223 crores, against Rs. 99,311 crores in the year before that. This year, we expect the Government to increase allocation by around 10%, since last year the 6% slash was attributed to funds allocation towards healthcare and other emergency services.
Reducing the digital divide
2. We expect this year’s Education budget to focus on reducing the digital divide, which has kept a significant number of students – that rely on the country’s public education system and belong to challenged socio-economic backgrounds – from accessing education during the pandemic. We have already seen states like Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat provide devices and connectivity to needy students for free, or with heavy subsidy; we expect the Central Government to address this issue to ensure that students can resume classes virtually.
Reduced GST rates
3. The pandemic’s impact on the education system, particularly the public education system, has increased reliance of all students on supplementary sources of education that are provided by private organisations. Traditionally, such sources have been categorized under ‘Educational Services’ and taxed at 18% under Goods & Services Tax (GST). We expect the Government to revise the GST rate for this category to 5%, thereby easing the financial pressure on the students’ parents, particularly those from lower and middle class families .
Partner with private companies
4. Given the utility of education-technology (EdTech) tools during the pandemic, we expect the Government to announce a host of schemes this year to make EdTech tools accessible to students across the country. These schemes could pertain to Public Private Partnerships (PPP), subsidies or Direct Bank Transfers (DBT) to enable citizens to procure devices, connectivity and even subscription to educational services that will enable them to garner knowledge amidst closure of their educational institutions
Focus on vernacular languages
5. Since a significant number of students relying on the public education system learn in vernacular languages which are largely ignored by private EdTech players – it is quite likely that the Education budget will observe the Government mobilising resources towards creation or curation of regional-language educational content that will be aimed at such students. Efforts in this direction have already been initiated over the last few years, however, they are likely to receive a shot in the arm this year.
I believe that these key features, if addressed in the upcoming budget, will help India’s education system get back on track to recovery and help students continue their education even if they are unable to visit their schools till the students get fully vaccinated.
The Author is the Co-founder of ConnectEd Technologies which is an ed-tech social enterprise
YOU END UP SAYING THINGS IN WRITERS ROOM THAT COME OUT ONLY DURING THERAPY: GARIMA PURA
In this exclusive conversation, Garima, who is the co-writer of the Netflix show ‘Little Things’ opened up about her journey of working as a screenwriter.
Writer Garima Pura joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Garima, who is the co-writer of the Netflix show ‘Little things’ opened up about her journey of working as a screenwriter.
Garima started off by giving us insights about her fellow writers and sharing her experience of being the writer of a prominent show like ‘little things’ she said, “ The first and second season were written by Dhruv Sehgal, he is the original writer. When Netflix picked it up for the third season is when they asked for a diversity in the writers teams. Writers room experience per say was all heart. You end up saying things that come out only during therapy. Writing is a personal experience. There is craft and technique but mostly there is experiences and emotions. So all the writers have to become friends and get to know each other well. You just put all those experiences in the mix on the table and then pick what is good for the show. She went to say that, ‘’This is not purely experience based, there’s fiction too
Talking more about her writer’s room experience and how she bagged the project, Garima shared, “Little things writers rooms was first few in the country. This concept is seen an advent with the advent of OTTs. At that time, I was already floating my work with the production houses to see if I get something or not. I was presenting and asking to be given an opportunity. That is when ‘Little things’ team went through my profile. We had to write sample scripts and a solid screening process post, which we were picked. Then we found ourselves in a little writer’s room where we met day and day out.
Sharing about the overwhelming response from the audience on the third season of the show, Garima expressed, “There are so many talented people out there who deserve their writing to be showcased. Being in this position, I feel so honored and privileged that I got an opportunity so early in my carrier to contribute to an already solid show. I feel great and humble at the same time and it also inspires me to do better work and tell stories which are honest and people feel close to.”
