From fashion to tech: 12 powerhouses who are at the forefront of change


From fashion to tech: 12 powerhouses who are at the forefront of change

Change often starts with small steps

By Neville Bhandara  September 10th, 2018

No matter how large, change often starts with small steps: like democratising a field that’s traditionally considered high culture, fighting for equal rights, promoting local textile industries, or even urging us to rethink how our cities are planned.

From fashion and technology, to the arts and social entrepreneurship, Neville Bhandara finds 12 powerhouses who are at the forefront of major shifts in their fields, and have used their talent and determination to become the role models we need.

Rajan Anandan

Managing director of Google India, is also a seasoned angel investor, who has lent his heft to many tech start-ups.

CORE VALUES A PERSON SHOULD POSSESS: “Integrity, perseverance and humility.”

A BOOK THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE: “Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.”

DEALING WITH CRITICISM: “Feedback is a gift. Don’t think of it as criticism, but as constructive advice. Be open to it, and try to improve. If there are things that you need to do differently, be proactive. It will only take you further.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “I have failed more than I have succeeded. It’s important to learn from it, and move on. Keep getting up and going.”

All clothing and accessories, Anandan’s own.

Photograph: Abhishek Bali

Hair and make-up: Neu Salon

Assisted by: Tejaswini Sinha, Nayan Srivastava (Styling)


Darshan Mehta

As president and CEO, Reliance Brands, he has brought some of the biggest international labels to India, including Ermenegildo Zegna, Diesel, MUJI, Superdry, Bally, Scotch & Soda and Paul & Shark.

CAREER ICONS: “The amazing Mr Mukesh Ambani. Renzo Rosso, president of the OTB Group (home to labels like Maison Margiela, Viktor&Rolf and Marni, among others) and the founder of Diesel. And Marco Bizzari of Gucci — it isn’t easy to add 45 per cent growth to a four-billion-dollar business in one year.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “Don’t aggrandise failure. I’m not saying don’t be ambitious, but learn to put it in context. Find the energy to pull yourself up and live to fight another day. There’s a phrase I like, ‘You don’t fall on the same banana skin again. You fall on another one.’ Remember that.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Knowing a little about a lot is a very dangerous place to be. You’d rather know a lot about little. And learn to enjoy what you do, rather than look to do what you enjoy. What you do in your personal life and what you do in your professional life are very different.”

All clothing and accessories, Mehta’s own.

Photograph: Colston Julian

Hair and make-up: Jean Claude Biguine

Assisted by: Ishani Desai (Styling)


Bunty Sajdeh

The CEO of Cornerstone Sport is the sports agent with the Midas touch. He bagged Virat Kohli his famed Rs 100-crore deal with PUMA last year.

TACKLING FAILURE: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Everybody fails at some point. Take the positives out of it, and go out and try again.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Always under commit, and over deliver.”

CAREER ICONS: “Mark McCormack, founder of IMG. Ari Emanuel, founder of WME (Ari Gold’s character from Entourage is based on him). And Steve Miller, one of the founding employees of Nike, who now runs a billion-dollar fund with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf.”

THE BOOK THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE: “What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack.”

On Bunty: Cotton polo T-shirt, Rs 4,900,Tommy Hilfiger. Jeans, price on request, Versace at The Collective. Denim jacket, Rs 10,000, GAS. Metal watch, Sajdeh’s own.

Photograph: Colston Julian

Hair and make-up: Jean Claude Biguine

Assisted by: Mridu Gupta (Styling)


Rohan Vaziralli

Country general manager, Estée Lauder. Companies, which houses some of the coolest beauty brands like Estée Lauder, M.A.C and Jo Malone London, among others.

CAREER ICONS: “Leonard Lauder; he taught me his simple mantra that when you launch strong, you stay strong. The other is our current CEO, Fabrizio Freda. He is a true visionary who thinks outside the box.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Respect competition. Whether it’s a mass or prestige brand, someone has spent hours putting it together. They deserve a pat on the back and as much help as they want — and I’m happy to do that.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “Sometimes, you’ve got to have the vision to stay with a brand even if it looks like it’s not gaining traction. You’ve got to put your head down, stay focused and believe in your vision — and your team.”

