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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Ram Jethmalani memorial lecture series: Disruption to parliamentary proceedings an MP’s privilege?
In a tribute to a legendary jurist and MP, Ram Jethmalani lecture series is back with its second edition and will be streamed LIVE on NewsX on September 18, Saturday from 5 pm. Addressing an issue, which has recently found itself at the hotbed of Indian politics in 21st century, India’s Who’s and Who will share their take on ‘Is disruption to parliamentary proceedings an MP’s privilege and/or a facet of parliamentary democracy?’
Hon’ble Vice President Of India and Hon’ble Chairman of Rajya Sabha M. Venkaiah Naidu will be the guest of honour at the lecture series and will be joined by other esteemed panelists including Union Cabinet Minister Of Law Kiren Rijiju, Learned Attorney General For India KK Venugopal and Learned Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta.
Union Cabinet Minister For Women & Child Welfare Smriti Irani, Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra, Former Solicitor General Of India Gopal Subramaniam, Former Solicitor General Of India Ranjit Kumar, Tughlak Editor S Gurumurthy and Former Rajya Sabha MP Pavan Varma will also mark their presence at the memorial series and share their views on this pertinent topic.
Commenting on the event, Kartikeya Sharma, Founder of iTV Network, said, “’In tribute to one of India’s greatest jurists and MPs I can’t think of a more fitting subject that merits the focus of stakeholders in this panel of speakers. Democratic systems often lead to deadlock, but surely there is a way to bring back the poignancy of debate that Ram Jethmalani embodied at the bench, both in court and parliament. The object is to keep India forging ahead. I’m hoping that such efforts to recall whence we came will help us chart whither we go.”
Rishabh Gulati, Managing Editor, NewsX, said, “The people of India now have great expectations from those who are elected to serve. Parliament has became raucous often times as has the Indian media. We had the opportunity to get some of India’s most committed minds discuss the Indian media in the first edition of this memorial lecture series, it’s a merit that so many stakeholders are willing to take on a vexatious topic like this. As a journalist, I look forward to listening, rather than talking through this one.”
Ahead of the lecture series, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, RS, Majeed Menon shared his take on the topic and said, “Disruption should be, as far as possible, avoided. It is not just the protesting member of the parliament but it is the ruling party. It is the chair also that has to respect the reason for protest and make necessary amends so that the parliament can discharge its duty as required by the constitution and democracy.”
PP Chaudhary, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, LS, expressed, “Basically, if there is disruption in the parliament, in my opinion, it is not the privilege but a breach of privilege. The people are electing the member of the parliament.”
Apart from NewsX channel, the show will be aired on all our social media channels and major OTT platforms – Zee5, Dailyhunt, JioTV, Shemaroo, Mzaalo, Watcho, Flipkart, Paytm, Tatasky and MX Player.
Sevagram for the 21st century to spread Gandhian philosophies
A place to learn from, re-live, and remember Mahatma Gandhi.
Sevagram for the 21st century in Raipur is a project envisioned by the Chhattisgarh government that intends to be a place to remember and learn from the Gandhian Philosophies, to keep the freedom movement, and the nation’s history alive in the heart of young Indians.
The inspiration behind this project is the Sevagram in Wardha, Maharashtra, founded in 1936 as a residence for Gandhiji and his wife in Central India to lead the freedom movement. It was built with a vision to serve the nation through Rural Reconstruction. Gandhiji believed that village improvement is the only foundation on which can permanently ameliorate conditions in India.
The proposed Sevagram will have a Visitors Centre to spread Gandhian Ideologies, Arts and Craft village, Vridh Ashram and a school for the underprivileged. It intends to empower the locals by the economy generated by tourism, celebrating the artisans of Chhattisgarh, providing a second home for the elderly, and building a world-class system for knowledge for the best minds in the state with a motive to fight poverty. The Visitors Centre will be a place to learn, a place to re-live, a place to remember Gandhi, and commemorate him.
