I mind my wife's business

Sometimes, it's canny business sense to turn your back on your line of work and join your wife's.

OddNaari OddNaari Jun 02, 2010

It takes more than good old common sense perhaps to watch your wife's business grow and decide there's eminent reason to join her.

After all, you're turning your back on something you've nurtured all these years - or shutting down something you fondly set up.

When Deepak Goyal shut down his furnishing fabrics manufacturing company, Grace Fabrics, to join interior designer wife Meenakshi Goyal's Grace Furnishing Pvt Ltd, he had no qualms about it. If anything, it was Meenakshi who had "apprehensions" about the decision. "After all he had set up the unit all by himself and when he told me it was time to shut it down, I worried about how he would take it over a period of time," says Meenakshi.

When Meenakshi married Deepak 20 years ago, she was just "doing a job" in an interior designer firm. The entrepreneur in the family was Deepak. But her parents-inlaw were clear they didn't want her to work, so she tried her hand at some freelance consultation before setting up her own company. "I converted a part of my house into my office and decided to work from home. Soon enough, I'd employed four designers who executed my design," Meenakshi recalls. The business frequently needed Deepak's intervention, especially when it came to handling the labour in her furniture unit. Call it a boon, but having a wife involved in a business closely related on one's own, helped Deepak make his decision. "The internationalisation of the market had begun in the 90s and I realised that the demand for Indian furnishing fabrics was declining. The look and feel of European fabrics were far superior and the demand for imported fabrics was growing. There was no way I could have got the kind of funds required for a tech upgradation of my fabric unit, so it made eminent sense to exit," says Deepak.

It was a dispassionate decision and there are no regrets about it. "I was later proved to be right. When we shut down the fabrics company, it was a voluntary decision. In the case of many others, it was forced," he adds.

In the case of Anisha Singh & Arjun Basu of Mydala, an online group buying site, Singh and Basu had met each other several times over three years in New York and Boston before they decided to date each other, and eventually marry. Basu worked with a hedge fund in New York, after his dotcom company in India had gone bust in 2001. It was a good life in New York, handling the funds of very high networth individuals, and wining and dining at the most expensive restaurants. But Basu's passion for entrepreneurship hadn't died down just because he had burnt his fingers once.

Singh had, meanwhile, set up a software solutions company, and then Mydala, an online group buying company. "All the while, I would bounce off my ideas with him - I was getting good professional advice at home and I made the most of it," says Singh.

It didn't take long for Basu to realise that with Mydala, they were on to something big and that it was worthwhile quitting his job to join his wife. "Yes it was a good life, but all this while I was managing for someone else, creating wealth for another," Basu explains. And no, Singh had no 'apprehen sions' about Basu joining her, she welcomed him with open arms. "Arjun's a workaholic and he's aggressive at work - he has the qualities I admire in a professional," says Singh.

Double agents
At Max New York Life, Shalini Kohli and Priya Daryanani are in the big league as far as selling life insurance policies are concerned. But when they started in this line, it's unlikely that they knew they would be so successful. "I was working with Air India in Mumbai and had to quit my job when I got married to Ajay in Pune. It was when my daughter started going to school and I had a lot of time to myself that a friend suggested I sign up with Max New York Life," says Priya. Though her husband, Haresh, helped with the family FMCG business, he also assisted her from the beginning. "I would be there when she had late night appointments with clients, and since I have an MBA degree, I did the calculations that were involved," says Haresh.

And so, it wasn't long before Haresh moved out of his family business and joined Priya's agency, which was by then hugely successful. In the case of Shalini too, Ajay was always working at the back-end.

"That's because she's the registered agent - but with Shalini's line of work showing phenomenal growth, I decided to leave the family business and join her totally," says Ajay. In fact, growth demanded that Shalini get a partner she could bank on - and there as no one better than Ajay who could fit the bill. And is Ajay proud of Shalini's success! "Thanks to her, I've travelled abroad quite a bit for various global conferences," says Ajay. Both Shalini and Priya have picked up most of the awards and titles given to high-flying agents by Max New York Life.

While Priya has been on the Million Dollar Round Table from 2005-2008, Shalini is still very much part of it. "The MDRT is where the CEO consults topmost agents on strategies and offerings for the market," says Shalini.

Yours, mine and ours
For Harjinder Kaur, CEO & MD of Comvision, a software firm, it didn't take long to realise that she just couldn't work for someone else - she had to be in her own company. That was 20 years ago when she set up a corporate training institute in Gurgaon.

An arranged marriage saw her leave Gurgaon for Hyderabad, leaving the running of the training institute to her sister. "I couldn't run the institute from Hyderabad, so it had to be shut. But in Hyderabad, I saw huge opportunity in the software solutions industry and it wasn't long before I was doing the rounds of government departments for projects in e- Seva," says Kaur.

When the Chandrababu Naidu government fell, Kaur recalls candidly: "To tell you the truth, I felt a bit insecure. That's when we turned our eyes on Delhi and decided that this was the place to be in. Thanks to all the good work I had done in Hyderabad, it wasn't difficult getting projects in the Delhi government." Kaur feels she's fortunate that her husband, B. Talwar, supported her in her decision.

"He moved out of his hardware business in Hyderabad to join me in Delhi," says Kaur. No, they don't step on each others toes now that they work next door to each other - they occupy adjacent cabins in the Comvision building. "My husband looks after the foreign collaborations, while I look after government. We do have our fights, but no there are no ego clashes," says Kaur, and then adds as an afterthought, "At least, there are no ego clashes right now because both of us have the same goal: We want the company to grow. But 10 years from now… I can't say," she smiles.

Singh and Basu admit they might have professional disagreements but they sort it out right there in the office. " We have another partner in our business - sometimes it could be he and I on one side, arguing with Arjun. At other times, Arjun and I may be on one side… it doesn't really matter. Out there, we're colleagues and there's nothing personal about it.

Each one of us in focused on what's best for the business."

Line of demarcation
When Meenakshi set up her company in 1994, Deepak joined it the very next year, taking charge of furniture manufacture, purchase, handling design and other such areas. Meenakshi focuses on design and marketing. "That entails understanding the client's needs and sensibilities and ensuring we create the ambience they want," says Meenakshi. Deepak, meanwhile, also plays a big role in the business by insisting that investments be made in new technologies. He's helped create a brand called Mobel Grace for their range of furnishing products and the branding strategy has paid off by bringing them international clients such as Omega, Longines and Mont Blanc, among others.

"As far as design goes, Meenakshi's the last word and I ensure everything else caters to ensuring that it's executed the way she wants it. And when it's technology, purchases, or any other area that I handle, my decision's final. We may argue, but once one of us takes a decision, we stick to it whether we agree with it or not," says Deepak. A case in pointer was Deepak's spending on technology: " At first, the spending made me insecure - but when I saw how it helped take us to the next level, I left it to him," says Meenakshi.

So if a few petty squabbles at home make you wonder whether couples can ever get along as colleagues - here are some examples that could help you see otherwise.

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