INDIA-UNITED STATES STRATEGIC WINDOW OPENS IN THE INDO-PACIFIC - The Daily Guardian
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INDIA-UNITED STATES STRATEGIC WINDOW OPENS IN THE INDO-PACIFIC

As two major democracies grappling with the ‘China challenge’, India and the US might fare better by joining forces against the Dragon. Close ties between the two nations in this scenario will not only be a wise move in terms of strategy and security, but also benefit each other’s economies and strengthen their fight against climate change and Covid-19.

Maneesh Pandeya

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After President Joe Biden’s inauguration, diplomatic circles worldwide and American strategic think tanks were abuzz with a single pertinent question—will the new administration be as tough as President Donald Trump against China? Given the “bipartisan hatred against the Dragon in the US political circles”, President Biden and his administration faced the enormous challenge to keep the legacy of Trump’s “anti-China stand, including curbs and a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific Ocean to keep the Dragon rattled”.

From the Indian point of view, what most were interested to see was whether New Delhi would get the same “pampered treatment” and significance as a partner in the US diplomacy and strategic affairs in the Indo-Pacific region while confronting China’s arbitrary expansion. India seems to have retained that significant partner status, which was strongly endorsed by not only the phone calls between President Biden and PM Narendra Modi, but also a flurry of diplomatic and strategic communications by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defence General Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan with their Indian counterparts within weeks of assuming office. 

The recent high-level Quad ministers’ meeting involving the foreign ministers of India and the US along with other key partners, Australia and Japan, puts to rest all questions raised about the Biden-Modi strategic compatibility. In fact, diplomats and Asian experts feel that India’s importance in US security planning and strategic affairs to jointly confront China in the Indo-Pacific region is on the cards. Former diplomat and South Asian affairs expert at the Johns Hopkins University, Walter Andersen, strongly feels that the importance of India to US security planning in the Indo-Pacific region is underscored by the multiple contacts of high-level officials of the new Biden administration. China’s growing power and assertiveness is the driving factor for both the US’ focus on the Indo-Pacific as well as the growing interest of other key Asian powers like India, Japan, and Australia in closer ties to the US.

Andersen says, “These US officials have talked of India as a `critical and preeminent partner’, underscoring a long-held US view that India, with its huge population, growing economy, nuclear capable military and critical position jutting down into the middle of the Indian Ocean to the south and a long-contested border with China to the north, is critical to preventing China from becoming the hegemonic Asian power.”

To make this strategic partnership even louder and clearer than Trump’s presidency did, Secretary Blinken has connected with his Indian counterpart three times between January 29 and February 8 in person-to-person conversations and then at the February 18 ministerial with the members of the so-called Quad.  

Andersen adds that the strategic thrust given to the Quad under Biden has a wary approach, similar to its predecessor, to what it has called the “Chinese challenge”. While not the equivalent to an Asian NATO, there is a cooperative security dimension to the Quad, with annual naval exercises that Australia has just rejoined after a decade-long hiatus following a Chinese protest. “In a crisis, the four are now able to cooperate with each other on security matters. While Blinken is not the first senior US official to talk of US-Quad or US-Indian partnership, he has set the foundation for a further expansion of the security relationship, should both the US and its three Asian partners require it.  They now have the basic security architecture to do so,’’ says Andersen, a specialist on Indo-US diplomatic affairs.

Satoru Nagao, a non-resident fellow at the Hudson Institute and an expert on India-US-Japan security relations, says, “Despite the Biden administration saying that China is the “most serious competitor”, they are restructuring their China policy. It is expected that the long term purpose of their China policy will be the same as that of the Trump administration’s, but the ways may be different. The Biden administration is under process to come out with a clear policy towards China, and they need to collect more information. Therefore, this Quad meeting is important for the US to understand what kind of opinion other Quad members (India-Japan-Australia) have as information.’’

Nagao also agrees with Andersen on India’s significance in the Quad for the US’ new strategic push in Indo-Pacific region. The Japanese expert on Indo-Pacific affairs says, “For the US, the Quad is cooperating with India. The other two (Japan and Australia) are formal allies for the US. India is only a newcomer for the US. Therefore, the Quad meeting is an important meeting for the US to communicate with India.”

