Meher Mirchandani: The queen of all she purveys
A fashion line, retail, real estate - Meher Mirchandani deals in it all
Meher Mirchandani, managing director of Palmon Group, had all the reasons to be interested in fashion. While growing up, Meher was exposed to her father, Manohar Lahori's apparel manufacturing business, which at that time was one of the largest garment businesses in the UAE, making a million clothing pieces a month at five factories in Jebel Ali and Fujairah free zones.
"We supplied to international chains such as Bhs, C&A, Gap and Debenhams. I learnt a lot about fabrics, pattern-making and tailoring. I learnt how to bring a garment to life from an abstract sketch," recalls Meher.
Raised in a home where her parents invariably talked about clothes, she and her brother often travelled to attend fashion trade shows in New York and Las Vegas. It was natural for her to get into the fashion business.
"My parents were very liberal over our choice of careers. They were of the opinion that everybody should pursue what they believe in and left us free to decide. I loved the business of fashion while growing up and still love it," she explains.
Meher completed her degree in fashion design in the United Kingdom. After returning home, she teamed up with Riddhima Whabi to launch a clothes brand, Affascinare, meaning 'fascinate' in Italian.
"At that time, it was a new idea. There were no fashion magazines to write about our launch. We were the first design houses to originate from Dubai," she recalls.
The fashion brand Meher & Riddhima was launched in September 2002. Influenced by local culture and history, these unique and intricate creations cater to a growing clientele in the region, the Indian Subcontinent and the Western market.
"Riddhima and I work well together. We are both flexible. While we may have our own ideas, we are also open to suggestions," says the co-founder and CEO of Meher & Riddhima.
Meher says the launch of her fashion brand in Dubai motivated many others to start a fashion line in Dubai.
"I also believe that once you are successful, you become a game changer. Success doesn't only come with doing something first, but doing it consistently over many years and making sure your customer is always happy," she says.
Describing her entrepreneurial journey, Meher says she started with four people, one pattern cutter and three tailors which eventually grew to 50 craftsmen. "Over the last year, we consolidated the team to 20," says Meher.
Since joining Palmon Group as the managing director, Meher has been integral to the success of the company, seeing the group grow to over 1,000 employees across 12 companies. Already overseeing facilities management, retail, real estate, logistics and more, the group also ventured into the F&B industry in recent years, opening the El Sur restaurant.
"About 10 years ago, our family business of garment manufacturing diversified into trading of office furniture, modular kitchens, storage and warehousing. Four years ago, I also joined my father's business as the managing director and I aim to double the portfolio of the real estate and storage business in the next three years. We have added new brands to our furniture business and plan to move our showroom from Al Quoz to Business Bay. We distribute an Italian modular kitchen brand called Pedini, which we have pitched to many projects in the UAE," Meher elaborates.
Meher urges young entrepreneurs to be strong and pursue their dreams. "To be happy and feel fulfilled, you must love what you do. A fashion business requires a lot of investment and good management skills. If you have a vision, then you will find the means and ways to realise it. Do not be afraid of your dreams, for if your dream does not scare you, then it is just not big enough," she advises.
More access to finance
Meher believes the UAE's startup ecosystem is getting better. "Nowadays, new ideas in business are welcomed and encouraged. Financing through investors and banks for startups is possible, which was not the same 10 years ago," she says.
Meher attributes her success primarily to her parents. "I learnt from them to be an empathetic leader, to view things from another's perspective, to guide people in the right way and to accord equal respect to everybody irrespective of fame, status, wealth or gender. Their values have helped me develop into a strong person. I also attribute it to my family, in-laws, husband and friends who have always supported me and loved me unconditionally," Meher says.
She believes processes play a great role in the overall success of a company. "We have recently had an operational transformation, which now saves us human hours and reduces miscommunication between divisions. Implementing ERP [enterprise resource planning] and similar programmes can help a business. Technological advancements, if used in an efficient way, can eliminate a lot of errors and time wastage," says Meher.
A staunch supporter of women empowerment, Meher says that from Donna Karen to Oprah Winfrey, women entrepreneurs and pioneers have always inspired her. "Their business and evolution as individuals are extremely commendable and something I have always looked up to," Meher concludes.
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