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Meet Simone Tata, the creative businesswoman

September 28, 2007
Swiss by birth, Simone Naval Tata at 73, is a graceful lady, always immaculately dressed. She is an honours graduate in Arts from Geneva University.

Over the years, she accompanied her husband, the successful industrialist Naval Tata, to many meetings and functions. She carries herself impressively in her European attire. Walking behind Naval, taking her seat in the front row as he walked to the dais, she always looked to me the model of a traditional Indian lady accompanying her husband.

Naval was a noble soul with a charming personality. He represented India with distinction in a number of tripartite meetings on labour-management issues. His passion for brining labour and management together is unequalled. The more I saw them, the more my admiration for this made-for-each-other couple grew. Simone's creation Lakme had always attracted me.

I was curious to hear its story from the creator. Lakme with its range of cosmetic products like powders, moisturizers, toners, cleansers, foundation creams, nail enamel, eye-liners, compacts, and many more, became a hot favourite with Indian ladies across the length and breadth of the country. My knowledge of it though was understandably limited.

With the advent of liberalization, Lakme anticipated the entry of a number of foreing companies into India, a direct threat to Lakme's market share and leading position. To keep up with such competitors would have been an uphill task with heavy marketing investment. Instead, they turned to retailing, a green field project in an industry still underdeveloped in the country, and closer to the aesthetic proclivities of Simone.

When I walk through Westside at Hughes Road in Mumbai, I experience the atmosphere of my favourite Marks & Spener at Oxford street, London. These two successful brand launches, Lakme and Westside, incensed my desire to include Simone in this study of outstanding leaders.

Also read: Indra Nooyi, a mother first and then a CEO

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