However, he added, “The Quad is different from an India-US bilateral meeting. The topic is more focused on security. And along bilateral relations with the US, India-Japan, India-Australia, Japan-Australia also exchange opinions at the same time. The Quad meeting is writing a big security picture in the Indo-Pacific.”

Apart from Quad dynamics emerging in the Indo-Pacific, the closer India-US ties are becoming a major worry for Beijing, which has gradually started to perceive New Delhi as a competitor. Andersen says, “The recent Chinese agreement with India to pull back troops and security infrastructure in eastern Ladakh along the disputed Line of Actual Control may be Beijing’s recognition that continued Sino-India tensions are driving India closer to the US. New Delhi has the room for maneuver on security issues as it is unwilling—at least so far—to consider a military alliance with the US against China and is careful to phrase Quad issues as something less than an alliance against China—unless provoked by China.”

The US and India see China as a common enemy and regional threat due to the latter›s arbitrary expansionist agenda. To keep the pressure on China and maintain the regional military balance in East Asia, there are ways to engage and confront China, says Nagao. “First, China’s repeated disregard for international law when laying claim to new territory. Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the President of the Tibetan exile administration, expressed that the Dalai Lama considers the disputed territories of both Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of India. Thus, there is a high possibility that China’s claim to areas along the India-China border is legally baseless. If so, the US and India must continue to respect the rule-based order grounded in current international law… Second, China’s behavior in the South China Sea is a valid reason for the US and India to create multiple fronts at the same time. For example, if India cooperates with the US, India will not need to deal with all the Chinese fighter jets at once, because China is likely to keep some of their fighter jets in their east side against the US (in the East China Sea and South China Sea), and vice versa.”

There is more beyond Quad as a mere security dialogue. In fact, there’s an opportunity in waiting for India and the US to beat China in the economic sphere while winning the confidence of smaller nations reeling under Beijing’s “debt-trap diplomacy.’’ India’s strategic cooperation with the US in Asia will not only promote regional security, but also economic cooperation. China has invested hugely in smaller countries. These smaller countries, due to the huge debt, are hesitant to criticise China. 

Nagao says, “If India and the US reduce China’s income, it is the right way to deal with China. However, it is also true that the US needs to assure its allies and like-minded countries that the strong position toward China will not stop the economic development of those siding with the India-US alliance. Indeed, the current economic system in the Indo-Pacific is dependent upon China. Many global companies built their factories in China. Many companies are selling their products within China. Thus, economic structure itself needs to change. India and the US should relocate their factories and find new markets elsewhere and two nations need to support small countries› infrastructure and markets instead of China.”

Interestingly, for many like Andersen, the Covid pandemic brought India and the US together on a far stronger note. Not only did India’s global stature rise in terms of the vaccine diplomacy it launched under PM Modi, but the pandemic also made the two look beyond mere foreign policy goals. “They have a common interest in containing Covid-19 and India, the world’s largest producer of vaccines, has the industrial capacity to produce a large part of the world’s needs. With various strains still in the air and the US Covid death toll now at 5 lakh people, chances of renewed outbreaks exist. The two can be strong as ever in what many see it as Biden-Modi health diplomacy,” says Andersen.

Not to miss, the two democracies, which have fought global terrorism together since the 9/11 attacks, are set to script a new partnership in climate change with both Biden and Modi on the same page when it comes to saving the globe from climate risks. Says Andersen, “Both can work together to handle climate change as such dangers threaten both the melting Himalayan glaciers for India and rising water levels in coastal US.”

So, it seems like the strong strategic window of India-US diplomacy opens in the Indo-Pacific!

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NCPCR going to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse in Chandigarh

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The National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is going to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse. On 26 July 2021, NCPCR is going to instruct Chandigarh Administration to utilise all mediums to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse using medical tests in case required. This whole program would be managed under the recently launched Joint Action Plan (JAP), in which the Narcotics Control Bureau, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Education are actively involved as stakeholders. NCPCR is going to start such initiatives under JAP across India.

