Feisty & Famous, Pinky Reddy is a name to reckon with not just in India, but internationally too! Confident and bubbling over with energy, she is from one of India’s topnotch industrialist families and lives life queen-sized. Sharing deep insights into her life, she talks family, business, fun and a lot more with Andrea CostaBir. Get set for a hearty, candid chat!
A member of India’s topnotch industrialist family – thanks to both, parents and in-laws; a huge legacy courtesy your father T Subbarami Reddy; a hectic yet charmed life with industrialist husband Sanjay… how does Pinky Reddy queen over it all?!
I have been very, very, very privileged. God has been extremely kind to me.
I’m very fortunate to have picked up the best qualities of both my parents. I’m a lot like my father – extroverted and pretty social. Also, if someone hurts me, I won’t hesitate to take it up with them. My mom is very different… she doesn’t like to speak up and ends up sleeping over things.
Having married Sanjay when I was very young; I was 18 and he was 23, he ended up becoming my best friend. Since we lived in the US immediately after our wedding, early in life I learnt how to wear different hats and manage everything. I learnt how to multitask and allow nothing to overwhelm me. I also learnt not to let anything go to my head – because the minute you think you’re too great, God sends you right back to earth!
How was it growing up with your dad TSR (industrialist, politician, filmmaker)? You undoubtedly are the apple of your father’s eye; daddy’s li’l girl forever… Is your go-getting, bubbly, kind personality influenced by him?
Every daughter is the apple of her father’s eye. My father is a lovely and big-hearted person. From the time I was a kid, I’ve seen celebrities and actors dropping into our home as my dad was friends with most of them. They too are normal people and we were very comfortable with them. We weren’t enamoured with them, so it’s wasn’t a big deal being around them.
My dad always told me, “If you have Rs 100, give Rs 10 to charity.” He brought me up with this kind of value system, and I continue to live this way. We always talked about business and politics at home, so I ended up learning so much from him from a very young age. I’ve always been like my father – people love coming over and talking to me, as I give out a confident, positive vibe.
Please tell us about your equation with your mom Indira too – heard she is a quiet but very strong force. What lessons did you learn from her which you implement in your life today.
I’m a grandmother myself, but till today I am scared of my mother.
She was very strict with me while I was growing up, and even though we had a lot, she kept a firm check on us and never gave me more than Rs 20 to keep on me!
She’s a very simple but very stylish person; she loves dressing up in the most elegantly simple sarees and jewellery. My mother got married at 16, so she also grew up with us. She loved indulging my brother and me… and when we were growing up and travelled abroad, she bought us trendy clothes and other things.
An incredible person, she always dinned it into me to be decent and dignified. ‘Don’t be a waste, don’t spoil your image’, she would always tell me. And I tell my kids the same thing too. Don’t give people the opportunity to say something bad and negative about you. I’m flamboyant, friendly and outspoken; but I know not to cross a line. I have a fan following among young girls. I consider it an achievement when I meet young girls who say: “Ma’am, my mother says when I grow up, I have to be like you!”
Just curious… how did the name Pinky stick over your real name Aparna?
I want to sue my parents for giving me the pet name Pinky! It was very fashionable to have a nickname around the time I was born and maybe because of the way I looked or something, they just started calling me Pinky! But I must say it’s a name that gives me a very distinct identity; and my grandchildren calling me Pinky Amma is so cute, I think!
You are known to have an excellent relationship with your brother Sandeep and sister-in-law Sarita. So also with your in-laws and extended family. How do you work this all out so amiably?
I’m very close to both my sisters-in-law – my husband’s sister and my brother’s wife Sarita. She too got married really young and we grew really close as we spent a lot of time together.
Incidentally, my brother and I get along really well because there was never a comparison between us thanks to our parents; and this has really helped our relationship. In most big business families, problems crop up because of money and property issues. But when parents organize things properly, issues don’t come up. And that’s exactly what our parents have done for us.