The Arts village will mirror the simplicity and traditions of the state and its people. Chhattisgarh is known for its distinct arts and craft. Bastar, Raigarh, and other districts of Chhattisgarh have various art forms using bell metal, wrought iron, terracotta, stone, fabric, and bamboo. The tribal families in the Bastar and Sukma districts celebrate many festivals and fairs, which require ample common space for the villagers to set up such fairs and interact. Sevagram will be a place where visitors will experience local arts and crafts, local cuisine through the community kitchen and host cultural events in an open-air theatre.
Vridh Ashram for old age is unique to Sevagram. It intends to become a second home for those elderly separated from their family and need care.
This ashram creates a holistic ecosystem that can offer its residents a quality of living and engagement with the other site activities. The idea of sustainable living having symbiosis between the elderly and site activities can make a very homelike experience. After all, Mahatma Gandhi believed that “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.
A schooling system inspired by the ancient Indian Gurukuls, well equipped to empower young Indians to take over the 21st century. The intent is to end poverty by providing education. As the saying goes – “The education of just one underprivileged child changes the future of many generations of the family as they are destined to move out of poverty”.
The government aims to make the project environmentally and financially self-sustainable by creating biodiversity parks and revenue streams by promoting arts and crafts and tourism. It will identify land in Nava Raipur in and the work plan will be presented before 2 October by NRDA. Building on the principles of sustainability, all the raw materials will be locally sourced.
PM MODI: A SIMPLE MAN WITH A VISION FOR INDIA
Prime Minister is a man kindled with a deeply rooted sense of purpose to work for the betterment of India and the betterment of the world but most of all, to work for humanity.
I have witnessed the power of the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice amongst the crowd but never had the opportunity to sit with him face-to-face and converse. The blessed opportunity presented itself on 6 August 2021, when I was invited along with my co-author Amit Bagaria to meet with the Prime Minister of India.
We were elated to interact with one of the finest and much-talked-about global leaders emerging out of our nation.
Prime Minister Modi is not a politician that has risen to such a pinnacle of political success on muscle power or money power. He has matured and grown with the power of his intellect and hard work.
Let me be honest. He did not have the aura of a powerful man who is intimidating. I certainly was not intimidated by his presence. In fact, I felt that I was conversing with an elder brother.
Often I have witnessed that conversations with people in positions of power end up being a monologue. Our conversation was a dialogue and not a monologue. You can only have a dialogue if you respect the view of the other person.
Prime Minister Modi is undoubtedly a man of power, but, his power is in the mind, and his power is in the people. He does not need to intimidate, he merely needs to inspire and people get inspired.
In the 25-minutes discussion with Prime Minister Modi, I could see in him a man kindled with a deeply rooted sense of purpose to work for the betterment of India and the betterment of the world but most of all to work for humanity. He has such a humane approach to all issues.
I did not find a hint of arrogance in him. He was simple and courteous. I did not feel that I was sitting in the presence of the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world. In his presence, I felt like I was having a cup of ‘Chai’ in the courtyard of my home with a man of knowledge and compassion for people.
He showed immense concern for my safety and security, when I asked him for a piece of advice, on whether I should go to China to further investigate the Covid-19 origins. He also in simple words spelt out my way forward in the investigations. His concern was genuine, his concern was familial.
You read so much of PM Modi the politician that we often forget Prime Minister Modi the human and we build up an image of a power-centric political leader. I did not see Prime Minister Modi the politician in our meeting. I saw Prime Minister Modi the human. I saw Prime Minister Modi the friend. In fact, the camaraderie during the meeting was that of three friends meeting after a long time, eager to take pictures and talk, yet respecting each other. Prime Minister Modi made us feel like we were in our own homes.
As a journalist and an analyst, I take great pride in reading people, their faces, their body language, and their behaviour during interactions. And I often tend to look at the eyes of a person. Prime Minister Modi has eyes of compassion.
He is not in a position of power with a self-driven purpose. He is in a position of power because he believes that his purpose is to take India to great heights and he can do that in this position of power. I could see that this man at the opportune time, after completing his job, will pass on the mantle to the next leader to take India forward. He does not covet the position of the Prime Minister out of self-importance but out of a sense of his own self-driven mission of contributing to the growth of India. He is a man on a mission and after completing his mission he will move on.