NCPCR has identified 272 such vulnerable districts across the nation where State stakeholders would extensively work on Children who are substance abused and would wean away drugs from their lives while adopting various mediums. A recent study by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment identified 4.6 lakh children in the country who are addicted to inhalants, the only category of substance in which the prevalence was higher among children than among adults. The five states with the highest prevalence of inhalant abuse among children were Uttar Pradesh (94,000 children), Madhya Pradesh (50,000 children), Maharashtra (40,000 children), Delhi (38,000 children), and Haryana (35,000 children).

Priyank Kanoongo, Chairperson of NCPCR told The Daily Guardian, “We introduced to have exclusive De-addiction and Rehabilitation Facilities for Children in 272 Vulnerable Districts. The MoSJE shall expedite the process to establish exclusive de-addiction facilities meant for children. However, if there are any constraints or lack of space, a separate portion in the existing facility has to be identified and partitioned for the children. Also, there has to be a provision of separate toilets; and safety and security of children have to be ensured.”

“The action plan mandates that ‘Prahari Clubs’’ be set up in schools in collaboration with Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti, in which children will discuss issues related to drug abuse and become monitors of the abuse,” he added.

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TECHNOLOGY WILL BE A KEY PART OF FASHION INDUSTRY’S GROWTH: SUNAINA KWATRA

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Fashion & lifestyle leader Sunaina Kwatra spoke to NewsX India A-List about doing business during the pandemic, the impact of technology in the fashion industry and more. Sunaina has proven expertise in international retail management, brand positioning, and turnaround execution. She has almost 20 years of work experience, the majority of which has been leading fashion brands at the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesey (LVMH) group in the 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 omnichannel 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 the brand.

Excerpts:

Q. Tell us 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 the 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 the 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. While growing up my father always said that travel is the best form of education. I had a very international education in Asia, Australia, and Europe and have worked in five continents. This allows me to be 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 Covid-19 pandemic?

A. The biggest learning is that we have to embrace e-commerce and the online experience. The word ‘omnichannel’ was a buzzword a decade ago. I think successful businesses during the pandemic had to integrate different methods of shopping available to consumers. You have had to expand the supply chain through localities, fulfilment centres or direct consumers. E-commerce has been a key to successful businesses in the pandemic. Businesses had to be agile and responsive to different means of reaching 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 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 the pandemic, sustainable materials are important and a key focus for a lot of brands. Opting for materials that are good for the environment as well as good for us: non-toxic and more breathable. We know that there are now going to be ways to bridge e-commerce and the successful physical presence of stores. We can have VRs, augmented reality to help you try out clothing; jewellery, fashion and many brands have done it successfully. Just the engagement of technology and digitisation is the key to the success and supply chain management. This is an exciting time for us and technology will enable future growth in retail.

Q. What advice would you give to business owners in India as we come out of second Covid-19 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 strategise and further activate their omnichannels, 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 them for the future.

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Time out: Yoga asanas amid busy work meetings

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Work from home means longer working hours, with more emails and even more work meetings. Attending those long back to back video calls can be boring, hectic, and it definitely makes your body stiff and sore due to long sitting hours at the work desk. It also affects your focus and productivity. Obviously, how can one properly concentrate while in pain? However, a little movement and stretching in between busy work meetings can save you from unwanted mind and body stress.

On International Self-Care Day, let’s decide to prioritise a healthy lifestyle amid busy schedules. 

Try these simple yoga asanas that you can do while sitting on your chair or while standing in between breaks:

1. GARUDASANA

This asana can be done while sitting on a chair or while standing. It is a great shoulder and upper back opener. It also works towards removing stiffness from the lower body as well. Remember to repeat this asana on both sides.

STEPS

· Sit up tall on the chair with your spine erect and feet flat on the floor 

· Bring both your hands together, elbows touching each other. Take the right arm around the left and bring it around so both palms are facing each other

· Lift your right leg and place it over your left thigh, tucking your right toes around the left calf

· Gaze straight and breathe normally. Remove the bind to come out of the pose

· Repeat on the other side 

2. SITTING SIDE BENDS 

Sitting at the desk for a long time can make the upper body very stiff. Hence, it is important to engage in some simple movements like side bends.

