Home Retail WOMEN’S DAY SPECIAL: 10 women entrepreneurs shaping India’s retail sector

WOMEN’S DAY SPECIAL: 10 women entrepreneurs shaping India’s retail sector


As India is paving its way toward modernization, gender roles are gradually changing with women no more being confined to houses. Indian women multitask – they are homemakers, decision makers, able and skilled workers.

ALSO READ: Wonder Women: Redefining leadership in retail

In a country riddled with gender stereotypes, here is a look at ten women entrepreneurs who are making a difference in the retail sector and are crucial in building successful businesses. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Indiaretailing Bureau profiles these inspiring women.

READ MORE: Women Entrepreneurship Day 2016: 10 women who matter in Indian e-commerce

1Avni Biyani, Concept Head, Foodhall

In 2011, Avni Biyani, the younger daughter of Future Group founder Kishore Biyani, conceptualised and incorporated Foodhall, which has since grown into one of India’s foremost lifestyle food retail destinations.

The idea behind starting Foodhall was to expose modern Indian customers to the finer nuances of food. The format targets well-travelled urban Indian consumers who love to experiment with global cuisines and promises to expose customers to the next level of food retailing. Within a short span of time, the concept store launched at Palladium, Mumbai garnered immense popularity with a discerning customer base and now has its presence across the high-end regions of Delhi, Bangalore and Pune.

Foodhall outlets offer an assortment of fresh and packaged foods, covering international and pan-Indian cuisine. From avocados from South America and over 60 varieties of cheese to freshly made authentic breads by in-house chefs, from well stocked fresh produce, dairy and packaged foods to an extensive frozen section and a good delicatessen selling cheese and poultry, the store is a delight for the food savant. The trend currently is towards health-based foods and convenience, ready-to-cook foods as seen in the rising demand for gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher and sugar-free products, all of which are on offer in the format.

Biyani is a graduate of New York University’s College of Art & Science and has specialised in sociology and politics. Apart from her interest in liberal arts and humanities, she is a connoisseur of food and global cuisine. She also enjoys travelling and exploring new places and has travelled extensively across the world, which translated into her vision for Foodhall.

“A lot of our customers are food lovers who are well travelled and share a preference for global cuisine. So we organise food festivals every month at our stores so that customers can not only sample different kinds of cusisines but also learn to experiment with recipes and learn to cook them,” she says, elaborating on Foodhall’s marketing strategy.

What does she think of the growing influence of online retail on the imported/ gourmet foods category in India? Does that impact brick-and-mortar formats such as Foodhall?

“There is plenty of demand and space to grow for different kinds of formats and both brick-and-mortar outlets and e-commerce models have room to flourish and expand. It’s not actually about physical or online commerce but assisted commerce and personalised products and services, which is the direction that food retail is moving towards,” she responds.

Assortment innovation and freshness are the key drivers to succeed in this specialist food retail category, Biyani says. “To be successful in this kind of format, your offerings have to keep evolving, you have to be ahead of the curve and be a trend setter.”

2Chef Ritu Dalmia, Owner, Riga Foods

Super chef, leading restaurateur and TV show host, Ritu Dalmia has managed to master it all and yet she still strives to satisfy her insatiable appetite for endless gastronomic innovations.

The chef, who has received laurels for cooking scrumptious Italian meals, has never undergone any professional training. Her passion and love for food was obvious even at the tender age of nine and since then there has been no looking back.

She fell in love with Italian cuisine during her frequent visits to Italy, while supporting her family’s marble business. While her heart drew her to Italy, her mind understood that the endgame was all about being a successful restaurateur.

To give her dreams shape, she opened her first restaurant – Mezzaluna – in Delhi, which was, in her words, ‘a wonderful disaster’. She had to shut it down within three years of setting up shop. She then picked up the pieces and went to London where she opened a second restaurant, but her heart never left India.

In 2000, she came back and opened DIVA which became an instant hit. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then there has been no looking back. Dalmia set about setting up one successful restaurant after another, under the banner Riga Foods, in India’s capital.

Over the years, she has added many more feathers in her cap – a thriving catering business, a cookery show host and a cookbook author, she does it all with equal ease.

3Pushpa Bector, Executive Vice President & Head – DLF Premium Malls

Pushpa Bector is Executive Vice President and Head – DLF Premium Malls, which comprises of five properties across Delhi NCR and Chandigarh namely, DLF Mall of India, India’s first and largest destination mall, DLF Promenade, DLF Place, DLF CyberHub, India’s first integrated F&B and Entertainment destination and DLF CityCentre, Chandigarh and new upcoming projects. She is currently responsible for providing executive leadership and management of DLF Premium Malls, where she heads the business units including marketing, leasing, finance and operations.

She brings along an extensive experience of over two decades and has been a renowned name in the retail and mall business domain. During her previous role as the Vice President and Mall Head of DLF Promenade (for three years), she took charge of the mall from its inception to making it a successful and admired fashion destination by designing creative marketing campaigns, and establishing cohesive operations and processes.

