Richa Singh, MD of Diamond Producers Association, on the hurdles she faced while rising up the ranks
She's not one to back down when the going gets tough
When Richa Singh walks into the room, she is as radiant as the diamonds she deals with. There are no airs about her; she’s direct, articulate and affable. With a career that spans over 19 years, she’s garnered extensive experience in consumer and business marketing, but at heart she’s still an entrepreneur who never wants to settle. From a wide-eyed management graduate to one who builds brands from scratch, Richa Singh has come a long way. In conversation with ELLE India, Singh tells us how she juggled raising two kids while rising up the ranks and facing casual sexism.
ELLE: What was your first job like?
Richa Singh: My first job happened because I just cold-called JWT asking them if they had a role for me. There, I met some industry stalwarts, who believed in me, inspired me and gave me the creative freedom to make decisions. When I heard L’Oreal was coming to India again, I looked up Yellow Pages and called them to fix up an interview. I think yes, it was these little moments of quick, spontaneous decisions that have brought me so far.
ELLE: How did you tackle the hurdles you faced along the way up?
RS: There was a point in my life where I had done all levels of brand management and I needed to challenge myself further by getting into direct, front-line sales. This bit involves a lot of tea, alcohol and convincing. So, despite the fact that I had just delivered my first child, I had to do a lot of travelling. There was a lot of balancing feeding time with meetings. But the bigger hurdles were dealing with gender stereotypes. I remember when I was pregnant, people just spoke slowly to me, as if my brain functioned as slowly as I walked. Then there were the types who just looked through me at meetings, for others shaking hands with a woman didn’t come as instinctively. And the worst was when some men would just address my male colleague standing beside me, even though he was three levels junior to me. I don’t know if these people were intentionally rude. It’s just the way the system has trained them to be. And I guess I just learnt to be comfortable in my own skin. I learnt to never back down and mope, let alone be embarrassed. If I had to go get my point across in a room full of men, I would, despite the sniggers.
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ELLE: So what keeps you sane on these crazy days?
RS: The fact that I know I have a wonderful support system backing me up. My parents, my husband and my two kids. Before I turned 40, three years ago, I decided I had to take a break from this madness and go on 40 holidays! I did a girls-only trip to Vietnam, went to Korea with my best friend, explored Finland with my brother and took my kids on a 9-week trip to Europe. And I did all of these in a span of one and a half years, making them some of the most memorable trips of my life.
ELLE: And on the days when things get really tough, what is usually your stress buster?
RS: My husband and I have worked out a very clear schedule for ourselves. I make it a point to be home by 5.30pm, and till 8pm, I spend time with my kids. Once they are in bed, I step out to meet friends, try new restaurants or just snuggle in bed to watch something on one of the streaming platforms. But my mind is always working. I am that person who keeps a notebook beside her bed so that I can wake up and scribble something that’s playing on my mind.
ELLE: Tell us what power dressing means to you.
RS: I know this sounds very clichéd but I think it’s what you are comfortable in. I look at women in sarees and I think that it’s the most gorgeous outfit, but it’s not for me. I love wearing Indian fabrics and prints though, there’s something very empowering about it. I am also big on jackets; it gives me a sense of seriousness. I also love playing around with colour. I wear a lot of bright canary yellows and fuchsia. But otherwise you are going to see me in dresses, T-shirts and lots of accessories. The first diamond I bought myself was when my daughter was born. I was back at work in eight weeks after delivering her so I felt like I deserved to gift myself a solitaire. But otherwise I am quite the shopaholic when it comes to accessories.
ELLE: What kind of accessories do you love shopping for?
RS: I have 48 pairs of Indian jutis and about 35 bags that I have picked up from my travels across the world. It’s a mix of the classy Off-White and the dressy ones from different brands. They are a treat to myself and one of my biggest indulgences.
ELLE: What’s the one big success secret that you would like to share?
RS: I am extremely skilled at calendar matching with my husband (laughs)! Running a family and managing a stressful work-life needs a big level of partnership and my husband seems to understand that well. I don’t praise him for sitting at home with the kids, because it’s his responsibility as much as mine. And as more people understand this, more women get to achieve their dreams.
Photograph: Shubham Lodha; Styling: Pujarini Ghosh; Hair and make-up: Elisha Bhambhani/ Eficiente Artist Management; Location courtesy: Meuble India, Lower Parel, Mumbai Rayon dress, twill jacket; both prices on request, Sahil Kochhar. Leather heels, INR 52,000, Christian Louboutin. Diamond earrings, rings and bracelet; all Singh‘s own.