This pose can also be performed while sitting on a chair or hile standing.

STEPS

· Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the ground

· Inhale, raise both your arms up in the air and palms facing each other 

· As you exhale, take your right arm over your head, stretching it over to the left

· Simultaneously, bring your left arm down to the right side

· Breathe normally, feeling the stretch in your right-hand side of the body

· Hold this pose for 30 seconds

· Repeat on the other side 

3. TADASANA 

This is one of the most simple and effective poses. It is beneficial for overall health. It helps with aligning body posture, relieves back pain, increases focus, and balance.

STEPS

· Stand straight on the floor and keep a small gap between your feet

· Inhale and raise both your arms

· Interlock your fingers and stretch your arms upwards

· Now come on your toes, raising your heels 

· Feel the stretch in the sides of your body and be in this pose for a few seconds

· Release your arms and come down on your heels

4.  SHOULDER OPENER

This is an excellent stretch for the shoulders as well as the upper back. This stretch not only helps with stiff shoulders but also calms the mind as you fold forward.

STEPS

· Sit comfortably on the chair with your feet flat on the floor

· Take your arms behind your back, interlacing your fingers 

· Bend your torso forward, bringing your hands over your head, straightening it as much as possible

· You can place your head on your lap if that’s comfortable or else, just gaze towards the floor 

· Be gentle and know your limit 

Remember to do deep breathing during these asanas. It will help you relax and destress. Take out at least a few minutes every day to rejuvenate and recharge yourself.

The writer is a Yoga Instructor at SARVA.

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WORLD ORDER AND INDIA: NEGOTIATING THUCYDIDES TRAP & GREAT CONVERGENCE

Standing as a gateway between Western hegemony and Chinese authoritarianism, India holds a global promise that is much more sustainable, inclusive, peaceful, and economic growth-centric.

Rudra P. Pradhan

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Harvard Professor Graham Alison’s ‘Thucydides Trap’ and Geneva School of Economics Professor Richard Baldwin’s ‘Great Convergence’ are two dominant geopolitical perspectives today that guide and capture current global geopolitical transitions and turbulence of our times. Thucydides Trap and Great Convergence are recent propositions. There is, however, a very interesting third perspective too that was prophesied back in 1940s by former Director of London School of Economics, Sir Halford John Mackinder. 

Mackinder’s perspective centred around the imagination and theoretical construct of China and India rising to world centre stage. Back in 1943, Mackinder, writing the last article of his life, prophesied that “the Monsoon Lands of India and China holding a thousand million people of ancient oriental civilisation will grow to prosperity and balance the remaining great geographical regions.” Mackinder further added, “They will then balance the other thousand million who live between the Missouri (River in the USA) and the Yenisei (Russian River).  A balanced globe of human beings, and happy, because balanced and thus free.” In the midst of the World War II, Mackinder wrote this piece at the request of Foreign Policy magazine and imagined a great geopolitical turning point emerging from the Asian highlands where China and India shall hold and define the thread of international geopolitical balance. 

After over 75 years of Mackinder’s hypothesis, while China’s rise has greatly ruptured the global power balance and distorted world order today, the rise of India into the world stage offers an alternative narrative. Away from the communist jingoism and carefully balanced from Western political prescriptions, India, as Mackinder imagined, has indeed emerged as the largest democratic polity in the world with a world view that is entirely native of India and flows from the civilisational values of the subcontinent while being organic in character and symbiotic with larger aspirations of the world.

RISING MULTIPLEX WORLD ORDER

Bretton Woods system is under great stress today symbolising a visible decline of American eminence in international affairs. The United Nations — the largest organ of Bretton Woods — is unable to respond to conflict situations in Syria, Afghanistan, Crimea, South China Sea dispute, terrorism, and radicalism issues. Demand for UN reform is quite rightfully growing. Indo-Pacific Region (IPR) emerging as new frontiers of conflict, newer security alignments and counter alignments like QUAD, joint military exercises like Malabar and MILAN, Sea Guardian et al are new strategic security experimentations. Given Chinese infrastructure investments in several Island Chain countries, long-neglected Island nations have suddenly emerged as critical investment destinations and phenomena of Island shopping by big powers. 

