Capt. Raghu Raman has had a unique career profile spanning over 25 years. He spent eleven years as an officer in the Indian Armed Forces , followed by another eleven years in the corporate sector before joining the Government as CEO of the National Intelligence Grid. There is a lot we can learn from our soldiers. As a guest speaker at the ABFRL Awards, Capt Raman spoke to us about army life, leadership and more. Here is an excerpt.
What moved you to take up the role of a motivational speaker?
I don’t think of myself as a motivational speaker. I think of myself as a storyteller, because I believe that every leader has to be able to create a shared reality. He or she must be able to get the team aligned behind her or him with one common purpose. And this can only come when you create a story that everybody believes in. So whether it is political leaders, religious leaders, inspirational leaders or even motivational leaders for that matter, they create a narrative which enables a diverse set of people to gather around one common purpose.
What are 3 lessons from the Armed forces that you would like youngsters to imbibe?
The best way to learn from the army is to join the army, the NCC or the Territorial Army. But if one can’t do that then there are three fundamental lessons that I would like to share with you.
Lesson 1. COLLABORATION AND HUMILITY – THE SECRET INGREDIENTS
You must understand that the army is efficient because it works as a team. Either the entire section wins or the entire section loses. There is no individual gladiator in a good team. And therefore, every leader, every young person who aspires to be a leader needs to know really well how to be a follower, to be a peer in a team as well as how to take orders. Unless a young person knows that, at no level will that person be able to actually create a team or expect to give orders and expect that those orders will be obeyed. So the first lesson, I would say, is collaboration and learning with humility.
Lesson 2. Be a generalist
In the Army, a young cadet, a young officer or a young jawan is given a lot of different experiences. Even their careers are shaped in such a way that they will learn a particular skill and they will apply it. After two years of application, he will go back to relearn that skill and this time his learning will be much better and this cycle continues. So it is very important that you have the ability to do diverse things. Many people may think that this is the world of specialisation, I disagree. Generalists will always triumph in a world of specialisation because there is no architecture, no company, organisation where an individual who is a silo head will ever be chosen as the head of that organisation.
LESSON 3. You are only as good or as bad as your last innings
The last lesson, frankly, is that you need to take some risks. You need to take risks at attempting things that you don’t know how to do. You need to fail. And the best way to fail is to be comfortable knowing that you can get bad marks, you can get rejected in an interview, and you can maybe be fired from a certain job, not because of attitude, but judgemental errors. So don’t get into the habit of that zero error syndrome. Because that will make you scared of failures. You are only as good or as bad as your last innings. So if you take some risks and if you fail in those risks, that is fine.
In your opinion how can someone in a corporate job contribute meaningfully to the nation?
If a person does their job well and truthfully and to the best of their capability I think they are contributing to the nation. I think we can help the army in two ways:
Only an economically strong nation is strong in military. So if each one of us works towards this goal, and puts our shoulder towards the economy, it can be helpful. When we make our own organisations and our own teams more fluid and become better and happier places, I think we become a stronger nation. I think big changes happen with small changes. These small changes are change the direction of even a herd of elephants.
There is an old army saying that if you want to help a soldier who is fighting for the nation then we, as a nation, should be deserving of his fight. If he or she gives up their lives for us then we should be a citizen who is worthy of that life.
What are some of the things that you really enjoyed about being in the army? And what are the things that you really enjoyed about being in the corporate world?
All careers will come with their own traumas and challenges and moments of fun. It is impossible to compare one against the other because each one has its own achievement or non-achievement and its own joy and sadness.
We all have our own challenges. So if I have a neck pain, then, to me, my challenge is bigger than the famine in Ethiopia. You have your own enclave in which you can create something that gives you joy or you can create a private hell. And that has little to do with the environment or situation.
What is the one book that you really want to write but haven’t yet written?
There are at least two books that I want to write.
There are things that are taught to young officers in the army that has many similarities to what a young leader needs to know. This will be a book that talks about the mental, physical and emotional challenges that a young officer will face so that the young person will be better prepared for it.
