It’s a foggy winter morning as Pooja Jain strides into her sprawling farmhouse on the suburbs of New Delhi, her hair blowing in controlled curls around her attractive face, her D&G overcoat proudly hugging her petite frame. She smiles politely, this bright-eyed, thirty-something business magnate, but there is a hint of steel in the set of her jaw, a studied wariness in her eyes – a woman who does not take anything for granted, who observes all details before making her move.
Thirty minutes into our shoot, though, the executive director of Luxor Writing Instruments lets her guard down and her eyes crinkle with mirth and self-satisfaction as she youthfully swirls her way around her chic weekend home, telling us about the labour of love that went into its making. “I am passionate about interior decoration and collecting art, something I have picked up from my elder sister who owns Arushi Arts,” she divulges, adding that she’s busy redecorating her family home at Nizamuddin East as well.
But with all the travelling she does, she’s hardly ever at home. “I just got back from a holiday in Goa,” she confides as if it’s a guilty secret, “though I do travel frequently for work, both in India and abroad.” Pooja is steadily being groomed by her ambitious dad DK Jain to take over the mantle of the INR 400-crore business. She cannot praise him enough: “He’s a sixty-five-year-old with the drive of a twenty-year-old. The entire family looks up to him as a source of strength and inspiration. He is my best friend – we understand each other completely,” she says, narrating tales of how he set up the company from scratch in 1963, and has been the powerhouse behind Luxor’s current strength with five verticals – from education and retail, to nanotechnology and real estate. The group bought the Qutab Hotel (now the Clarion, New Delhi) in partnership with family friends a few years ago. “The government’s disinvestment was a way for us to enter the hospitality sector,” she explains.
Pooja is self-effacing when it comes to her own role (“I’m still a striver, not an achiever”) but that does not negate the fact that she was the driving force behind the introduction of international brands Pilot, Parker and Waterman in India, and Parker’s roping in of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador over a decade ago. Remarkably, she did not simply glide in as a director as other business heirs are wont to do; instead, she worked at Gillette (which then owned Parker) at their international offices in London, Munich and Boston as a management trainee while still in college. “Everything happened so fast. I got involved without knowing I was getting involved,” she says, shaking her head in wonder. After completing her grueling training abroad and her graduation from Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi, she started at the lowest rung in her own company. “I didn’t even report to my dad,” she smiles, sharing that Luxor’s marketing manager was her first boss.
Born and brought up in Delhi, all of Pooja’s three siblings are associated with the group’s other businesses in some way, heading at least one of its verticals. “We are a handful when we get together,” she says of her ‘fun’ family. “There’s no need for any external entertainment or support.” Pooja’s mother was involved in the crucial initial stages of the company’s development, working hand-in-hand with DK Jain as he set up the writing-instruments company that now has a 20 per cent market share, exporting to over a hundred countries with about 2,500 employees. “We don’t just create companies. We create people. I am proud of our team; I have learnt a lot from them,” Pooja says with grave sincerity.
A dynamic mix of traditional and Bohemian, Pooja is most often to be seen in ‘fusion’ Indianwear at work. “I’m always in salwar kameez, mostly from my younger sister’s store, Luxor Luxury,” she says, “though during the winter, you may see me in Westernwear as well.” When it comes to accessories, she prefers to buy her bags from Chanel, Hermès or Bottega Veneta (“Nothing that displays the brand too prominently”), jewellery from Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron, and watches by Patek Philippe. When it comes to shoes, Pooja goes for comfort over style or brand. “Durability is also important,” she says, adding that her personal style sense is a mix of the classic and contemporary.
The ‘balance’ of the two reflects in her personal choices as well. Sensibly single, she thinks she’ll go in for a ‘referred’ marriage when the time is right. “It’s important that my dad likes my partner,” she says, glancing at the mirror as she prepares for a shot. An avid reader of biographies of great personalities, Pooja is inspired by her own religion, Jainism, and believes in a higher power. “The more good you do, the more comes back to you. That’s karma,” she says. “My spirituality is my hard work and enterprise. As long as you learn from mistakes, that’s realisation of the soul.”
Though inherently vivacious, sociable and high on energy, Pooja does not party too much; “Who has the time?” she asks, wryly, though she does make time for close friends. And romance? Oh, she believes in romance, all right. “You have to romance your work, your life,” she says, a gleam of passion shining in her eyes. “You have to feel good about yourself, and make others feel good about your presence… make them smile when you are around.” She hugs with genuine warmth as she bids us farewell. For someone who defines herself as a “never-give-up” personality, the full stop is an anti-climax to Pooja Jain’s story.
First published in Atelier magazine