View family as strength and not as competition — I have a younger sister who possesses the enthusiasm, tenacity, and work ethic of our dad who happens to be a workaholic. As a kid, I was always compared to her and I hated it. I was jealous of her. However, when I started working with her closely and became a little more mature, jealousy turned into inspiration. This shift in mindset has not only helped us grow our business but has also been great for my personal development.
As part of our series, 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shashank Gupta.
Shashank Gupta, the leading South Asian men’s designer in America, helps couples bring their bridal visions to life. For him, they are more than outfits. They are memories. The owner of Nazranaa, the largest Indian bridal boutique in the country, Shashank is also executive producer of the hit reality web series, Nazranaa Diaries, which has over 14 million views. His work has been featured in Forbes, South Asian Bride Magazine, Brown Girl Magazine and other major publications.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I joined my family business because we were going through financial hardships. I felt like I needed to step up and help the family improve our financial stability. Another reason I joined the family business is because I was not forced to do it. My dad, despite all his troubles, always gave me the option to do what I wanted. Seeing his selflessness made me want to help even more.
Can you tell us a bit about your family business and your role in it?
We are the biggest company in the Indian garment industry in the US. We have an end-to-end supply chain — from manufacturing & export units in India to wholesale and retail companies in the US. Silk Sensation, our wholesale business, is the largest wholesaler of Indian garments in the US. Nazranaa, one of our retail stores, is the country’s biggest South Asian bridal boutique. My role in our companies is multifold. I take care of our companies’ back-end work, including managing finances, accounting, procuring inventory, marketing, and sometimes sales.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I am the Executive Producer & co-host of the reality web series Nazranaa Diaries which is based on my bridal boutique. The easiest way to explain it is Indian Matchmaking meets Say Yes to the Dress. After we launched the 1st season of the show, I was at a bridal expo. There were two young girls roughly around the age 14 who were hovering near me. After close to 15 minutes, they came up and asked to take a photo with me. This has been one of the most interesting things that has happened to me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I had just graduated college in 2012, we had secured a lease for a retail store in Houston. I lived in NJ, and before this, I had no experience in building out a retail store. I had only seen my dad build his stores. My dad, however, trusted me with this responsibility and sent me to Houston for three months to build and set up the store. I remember a significant error I made when I was buying wood for the store to build shelving. Since I had to build the store out as quickly as possible, I did not want to wait for the shelving company to deliver the wood because they needed a few days for that. Instead, I ended up renting a U-Haul and went there to pick it up. Once I got there and they loaded the truck, the truck just sank. I did not account for the weight of the wood. The U-Haul I took was too small for the weight load. Luckily, I was able to take inner roads, avoid any potholes and make it back to the store. That experience taught me to be more patient and think of more variables when planning.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What sets our company apart is the mindset we have, which in sales is our service. In our industry, we do a lot of custom orders for brides and grooms for their special day. There have been times where we have delivered orders to customers as they were discussed, but for some reason, they did not meet the customers’ expectations. Since we delivered the order as it was discussed, we were not obliged to remake the order. However, we believe that the customers should be happy, especially on their wedding day, so we would redo the orders without charging them.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently in the beta stages of releasing a virtual try-on feature for the jewelry portion of our website. Customers will soon be able to try on their favorite necklaces and earrings and see how it looks on them while in the comfort of their homes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful for Mona Sangha, a makeup artist and vlogger based in Canada. When we started building our web series, Nazranaa Diaries, she was one of the few influencers who helped us advertise the show without charging us anything. Her one shout-out led to 60,000 views in 2 days and now that video has over 2 million views. That shout-out changed the whole trajectory of my channel, and I am forever grateful to her for that.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When the pandemic hit, we were forced to shut down all our businesses which was a terrifying time for us. However, this did not stop us from assisting our community in these difficult times. A friend of mine, Dr. Kruti Sanghavi, reached out to me in April 2020, looking for pure cotton fabrics to sew masks at home and donate them to hospitals. Upon further inquiry, I realized there was going to be a severe shortage of masks. I brainstormed with her. We concluded that we could revamp my existing supply chain and use the tailors I had to sew masks and donate them to hospitals and front-line workers. This led to the birth of the Sew Strong Project. We eventually ended up fundraising close to 10,000 dollars and donated 11,000 masks.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main parts of our interview. How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?