After my face-to-face interaction with Prime Minister Modi, I am amused by the past and present adjectives of evil attributed to him. Prime Minister Modi is not a fascist. He is far from it. He is a humanist.
Prime Minister Modi is a simple man of Dharma. He is following his Dharma. He is living out his Karma. He did not move into the position of power out of family legacy or political aristocracy. He has worked hard for it and he strived unflinchingly to be a change manager for India. That’s why people connect with him.
Political growth in India is often related to political legacy. Prime Minister Modi is not a leader born out of political aristocracy or of political nepotism. He is a leader that has come from the common people of India and now is the hope of the common people of India.
The people of India admire Prime Minister Modi because they see him as one of them, a leader of the common man born out of the common man’s strife in life. The people of India trust that under Narendra Modi’s leadership India will rise to take centre stage in the world.
Post my face-to-face conversation with PM Modi, I am convinced that Narendra Modi is more than just a politician occupying the chair of the Prime Minister of India. He is a visionary. He has a vision for India and its people. He is working on that mission and vision. Of course, along the way, he will make some mistakes. But they would be because of bad decisions based on bad advisors. I do not for a moment believe that PM Modi will err out of intent to cause harm to India or Indians. He loves India and our people too much. More so, I do not personally believe, a leader, politics, or otherwise can please 100% people. There will always be a few grudging elements. I see Narendra Modi as an elder brother in charge of my home—India. I trust PM Modi because his intent for India is pure. I will disagree with some of his decisions but I will stand by him as a brother and a friend because he puts India first and that is the only truth that matters to me. Narendra Modi in simple words is a good man. He is focused on India. I know I have found an elder brother and a friend in him.
The author is founder & editor-in-chief at GoaChronicle.com.
Political growth in India is often related to political legacy. PM Modi is not a leader born out of political aristocracy or of political nepotism. He is a leader who has come from the common people of India and now is the hope of the common people of India.
WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER IN DIVERSITY: MUSIC COMPOSER RICKY KEJ
In an exclusive interview with NewsX India A-List, music composer Ricky Kej spoke about his latest album ‘Divine Tides’, the idea behind it, his collaborations, the theme of his song and much more.
Ricky Kej, an internationally-recognised music composer, best known for his Grammy award-winning music performances, is back with a new album, which is an ode to earth.
Talking about his lockdown schedule, he said, “Yes, I have spent most of my lockdown in the studio recording new music because, in 2019, I did over seventy concerts in 13 countries. So, it’s been huge for me to actually sit down in the same place for almost 16 months, but I have used that time very productively, doing a couple of online concerts and recording this new album.”
When asked for his comments on his collaboration with Stewart Copeland, Ricky shared, “Stewart has been an idol of mine. Everybody knows him as being the drummer and the band founder of the band ‘The Police’, he sold 75 million copies all over the world, won 5 Grammys but very few people know that he has actually composed music for Oscar-winning Hollywood movies like ‘Wall Street’ which is one of my all-time favourite movies. Also, he writes for orchestras, being a drummer, writing for orchestras and operas that are pretty amazing. In 2016, I had a brief collaboration with him where I collaborated with him on one song but we did not get to interact much, I just sent him the music, he recorded on it and he sent it back to me. During the lockdown, while I was creating this particular album, I musted up the courage to actually ask him to collaborate on the whole album and I sent him the music, he loved it and then he decided to go ahead and collaborate. So, it wasn’t difficult collaborating or being on two different continents because I have been doing that a lot but, in this case, it is a little more difficult because he of time zones, so I had to change my sleep timings completely just to sync with him to interact more.”
When asked about the significance and idea behind ‘Divine Tides’ along with his experience, he expressed, “You may know the only kind of music I make right now is about the environment and sustainability and this is an extension of that. This album is basically a tribute to the magnificence of the natural world, the current situation, the resilience of the human species and to show how strong we are together in diversity. This is the basic underline theme of this album.” He added, “Album released on 21 July. The window into the release of the whole album was released on 7 July. So, we are really excited about this release. We have eight music videos, shot all around the world.”