In the early years of her association with DLF, she has also headed the Food and Beverage Division. The concept of food courts initiated by her was a successful move making her a renowned name in the Food and Beverage segment in the country. Adding to her credit, she has been instrumental in establishing over six food courts and handling the leasing processes of the retail spaces in the mall business segment of DLF Utilities.

Prior to DLF, she was the CEO of Funky Orbits and other retail projects under Apollo International Ltd. However, she started her career with the Oberoi group of hotels. An OCLD graduate from Oberois’, she has worked in all marquee properties of Oberois’ at the start of her career. Later she worked at Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd. as Marketing Head for Domino’s pizza.

Her USP is that she has garnered a formidable business start up and launch experience over the years and has a keen business and relationship sense.

She is currently a member of National Committee of Retail, CII and PHD Chamber of Commerce FMCG, Retail and E-commerce Committee.

Following her continuous contributions to the retail and real estate segment, she has been honored the International Women Leadership Award for the Excellence in the Retail Industry organized by CMO Asia in 2013. Most Admired Shopping Centre Professional of the Year at Asia Shopping Center and Mall Awards 2014. Women Leadership Award for Excellence in Retail Industry at CMO Asia 2013 and Pathfinder award for the most enterprising CXO in the 8th annual estate awards.

4Dinaz Madhukar, Senior Vice President, DLF Luxury Retail & Hospitality

Dinaz Madhukar, the Senior Vice President of DLF Luxury Retail & Hospitality is a stalwart in the hospitality sector in India and a name to reckon with in the ever-growing luxury retail space.

She has over 24 years of operational experience with The Taj Group of Hotels, India’s largest luxury hospitality chain, as General Manager where she lead multiple functions with her final posting as General Manager of the charming Taj Connemara.

Currently, she is responsible for providing executive leadership and management of DLF’s Vasant Kunj Retail Complex including DLF Emporio, DLF Restaurants including the iconic Set’z.

In addition to this, she is responsible for the management of hospitality vertical of DLF that includes The Lodhi. She is also responsible for DLF’s upcoming luxury projects namely, YPCC (Chanakyapuri) a joint venture with NDMC at the historic Chanakya Cinema location.

She holds a Masters degree in General Management from IIM Bangalore and a Bachelor’s degree in General Law. She has accomplished a Personalized Leadership Development Programme, a corporate MBA through Common Purpose Meridian Programme.

5Sana Chopra, Executive Director, Carl’s Jr. India

Born and raised in Delhi, Sana went on to pursue her higher education from Emory University, Atlanta, USA in the field of Financial Economics, Business Policy and Art History. She has also completed a short course in Management Studies from London School of Economics and Political Science.

She has work experience in cities such as New York, Atlanta, Delhi and Mumbai from multi-national organizations, law firms, advertising and marketing agencies, art galleries, call centers, social committees and educational departments.

She joined CybizCorp in May 2013 and joined their Training and Development division for RE/MAX India. Sana has been instrumental in devising the industry famous TAP program for RE/MAX Academy of Real Estate (RARE) that offers practical and theoretical long-term real estate education and training.

Her next role in CybizCorp included taking on the ropes as the F&B Director thereby setting the foundations for establishing the new F&B Division for CybizCorp.

She helped the company in acquiring the master franchise for The Embassy Restaurant and all the Lazeez Affaire Group Restaurants such as The Flying Saucer, Out of the Box Cafe, Boombox Cafe, The Town House Cafe, etc. that today are part of Cybiz SuperBrands.

Under her leadership, CybizCorp received the award for the Restaurant Consultant of the Year at Indian Restaurant Congress, 2014 for making significant contribution in the Food and Beverage Industry.

She has also helped CybizCorp acquire the master franchise for California based burger chain Carl’s Jr. under CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc. that have more than 3,500 franchised and company-operated restaurants in 42 states and 36 foreign countries and US territories.

Her role as the Executive Director of Carl’s Jr. India is to help operate and control this brand in India with the ultimate goal of making it India’s favorite restaurant chain.

6Sukanya Dutta Roy, Managing Director, Swarovski Consumer Goods Business (CGB), India

Sukanya Dutta Roy heads the Consumer Goods Business (CGB) division of Swarovski India Pvt. Ltd since early 2008. In her role, she leads the strategy and development initiatives of the consumer and retail arm of Swarovski. Her expertise lies in merchandising and retail operations management having worked in various formats from luxury to mass market.

Prior to her appointment at Swarovski India, she was associated with well-known domestic retail firms and brands in India like Guess, Good Earth, Technopak etc. She has to her credit, opening of more than 60 retail stores across many Tier I and Tier II cities.

She brings with her rich experience of 20 years, of been associated with well-known retail brands in India. She has a deep understanding of domestic retail from over last 12 years.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi in year 1991, she thereafter obtained a Degree in Apparel Marketing & Merchandising from NIFT, Delhi, followed by Masters in Business Administration in Management Studies from FMS in 1997.

She began her career at H&M, India in a merchandising role and then moved on to bigger roles. Roy, in her overall in-depth experience of 20 years, has handled marketing, merchandising, logistics and distribution, supply chain, operations, product planning and selection.

