Vanitaa Bhatia

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The beautiful and vivacious Vanitaa Bhatia founded DIVAlicious in 2011 and today, it’s the only exclusive award-winning International Fashion & Lifestyle Exhibition. Her penchant for fashion dates back to her childhood and the rest is history. Having associated with Fashion Week designers such as Anita Dongre, Gaurang Shah, Neeta Lulla, Nishka Lulla, Masaba Gupta, Sonaakshi Raaj and many more, DIVAlicious has showcased extremely successful fashion shows and exhibitions in London, Dubai, Mumbai, Nairobi, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Durban-Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bangalore, Raipur, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. Being a successful entrepreneur, she believes that passion and commitment are the two key factors that feed one’s ambition and helps to soar high.

How has your journey of life been from childhood till today?

Childhood for me was very special. I am the youngest in my family, so I have always been spoilt and pampered. For my parents, I was like a surprise baby; but of course, they were happy and my siblings were quite protective about me. A lot of people who have known me since I was a kid, always saw me wearing a lot of makeup, which I am still doing now (laughs). They knew that I would be doing something related to fashion someday. I guess things were meant to be. I am glad I was into banking first, as that knowledge helped me with the way I approach and execute things for DIVAlicious. Talking about my family, they are here for 60 years now. We are from Mumbai, but our roots stem from Karachi as my grandparents are from Karachi who came to Mumbai after partition. My husband is a complete Mumbai boy and he runs a contracting business here.

What is your philosophy of life?

I always saw my dad being a go-getter when I was growing up. He would always keep trying one or the other thing but never used to give up. On the other hand, my mom has been very supportive and patient throughout. It’s a perfect balance between the two of them, which was a great learning for me. So my philosophy of life is the same.

Is it a love marriage?

We met at a wedding of a common relative. Our families knew each other and so things were very easy for us. It all happened happily.

What’s your target market? People with Indian roots?

Yes. Being in a competitive market like Dubai, I was the first one to start the concept of exhibitions out here. We started as a pop-up boutique and from thereon, it’s been growing. There are many competitors, but some of us are really good friends. We discuss each other’s exhibition schedules so that our exhibitions do not clash. It’s a healthy competition.

I believe it’s all about knowing what to do and understanding the market. DIVAlicious operates across boundaries; when it comes to Nairobi, I am the only one to host an exhibition there. To be honest, it’s not an easy market to step into. You wouldn’t believe, there was no concept of wooden hangers in Nairobi. I got my own racks made here and stored them there in a warehouse. People over there still live in old-school mentality, they believe it’s a lot cheaper in India. It was quite challenging to educate them, but fortunately, I was able to organise shows for 4 successful years. Now, I host a show in Nairobi once a year, mostly around May. I did one show in London last year and got Sonam Kapoor walking the ramp as well.

Why only women dominate this line of business? Why are there only a few men? What do you think?

I agree, there are more women in this line than men, but when it comes to exhibitions in India, there’s one person who does mass exhibitions, I really admire him. He does it exceptionally well and is quite good at it.

What are the top 3 weaknesses women have?

All women at some point or the other, go through depression and dealing with it is very important. Some women are so conscious of their appearance that they do not want to be out there and do something. Some could face the pressure of families and children. But I believe women should convert their weaknesses into their strengths and go ahead to achieve their goals.

How do you deal with kids?

I try to give maximum time to them, but yes, I am unable to be with them throughout the day. There’s one ritual we follow every night, before the kids go to bed, I read stories to them and we discuss many things like activities throughout the day and different facts about the world. I pick them up from school and we have dinner together. Friday is our family day no matter what. Whenever I am in Dubai, I make sure, my kids’ friends visit us and we together do art, talk, play games, etc.

What happens when you travel?

I plan their days whenever I travel. I plan their play dates with all the details including what should they wear during their play dates. Mostly, I travel only for 2-3 days, so it is not much of a problem to manage things for a day or two.

