That is the bigger plan after she turns 40, but for now, the 32-year-old fashionista is successfully running a Rs 100-crore luxury television and display brand company without breaking into a sweat. She has the gusto to change the world and wants to inspire women to be everything they want to be. She solo-travels all over the world for business and makes sure that she gets a new haircut on every trip. Saraf speaks to Phorum Dalal about doing 10 things at a time and her motto in life — to spread happiness
When we meet Devita Saraf, the CEO and design head of Vu Technologies dressed in a dark-blue Michael Kors dress is in the middle of a global shoot for her latest line of high-end, customisable and luxury television sets. But there is not an iota of stress on her face.
Devita Saraf, CEO and design head of Vu Technologies, at Grand Galleria, Lower Parel. Pics/Bipin Kokate
“I need to do 10 things at a time. I get worked up if I have nothing to do,” quips 32-year-old Saraf, who founded the company at the age of 24. Today, Vu Technologies is worth R100 crore, and has even launched the first Apple-enabled television set. “I am happy and relaxed, when life is led at 240 km an hour,” says the young entrepreneur who was the only woman CEO to drive the Formula One car at that speed around the Budh International Circuit last year.
Daughter of Rajkumar Saraf, chairman and owner of Zenith Computers, Saraf branched out to start her own venture after a short stint in her father’s company. She wanted to set up Vu Technologies, a premium display brand in the high-end display space. Today, the television has become an interface for sharing pictures, downloading, watching different kind of content. “The screen’s bezel (the width) size has shrunk drastically. Televisions are so much thinner and sexier,” says Saraf, who has a new television set in her house every two weeks for testing. “I love the fact that the TV is a bonding product, as it brings a family together. I also like watching it alone. I am hooked on to the political sitcom, House of Cards, because I want to be India’s prime minister one day,” she says, nonchalantly.
In spite of stepping into the business world at 24, Saraf does not recall being scared. “The only problem I faced was retaining people, especially the IIT and IIM freshers who only wanted to gain experience and jumpshift. It really hurt me after all the effort I put in to mentor them,” says Saraf.
Did she have trouble getting people to take a 24-year-old seriously? “My personality type is such that it takes people two minutes into a conversation to know that I am not someone to mess with,” she laughs.
Travelling for business is an integral part of Saraf’s life. While last week she zipped between Bangalore and Delhi, next week she will be in China. But she ensures that she makes the most of these frenetic trips by getting a new haircut each time. “I love reinventing myself. My haircut reflects the phase I am in,” says Saraf. She recalls an incident in Paris when she left it to the hairdresser to give her a new look. “I saw my long tresses scattered on the floor. When I looked at the mirror, I had a boy cut!” she laughs. This habit, too, says a lot about the feisty CEO who loves to experiment. “I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try, right?” she asks.
Constantly on the move and busy juggling creative ideas or executing orders we are not surprised that her only day off is packed, too. “Two Sundays ago, I went off on a Mumbai photo walking tour, clicking pictures in the pet market at Crawford Market. I am always looking for doing different things to keep my creative juices flowing,” she says.
Saraf comes from a close-knit family, which revolves around her. “I am the youngest you see,” she smiles. While she turns to her ‘Dad’ for advice and brainstorming ideas, her mother is always keeping a track of which part of the world she is in.
Saraf finds her balance in the Indian Classical dance, Odissi, which she has been learning for the past decade. “I have my class at Ravindra Natya Mandir every Sunday morning. Odissi demands physical and mental discipline and one cannot think of anything else while training. I have the attention span of a two year old, and dancing is something that grounds me,” she says.
A fussy eater, Saraf prefers to make her own food if she doesn’t like what is cooked for dinner. “I am pretty good at it, too,” she smiles, who loves eating Thai and Mexican cuisines. “I am always on the hunt for what’s new in every city,” she says.
Interestingly, Saraf is a member of the Mensa Club of Los Angeles, the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. “As a student in school, I was not good at Mathematics and irreverently, my teacher would always check my homework. One day, she passed a sarcastic comment: “If you think you are so smart, why don’t you join the Mensa Club.” At that time, she didn’t even know what this meant, but years later, while studying in the US, she thought of “giving the exam a try”. “I passed with flying colours,” says Saraf.
Being a people person many times, Saraf has walked into a store pretending to be a marketing staffer. “I interact with customers to get feedback. Why pay a research company R1 lakh for a report I can get within 15 minutes? Business is fun. It is not like in Bollywood films where all you do is spend time in the boardroom,” says Saraf, who has a desire to keep evolving. “And fashion to me is a form of evolvement.”
“I am always upping my ante, making a mental note of brands I aspire to own once I reach a certain level.” As a child, Saraf confesses that she was a brat. “I always allocated my homework. Ever since I was a tiny tot, men sort of knew I am not someone to mess with. I am very picky. Men do get intimidated, as they don’t expect someone to be so picky,” she admits.
Coming back to her plan to be prime minister, Saraf is working towards it, one step at a time. She is the member of the executive committee of the policy making organistion, FICCI, and even Young Bombay Forum, Chamber of Commerce’s wing that works for the emergence of young leaders in various spheres of business. “Once I hit 40 or 45, I want to be in policy making,” says Saraf, who believes in finding the seedha rasta where people only see a ‘murky’ road. “If you don’t create paths for others, what is the point of life?” she asks.
Magazine: Monocle, Fortune
Film: Jab We Met
Book: Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi and The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Steve Sample
Quote: Life is about creating yourself, not finding yourself — George Bernard Shaw
Born: June 25, 1981
Education: Bachelor of Business Management, University of Southern California; MBA from the University of California
First job: Cartoonist for college magazine earned $10 per cartoon
Mantra in life: Spread happiness
Best advice I ever got: Compete with yourself
Fitness mantra: Don’t mix carbs during a meal