This is a book about the wisdom of commanding officers (CO). Commanding officers of most armies are respectfully, affectionately called “old men”. The old man of the unit is the big boss and he is the one who controls the morale, destiny, strategy of the unit. A young officer will probably encounter seven or eight COs in his journey. So there are lessons that each of these can teach. Even if you learnt one or two lessons from every CO that you have worked with, you have a handbook of wisdom.
Everyone loves the refreshing and invigorating atmosphere that is created by the rains but at the same time, daily activities like commuting and dressing for work become a hassle. The overcast skies and dreary weather tend to reduce people’s motivation to work. Here is how you can dress to beat the monsoon blues at work.
Dress in Bright Colours
The dark overcast skies, along with a wardrobe that primarily comprises of blue, black and grey, can reduce the enthusiasm to work. Perk up your appearance in this dull atmosphere by wearing bright, vibrant colours that will stand out from the surroundings. Opting for prints and patterns in work apparel is an excellent way of hiding water stains and mud patches that could spoil the appearance of the outfit.
Use Dryable Fabric
Sitting in damp clothes at the desk throughout the day, after being caught in a downpour, can negatively impact productivity at work. In this humid atmosphere, it is important to wear fabric that dries easily and allows the skin to breathe. Clothes made of silk, nylon, polyester, rayon, crepe and liva fabric should be worn, while slow drying fabrics like denim should be avoided at all costs.
The best way to lift spirits in the middle of a rainy work day is to wear accessories that will immediately improve the mood. Chunky plastic jewellery can add a splash of colour to the monsoon wardrobe, while chic beanies and bandanas can protect the hair from frizzing in the rain. Trendy waterproof cross body bags in different colours and patterns can be used to protect valuables from getting wet and can add an element of fun to the work attire.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Wearing wet and uncomfortable shoes throughout the day is bound to affect work. It is always wise to wear shoes that are made of rubber such as gum boots and jelly shoes, while commuting to work. At work, it is best to keep a separate set of shoes that are only meant to be worn in the office and not in the rains. Make sure to keep a spare pair of socks in the bag at all times, so as to avoid having wet feet the entire day.
Embrace Monsoon Apparel
Umbrellas and rain coats are looked at as apparel that hide monsoon clothes, however, they can be used to enhance your appearance and to make a style statement. Invest in umbrellas that have funky colours, styles and patterns so that they draw attention to the outfit instead of taking away from it. Waterproof waist length rain coats, in bright and bold colours, can double as jackets and will enhance the work wardrobe.
It was a starry night on Saturday as Mumbai’s fashion icons and influencers came together to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of The Collective, India’s largest luxury fashion retail destination.
Home to some of the world’s most well-loved luxury brands such as Versace Collection, Kenzo, Marc Jacobs, True Religion, Emporio Armani, McQ Alexander McQueen, Hackett London, Hugo, Ted Baker and many more, The Collective has long since been the go-to shopping destination for Indian’s fashion forward elite.
Ten years since The Collective first opened its doors, it has carved a niche for itself in the fashion landscape of the country and the next ten years promise fast paced-growth and a vision to widen the vistas of fashion in the country.
R Satyajit, Chief Executive Officer -International Brands, MFL – International Business New Initiatives, “With globalisation taking center stage, Indians are exploring the world of fashion, not just adopting trends, but reimagining them. With The Collective, our vision is to play is role in this evolution of style, by partnering with the right brands, and widening our reach over the next few years with strategies that include leveraging e-commerce.”
Saturday’s event, exemplified these notes of joyful optimism. The Collective and ABFRL Team were joined by some of Mumbai’s most well-loved style icons such as actors Malaika Arora, Rahul Khanna, Harshvardhan Kapoor, and Jim Sarbh to celebrate this iconic milestone in the brand’s journey.
Dressed to nines, with some interesting haute looks of their own, Bollywood’s best dressed showed us just how fashion is a unique blend of style and individuality. The event was also attended by models, comedians and the who’s who of the fashion circuit such as Ali Fazal Mandana Karimi, Nisha JamVwal, Mohit Marwah and Jennifer Piccinato among others.