Do you have mentor? Who do you look to whenever you are depressed?

My mother. Whenever I have a tough time and my exhibition sales are low, I talk to her. She boosts my morale just by saying that ‘I am telling you, it will happen’ and it really happens. Just that one line from my mother gets me going and things fall into place. As far as a mentor is concerned, my previous company's boss is one of them. The way I work with my team today is totally dedicated to my previous work experience. I apply that knowledge and sometimes I do not even realise that. My boss taught me many management skills. I truly owe him.

What is better – job or business?

Business is better since I have a control of my own responsibilities. Even when I used to work as a banker, my profile was the same. I had a portfolio to handle for 15-20 clients with each client being having given us a minimum of 1 Million Dollar. I used to manage their money. I do the same thing right now – helping people make money by providing a platform, but on my own terms.

What is that one things that you apply the most?

One of the most important things is that you should have plans - A, B, C and D as well. There should always be a backup. I always work on solutions, I do not talk about problems.

What about delegation?

I learned ‘to delegate’ the hard way. I have realised the benefit of delegating authority to others since I could reach out to more cities. It took me some time, but over the years, I learnt to do it. It was a false perception in my mind that no one can sell an exhibition stall like me, but I must say my team can do a far better job now.

How do you deal with unwanted attention?

When something has to be done, my team is the front face, the last say is mine and most of my communications are on email so they do not even know what I look like. Everyone knows that I am happily married and my body language clearly communicates "stay away". So this never was a problem I faced.

What if you were unmarried?

When I wasn’t married, I and my sister used to make business plans and my mother used to be a part of it as well. But if I wasn’t married yet, I would probably be doing more of my exhibitions. I have to confess that some situations made me very mature about certain things, post marriage. This really helped me in my professional career. I feel so lucky to have my daughters; after they are born, my brand grew amazingly, thus I have no complaints.

What’s your view on Expo 20-20?

I think Dubai is under a lot of pressure to meet the expectations for 20-20. But I am sure Dubai will soar high as we have everything planned and in place. I believe it will open more doors for business.

What do you think of women working from home?

I had started working from home when I was new. I didn’t have kids then, so I was able to focus on exhibitions. But today, I have an office and that’s how it should be.

Prioritise – kids, work, husband, family, social life.

Work is my first priority. If I don’t earn, I won't be able to cater to the needs of my children, at my best. My husband and our kids are definitely at par and if I have any energy left later, I shall attend to my social life.

What about you? How do you reward yourself?

Since my birthday is at the start of the year, when I am done with all the exhibitions, at the end of the year, I spoil myself and buy things, do things that I want to. Totally pampering myself.

Since how long have you been working?

I am 37 today. I was a banker for 7 years and then I took a break for 2 years. Post that, I have been doing DIVAlicious for 7 years.

How do you see yourself going ahead? Any expansion plans?

Eventually, I want to consult for brands as I have worked with so many. I have helped so many brands to rise through DIVAlicious.

Are your exhibitions themed?

I do not have themes, but I try to apply different strategies to every city I go. In Hyderabad, I had a socialite involved who owns a chain of boutique and I thought that would work, but I was wrong. That didn’t work at all. It was more to do with marketing. Here in Dubai, there cannot be more of billboards, but if it’s in India, there are a lot of billboards to promote the event. So every market has different needs.

How do you deal with failures?

Like I told you before, my Hyderabad exhibition didn’t do as well I expected and that was a bit disappointing. But my exhibitors believe in me and they understand that my effort was 100% and I learnt a lot from that. I think failure is necessary for learning. If we just taste success, we start taking things for granted, so a failure or a push is important to feel happiness when you succeed.

Do you think it is easier for women in the gulf rather than in other countries?

I think it really depends upon what each woman wants to do and how strong she is about doing it. It doesn’t really matter where they are, because things really happen if we are persistent to make it happen.

What is your motto in life?

If you believe in it, go for it. Don't stop. Obstacles mean that you are nearly there.