I define a family business as a business where members of a family work together. Family businesses tend to be different than regular businesses because family businesses require more involvement and commitment. For them, it is about survival and creating a future for their families, so they have more grit and resolve in seeing their goals come to fruition.
In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family-owned businesses have?
In my experience, family businesses tend to have better customer service and better customer service leads to increased sales. They are positioned in the best possible situation for growth. They also have this unique advantage of trusting their family members. A trusting environment is necessary for business growth.
What are the unique drawbacks or blind spots that family-owned businesses have?
If family-owned businesses do not get enough external exposure or keep up with modern technologies, they are bound to fail. Learning from our family’s mistakes is a blessing but being siloed by their knowledge and experience can lead to downfall.
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?
They do not allow the space for each member of the family to be creative and take risks. Generationally, most parents have a hard time giving up control of their businesses, hampering the new generation’s growth. If most parents allow their kids to fail, take risks and make mistakes, those kids will have the necessary tools and confidence to grow the business. Also, having clear boundaries with job roles saves families from getting into avoidable arguments.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses to help their employees to thrive?
I would say not to be worried about employee turnover but be excited about their growth and assist them in any way in that growth.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean with a story or example?
Leadership is about taking a backseat and being calm when things get turbulent so the team can relax and work towards solutions. We were scheduled to film for our tv show on Monday morning. My sister was in a panic. She was unable to reach the bride who was scheduled for the shoot. When she informed me of the situation, I told her not to worry, try reaching her again, and if she does not show up, we would figure it out. Just allowing her the room to be comfortable and not panic had her wheels turning, and she started reaching out to other brides she knew. Luckily, the bride ended up showing up. Being a calming force in the face of turbulence is the essence of leadership.
Here is our main question: What are the 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business? Please share a story or example for each.
- Have personal boundaries — I work very closely with my sister and wife, and we function well together because we do not try to interfere in each other’s work. We offer assistance only when asked or when we see the other person is struggling.
- Do not be greedy — I have heard a friend who says you should be a communist with your family, socialist with your friends, and capitalist with your society. I cannot entirely agree with this statement, but I agree with this quote’s suggestion about family. For the business to survive and thrive, it is essential that the family works as one single unit and not be inconsiderate towards one another. That is a surefire way of running the business into the ground.
- Allow others the freedom to maneuver — Do not stymie the growth of other team members at the risk of failure. Let them make mistakes. Encourage them to make decisions so you can have a confident team and family members who are capable of handling stressful situations.
- Be supportive during failure — This is crucial because if you are not supportive during your team or family failures, it demoralizes them and turns that one failure into a downward spiral. To uplift them during their failures is imperative.
- View family as strength and not as competition — I have a younger sister who possesses the enthusiasm, tenacity, and work ethic of our dad who happens to be a workaholic. As a kid, I was always compared to her and I hated it. I was jealous of her. However, when I started working with her closely and became a little more mature, jealousy turned into inspiration. This shift in mindset has not only helped us grow our business but has also been great for my personal development.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Sadhguru says, “If you don’t do what you cannot do, there is no problem. But if you don’t do what you can do, then you have failed as a life.” This quote has caused a mind-shift for me, so every problem I tackle now happens with a level of ease that was not there before.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I am a die-hard Roger Federer fan and would love the opportunity to spend some time with him. He exemplifies sportsmanship and is the pinnacle of excellence.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I recently found out that the clothing industry, which I am a part of, is the 2nd largest pollutant on the planet. I want to start donating, recycling, and implementing reusable programs in my community. I know this will help the less fortunate have more clothes, while extending the lifecycle of our products.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.