DJ Gordon Edge brought the party to life with a unique experience of 3 deck mixing and his own personal edge of live trumpet. With the music flowing, guests indulged in some delicious cocktails and fine spirits with Mixologist Dimitry helming the bar. Iconic moments in the brand’s ten year journey adorned the walls, as videos and installations, creating a vibe that was electric.
The visual highlight was a showcase of the brand’s 10 year campaign in collaboration with GQ—Style Icons. A series featuring some of the most iconic individuals across industries who are known for their individualistic and millennial aesthetic such as chef Kelvin Cheung, filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, cricketer Krunal Pandya and Miss World Manushi Chillar among others.
Says Amit Pande, Brand Head-The Collective & International Brands., MLS, said, “Looking back at the last 10 years of The Collective, we are proud to be pioneers of Indian luxury retail. We have the best assortment of global brands and institutionalised service philosophy that delivers every time. A store experience like no other, we look forward to the next decade with a plan to launch at least one store per year.”
It was indeed a night to remember, full of great moments and overflowing conversations. As the celebration wound to a close, it also earmarked the beginning of what we hope is another amazing and stylish decade of The Collective.
How do you drum up the festive beats, visually stun the populace that sees the same festive images everywhere, and at the same time make some incredible records? PANTALOONS, the fashion brand from Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd, decided to do all that and more for this festive season, spanning festivals, cities and feats.
When Pantaloons – India’s leading family fashion destination from Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited decided to weave creativity into the multi-hued festive tapestry of the Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja and Navratri seasons across several cities, magic happened. From Ganpati to Durga Maa, from diyas to dandiyas, a few Indian cities, stores and streets came alive with some spectacular visual stories this season: the tallest Ganpati made of denim, India’s tallest “Dandiya” the tallest Diwali ‘diya’ and India’s longest street ‘Alpona’.
Bappa goes blue!
How unique can you go with a Ganpati idol, especially when you are an apparel behemoth? Take 600 pairs of denim pants, and create this unique 9-feet tall Ganpati, in Pune, the city known for its Bappa love and an acute sense of social awareness. This blue Ganesh swayed into the India Book of Records, which was a moment of price and excitement for the brand, as this was an endeavour attempted for the first time by a fashion brand. Commendably, the denims used in the making of Ganesh were also donated to the Maher Foundation, which works towards the upliftment of children and women. The cynosure of all eyes at the Pantaloons Chinchwad store through the Ganesh festival in September, he waltzed his way into the hearts of all shoppers. For the latter, as part of the consumer engagement program during the 10-day festival, Pantaloons had also organised fun activities which included Ganpati Idol making competition using clay, cookery classes encouraging women to use microwave based recipes and modak making competitions.
From the piety of Punyanagri to the swing and dazzle of Ahmedabad in the times of Navratri. And time for another record entering the India Book of Records, as Navratri festivities erupted in true-blue Gujarati style, as a 48 feet tall Dandiya structure was unveiled by the statuesque Karishma Tanna amidst great fanfare. Local artistes helped colour the event, with their traditional garb and garba. This rather ambitious project had a skilled team of artisans, designers and technicians toiling over two months to finally create the intricate and vividly coloured installation weighing over a ton that was housed at One Mall in Ahmedabad. Gaurav Chakravarty, Head, Marketing & Loyalty, Pantaloons said: ‘We are delighted as Pantaloons enters the India Book of Records for the second time. At Pantaloons, we believe in creating enriching experiences that bring consumers closer to the brand. Moreover, this philosophy is reflected in our ‘Aapni Navratri, Aapno Pantaloons’ campaign. Dandiya being symbolic of the Navratri celebrations, we are happy to celebrate the festival with our customers.’
Diya jaley….in Indore!
Lighting up the skies of Indore, this September in anticipation of Diwali, the festival of lights, was India’s tallest diya. And once again Pantaloons made its way to the India Book of Records, besides creating the perfect tangible motif for India’s best loved festival. At a height of 23 feet and a width of 22 feet, it was created by 25 specialists over a period of 15 days using 75 kilograms of iron waste. Unveiled by Prathmesh Zamindar from the royal family of Indore, the lamp was on display at the Treasure Island Mall till the last day of Diwali. Gaurav Chakravarty, Head, Marketing & Loyalty, Pantaloons said: ‘This is a moment of pride for us as we enter the India Book of Records for the third consecutive time; the first record made for Denim Ganpati, the second feat for tallest Dandiya and this time for creating the tallest Diya.’ And the other important message to come from Pantaloons was “spread the light not the noise by saying no to firecrackers”.