When asked about her previous work experiences, the writer said, “I have made documentaries in the past and I’ve been different types of writer at different stages. Until the time I was in studying in Chandigarh, filmmaking was nowhere in the horizon, I just wanted to be a writer. I had published poems and stories and enrolled in a media course to become a journalist. So there I felt like film making is a good vessel to share my experiences and be heard.”
For our final question, we asked Garima about her upcoming projects, to which she revealed, “Right now I am doing dialogues for an 8 episode web show. I am extremely excited for this because its North Indian dialogues as I have a good command over this lingo. Next, I am working with Audible and a couple of short films here and there. I wrote a feature documentary “Sacred bond” which is about an orphan elephant who is being taken care of by human parents”.
ANDRE LEON TALLEY: VOGUE MAGAZINE’S PRODIGY AND BEACON OF INSPIRATION
Talley was one of the last great fashion editors, who had an incredible sense of fashion history. He could see through everything you do to the original reference, predict what was on your inspiration board.
The death of André Leon Talley at age 73 on January 18 2022 owing to a heart attack is a setback to the fashion industry.
Andre Leon Talley has died aged 73Talley and Naomi Campbell wear Alexander McQueen for the AngloMania Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2006
The former creative director of Vogue, Talley was recognised for his larger than life personality and expansive knowledge in sartorial topics, requisites that deemed him as a fashion icon in his own right.
Born in Washington D.C. and raised by his grandmother in North Carolina, Talley studied French literature at Brown University before becoming an apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1974.
He went on to work as a fashion journalist at Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue, attending regular fashion shows in New York and around Europe.
Talley landed a role as Vogue’s Fashion News Director, and was later named the magazine’s first Black male creative director in 1988. He returned to the publication in 1998 to serve as editor-at-large, ending his tenure in 2013. Talley often advocated for diversity during his time at Vogue and within the fashion industry. “He also was very involved in fighting for more diversity on the runway, for more Black models,” New York Fashion Week creator Fern Mallis said. “Mostly on the runway it started, and then certainly that became a movement about in every aspect of the industry”.
He once served as a stylist for United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during their time in the White House; as well as styling Melania Trump for her 2005 wedding to Donald Trump.
Beyond print, Talley was a judge on America’s Next Top Model, starred in 2016 documentary The Gospel According to André, and wrote two memoirs.
In the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, the character Nigel Kipling portrayed by Stanley Tucci is widely believed to be a depiction of Talley.
The kaftan or robe clad journalist he served as the creative director and editor-at-large (chronologically) at Vogue was usually seen at events next to Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
In his time there, Talley became a close comrade of big-name designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Paloma Picasso; and his representatives noted his “penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers”.
Vogue’s Anna Wintour remembered him fondly as “magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny”.
Belgian designer Diane von Furstenberg said no one was “grander and more soulful”, adding: “The world will be less joyful.”
Famed American designer Marc Jacobs said he was “in shock” over the news. “You championed me and you have been my friend since my beginning,” he posted online.
Everything X everywhere: The new BMW X3 launched in India
The new BMW X3 has been launched in India today. The successful Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), BMW X3 is now sportier and more modern with its comprehensive refreshed look, premium interior with new equipment features and updated infotainment.
Available in locally produced two petrol variants, the new BMW X3 is now available at BMW dealerships from today onwards. The diesel variant will be launched later. Vikram Pawah, President, BMW Group India said, “The new evolved third generation BMW X3 is here to continue the model’s trailblazing success in the premium mid-size SAV segment. Refreshed design and driving performance make BMW X3 a luxurious and practical car that is agile on and off-road. You will experience the unbeatable thrill and joy of a distinctive combination of powerful drive, sporty dynamics and comfort. With its independence and individuality, the new X3 packs in unlimited action and is meant for everything x everywhere.”
The new BMW X3 is available in two petrol variants at an attractive introductory price (ex-showroom) as follows-
BMW X3 xDrive30i SportX Plus : INR 59,90,000
BMW X3 xDrive30i M Sport : INR 65,90,000
*Price prevailing at the time of invoicing will be applicable. Ex-showroom prices inclusive of GST (incl. compensation cess) as applicable but excludes Road Tax, Tax Collected at Source (TCS), RTO statutory taxes/fees, other local tax cess levies and insurance. Price and options are subject to change without prior notice.
