My Being A Woman Has Never Stopped Me In Any Way

Updated: Jun 28 2003, 05:30am hrs
Chanda Narang, CEO, Frazer and Haws (F&H), the company that specialises in silverware and jewellery, is determined to create a premier brand. At first sight she comes across as a quiet and a patient entrepreneur but with a sharp strategising mind.

Ms Narang took over the workshop of F&H, which makes silverware and jewellery ranging from serving dishes, home decoration articles, mens range from cufflings to cigar accessories, tie-pins etc, in 1991 when it was an entirely export-oriented unit. Her job was to revise the stock position as well as scale down the production operations into a leaner more efficient system. Besides, she had to knit together a team of professionals.

Chanda Narang
The decision to go retail in India was mine. It was based on a survey of existing precious product availability in the market. We found that F&H could fill in a yawning gap in the market for quality sterling silverware and certified jewellery. And we were right, says Ms Narang confidently.

Initially, Ms Narang faced pressure from the parent company of F&H - Hennell of Bond Street. The parent company had sceptics who believed that Bond Street quality precious metal and branded products would not succeed in the Indian market. Says Ms Narang, Even though I was working very closely with our London company, frankly its disdain for the Indian market made me see red sometimes. It thought neither India can accept branded products nor pay the premium for them. Our job was to better the best. Hennell of Bond Street now concedes that it misjudged the Indian market.

Today, F&H has seven showrooms of which three are in Delhi itself, besides one each in Bangalore, and Coimbatore and two in Mumbai. It soon plans to open one showroom each in Mumbai and Kolkata and is targeting a sales of Rs 20 crore by the end of this fiscal, surpassing Rs 12 crore last year. The F&H branding is entrenched. We have focused on our customer relationship, product designs and craftsmenship. And she gives credit to her team for bringing the company to its present position. F&Hs designs are a blend of both traditional and modern kinds ranging from victorian to art decor and designs from traditional carvings. The price ranges from Rs 50 to Rs 10 crore.

F&H was established by silversmiths John Frazer & Edward Haws in 1869 as an exclusive workshop unit for the Hennell. And the name has become the last word in tasteful silverware and jewellery and boasts such discerning patrons as Queen Victoria, Marie Antoinette, Duke and Dutchess of Windsor, Winston Churchills wife along with actors like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

F&H under Ms Narang has been able to maintain systematic growth of 22-25 per cent despite the bad economies over the last 2-3 years. Neither I want the company to grow too fast nor growth rate to extend where we are not consolidating our business. Even our product development is quite systematised keeping in view the huge growing Indian market, says Ms Narang.

Ms Narang is happy that she chose this line. Jewellery business is exciting. Ups and downs, studying and understanding the market and my customer, expanding client-base, working on my product-line and taking risks really keep me going. What drew her most to the F&H is its style of working. Questions are asked, answers are given by specialists. This attracted me to F&H instantly.

Ms Narang, initially a student of Mass Communications and Bio-chemistry, worked for a year as news producer for 20/20 Television, London. Besides, she also worked with KTVU, San Francisco and American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), London. I love science and technology and film-making. Both were helpful in my career. Today she pursues filmmaking as a hobby. Still a director in Studio Images she gets to spend less time in the film-making arena. I am not directly involved but I look after overseas financial matters.

As an entrepreneur, she find every business is just the same. Same management style applies in every business model. Business women need to take a calculative risk and do their homework to the best of their abilities. But the gender issue has never come up her way either in film making or business. It came up only when I was trying to breakeven into the business. Afterwards I had a smooth sailing, she says

However, Ms Narang feels that a lot of prejudices and bias exist. In the corporate world a woman enters thinking if she will get a fair chance.

The fear prevents her from giving her best and makes her either over aggressive or defensive. However, my being a woman has never stopped me in any way, she says.