Sudha Reddy is a head-turner everywhere she goes – be it in high-powered business circles, the influential global philanthropic arena, or the dazzling international red carpet that she walks with flair! Andrea CostaBir catches up with her to track her incredible trajectory…
Ever since she burst onto the Met Gala red carpet, everyone’s been asking who Sudha Reddy is!! Well, this glamorous Hyderabad-based Indian businesswoman is the Director of Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), and the devoted wife of billionaire business magnate P.V. Krishna Reddy, the MD of MEIL.
While her rural and global philanthropic work is highly commendable, her confidence on the red carpet at the world’s most glitzy and prestigious events is amazing. Her passion for fashion is unrivalled… followed closely by her love for art ‘n’ architecture. Here are excerpts from our tête-à-tête that will help you get to know the real Sudha Reddy – the effervescent diva with a compassionate heart.
Describe “Sudha Reddy” in five words.
Idiosyncratic, compassionate, sophisticated, industrious and regal.
Three unknown facts about yourself?
I can cook extremely well, I love classical music, and I am a pretty spiritual person.
Ever since you burst onto the international scene, everyone wants to know more about you. Please give us a glimpse into the real Sudha Reddy.
I have been always been inspired by Princess Diana. She played many roles and carried out her duties with panache! I have always tried to embody her values, grace and charitable nature in my work.
A hands-on homemaker, I am an effective, productivity-oriented leader, and a diligent humanitarian. I’m absorbed with the arts, fashion and architecture, so even my days off are educational for me.
Your philanthropic work is creating a huge buzz…
My humanitarian initiatives are very dear to my heart, and act as a medium for me to give back to the people that have supported our work from the very beginning. As the Director of MEIL Group, I head the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of MEIL, driving several social impact projects across India.
These include an ongoing supply delivery initiative to the New Life Society, an organization supporting HIV-infected children since 2013; a potable drinking water initiative in the village of Jamulapalli, Andhra Pradesh, India in 2019; the construction of an oncology wing at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad in January 2021; and the construction of thousands of oxygen bed units and multiple cryogenic oxygen tanks for the Indian Government’s battle against the Coronavirus pandemic.
I also serve on the Board of the prestigious Andhra University for the Mechanical Engineering Department. The eponymous Sudha Reddy Foundation aims to support women and children focusing on affordable healthcare and accessible education.
You have collaborated with international star Elizabeth Hurley to campaign for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Paris. Plus worked with American actress Eva Longoria to raise awareness about underprivileged children suffering from chronic diseases at The Global Gift Gala (2019). What was your experience working alongside these famous ladies?
It is an honour to partner with these global female icons for such noble causes. I remember my interaction with Elizabeth Hurley for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Her commitment to the cause was inspiring, and we spoke about the power of research and its potential to change millions of lives by presenting the real picture, no matter how grim.
I truly believe in the power of untapped potential. With this, and empowered by the spirit of kindness, compassion and collaboration that is synonymous with these female figures, we can create a brighter future for all.
You are also associated with other charities like Action Against Hunger, Fight Hunger Foundation and The Mother Teresa Foundation…
The figures on children dying because of hunger grieved me, and to learn that India itself carries 40% of the global load of malnutrition was a complete shocker!
It was then that I decided to take a firm step in the direction with impactful outcomes. I committed to continually pledge out of my personal wealth, which led to the genesis of the Sudha Reddy Foundation, under the banner of which I hope to make a real difference to those who need it most. I believe that the platform I have been afforded is a powerful one, and that it is my responsibility to use it to bring much-needed change to the world.
What exactly is your role in all the charity work you are associated with?
My humanitarian work is very close to my heart, and I try to be as hands-on as possible. From choosing the causes the Foundation serves, to brainstorming with my team on how best we can be of service, I believe in talking the talk, and walking the walk. My charity work has also been a great source of personal joy for me – through it, I have been fortunate to interact with the inspiring women and children of my nation, as well as some of the greatest minds from India and around the world.
I have always believed that the education of our nation’s youth is of utmost importance, and through the Sudha Reddy Foundation, hope to improve the quality of and accessibility to education for all. Honestly, it feels immensely satisfying to be able to become a voice for the underprivileged. Access to affordable, quality healthcare has always been a pertinent issue in India, especially in rural areas. As proud citizens of this nation, I believe it is our duty and responsibility to give back in whatever way we can.
You are a trained fashion designer. How does being educated in fashion and design influence your sartorial choices?
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t obsessed with fashion – some would even say I live and breathe haute couture! That is the reason I opted for a professional degree in the field, to understand the nuances of the industry with an expert eye.
My style has always been a blend of the modern and the traditional, fusing the west and the east. I believe that fashion is a commentary and must reflect both, the spirit of the individual as well as the pulse of the collective. I gravitate towards bright, summery colours and innovative silhouettes, but some of my favourite looks are more understated – intricate in their simplicity.
What made you decide to make your red carpet debut at the Met Gala in New York?