7Monica Gupta, Co-Founder, Craftsvilla

Monica Gupta is the Co-founder of Craftsvilla, a leading ethnic online platform in India. The brand was co-founded with a vision to create a platform where unprivileged artisans can make a living by selling their handcrafted products. With over five million products to choose from and 30,000 plus sellers on board, Craftsvilla provides an array of ethnic products directly from the designers and artisan at a wholesale price.

She has been actively involved with the handicrafts industry in India for over 10 years. She has extensively travelled across the country, including remote areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan and has built strong relationship with multiple artisans and organizations including Gram Shree, Kalaraksha, Sahaj, Sadhna etc.

She has very good understanding of categories like Women’s Clothing and Accessories like Bags. She is also associated with multiple NGOs in India on informal basis.

She is also the COO of Craftsvilla.com

She has done her MS in accounting from San Diego State University, US. She is a keen reader and enjoys inspirational books.

8Nina Lekhi, MD & Chief Design Curator, Baggit

Nina Lekhi, an entrepreneur by profession and a role model for many aspiring young women entrepreneurs started her journey of success from scratch. Her positive attitude, cheerful and upbeat nature always endeared her to her friends, family and colleagues.

From a young age, she was passionate about painting which inspired her to take up a diploma foundation art course at Sophiya’s. But in her initial years she had to face upheavals and this experience ignited a spark within her and a determination to be successful. It also gave her a lot of clarity on her business vision.

Balancing two part time courses – one in textile and another in interior decoration along with a job as a salesgirl on the side; she learnt a lot of important lessons and gained customer insights on the shop floor. Her immense positive energy and strong passion to succeed drove her vision. She picked up the tools of the trade very quickly and started on a journey in 1985 called ‘Baggit’ which is now one of the leading handbag brand in India.

Lekhi is a stronger believer of ‘beauty without cruelty’ which motivated her to put together a cruelty free brand. This futuristic vision of hers has made Baggit stand apart from others and has also gained awards and recognition for the brand.

Lekhi has not only earned credits for her brand but also has been acknowledged by the State of Maharashtra with the prestigious Business Karmayogini Award for her excellence in the field of women entrepreneurship. Lekhi was conferred Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2015 by Hon’ble Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Her achievements in the field of women entrepreneurship was been featured in the book ‘Follow Every Rainbow’ by renowned writer Rashmi Bansal.

9Anita Lal, Founder and Creative Director, Good Earth

In 1996, as a studio potter, Anita Lal saw that the craft of the kumbhars (village potters) was languishing. With the discerning eye of a craft connoisseur, she boldly and passionately stepped into retail to build a bridge between village potters and urban consumers, eager for well-made, contemporary designs with an Indian aesthetic.

With no experience or business plan, powered by an education in Psychology and confidence in her instincts, Lal set up a shop in Kemps Corner, Mumbai. Over the next two decades, Good Earth grew to into a cult brand, known as pioneer of stylish retail in India and much loved for original design through an Indian prism.

Lal is a natural storyteller with reverence for nature, culture, tradition and craft. Her commitment to supporting artisan communities comes from an appreciation of crafts as the wellspring of India’s creativity. Her philosophy of sustainable luxury is rooted in a passionate belief that we can benefit the environment and society, in a meaningful and relevant way, through the revival of craft and wellness traditions.

With a meticulous eye for quality and detail, as Creative Director, Lal oversees every aspect of Good Earth design collections and the retail experience, including the fragrances and music that have become hallmarks of the brand.

10Natasha Shah, Founder, The Nature’s Co

Natasha Shah is the young and dynamic founder of The Nature’s Co., an array of natural and luxurious beauty and wellness products. Born and brought up in Mumbai, she obtained a Masters in Business Administration from the prestigious MET University, Mumbai.

She started her career in 2003 with Amar Remedies Ltd. (ARL), a manufacturer of ayurvedic products such as toothpaste, pain-relieving ointment, balm, medicine and cosmetic toiletries. Also as a Director of Amar Remedies Ltd, she spearheaded the export division and handled existing markets such as Dubai and Africa and made in roads into developing markets such as South America.

As a child, she grew up using natural home remedies for beauty care that progressed to a natural inclination towards this subject. In business, Natasha Shah had a dream and desire to mould this subconscious learning into a new project.

A visionary, she envisaged increasing needs and awareness of discerning customers in India for beauty care. It is with such foresight and enterprising spirit that The Nature’s Co. – a division of Amar Remedies Ltd. (ARL) – has been founded.

She has been researching on natural ingredients, essential oils and its benefits since 2003. Combining her passion with the parent company’s strong roots in Ayurveda, helped her to go further with her research and showcase a complete, natural range of skin, hair and body care products.

At The Nature’s Co., Shah is responsible for undertaking and heading the R&D, packaging and strategy development. Multitasking being her key strength, she looks into each aspect personally in order to ensure that each brand representative is in sync with its philosophy and ideology. From conceptualizing the project to giving birth to its existence, Natasha Shah will soon look into global openings, new product developments and future business plans to expand within India in metropolitan and Tier II cities.