Today, you have your own in-law children and grandchildren… Does playing the role of mom-in-law and grandma come easy to you?
My husband is my second cousin. So I was always close to his family and they treated me like their daughter. The great thing about my family is that the in-laws don’t stay with their children, and we give each other space. Our businesses are joint, we meet regularly and party together all the time, but we don’t live in a joint family.
My kids are both married to really great people. Both my kids’ partners are a very close part of the family. It’s really what eventually keeps a family together – the good spouses. Thanks to my equation with my in-law children, I have a very good relationship with my grandchildren too.
Over the years, you have come into your own in the professional domain – from your involvement with the construction of Mumbai’s T2 Airport, to your Presidency of FICCI FLO. Is it a conscious decision to live a lit life professionally?
I was always part of our family business, on the board of directors, but I never directly had a position in the business. But I was involved in a lot of philanthropic projects throughout. When T2 was being built, Sanjay wanted the airport to feature the true essence and grandeur of Indian art. He needed someone to manage the Indian team and liaise with the New York architects, and that’s how I got involved as I’ve always been passionate about Indian arts and crafts. I told Sanjay to rope in designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla too as they have a great take on contemporary Indian art and I was sure they would bring the stunning glory of India to the project!
Meanwhile, since we were travelling across the whole country to source authentic Indian art for the airport, I started the Aparna Foundation as I wanted to do something for the artisans of the country. I also started the Lotus House stores at the airport where you could buy beautiful art and craft at various price points – from Rs 50 – Rs 10,000.
I also started Localu – stores which stocked and sold well-known local foods of our country. People would walk in to buy Kerala chips and everything else that the states of our country are famous for!
As for FICCI Flo, I’ve been a member for the last 10 years. Moving up the ladder with them from President to Chairperson, I organised some really interesting and relevant programs with them. Making sure that there was substance and glamour at every event was my motto.
Pinky, you are one of India’s biggest industrialists today… your family’s entrepreneurial history (parental and in-laws) is beyond compare… How has this trajectory influenced your mindset regarding work and career? And how are you influencing/guiding your own daughter and daughter-in-law in the workspace?
I tell both my daughter and daughter-in-law that they should work, but I don’t push them too much. My daughter works with her husband in his family business, and my daughter-in-law works with my son in his startup. Kids learn from example rather than through lectures. They pick up what interests them from their parents – so it’s important to just be and set a good example.
I’m not a traditional mother-in-law. I don’t go around telling my kids what to do or how to bring up their children. Only if they’re crossing the line, I interrupt. On the weekends, Sanjay and I have our grandkids and I tell our kids, “Only on the weekends, they’re my babies!” But otherwise, I don’t get involved. I want my kids to raise their kids in the way they know best. And yes, I’m blessed to have very sensible kids.
By the way, I firmly believe that it’s great when families send their young, newly married children for a year or two abroad – whether for education or business. This together time ends up being a great bonding period for them. Sanjay and I had this time together; as did our children with their spouses.
By the way, my husband’s life’s mission was to go back to school, so recently, we went to Stanford and did some courses. Today, Sanjay is investing in various startups and we are both travelling constantly – we love it!
Is thinking that you can have the best of both worlds – family life and work – too idealistic? Does it come with an additional cost?
I do think you can have the best of both worlds – it depends on how you manage yourself. Having a good, supportive spouse and family definitely helps a lot. But you have to give a lot of yourself; having to leave your kids and go off to work is not easy, but it’s a sacrifice you have to make. When T2 was being made, I had to fly back and forth on a daily basis for a year; I would be at home in Hyderabad all day with my kids who were in school at that time, then fly to Mumbai every evening to meet Sanjay and the team, and help overlook the work. So yes, you do have to give a lot of yourself to enjoy the best of both worlds.
You are involved with several philanthropic activities. Please give us an insight into the same.