For further information, please contact the local authorised BMW Dealer. The new BMW X3 is available in the following metallic paintworks: Mineral White, Phytonic Blue, Brooklyn Grey, Sophisto Grey, Black Sapphire and Carbon Black. The new BMW X3 features Sensatec Perforated Upholstery as standard with the following combinations – Canberra Beige and Cognac.
The new BMW X3 emphasis on classic X-elements as standard. It has a more modern look with a more powerful presence, plenty of space and driving dynamics. SportX Plus variant ensures a greater focus on sportiness and “X-ness”. The M Sport variant is enriched with high quality X elements.
BMW Service Inclusive and BMW Service Inclusive Plus are optionally available with the BMW X3. These service packages cover Condition Based Service (CBS) and maintenance work with a choice of plans from 3 yrs. / 40,000 kms to 10 yrs. / 2,00,000 kms and start at an attractive pricing of INR 1.53 per km.
The BMW X3 also comes with optional BMW Repair Inclusive that extends warranty benefits from third year of operation to maximum sixth year, after the completion of the standard two-year warranty period. Together, these packages provide complete peace of mind and freedom to enjoy unlimited driving pleasure.
BMW India Financial Services offers an attractive BMW 360@ financial plan with ‘drive away monthly price’ of INR 79,999/-, assured buyback of up to 60% and flexible end of term options. Customized financial solutions can be further designed as per individual requirements.
The new BMW X3.
The design of the new BMW X3 makes a sportier orientation. With the redesigned BMW kidney grille, flatter headlights and the new front apron, the new BMW X3 flaunts a refreshed design appearance. More strikingly shaped and larger BMW kidney grille now comprising of a single-piece frame.
The front feature adaptive LED headlights with Matrix function. A black border gives the full LED rear lights a more precise appearance, while the narrower light graphic now includes a three-dimensionally modelled pincer contour and horizontal turn signals integrated in filigree style.
The new, flush-fitting free-form tailpipe trims are larger and sportier, conveying a more powerful presence. In the M Sport package, front apron features larger air inlets finished in high-gloss black and air curtains. The sportier rear bumper includes a diffuser finished in Dark Shadow. The M Sport trim includes the new 19-inch Y-Spoke 887M alloy wheels. However, 20-inch M alloy wheels are also available as an early bird offer.
The interior boasts an exceptional level of comfort and functionality in an extremely modern ambience. Exclusive functions such as Multi-function Sport Steering Wheel, electrical seat adjustment with memory function, exterior mirror package add to the comfort. Driver and front passenger enjoy the superior sporty flair of a premium SAV. M Sport has an exclusive set interior package like Sport seats, Sensatec perforated upholstery, M leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons, M interior trim adding the performance-oriented ambience. Panoramic glass roof and Welcome Light Carpet are few among the long list of features that create the perfect ambience.
New electroplated trim elements on the air vents add a touch of elegance while emphasising the horizontal lines in the interior. Ambient Lighting with six dimmable designs creates an atmosphere for every mood. Features such as electroplated controls and 3-zone automatic climate control with extended options add to the overall luxurious feel. The boot has a capacity of 550 litres and can be expanded further to 1600 litres by folding down the 40/20/40 split rear seat backrest.
Thanks to the unrivalled BMW Twin Power Turbo technology, the petrol engine melds maximum power with exemplary efficiency and offers spontaneous responsiveness even at low engine speeds. The two-litre four-cylinder petrol engine of the BMW X3 xDrive30i produces an output of 185 kW / 252 hp and a maximum torque of 350 Nm at 1,450 – 4,800 rpm. The car accelerates from 0 -100 km/hr in just 6.6 seconds with a top speed of 235 km/h.
