Power and Grace – Pinky Reddy

She’s known as the bubbly, cheerful philanthropist who is extremely popular in Hyderabad and Mumbai as well as other parts of the country, and the loving wife of Sanjay G.V.K. Reddy. But there’s a lot more to Aparna Reddy than meets the eye. Fondly known as Pinky Reddy, she has a lively and warm persona that immediately puts you at ease. Inheriting this vivacious quality from her dad, T. Subbarami Reddy, and dignity and elegance from her mom, Indira Subbarami Reddy, Pinky is a complete package. She is a supportive wife, doting mother to her children Mallika and Keshav, grandmother to Shiv, and daughter-in-law to G.V.K. and Indira Reddy.

Apart from all this, she’s a successful businesswoman and philanthropist with her Aparna Foundation, and is now the national president of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO). Hard-working, social, and confident, she is an inspiration to so many women. This week, we got up close and personal with the elegant lady about her work and personal life. Read on for the full scoop.

Tell us all about yourself.
I’m the kind of person who never plans my future, unlike most other people. The journey from a little girl to the national president of FICCI FLO has been great! I’m thankful to god, my parents for an amazing childhood, my in-laws and husband for giving me a fabulous life after marriage, and my children for being supportive of everything I do. As a woman, I know what is suitable for my family and I don’t ever cross the line, which is why my family supports me in everything. Being dignified is very important in any field, and that I’ve learnt from my mother. Being friendly and outgoing, just like my father, has helped me reach out to more people.

I used to be involved in my husband’s company and attend board meetings etc. But I was never involved in the regular day-to-day activities of the business, since I was married very young and had my children to bring up. So I started working with Sanjay only much later. He is my backbone; the support he gives me is amazing. My husband lets me do whatever I want because he trusts me. I’ve seen everything as a young girl with my father— stardom, riches, but I still don’t get carried away with anything. That’s why people say I’m very humble.

How did you become the National President of FICCI FLO and how has life changed after it?
I got into FLO unexpectedly. I always used to believe that I was a homemaker and not a businesswoman. Hence, I didn’t feel qualified to be part of a business body. But a lot of my friends were members, and at one point they were going on a trip to Turkey and wanted me to come. So I became a member, only to go on that trip. It was that spontaneous!

On the 10th anniversary of the Hyderabad division of FICCI FLO, the members chose me unanimously as the president of the chapter; then they put me on the governing body. I never tried to push myself to be up there; I just went with the flow. So when I was elected as the national president of FLO, at that time I didn’t think it was a big deal. But now, after meeting and working with so many people from across the globe, I’ve come to realise that it is actually a very prestigious position. I went to Delhi, made my office and started working.

Somebody once very cheekily asked me how I’m enjoying being the president. My reply to that was: earlier, I used to eat at fine dining restaurants like Wasabi in Delhi, but now I’m ordering food on Swiggy from small eateries around my office, because I don’t get time to step out for a lavish meal. When I’m in Delhi, I’m only working.

What does your role entail?
I’m in charge of the 6,000 plus members of FLO from across India. I get calls and emails everyday from the various chapters, telling me about their problems and reporting on their work. I have to organise learning events in Delhi, roundtable conferences, and meetings. I recently planned a delegation to the US that was very successful. There’s a lot of day-to-day office work, too. It’s almost like working in Parliament (laughs).

Tell us about your delegation to the US.
The delegation that was attended by 42 FLO and YFLO members from Delhi across the chapters, was a step forward in strengthening mutual understanding, cooperation and exchange of ideas between Indian and American women entrepreneurs. Over 11 days, we visited Washington DC, New York, and Boston, wherein we visited the White House, attended a roundtable discussion on ‘Indian, Entrepreneurship and Connectivity: Path to Sustainable Development’ that was hosted by USIBC. We even had a policy master class on India US Foreign Policy and India’s trade priority at Riggs Library, in Georgetown University, a grand reception at the Indian Embassy at Washington DC, and visited the Capitol Building. Then there was a visit to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But the highlight was the roundtable session at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The session on ‘Beyond Genders’, organised by Dr M. and Preeti Malhotra of the Global Citizen Forum was both enlightening and inspiring. Apart from this we were invited to the Dolce & Gabbana store to discover the Fall Winter collection as well as the Escada store on 5th Avenue for a tête-à-tête with the editor of Harper’s Bazar, Avril Graham, on ‘Power Dressing’.