At Aparna Foundation which I started, my aim was to offer support in education and health to children. Today, I educate about 300 kids. But I don’t like to just give out money because you can’t be sure where its actually going. So I route it though my Foundation as this way, I at least know that the money is going towards the kids’ educational expenses
You bridge the North-South India social divide with aplomb! How do you manage to do this – making all India’s Club One ladies love and stand by you?
For my birthday this year, my husband was away doing one of his courses. And since my birthday means a lot to me, I was wondering what I was going to do. My different sets of friends offered to have various parties for me, but I decided to have just one and invited all of them over – 130 women had a really good time. Though many of them have issues with each other, they all came and we had a wonderful time together! I’m really grateful to have all these people show up for me. I firmly believe that there’s no way to be a better friend than to be yourself. Another piece of advice I have for people who want to have friends is: DON’T CARRY TALES.
Hands down, you are considered India’s best host!! What are the ingredients/characteristics required to be the hostess with the mostest??
I love connecting with people and helping them connect with each other; I like to see people having fun. Honestly, I enjoy my own party when I see seeing other people having fun. Sanjay and I are great hosts – we love dancing and good food, and ensure everyone gets involved in the party. And things I’m not good at doing myself, I outsource. We make everyone feel involved and wanted; my key is to make everyone feel important. Everyone who comes to my house gets the same food and warmth from us.
You are always very well groomed and dressed, and you look great! How do you look so good?
I haven’t done botox or any other beauty treatments, and I’m grateful for this. I just use coconut oil and a channe ka atta scrub. Now that I’m 52, I have started to use sunscreen and a simple night cream to stay moisturized. My hair is very easy to manage, I don’t have to do much – it just looks nice. I like looking normal. I don’t feel the need to wear anything over the top. And I think people like that – seeing people look normal. You really just need confidence – be ok with looking the way you do. Whatever you wear, carry it confidently. That’s my funda.
Pinky, please define your style.
I know my space and my image. I’m not competing with anyone – not my kids, not current fashion trends, or anyone. I love being stylish, but dressed decently. I’ve had my days of wearing shorts and mini skirts, but I don’t anymore. Another thing I keep in mind is not to overdo things. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you need to be dripping it. Rohit Bal calls me his sister, I tie him a rakhi every year. I’m very close to Abu Sandeep too. I’m friends with many other designers as well. But I spend my money mindfully and don’t just throw it around. I only buy what I need or really want.
You share a warm friendship with several big names from the Hindi and South Indian film industries… Do tell us about your equation with them…
I’m close to a lot of people. People have misconceptions about stars but they’re also very simple, homely people. I stay in touch with the younger lot too – Sara (Ali Khan), Janhvi (Kapoor), Alia, Kiara… they know me since they were little and call me ‘Aunty’. I’m still very much in touch with Priyanka (Chopra), and I’m extremely proud of her – she has really crossed boundaries. I became close with Priyanka Gandhi after meeting her on vacation in Mauritius. Incidentally, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka was once part of a FICCI FLO event where they talked about their relationship with each other; it was candid and fantastic!!
By God’s grace you live the charmed life and have beautiful homes across the country… Your new Goa mansion is the talk of the town! How do you manage to keep all these homes in topnotch condition?
Our Goa home is beautiful and overlooks the sea. It’s not easy maintaining a home and managing the people who look after your home. I have housekeepers but I make sure I know what is happening on a daily basis. I’m very hands-on with accounts and with the running of the house. I keep the expenses and accounts well under control; it’s very important to do so. I’m very particular about my homes being run in a certain way. It’s important to train your staff in the way you want them to care for your home.
You live the full life with confidence, poise and ease. Most importantly, I’ve always found you straightforward and down-to-earth; no airs at all. What is the secret to being you?
That’s just me! I can’t stand people with an attitude. Negativity and having airs about yourself is something I can’t take. Be yourself, be normal, be humble.