To serve with class

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SURUCHI KAPUR GOMES
Published Sep 28, 2017, 12:00 am IST
Updated Sep 28, 2017, 12:20 am IST
Janaki Kirloskar is the fourth generation of a 130-year-old business family.
Janaki Kirloskar
 Janaki Kirloskar

She has had the best guides on her path to entrepreneurship. Her parents — industrialist Vijay and Meena Kirloskar. Her training ground too has been inspired — home, dinner conversations, business mingling and visits to the Kirloskar factory as a child. Janaki Kirloskar, founder and CEO of KIKA Tableware, which she officially incorporated in November 2016, believes, “We are all products of our environment. Growing up in a business family meant that dining table conversations were all about business. We often had business guests, and were exposed to the factory environment as babies. We learnt to walk, ride and draw on our factory land. The production areas, smells and sounds of machinery became innate to me. Little did I realise how this upbringing would have a lasting impact. From sparking a business interest at a young age, gaining invaluable real world experience, and realising that running a business requires resilience, patience and a passion,” recalls Janaki, who launched her brand inspired by her mother’s legendary Diwali gifting. 

Janaki’s philosophy, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” a phrase by Antoine de Saint-Exupery ensures she is actively working towards her ideals. The Bengaluru girl gets wistful thinking about the city she grew up in, “Bengaluru will always be home. My fondest memories of Bengaluru are eating hot dosa, and waking up to days where it would rain from morning to night in the monsoon. I miss the weather, and my hot chocolate fudge at Corner House!” she pipes from Kuala Lumpur.

 

The engineer who studied honours in industrial engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA took baby steps into her family business empire, working with her father for 12 years. Coached in the best business school ever, surely! 

“My father taught me — if you want something, ask for it. What is the worst? The person will say No? At least you tried. This lesson is pivotal in my role as an entrepreneur. The second lesson was to carry the people with you. It doesn’t matter what you want to do, it doesn’t matter how good an idea you have! You have to work with people, and if they believe in you, you can achieve wonders. I’ve been lucky to have my mother as a role model. She began Ravindu Toyota in 1995. In 20 years, she has become a force to reckon with in the Toyota dealership business. It is truly her street-smart dedicated and savvy approach that has got her so far. She has taught me that perseverance and the ability to act NOW work wonders. Leaving a family business is always bittersweet but at the same time, it’s the start of adding something new to our family business portfolio,” says the talented pianist who enjoys cooking, reading and travelling. 

Tall, attractive and confident, Janaki is the mother of two daughters, Devaki and Mihika. She and her husband Rahul met 18 years ago at college in the US. “My husband, Rahul is my biggest support. He has always believed in me, and pushed me to be a better person. My girls, Devaki and Mihika are the light of my life. They give me the greatest joy. As women, we juggle many hats and have this amazing ability to cope. For me, juggling all this would be impossible without the women who support me — my family, staff and friends,” she adds.

Her husband Rahul and she also work towards providing education to underprivileged children in Malaysia. The girl who loves nature, and is a fitness and yoga buff, says about the name of her venture, “I wanted to have a name that had my daughters names intertwined.”

The designers Janaki admires are Diane von Furstenberg who created the wrap dress, and Sara Blakely. “She turned a problem into a solution and went from sales person to the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. She created Spanx, the shapewear brand that celebrities and women go to,” she says.

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