How has life changed after becoming a part of FLO?
It’s changed in the sense that I’ve been very busy and I’ve also learnt a lot. I would recommend people to always be part of organisations that are not their own and that has volunteers, because you learn so much when people are not obligated to you. You meet so many different people who you don’t generally meet socially.

What has been the highlight of your tenure so far?
I’m enjoying every bit of it; every event is different. I’m totally loving it! But the US trip was probably the highlight; I did things that I would never imagine doing. It was quite hectic to plan the entire thing; I started planning almost four to five months ago. In India it’s easy to plan things because you have connections and you can be in control of things, but it’s very difficult to get things done there, especially for 45 people!

You also run some stores at the Mumbai airport. What do they stock?
When I started working on the design element of the Mumbai airport along with Sanjay, we travelled all over the country with Rajeev Sethi to select the art and artefacts for it. During that time, we met a lot of old historians, artists, and collectors, and that’s when I started feeling sorry for the craftsmen of our country. Today’s younger generation wants to do things very differently; they don’t want to stick to their roots. So I decided to open a brand called Lotus House; it’s a last-minute gift store that stocks traditional artefacts made by artisans who live in rural India. I also started a foundation called Aparna Foundation and all the proceeds from this store go to the foundation, through which I educate children and fund artisans. We give them designs and then buy their final products.

I have three brands: Lotus House, Poparazzi, which deals in pop art, and Local that is a local street food brand. We have these stores at the Mumbai and Bengaluru airports. And unlike what people think, I’m like any other vendor; I don’t get the space for free even though the airport is owned by my husband’s company. I pay rent for all these stores.

Where are you in your personal space?
I’m in a good space. Both my kids are married, my son and daughter-in-law are doing their MBAs in the US, and my daughter and son-in-law had a baby boy nine months ago. I enjoy spending time with my grandson, Shiv. As a mother, I’ve never spoon-fed my kids. I’ve always let them be, and both my children have spouses who are very supportive.So I’m very content.

What do you foresee in the future?
After April, when I finish my term as national president of FICCI, I’m going to be on vacation. This year has been quite hectic and I’m missing spending time with my husband and kids.So I’m going to do just that after my tenure.

Where do you see yourself after 10 years?
I don’t know where I see myself after 10 days even (laughs)! I don’t plan anything in life; I just go with the flow. Things have always worked out for me in a good way, so I’m lucky.
You seem to be many people’s lucky charm, and some believe that if you launch their show or business, it turns out to be a success. You’re also seen walking the ramp as a showstopper quite often.

How did it all begin?
When I was in my teens, there were a lot of Bollywood stars who used to come down to Hyderabad. My father, being a film producer, knew them all well. They would always tell my dad ‘why don’t you get Pinky into films or get her to walk the ramp’, and my dad would huff and puff. I never got permission to do it then, so it’s funny that now, when I’m so much older, I’m walking the ramp so often (laughs).

I’ve always done a lot of charity; philanthropy has been my passion. There was a time when a young girl was opening a store and was apprehensive about the response. So I told her that I’d host the event, invite people and media, and make the event happen, and that’s how it started. From one person it became two, and then the number just grew, and now it’s become almost universal! Today, so many people in Hyderabad and Mumbai want me to inaugurate their stores. So far my luck has been good. Of course, I don’t charge people for this; I do it out of goodwill and I support their causes, so I guess it’s a good package (laughs).

How has life changed after becoming a grandmother?
It’s the best thing that could happen to me! I love spending time with my grandson, and since he comes over to our place every weekend, he’s my weekend entertainment. He reminds me a lot of both Mallika and Keshav when they were young. And my mother-in-law says he reminds her of Sanjay, so I guess he’s keeping everyone happy (laughs)!

How do you spend time with him?
I sit on the floor and play with him like a child. When he’s at home I’m with him throughout, and when he’s gone I’m like a dead duck. I don’t know how people have kids when they’re older; you need to be young and energetic to play with them!

How do you celebrate Diwali?
When the kids were younger we used to burst some crackers, but now we just have a small puja on the main day and attend several get-togethers. The highlight every year though is the Diwali party that we host at our house. It’s an open house that we’ve been hosting for the last 28 years, and it’s always so much fun. Unfortunately, though, this year I won’t be in town for Diwali so there won’t be a party at our home. Sanjay is going for a New York marathon and he’s very keen that I go with him, so we’re taking a break this year.

Source: YouandI

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