— Mamta Mody

All clothing and accessories, Vaziralli’s own.

Photograph: Colston Julian

Hair and make-up: Jean Claude Biguine

Assisted by: Pujarini Ghosh (Styling)


Jaspreet Chandok

Vice president and head (fashion), IMG Reliance, has boosted business interest in designer fashion and championed greater sustainability.

TACKLING FAILURE: “It’s essential to fail. I’ve told my team that they have to fail at least once a year. If you do not fail, it means you aren’t pushing the button or trying at all.”

BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE: “Every job is a dead end if you’re not working to expand your role and responsibilities, and widen your scope. And remember that no matter how smart you think you are, you will eventually be judged by your actions. So, do right by yourself and those around you.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Find your centre. Mine is my family. Everything I do, I do for them. When you find your centre, it gives you new perspective and makes your choices clear.”

On Jaspreet: Denim shirt, Rs 5,000, Calvin Klein Jeans. Jeans, metal watch; both Chandok’s own.

Photograph: Colston Julian

Assisted by: Mridu Gupta (Styling)


Gaurav Mahajan

CORE VALUES A PERSON SHOULD POSSESS: “Passion, compassion and integrity — they help you make the right choices and ensure that you pursue them with commitment and honesty.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “In failure lie the seeds of success — only if you can rise above the negative emotions that accompany it, and
persist with renewed efforts.”

CAREER ICONS: “Verghese Kurien, the father of the White Revolution.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Awareness of your inner self — knowing who you are and what you want to achieve — is essential to lead a fulfilling life. The Japanese concept of Ikigai, the ‘reason for being’, brought me clarity after years of soul searching.”

On Gaurav: Cotton kurta and pants, metal brooch; all prices on request, Raymond.

Photograph: Colston Julian

Hair and make-up: Jean Claude Biguine

Assisted by: Pujarini Ghosh (Styling)


Jiggy George

Managing director and founding partner, Mojostar, and founder, Dream Theatre, leverages the star potential of celebrities to expand their influence in the lifestyle space. Mojostar has just launched Just F with Jacqueline Fernandez, and Prowl with Tiger Shroff.

CORE VALUES A PERSON SHOULD POSSESS: “Integrity, enthusiasm and dependability.”

CAREER ICONS: “Bono, the lead singer of U2, for using his rock star status to drive change and raise millions of dollars for people living in poverty.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “Fail more than once. Failures are not the end — they are just milestones on the road to success. More importantly, if you’ve put in the effort, don’t be hard on yourself if you fall short.”

A BOOK THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE: “On The Road by Jack Kerouac.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ It’s an important and relevant message.”

On Jiggy: Cotton polo T-shirt, Rs 4,762, Scotch & Soda. Jeans, acrylic bracelet, metal watch; all George’s own. Denim jacket, Rs 6,303, Levi’s.

Photograph: Colston Julian

Hair and make-up: Jean Claude Biguine

Assisted by: Ishani Desai (Styling)


Keshav Suri

This hotelier and human rights activist is a self-confessed ‘entitled millennial’ who believes in using his privilege to effect change and promote diversity.

TACKLING FAILURE: “I always treat failure like a winning aspect, because you always learn from it. We spend so much time just looking at negativity. Life itself is a learning experience. The day I have nothing more to learn is the day I die.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “There is permanence in change. You have to learn to evolve all the time.”

DEALING WITH CRITICISM: “I’m from a family of risk-takers, so I’m not going to be one of those people waiting on the sidelines and complaining. I’m going to do something about it, whether it brings me negative feedback or not.”

— Rochelle Pinto

On Keshav: Cotton T-shirt, polyester skirt; both Suri’s own. Denim shirt, Rs 4,889, Calvin Klein Jeans.

Photograph: Colston Julian

Hair and make-up: Jean Claude Biguine

Assisted by: Mridu Gupta (Styling)


St+art India

Arjun Bahl, Akshat Nauriyal, Thanish Thomas, Hanif Kureshi and Giulia Ambrogi are the five visionaries behind St+art India, a non-profit organisation that aims to take art out of private spaces and into the public domain, thus making it accessible to all.

CORE VALUES A PERSON SHOULD POSSESS: “Honesty, perseverance and loyalty.”