Bretton Woods financial architecture is also under stress. BRICS Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are seen as alternatives to World Bank. While the dollarised world economy is threatened by the Eurozone, cryptocurrencies, and the Chinese digital Yuan, the international trade regime is vacillating between trade liberalism and aspiration for protectionism. New players and economic clusters demanding and competing for power and influence, it’s new world order of pluralism and multipolarity which Professor Amitav Acharya captures as phenomena of multiplex world order. While the political analysts from Robert Keohane to Joseph Nye, and Kishore Mahbubani et al are largely in agreement with the multiplex world order hypothesis, economists have far too matured explanations of this change and the change drivers. 

GREAT CONVERGENCE HYPOTHESIS

‘Thucydides Trap’ sensitises all of us of a visible war. Baldwin’s ‘Great Convergence’ hypothesis on the other hand squarely simplifies this puzzle. Baldwin argues that a fundamental shift in the world’s mode of production has occurred leading to the emergence of wealth in many parts of the world — a critical structural shift. Baldwin calls it as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ where North American and Western European capital has integrated with cheap labour in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Vietnam et al. The net result — the erstwhile capitalist block is rendered de-industrialised and at their cost and expense, several countries of the world have become wealthier and correspondingly aspirational too. Knowledge economy and its critical arsenals like AI, algorithm, big data, digital currency, and decision tree et al have become new factors of production. 

While China took great advantage of this shifting mode of production to build the Chinese economic power and its corresponding geopolitical influence and ambition, several other countries like India, East Asian countries, Brazil, and Mexico et al also prospered as growing economic powers. Goldman Sachs former Chairman Jim O’Neill spotted this transition and coined the BRIC acronym in 2001. Baldwin called this a phenomenon of ‘Great Convergence’ that led to the pluralisation of the wealth of the world which was earlier limited to industrialised G-7 countries only. Several cluster economies like BRICS, ASEAN, and EU et al also emerged as sovereign country clubs to share the benefit of this change and better negotiate their fortune and influence.   

INDIA AS A SWING STATE

Meanwhile, Richard Fontaine and Daniel Kliman’s hypothesis of ‘Global Swing States’ is yet another explanation that captures countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey as the possible Swing States of the world and its transition. Global Swing States, as Fontaine and Kliman would see, are those nations that possess large and growing economies, occupy central positions in a region or stand at the hinge or gateways of multiple regions, and embrace democratic governments at home. They are increasingly active, aspirational, and desire changes in the existing international order. They greatly represent the aspirations of the developing countries that were systematically marginalised in the Bretton Woods arrangement.

DOES INDIA OFFER THE WAY?

India, in many ways, offers a very proactive and positive way forward towards a smooth transition of international order. In spite of being a nuclear power, India traditionally has downplayed military adventurism or musclemanship in foreign policy practice and choices. As a country of civilisational value order, India champions participatory and inclusive international governance order. While India’s democratic polity is an assured global value, as a critical representative of developing countries’ aspirations, India symbolises consensus than conflict. Since 1947, India has always advocated respect for territorial sovereignty for all nations and demanded strategic autonomy for itself in foreign policy choices. As the second-largest global market, India boasts of a huge labour force and attracts much more global interest than all other Swing States put together. In the Indo-Pacific Sea lanes, India talks of rule-based governance and ‘security and growth for all’ — a cooperative development module than predatory hegemony. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, India acted as a benevolent vaccines supplier than monopolising or profiting out of the crisis. 

India characteristically holds a ‘goodwill value’ which is beneficial to the world at large. While Mackinder imaginatively predicted the rise of China, he was equally apprehensive of the rise of ‘Yellow Barbarian’ and anticipated that the rise of India shall beneficially balance the world order. Standing as a gateway between Western hegemony and Chinese authoritarianism, India, undoubtedly, holds a global promise that is much more sustainable, inclusive, peaceful, and economic growth-centric.