Speaking about the challenges he faced along the way, he shared, “I started this album as a follow-up to my Grammy-winning album in 2015, i.e., ‘Winds of Samsara’. I have been for 5-6 years collecting a lot of thoughts and ideas but never recorded them because of intense travelling and touring schedules and concerts. Pandemic itself was an opportunity to sit down and concentrate on this album, work with Stewart Copeland for 7-8 months to record and finalise it with the music videos.” Adding more on the way of launch he announced “We are not going to have a physical launch to keep things safe but a virtual launch is as powerful as it has the advantage that world is your playground and you can get many people to come. However, the disadvantage is not able to talk face to face.”
On a concluding note, Ricky shared his future plans and said, “There will definitely be another collaboration because we’ve gotten to know each other so well and developed a beautiful younger brother relationship. When I listen to this album, I’m just so in love with it simply because my idol is on it and Stewart Copland is one of the greatest drummers. However, for this album, it presented a new opportunity for him because it’s Indian fusion music and he loves playing around with these percussion instruments. So, I am going to spend all my time for a couple of months only promoting this album as we have worked so hard on this and it deserves to be heard as much as possible.”
“The album cover showcases human nature and we are just one species. It shows a face, which is gender-neutral formed by parts of various animal species. Divine has got a very wide meaning but tides are about the cyclical nature of humans and about the only constant of our planet is changed,” he further added.
10-YEAR-OLD DELHI GIRL MAKING WAVES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Delhi Ki Kudi Navya Baijal can make you dance, bring a smile to your face and take you by surprise with her talent. She is a true Delhi girl at heart!
Although there are so many kids who have the ability to showcase their talent on various platforms, Navya has shown her outstanding and creative talent that has taken Instagram by storm. She is perky, vivacious, and a true fashionista even at her modest age.
At a time when social media is buzzing with fresh talent and kids trying to grab attention with their regular gigs on the platforms, some names leave a mark with their creativity and well-preserved innocence.
Navya, a stunner from the national capital, is all of 10 but is already a popular name and face on social media. Some of her reels and posts have garnered more than thousands of views.
Navya offers a sneak peek into her life through Instagram posts. A multi-talented child, she ready has the aura and style of making it big in the world of glamour. Navya is an actor, model, dancer, and a social media celeb today!
As far as stats are concerned, the social media sensation has over 100k followers, Navya’s increasing popularity and stardom are evident with the number of likes, shares, and comments she is receiving from all corners for her sense of style and acting prowess at such a young age.
The trend of social media celebrities and influencers has just picked up pace in India. Talented children like Navya are here to make a mark for themselves and have a bright chance of grabbing their first big break in the times to come. Good luck to our Delh’s little fashion queen.
RELIVE THE REGAL ERA WITH ROYAL FABLES ‘THE COMEBACK SHOW’
Royal Fables is one of India’s most authentic platforms promoting the craft, culture, and cuisine of Princely states.
Get ready and roll up your sleeves for the most royal event in town, that is, The Comeback Show by Royal Fables at Bikaner House, New Delhi on 15 and 16 September. One of India’s most authentic platforms promoting the craft, culture and cuisine of Princely states, Royal Fables has joined hands with Sujhal, Jewel Of The Royals, The Titus Museum, Maserati, Petal Maserati, Campo Viejo and Pracheen to put up a show worth a royal gaze.
Anshu Khanna, Founder, Royal Fables, said, “Royal Fables The Comeback Show is my little prayer for the life of refinement coming back to us in full gusto. Our collective hope is that the rich treasure trunk of hand-crafted fables gets unlocked once again. Hopefully, reinstating the luxurious craft of artists and artisans who work within palace karakhanas and legendary studios of India. With hope in my heart, I welcome you to relive the regal era with us.”
Extending her best wishes to the team of Royal Fables, H.H Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda- Maharani Chimnabai Stree Udyogalaya, expressed, “The last two years have been trying, especially for the craftsmen, the weavers, the artists, and the artisans. I am glad that hope is returning and platforms like Royal Fables are trying to bring the arclight back on our handcrafted legacy.”
