Carrying forth an inheritance of excellence

Brahmani Nara, the Executive Director of the Rs 2,600-crore plus Heritage Foods Ltd, has been a go-getter from the word go.In a rendezvous with team DTNext , she traces her eventful journey.
Brahmani Nara
Brahmani Nara

Chennai

Brahmani Nara, the Executive Director of the Rs 2,600-crore plus Heritage Foods Ltd, has been a go-getter from the word go. The daughter-in-law of Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, and the grand-daughter of the late NT Rama Rao, the iconic actor and politician, crafted a steady, but organic rise to the top, steering one of India’s most promising FMCG companies, founded by Naidu. In a rendezvous with team DTNext , she traces her eventful journey.
Right place, right time
I hail from a family rooted in the film industry. My mother, who benefited from a good academic exposure, wanted the same for me and my siblings. After my marriage at 19, I headed to the School of Engineering at Santa Clara University, US, where I completed my MS in Electrical Engineering and emerged as a class topper. Being in the Bay Area, I was exposed to bright minds in tech and entrepreneurship – in the time of Facebook and Uber. My husband was also pursuing his business education at Stanford at that time. When I joined Vertex Venture Management, a Singapore-based VC company, I worked with top bosses and the CIO, putting in 18 to 20 hours of work a day. Having applied to four B-schools, I decided to go with Stanford owing to its mix of entrepreneurship and culture.
Getting into the groove
Naiduji encouraged his wife to take charge of Heritage Foods early on, owing to his political commitments. He had guided and mentored her to take up the business, which is now 25 years old. I had an extremely cordial relationship with my inlaws right from the start. I could connect with Naiduji on many fronts and it doesn’t feel like we have a generation gap. My exposure to Naiduji’s never-saydie attitude, broadened after my marriage. Seven out of ten years of my marriage, was spent abroad away from my family and my husband. How many in-laws would support their children this way? During those years, I frequented Europe and had trained at Danone at France as well as their dairy facility in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 
Way to work 
Believe it or not, I was unhealthy and overweight as a child. However, I got an early exposure to the importance of health and nutrition. Naiduji, who thinks sharper than a 20-year old, is a source of strength, just like my mother in law, who showed remarkable resilience in her quest to lose as much as  60 kg in a few years! Coming from a background, where the focus is on natural food, health and nutrition impacted me. I lost a lot of weight – 10 to 15 kg (when I was 19). So, health and fitness are a big part of the family culture, which influenced me greatly. Due to my passion for entrepreneurship, the choice of spearheading Heritage Foods came naturally to me.
Keeping women at the forefront My father-in-law, Naiduji is a visionary. He dreams big and achieves big – if you consider his policies. We have a history of inclusive and women-centric, empowerment initiatives. For instance, my grandfather started the all-women Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalayam in Tirupati. He introduced the policy for equal rights of women in ancestral property and championed the cause of reservation for women in local body elections. My mother in law nurtured the company from scratch and turned it into a profitable and healthy enterprise. It is her ability to manage her personal and professional life effectively that I draw inspiration from. She told me about the importance of being on the field and interacting with farmers directly. It is important for women to be involved in both domestic and corporate spheres.
Sticking together
We are extremely spread out due to the bifurcation of the state. Naiduji is in Vijayawada and so is my husband handling two ministries simultaneously. I am based out of Hyderabad owing to business and my mother-in-law keeps travelling. I have a two-year-old son. So, balancing the home front and business can be challenging. But we are all dedicated to taking care of one another. No matter where we are, we do ensure to make time for each other. The general perception is that managing a family business is quite simple. It is a fact that only 30 per cent businesses survive from the first to the second generation. I am honoured to be steering one such business. Sustaining a family enterprise and growing it beyond an individual is a huge challenge. I believe you are never too young for anything. Several people shy away from responsibilities – whether an investor conference or announcing the financials. I always involve the senior management but I ensure I am there as it is an opportunity to learn. Also, failures are a stepping stone to success. During the prime years of my education and my career, I was away from India and never had the advantage of close help at hand. But we must learn to fail. 
Interests outside work 
I love reading, sci-fi especially as it completely transports you to a different world… which is helpful in business thinking.  I also make time for movies, and saw Baahubali , which was fantastic. Travelling is a must – whatever exposure I have today is because of that – seeing developing and developed nations. My travels to rural India on account of work and travelling with a group of foreigners has been rewarding in many ways. You have to be on the field to feel the pulse.

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