Rudra P. Pradhan is an Associate Professor at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, BITS Pilani, KK Birla Goa Campus and serves as a Distinguished Fellow, Political Economy at Centre for Public Policy (CPPR), Kerala.

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Fashion & lifestyle leader Sunaina Kwatra advises on changing modes of doing business in pandemic

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Sunaina Kwatra

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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Wanted to explore something other than film music: Sunidhi Chauhan

Singer Sunidhi Chauhan recently joined NewsX for a candid conversation wherein she talked about her new single ‘Ye Ranjishein’, besides sharing her incredible journey.

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Singer Sunidhi Chauhan recently joined NewsX for a conversation as part of NewsX India’s special A-List series. She talked about her new single ‘Ye Ranjishein’ and also shared insights from her incredible singing journey. 

Sunidhi Chauhan began by telling her side of the story, answering why it took 20 years to launch her new single and said, “Yeah, I know it sounds weird, right? I didn’t want it to be that way. But actually film music just generally kept me busy. So I didn’t have the time to think about what I wanted to do other than film music. During this lockdown, I happen to sit down and think about, what is it that I want to say in my own song? Because film music will keep happening and I am a product of the film music and I love it but on the side, I did want to explore something different and I just met the right people at the right time. Which was during the lockdown and I’m happy that something productive has come out of it.”

When asked about her new song, she began by praising the music video’s director, Ranju Varghese and said, “The credit for the music video is totally our director. We shot in a barren land, there was nothing that you could see too far. I don’t know how he put all of that together on the table of the Edit and it just looks so brilliant right now. None of those things were there while we were shooting, except for some properties. There was nothing and he’s really brought it to life and done a fab job. I met Shruti Rane, who’s this amazing young composer and sings very well, through Gaurav Dasgupta, a friend of mine who I’ve worked with. He himself is a music composer and I have really liked singing for him. So I thought maybe he’s meeting me for a song that he has composed and Shruti is one of the singers he is introducing me to but when I got to know that it’s her song written by her as she’s a songwriter. I was blown away, she’s a very sweet cute little girl and I didn’t think a serious song was coming out of her. I was really taken aback and I complimented her and I was like, let’s do this song.”

She urged people to be more responsible in these difficult times and said, “Through the song, I’m sending all the good vibes, positivity, love and prayers. Of course, we are losing a lot of people and these are crazy times. I urge everyone to be more responsible, you’ve been doing great, but I think we need more because it has hit us for the second time now and this wave is even more dangerous. It’s almost airborne now, you have to be more responsible and take care of each other. And it just takes to wear a mask properly. That’s all.”

Speaking about how she managed with the obstacles she encountered last year, she said, “We were just grooming, mopping, and dishes at home, and nothing else. And a few songs here and there. Which were recorded from home for the movies. Because even movies were shut, nobody was really working, but whatever little was happening was this and then after that, when I started getting used to the new norm, which was staying at home and doing nothing and days would just pass by just OTT and housework and that’s all and of course, a kid to look after. Then finally I got some space for myself where I could think about the fact that I have to do something different other than music. I am a product of film music, of course, and I love it.”

“Thanks to the lockdown it did give me a little place where I could think about who I want to work with. Like I did a single with Shalmali recently, it’s an English song called here is beautiful. I did one song, One non-film song with Daboo Malik and he was the first one to actually approach me during that time for me to sing a non film song and I did that and that was such a humble attempt. We couldn’t even make a nice video out of it. We just shot some portions at home and just made a video but we received such great response so that kind of gave me a boost to keep walking in that direction. And now here I am with three songs out already and I’m very excited. I plan to do a lot more songs not from songs because that’s like a little different side of me which is coming solely from completely from heart,” She added.

She also shared her defining moments from her career and said, “I’ve been lucky to receive a lot of love and a trophy, of course, because I won that competition, which was produced by Lata ji. And I had participated in that show, because I wanted to see her once in my entire life and I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen. But luckily, I won the competition. And she was the one who gave me that trophy. So that was one moment which I can never forget. Of course, then my child who completely changed my life. Now I’m very happy about this new, independent space. So I think it’s a rebirth. I actually feel that.”

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