Street art for Pujo!
If you are a blue-blooded Bong (read Bengali), you must make sure you are in the right place during Durga Pujo. And that place better be Kolkata. This year Pantaloons painted the town red during the Pujo celebrations. Almost, literally. What the fashion brand did was to get an entire one kilometre long street decorated with Alpona, the quintessential Bengali artistic expression that is integral to Pujo celebrations. Local communities numbering over 400 people, including 300 students from prominent art colleges came together to engage in a joyous articulation of their art, using exterior paint to ensure durability through the festive celebrations. The spectacular Alpona with vivid colors, intricate and free-flowing designs was created over two days and was a great prelude to the ensuing Durga Pujo celebrations. It was unveiled on the auspicious day of Mahalya by Bengali superstar, Prosenjit Chatterjee, amidst the foot-tapping beats of Dhak and mystical sounds of Shank (conch), as a sign of invocation of Maa Durga. The morning sparkled with the presence of other Tollywood stalwarts such as Sabyasachi Chakraborty and Chandan Sen.
Kolkata is the birthplace of Pantaloons and through its ‘Pujo Manei Pantaloons’ campaign, it retraced its Bangla roots. This year, Pantaloons celebrates 20 years of adding glamour and style to the people of Kolkata. On this joyful occasion, the company paid a tribute to its very first customers in the form of a beautiful Alpona, revamped stores, a festive video, a fabulous collection and all sorts of exciting offers.
If you’re looking to wear your shirts and flaunt em too, throw on a snazzy jacket and accessorize the ensemble with an eclectic pair of cufflinks, look no further. Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd brings to India, creations by Simon Carter, the quirky menswear brand from Britain. We dialogue with the designer behind the name, as the first stand alone store opens in Mumbai.
Tiny blue mushrooms on a white background. Cycle motifs on a white oxford shirt. On closer look, these aren’t prints. They are beautifully embroidered motifs. Elsewhere butterflies sing a happy tune. And these are just the shirts we are gushing about. The cinnamon-toned store with its warm colours, softly bright lights, eclectic décor pieces adorning walls, is the perfect mis-en-scène for Simon Carter’s beautifully quirky, playful menswear collection that encompasses apparel and accessories. Spirited shirts aside, there are stylish suits, blazers, jackets, and accessories, amongst which twinkle his signature cufflinks. The cuts are classic and exude svelte. It is evident that the brand is all about colour and expression. And the titled racks strategically positioned at the heart of the store that gently nudge the visitor: ‘Simon’s Pick’.
In person, Simon Carter is indeed dapper (like his clothes!), and very obviously garbed in his own creations. The effect is subtly eye-catching, when you don a rust red jacket peek-a-booing with a shirt that has splotches of colour. He is also soft-spoken and rather unassuming, the charming British character well in place.
Simon Carter is the designer behind the eponymous menswear retail brand based out of London that has got into an exclusive deal with Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL) to bring the quirky brand into India with stand-alone stores across Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.
The man started designing men’s pewter brooches in London in the mid 80s. Soon after the Simon Carter story extended to other men’s products such as sunglasses, watches and cufflinks. Ten years later, Simon Carter had cornered the cufflink market through iconic designs. Ties, leather goods and then a full range of tailored and casual men’s clothing followed. Since the beginning, Simon Carter has struck a chord with urban professionals seeking to inject a contemporary lightness of touch in their own personal style.
We settle into the elegant armchairs in the brand new Simon Carter store at Phoenix Market City, Kurla (Mumbai) for a quick tête-à-tête.
