At 28, she has propelled the company’s growth to Rs 2,500 crore from Rs 400 crore in the past five years. A doting mother to two children, an avid reader and a horse rider, Nadia Chauhan Kurup speaks to Phorum Dalal about galloping to success at such an early age
Nadia Chauhan Kurup, Joint MD and Chief Marketing Officer, Parle Agro
One summer afternoon, 11-year-old Nadia sits before her father, Prakash Chauhan. She’s excitedly chatting about her first business venture, a tie-and-dye T-shirt brand and how she has added the cost of the dye and the fabric to calculate the selling price of each piece. “But what about the space you are using, the cost of electricity and gas to make your tees?”
“But I am not buying that. So why should I charge for it?” asks young Nadia, indignantly.
“Someone is paying for it, right?” her father explains, with a smile.
This was 18 years ago, when Kurup got her first lesson in business, and she never looked back.
Fast forward to present. I walk into 28-year-old Nadia Chauhan Kurup’s office at Parle Agro in Andheri East on a rainy Friday afternoon. The cabin, which is around 1,000 square feet, is meticulously divided into sections — her cabin with a desk neatly piled with files and a desktop, a mini boardroom and library, a seating area for her secretary and a play area. “I want to be close to my children,” says Kurup, as I spot four-and-a-half-year-old Nia, who is busy colouring in her book sitting beside her nanny and a year-old Kian, napping comfortably in his crib.
Dressed in a black top and matching trousers, flaunting a peacock-blue stole and a chunky neckpiece studded with diamonds, Kurup can easily pass off as a college youngster, thanks to her fresh, radiant face and svelte figure.
I raise an eyebrow when she reveals she was a shy kid. “I was always creating things on my own. After the tie-and-dye business, I started selling home-made brownies called Just Divine. With no cell phones or social media networks to publicise my business, I used to make flyers and go door to door for orders. Once, I got a really large order, and my elder sister Alisha stayed up the whole night to help me. By the end, the smell of brownies made me sick. It was the last order I ever took,” laughs Kurup, who wanted to be a veterinarian because of her love for animals, which is evident from her passion for horse riding.
By 11, Kurup was two businesses old, and used to spend all her free time in office attending meetings and boardroom discussions. “Even if I didn’t understand a word of what was going on, for my father, my presence mattered. ‘At least you will imbibe one per cent of what’s going on’,” says Kurup, who was petrified of only one thing in the boardroom.
“Questions! I would buckle up. But dad always said, there is no right answer,” recalls the marketing and sales expert, who went from being an introvert to a go-getter and has played a crucial role in taking the company from R400 crore to R2,500 crore in the last five years.
“I am quite headstrong when it comes to taking decisions and getting work done. I don’t like to take up anything that doesn’t challenge me enough,” she adds.
Managing home and hearth
Being a hands-on mother and a full-time businesswoman is no child’s play, affirms Kurup. “For me, it’s all about time management. We wake up at 6 am, and get Nia ready for school. Kian comes along with me to office at 8.15 am. We have a flat in the office premise, where the kids take their nap and play. This way, I am not stressed about where they are and what they are doing. It allows me to concentrate on my work, too,” says the doting mother.
Having watched her mother at work, Kurup recollects a heartening incident when her daughter stopped in the middle of the street and told her, ‘We need to have a meeting’. “I was shocked and then it dawned on me. The way I picked up, Nia and Kian too will pick up the nuances of running an empire,” smiles Kurup, who looks forward to watching her kids choose their path and develop their own personality.
The businesswoman also ensures that she spends quality time with her father. Every day, she has lunch with her eldest sister Schauna and her dad. “We talk about our day’s events. While professionally, my sister and I have been given demarcated responsibilities and we report directly to dad, on the personal front, Schauna is the most protective sister in the world. We have a close bond and can do anything for each other,” says the youngest of the three sisters.
Sunday is family time, and along with her husband, she loves to expose her little ones to new adventures. “It could be having breakfast at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse with the view of the club horses being groomed as they are given a bath, their coats cleaned and their horse shoes changed,” says Kurup, who has extensively travelled abroad as a child. “With my kids, I have tried to create a balance and see that we travel as much in India as we do everywhere else. Our last trip in India was to Udaipur, where we went on boat rides, learnt how to make bangles and had picnics in the hotel garden,” adds Kurup who wants to try white-water rafting next.
With travel comes the love for good food, and one of the youngest MDs in the country confesses that Japanese is her favourite cuisine. “I love to experiment, and taste the local food wherever I travel. I love to check out new restaurants in the city too and usually catch up with friends over dinner,” she adds.
Juggling work and personal life, the fitness freak loves to head to the gym for some ‘me time’. “Running on the treadmill is the best way to de-stress. I can clear my mind, plan ahead and gear up for the tasks ahead. But, I never stop thinking about work,” says Kurup, who is also an avid reader. “Please don’t ask me who my favourite author is. I can read anything,” she smiles.
Ask her about shopping and her nose cringes. “Thanks to online shopping, I don’t have to step out to do the most boring task. My style is comfortable and presentable. Since I am at work most of the time, I detest donning clothes that are going to distract me. Simple and neat, that’s me,” informs Kurup.
Throughout the conversation, we have missed the mention of her mother, Meera. When we ask, her face lights up. “We are what we are today because of my strong and level-headed mom. While she is not actively involved in the business, she mans the home adeptly,” smiles the daughter. “I have a close-knit bond with her, and she binds us together as a family,” signs off Kurup.
Movie: The King’s Speech
Book: To name a few, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating and Daddy-Long-Legs
Sport: Horse riding destination: Austria
Quote: There is no man living that can not do more than he thinks he can — Henry Ford
Born: 8th January, 1986
Education: HR College of Commerce
First job: Selling tie-and-dye T-shirts
Best advice you ever got: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
Mantra in life: Be Happy. Be nice. Practice gratitude