I started making and selling ‘bags with attitude’ as an 18-year-old student at Sophia Polytechnic. I had been creative and passionate since I was a child, and I enrolled for the foundation course in Art at the Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai. But after I unexpectedly failed the course, I took up two part-time courses: screen-printing and interior designing. I also took up a job at a retail store, where I learnt everything about store management. Post which, just to prove to myself that I wasn’t a failure and that my designs could sell, I started the Baggit journey in 1984.
Along with being CEO of Baggit, I am also a managing committee member at the Rishi Gurukulam at Katarkhadak, a residential school where my daughter Vedoci studies.
I am an ardent follower of SSY (Siddha Samadhi Yoga), which has helped me through my inner and professional journey. I believe that the most important things in life are ‘peace, love and joy.’
Baggit, is now an international retail brand, present in 77 cities, owns 42 Exclusive Brand Outlets (EBO’s) and available in 375+Multi-Brand Retail Stores.
Baggit has won awards not only for being one of the ‘Most Admired Customer Brands’ in India, but has also been acknowledged by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises for its ‘Make In India’ decision – which gives full-time employment to 800 people and 850 contractual workers.
Recently, a friend told me, “Nina, you seem to be a candle burning at both ends. When was the last time you took a sabbatical?” Looking back, the closest I ever came to one was the 40-day leave, which I took when my daughter Vedoci was born. I was one of those women who worked till my due date. I remember people worriedly asking me, “Are you going to deliver in office?” Even those 40 days, I managed to be at home only because it was drilled into my head that it is custom and hygienic to do so. Within no time, from just changing cloth nappies 24/7, I began answering a few mails, reading reports as well as passing samples (of bags) from home.
This was much to the consternation of my husband Manjo, who always kept reminding me to do one thing at a time. E.g. If you’re feeding her, don’t talk on the phone. He was right. In business, various issues kept cropping up, which often jolted me from a peaceful frame of mind to anxiety.
However, I couldn’t stop working. I remained the ever multitasking person I am. Initially, I would put the baby to sleep at 10 p.m.- take a power nap for 15 minutes and wake up again. It would be the toughest time of the night to wake up, but I was motivated to work for a few hours until dawn and go back to sleep.
But while I didn’t put my work on the back burner, I also prioritized my baby above all. In fact, I would say initially Vedoci did get most of my time. I always felt that work could go on without me – and it was not every day that I would be having a baby. I took each day as it came… I didn’t plan much.
However, my husband Manjo is totally the opposite of what I am. He is a business life coach and also happens to be a teacher of ISP. As a parent, he actually implemented whatever he taught others! He ensured that Vedoci developed a sleep pattern. We had soon realized that unpredictable sleeping hours are the toughest part of managing a newborn. So, Manjo scheduled her sleep timings. Every evening, he created an ambience with appropriate music that would make her drowsy. He would keep swaying her on the terrace simultaneously, so it became her routine, and she recognised her time to sleep.
This was fabulous. Even as parents of such a young child, this gave us time to catch up with exercise, or even a meeting.
Having been a teacher of ISP myself, I successfully utilized another concept, which I had learnt, as she grew up. Any decision I wanted to take regarding Vedoci, I asked her for her opinion first. I use this technique in office as well. It is inclusive and makes everyone bond like a team.
Today, my daughter is 15, and I still follow this process. Children have a certain freshness and new clarity to life that we don’t. Every perspective that my daughter shares with me, brings me to tears – and I wonder why I didn’t see it her way! All moms experience this.
However, there are times when I have needed to detach from the role of being a mother and occupy myself intellectually – and this is natural due to the generation gap between parents and children.
The fact that once my child grows up, she will have preferences that are different from her parents, and find her own friends, plays at the back of my mind. It is also true that as a mother, I don’t get too much time for myself even now.
I must add that what is crucial in early parenting is having great support at home. Having a baby is difficult for a woman, whether she is working or not. But I never really felt it, because my mom-in-law was a great support to me whenever Manjo and I were simultaneously busy. Yes, movies make all in-laws appear as vamps, and that may be true for some, but it isn’t so for me. I believe I could work because I welcomed and valued her support. What most elders require is a little bit of love, and acknowledgement, like we all do. Till date, I thank my MIL from my heart for all the support she gave us.
As clichéd as it sounds, when I look back, I feel all the sacrifice was worth it. Nothing thrills me like the sudden decision to bunk work for a few hours, to exchange my stressful CEO’s chair for a velvety multiplex seat next to my beautiful daughter and her cute daddy – if only to laugh through a silly movie.
Life is good, and I live in gratitude that I don’t need a sabbatical… because my entire life feels like one.