The keynote sessions at the event began on 15 September including the inauguration ceremony at 12:30 pm in the presence of Raja Bimlendra Mohan Mishra of Ayodhya, Princess Vaishnavi Kumari of Kishangarh, and Maneka Gandhi in attendance. This was followed by sessions named The royal beauty ritual at 2 pm, Kitchen Tales: Keeping a culinary heritage alive at 3 pm and Craft the clusters as tools of women empowerment at 4 pm.
On 16 September, the note-worthy events would include The fine line: The culture of expression, The curated walkthrough, The culture of patronage, concluding with NewsX’s presentation The legacy keepers: The young custodian that will witness Cynthia Meera Frederick, Historian, and Uday Pratap Singh, anchor, NewsX, in conversation with Jema Akshita Bhanjdeo of Mayurbhanj, Princess Mriganda Kumari of Pratapgarh, R.K Chandni Kumari Seohara, and Kunwar Yaduveer Singh, Bera.
The top ten things to watch out for in this comeback edition planned, executed and celebrated under the Damocles sword of a pandemic include:
1. The sheer beauty of Princess Vaishnavi Kumari of Kishangarh’s textile inspired miniature art. It is a veritable must-have for any art lover.
2. The rich, embellished collection of jewels for the royals from Sujhal, Gujarat’s best-kept secret.
3. The sheer beauty of heirloom pieces crafted by the young customer Pankaj S who creates sheer magic with handmade tilla, vintage weaves, old Tanjore art on textiles, jewelled necklines and the finest resham do taar collections for men.
4. It is time for textile lovers to be spoilt silly for choice. Royal Fables have a treasure trove to take home: the vibrance of textile exponent Bela Sanghavi, patolas, ikat, and Paithani in silk rubs shoulders with the inimitable gold weave of Mansa, immortalised by Thakurani Darshana Kumari of Mandawa, Kanwarani Ritu Sinhji Wankaner who revives classic designs and gives them a contemporary twist. Adding to that is the first-ever presence of Weaver’s Studio, the master weavers platform that step onto the forum for the first time with their vibrant Varanasi looms by Reshma Punj. Rich, regal and perfect for the festive feel.
5. If we speak of royalty, can chiffons be left behind? Get festive ready with exquisitely embroidered chiffons by Kanwarani Dipti Singh of Kacchi Baroda and Kanwarani Geetanjali Shekhawat Jassowala. Or opt for the digital prints by Rani Jaykirti Singh Baria. Couple them with her velvet jackets and capes. And lo and behold, you are an epitome of regalia.
6. A dedicated space for varied charities: Urja lead by H.H. Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda opens its first forum outside of Baroda, Giri Foundation that celebrates crafts of the hills brings clusters reviving the delicate Chamba rumal, Maneka Gandhi’s PFA returns with its hand-blown glass and you have women from Afghanistan creating sustainable home décor elements with retouched saris and textiles.
7. Every aspect of royal heritage is captured through talks on royal cuisine, patronage, art, philanthropy, beauty rituals etc. Each talk steered by an industry expert. The library at Bikaner House will resonate with strong voices that relive the raj. Including the chat by Uday Pratap Singh in conversation with young royals and their tryst with destiny.
8. Heritage must be showcased to perfection and Royal Fables have the top ateliers participating in a costume parade that comes alive in the Chand Bagh of Bikaner house. Under the crystal sky and the shining stars will be presented 30 handcrafted pieces, modelled by young royals who walk to the tune of Umraa Langa singing with Kamaakshi Khanna.
9. The culinary platform Kitchen of the Kings once again collaborates with the cloud kitchen Pracheen, India before 1947 with the cuisine from the royal kitchens of Rampur. Scrumptious curries and kebabs cooked in flavoured ghee from Pratap Garh celebrate the erstwhile era.
10. Last but not the least, they promise to follow all Covid protocols, ensuring the heritage experience is also safe and sound for each of their patrons of heritage.
Royal Fables The Comeback Show is my little prayer for the life of refinement coming back to us in full gusto. Our collective hope is that the rich treasure trunk of hand-crafted fables gets unlocked once again. Hopefully, reinstating the luxurious craft of artists and artisans who work within palace karakhanas and legendary studios of India.
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