CAREER ICONS: “Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “Life will always throw punches at you, but you have to keep getting up and punching back.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Do what you like, and like what you do. Don’t worry about the money, because that will come if you work sincerely and passionately.

From left, on Bahl: Cotton T-shirt, accessories; all Bahl’s own. Jeans, Rs 3,999, Pepe Jeans. Cotton jacket, price on request, H&M. Leather shoes, price on request, adidas Originals. On Nauriyal: Cotton shirt, Rs 2,299, jeans, Rs 3,999; both Pepe Jeans. Leather shoes, price on request, adidas Originals. On Thomas: Cotton shirt, Rs 2,999, Pepe Jeans. Jeans, accessories; all Thomas’s own. Leather shoes, price on request, adidas Originals. On Kureshi: Cotton T-shirt, price on request, H&M. Jeans, Rs 3,999, Pepe Jeans. Leather shoes, price on request, Christian Louboutin. On Ambrogi: Cotton T-shirt, Rs 2,500, denim jacket, Rs 3,000; both Bhane. Jeans, metal earrings; both Ambrogi’s own. Leather shoes, price on request, Christian Louboutin.

Photograph: Shivamm Paathak 

Hair and make-up: Neu Salon

Assisted by: Tejaswini Sinha, Nayan Srivastava (Styling)


Reshma Chamberlin

Co-founder and chief brand and digital officer of the industry-disrupting women-led, eco-friendly swimwear brand Summersalt. One of its suits has a 7,000-person wait list.

CAREER ICONS: “Diane von Furstenberg, and Emily Weiss of Glossier”

THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE: “As a leader, the smartest thing you can do is to truly listen, to your employees, to the market, and to your gut.”

DEALING WITH CRITICISM: “Dwelling on it is not worth the time. Plus, if everyone loves what you’re doing, you’re not really disrupting, are you?”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Nothing beats good old-fashioned hard work. And learn to embrace change, because the best things happen when you’re open to new challenges.”

On Reshma: All clothing and accessories, Chamberlin’s own.

Photograph: Carley Rudd 

Styling: Laura Katherine Sawyier


Dipika Prasad

Co-founder, Lakeer, a technology non-profit working to improve the quality of life for millions of Indians living in cities, through data-driven city management and smarter prioritization of government resources.

CORE VALUES A PERSON SHOULD HAVE: “Self-worth, a strong moral compass, and equanimity.”

CAREER ICONS: “Journalist and author Jane Jacobs. She changed how we think about urban planning, and what makes cities thrive. She rose in a male-dominated field, without traditional academic credentials. Yet, so many years later, the principles she first advocated continue to inform urban policy.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “Get a good night’s sleep, and start fresh the next day. Know that it’s always going to be a mixed bag of both good news and bad. I’ve learnt to expect this, and so, I approach things with equanimity.”

DEALING WITH CRITICISM: “I try to be as rational as possible. I try to think about how the criticism fits with what I want to achieve. If it can add value and improve what I do, I embrace it and act on it. When it doesn’t, I let it go.”

On Dipika: All clothing and accessories, Prasad’s own.

Photograph: Nishat Fatima 

Hair and make-up: Sandy Artistry


Inder Bajwa

One of the most prolific Indian male models of the ’90s, Inder Bajwa gave it all up to return to his village in Punjab to fight the drug epidemic by setting up SEWA (Sports Education Welfare Academy). It aims to engage the youth in sport, especially kabaddi, and promote clean and healthy living.

CORE VALUES A PERSON SHOULD POSSESS: “Compassion, honour and dedication.”

TACKLING FAILURE: “It teaches you to build yourself up again; better, stronger than before.”

A BOOK THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE: “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Go slow, and work to maintain your relationships with people.”

On Inder: Cotton T-shirt, Rs 1,400, cotton shirt, Rs 2,200; both Bhane. Jeans, Rs 2,999, H&M.

Photograph: Shivamm Paathak

Hair and make-up: Neu Salon

Assisted by: Tejaswini Sinha and Nayan Srivastava (Styling)



Styling: Divya Gursahani

Illustrations: Priya Dali

Art direction: Mrudul Pathak Kundu and Vidhi Mirpuri