What drew you to the rubber industry, and what has made your career in the industry rewarding?
You could say that I was an "accidental entrepreneur" in the rubber industry. My father wanted to give me an opportunity to start something for myself as the family business would go to my brother—just because he was a boy!
The core business of the U.K.-based company that we dealt with was adhesive tapes, and they had one line that was into making elastic. Despite our understanding, we were sold faulty equipment, given incorrect market studies and the customer list was sold to the competition. Regardless of these setbacks and the fact that we didn't have any clients for close to two years, we've not just survived but thrived over the past 25 years!
I was always clear that any business I ran would have to be built by me and that is exactly what I did. Nothing ever came easy and I had to work very hard for every milestone that I have accomplished.
My biggest reward was seeing my dream come true! At an early stage it was about showing my father that I could do anything even though I was a girl. Then it became a passion to succeed because more and more people's livelihoods were depending on the business. Now, the consistent support, dedication and hard work that my team puts in every day is truly rewarding in itself.
I stay inspired by always thinking, "What's Next!"
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I consider my greatest achievement in being able to build this business up from next to nothing to being a global leader today! Acquiring and integrating Fulflex in 2018 and then seeing how we responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by stepping up to meet the needs of mask and medical PPE producers across the globe. The dedication of our employees in U.S. and India in face of personal and collective sacrifices is truly inspiring.
What do you count as your biggest failure and what has it taught you?
My biggest failure came early on in the business when I blindly trusted the company and the people that I was doing business with. While I still enter partnerships and make decisions with positive intent, I take the time to verify the terms and who I'm doing business with.
Who or what inspires you?
I'm inspired by my grandfather's legacy—Bhalchandra Digamber Garware, who was a pioneering industrialist born in 1903 and founder and chairman of the Garware Group of Industries.
Despite coming from abject poverty and armed only with a basic formal education until the sixth grade, through sheer grit and determination he built himself up to be a businessman of some repute both in India as well as in the U.K. He started his business in the pre-owned car industry and eventually expanded into a number of ventures in the plastics industry.
A Padma Bhushan Awardee, he was known to be a legendary philanthropist and founded over 75 charitable trusts. He also set up several well-known educational institutes, including the University of Bombay's Garware Institute of Career Education and Development, among others.
Who were your career mentors, and what role did they play?
My greatest mentor was my father who guided, trusted and reassured me every step of the way.
While my father was my mentor, my mother was my pillar of strength—and her advice on how to develop and nurture relationships was one of the best lessons anyone could ever learn.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
"Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, but cash is king!" This is one piece of advice that has stuck in my mind since the start of my entrepreneurial journey. Consistent reliable cash flow is one of the true measures of a businesses' success!
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
As the CEO of a company, not only am I responsible for the business we're in but more importantly for the way that business is being done. It's one of my key responsibilities to consistently align everyone from the most senior to the junior most in the organization to the value system and the company culture.
What would you tell someone considering a career in the rubber industry?
My advice to someone considering a career in this industry would be to focus not only on the technical aspects of the business, but also to be known for the quality of your final product as well as your relationships with your clients!
In your opinion, what needs to be done to encourage females to pursue STEM-related careers?
We need to promote industry and science opportunities in social media highlighting the successful women in various roles and tell their stories. We also need to create more mentorship programs to successfully spread the message both online and offline. Monitoring the effect of these programs and pivoting as required will ensure a long lasting impact and attract more females to these roles.