Of his journey, he has this to say: “It’s been fun! Quite a ride actually.” For a guy who has a degree in immunology, it was a completely different path that he embarked on. There was no formal course or degree that he underwent or acquired, in what eventually became his life’s work and passion. All the learning happened on the job. Reminiscing about the Simon Carter of those early days, he says that one fine day it was a toss-up between his steady day job and his hobby; he took the latter route… and the rest as they say is history. The very first store he opened in Regent’s Street was tiny. (He points to the dressing cubicle of the first exclusive store in India).
From that first little store, to being named “Most Stylish Man of the Year 2015” and the brand being named “Menswear Brand of the Year 2013”. What do these awards and accolades mean to him – at a personal level and as a fashion businessman/entrepreneur?
He acknowledges them with a gracious modesty: “So it’s one thing to be told by your mum ‘Sweetie, you look very nice’ or ‘it’s fabulous what you are doing’. But when your peers celebrate and congratulate you for your work, it is indeed a very satisfying feeling. So yes, the awards feel wonderful.”
He is suitably chuffed about the deal with ABFRL. In his own words “I think India is going to be the most important market in the world, in the next 20-30 years. It is already big, and is just getting significantly bigger. There is no doubt that some years hence it is going to the largest. The businesses in the UK are still slow to understand this. I think I am happy to be here associated with Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail.”
That brings us to his understanding of the Indian markets. What does he think of them? Still a tad conservative, he opines, they need to get more expressive.
His own inspirations can come from absolutely anything. “This one time I was in a boring meeting and started doodling on a piece of paper. By the end of it, I looked at it, and told myself ‘this can work for a shirt’.” We also speak about the Indian influences in his designs, and he avers that there haven’t been too many. Oh yes, there is the paisley motif, he smiles, which is an essentially Indian design, and I have used that in my designs, continuing “some years ago I was in Udaipur and I was fascinated by the use of colours.”
We get into slightly more personal waters: to know the man behind the label. Who does he enjoy wearing, other than himself? He names the UK designer Paul Smith and “stuff from Etro (the Italian fashion house)”. When we quiz him about the big names he has designed for, he names Gary Oldman, and “a bunch of known TV personalities and actors from British television (you may not be familiar with them in India but they are popular names there he quips)”. And he thinks it is Brit comedian-actor Richard Ayoade who looks best in his creations.
With an appellation like the ‘King of Cufflinks’ we can hardly desist from asking Carter which is his personal favourite from amongst his collection. He picks the ‘Aspirin Cufflinks’. What is his personal style like: “I just grab three essentials that can be put together, that pretty much sums it up” he banters.
In an earlier interview he has called himself a fan of “clutterism” and how it reflects in the styling of his home, with a strong leaning towards things that are crafts-based. India being a veritable treasure trove, a cornucopia of handicrafts, objets d’art, traditional arts and artefacts, we wonder if he has had a chance to explore, to which he responds ruefully: “not enough, but am hoping to get to do that.” When not designing or working, he plays croquet.
He has an affinity towards the colour cinnamon; he finds it warm and a colour that goes with most other colours. The garments and the store are both a reflection of this. And then there is the canine connection: Gervaise, his imaginary pet pooch, a whippet who is always up to some mischief. Gervaise scampers through the store in the form of sketches.
His take on global trends in menswear is that there has been a breakdown of boundaries between what constitutes men’s and women’s fashion. The distinction is disappearing, the lines are getting blurred. What were considered women’s colours even five years ago, are worn by men today with confidence. Accessories are worn equally by men today, something they didn’t do earlier (he uncovers his jacket sleeve to reveal a bunch of colourful beaded bracelets on his own wrist).
And what’s next for Simon Carter? More stores in the UK, and obviously here in India.
The footnote: any words of advice for the Indian male, his very potential customer?
He smiles broadly: Go bold. Bring out the inner dandy in you…is the parting shot from the Duke of Dandy!
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail’s manufacturing facility, Fashion Craft, hosts its first-ever guided tour for delegates of SAC, a global non-profit body for sustainable production in the city of Bengaluru
ABFRL is supported by 9 factories with a workforce of over 11,000 employees, most of whom hail from village communities. We are the largest employer of women, who comprise 90% of our factory workforce.