The eight-speed automatic Steptronic sport transmission performs smooth, almost imperceptible gearshifts. At any time, in any gear, the transmission collaborates perfectly with the engine, enabling it to develop its full power and efficiency.
Adaptive Suspension with its individual electronically controlled dampers adapts to both road conditions & individual driving style thereby offering exceptional precision and improves the drive and handling dynamics. For even greater driving pleasure, it is available with steering wheel paddle shifters, cruise control with braking function and Automatic differential brakes (ADB) with electronic differential locks as standard. The BMW Performance Control system increases the stability of the car by targeted braking of the wheels.
BMW xDrive, an intelligent all-wheel-drive system, monitors the driving situation constantly and is quick to respond. Electronically controlled ‘Automatic Differential Brakes/Locks’ (ADB-X), extended ‘Dynamic Traction Control’ (DTC), Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control help to conquer every terrain.
A host of BMW Connected Drive technologies continues to break the innovation barrier in automotive industry – BMW Gesture Control and Wireless Apple CarPlay® / Android Auto. The modern cockpit concept BMW Live Cockpit Professional running on latest BMW Operating System 7.0 includes 3D Navigation, with a high-resolution 12.3” screen instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a control display.
The spread of driver assistance systems is more extensive than ever. Parking Assistant Plus with 360 camera makes parking in tight spots easier by taking over acceleration, braking as well as steering. The car features a 464W Harman Kardon Surround Sound system 16 speaker with individually adjustable equalizing.
BMW Efficient Dynamics include features such as 8-speed Steptronic Automatic Transmission, Auto Start-Stop, Brake-Energy Regeneration, Electronic Power Steering, 50:50 Weight Distribution, Driving Experience Control switch with different driving modes such as COMFORT/ECO PRO/SPORT/SPORT+ and many other innovative technologies.
BMW Safety technologies includes six airbags, Attentiveness Assistance, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including Cornering Brake Control (CBC), electric parking brake with auto hold, side-impact protection, electronic vehicle immobilizer and crash sensor, ISOFIX child seat mounting and integrated emergency spare wheel under the load floor.
NO BOOK EVER SAID THAT THE SECRET TO A HAPPY LIFE IS SUCCESS: SAMIR SONI
Actor Samir Soni recently joined NewsX for an insightful chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, the actor shared insights about his book “The diary of an introvert”. Read excerpts:
We started the interview by asking him about the idea behind his book. Samir replied, “This book contains my actual diary entries. This book was more of a process of discovering myself starting from 10 years back. During this time, I learned why I was the way I was. Writing it down was just my way to get my stuff out of my system. Recently when we were hit by the pandemic and people were depressed and anxious, I was approached for a book. I told them that I have something written which is very relevant today and they absolutely loved it.”
“There are various passages in the book where I am going back to childhood telling stories and in between is the actual process of going through self-discovery. I experienced something first hand, wrote it down and allowed others to judge”, he added.
When asked about how he dealt with being an introvert in this line of work, Samir revealed, “The first step was to discover the issue and then I discovered that I was a classic introvert and that there is nothing wrong with being that way. In front of the media, you have to be a certain way. Nobody shows their pain and struggles because the audience does not want that. I didn’t let people beat me up for who I was and my friends have now accepted me for who I am.”
Further sharing about the reactions he received from the audience on this book, the actor said that the most common reaction he got was people saying that is so much like them. “Over the years, my fans have a pretty decent idea of who I am and the most common thing is that they love it. The aspect of relativity is very much there. Everyone is projecting what they aspire to be, and you might not be that person. Therefore, in my book, I am not trying to be aspirational. No book ever said that the secret to a happy life is fame, money, and success. Everyone’s definition of success is different and everyone has a different journey. ”
Lastly, Samir shared whom he was addressing in his diaries that he wrote 10 years back. “ I was going through personal and professional phases in my life where I wasn’t feeling good about myself and unlike other times when you distract yourself, I decided to stay silent. I did not read books or watch TV as much as I possibly could and my only outlet was writing. As I started to write it took me to all kinds of places in life.”
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