I’m always looking forward to putting India on the world map. For me, this was an opportunity to showcase not only myself, but also represent my country and my hometown. While the Met Gala is the greatest night in fashion, for me, it was also an unparalleled opportunity to propel the cause of benevolence and align with individuals who see the merit and potential in the concept of giving back to society. I was incredibly grateful and honoured to see billboards in Times Square in New York that acknowledged my presence and contribution at the Met Gala this year.
Turning heads as you debuted on the Met Gala red carpet wearing an exquisite gown designed by well-known design house Falguni Shane Peacock, you looked poised and comfortable with the media glare. You also wore a spectacular diamond earpiece by renowned jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali to offset your magnificent ensemble. You often wear other stunning jewellery pieces by Farah. Do you get involved with the designing process too?
I share a very personal bond with Farah, Shane and Falguni; they are all dear friends and long-time collaborators. They have designed for me on numerous milestone occasions in the past. For the Met Gala, my only brief to them was to adhere to the theme while retaining a sense of Indian-ness. I think they did a phenomenal job!
I was quite involved with the whole process – right from the texture of the materials, to the kind of embellishments, to the colour of the precious gems. I like to be as involved as possible when it comes to my fashion. We had multiple rounds of fittings, which I juggled along with my business meetings.
Share with us your recent Paris Couture Week experience… Was it surreal? Which designers did you choose this time around?
After my appearance at the Met Gala, the committee of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture extended an invitation to my international team – and I was thrilled and honoured to be invited! It’s been exhilarating, to say the least. To be representing South India on the world couture stage is a source of great personal pride. It was a surreal feeling to be the only Hyderabadi at such a prestigious event.
Memorable would be too small a word to express how I feel about my outing at ‘couture’s most premium extravaganza’. I selected avant-garde looks by Ralph & Russo, Halston, Balmain, Jenny Packham, Versace, Alberta Ferretti, Carolina Herrera, and Rami Al Ali, which were complemented by accessories from Judith Leiber, Hermes, Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino and bespoke jewellery from Indian designer Ghanasingh Be True.
The internet has gone ga-ga about the diamond on your left incisor, and your rare custom-made anklets by Harry Winston. We want to know finer details about this luxurious bling!
Yes, I have a tiny heart-shaped diamond on my upper tooth; it’s my most favourite and super glam accessory! My custom-made Harry Winston anklets were a birthday gift.
A self-confessed “connoisseur of art and fashion” tell us about your favourite global brands.
Gosh, there are too many to choose from! If I had to pick, it is Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad, Vera Wang, Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
Is it true that you street shop in Hyderabad as well?!
Occasionally, I do enjoy strolling down the streets and wandering into boutique stores. Sometimes, you find rare vintage pieces in the most unimaginable places!
Your love for interior design is well-known, and you have decorated your mansion in Hyderabad in the classical European style. What draws you to this design genre?
I believe that life itself is a miracle, and to truly appreciate a miracle, you must be able to step out of your routine life and appreciate all that it has to offer. Art is perhaps the purest form of communication and speaks in words that are not bound by language. I find art fascinating and wish to support dying art forms. Classical European architecture has always held a special place in my heart. I love its grandness, its regal allure, and its magnitude.
What’s a regular day in the life of Sudha Reddy like? Does it include pampering your pet swans and dogs?
I start my day with yoga, meditation and mindful eating. I update myself on current affairs in the first half of the day. Post my work commitments, I spend time with my pets, taking in the serenity of nature in my garden.
Give us an insight into your family’s business, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited, which builds mega infrastructure projects like dams, natural gas distribution networks, power plants and roads. You are a director in the firm and are known to be very hands-on. Do you enjoy the process of being involved in running a business?
Entrepreneurship gives me confidence, independence and pride; while my social welfare work helps me sleep peacefully at the end of the day. Both come naturally to me, but while the former gives me the adrenaline rush I need, the latter gives me immense satisfaction and joy.
Define your work ethic.
My work ethic is all about productivity married with purpose. My leadership style is more democratic and participative, where I encourage inputs from other members of the organisation as I believe companies are built jointly by the employer and employees.
As a leader, I value honesty, transparency, relationships, communication and hard work. I am extremely ambitious and goal-driven, and always try to lead by example. I believe a company gains reputation and trust not merely by the scale of the business or turnover, but by how many lives it can uplift and transform along the way. I find a lot of happiness and peace in giving back to society, and I treat this role with as much importance as any other in my professional and personal life.
You, your husband Megha Krishna Reddy aka P.V. Krishna Reddy, and your two sons come across as a very close-knit, loving and caring family. What are the top three values that both of you are inculcating in your children? …And how do you four stay grounded through it all?
I believe that every woman is a ‘working’ mother. Being a homemaker is tons of work. Kudos to all ‘working’ mothers who are handling their children, house, or office, and barely managing to take a moment for themselves!
My husband and I respect our roots and traditions. We try to inculcate our values and habits, and ensure that our children follow them. We emphasise on teaching them the value of time and money, and focus on practising the art of forgiveness and kindness. And the one value we insist that they must follow is respect – no matter where they travel or explore, they must have respect for their nation. Family is sacred, and they must respect their elders and give back to those less fortunate.