Our 9 Sustainability Missions are Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation, Waste Management, Sustainable Products, Sustainable Packaging, Safety, Carbon Foot printing, Green Buildings and CSR
It is a bright and sunny Friday morning in Anekal, a small town on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Fashion Craft, one of ABFRL’s large manufacturing factories, has been bustling with activity since 7.00 a.m. The frenzy seems to be reaching a crescendo, just as a large tourist bus pulls up quietly at the entry to its premises. As the heavy wrought iron gates swing open, a traditional welcome is being prepared for the very special guests alighting from the bus; complete with sweet-smelling flower garlands and the auspicious tilak adorning their foreheads.
These special guests who are about to proceed on a guided tour of the Fashion Craft facility, are international representatives from global organizations in the US, UK and South East Asia, in Bengaluru to attend the annual conference of the Sustainability Apparel Council (SAC). The SAC conference was held in India for the first time and our parent company, Aditya Birla Group was the proud Platinum Sponsor.
For the 1500 employees of Fashion Craft, many of whom have been with the facility since its inception in 2007, this was a great opportunity to showcase their skill sets and innovative, sustainable techniques utilized in producing some 2.5 lakh shirts per month, apart from trousers and suits, for industry-leading ABFRL brand labels of Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly and Peter England.
Dr. Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer, ABFRL who led the delegation said, “Our factory visit provided an excellent avenue to present the exceptional progress we have made towards integrating sustainability into the manufacturing and design process, that beautifully weaves together the finer aspects fashion, comfort and luxury.”
Mr. Lal Sudakaran, Head-Manufacturing, Madura Clothing, ABFRL played a warm host and presided over the factory tour, even as the factory workers – almost 90% women, worked away diligently at their sewing machines in the background, unfazed by the visitors who had come to watch them weave their magic.
Flagging off the tour, ABFRL’s power brands – Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly and Peter England put up a select display of their sustainable innovations. This included Louis Philippe’s Evolve and Naturelle naturally dyed clothing lines, Van Heusen’s zero detergent Easy Wash shirts, Allen Solly’s traditional hand-woven Ikat shirts and Peter England’s handcrafted Madhubani and Block Printed artisanal shirts.
From the finished products to the cutting and sewing lines for mid-range and luxury shirts, to intensive training techniques, ‘Kaizen’ innovations by factory workers and internal reward programs for employees, the factory tour was informative and in-depth.
“It is inspiring to see such progress being made at a cut and sew facility on sustainability and can be used as an example and learning for other factories in this region and across Asia,” remarked Adrianne Gilbride, Sustainability Specialist, Arcteryx Equipment Inc.
Adding an interactive element to the tour, delegates were also presented with Van Heusen ‘My Fit’ shirts (an innovative concept that specializes in made-to-measure shirts that are a guaranteed perfect fit, available in a wide variety of styles and colors). A visit to the in-house crèche with the factory workers’ children was also part of the day’s experience.
The eventful tour concluded on a high note with delegates taking home a token of appreciation from the brands that included a few of their products and of course, a framed group photograph as a momento of their visit.
Sophie Schop, Senior Project Manager of Communications, SAC aptly sums it up. “It was a pleasure to learn more about (Madura Clothing’s) sustainability activities, see practical examples and experience what life in the factory is like. I learned a lot and feel you have been putting transparency into practice by providing us an insight into your daily operations. I really appreciate all the efforts.”
The information contained in this electronic communication is intended solely for the individual(s) or entity to which it is addressed. It may contain proprietary, confidential and/or legally privileged information. Any review, retransmission, dissemination, printing, copying or other use of, or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information by person(s) or entities other than the intended recipient is strictly prohibited and may be unlawful. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us by responding to this email or telephone and immediately and permanently delete all copies of this message and any attachments from your system(s). The contents of this message do not necessarily represent the views or policies of Aditya Birla Group. Computer viruses can be transmitted via email. Aditya Birla Group Companies attempts to sweep e-mails and attachments for viruses, it does not guarantee that either are virus free. The recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. Aditya Birla Group does not accept any liability for any damage sustained as a result of viruses.
Toll free number: 1800 425 3050