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‘With its strategic location and urbane expat population, Dubai can be a flourishing market for young entrepreneurs’

After a successful career as a banker and banking educator, AIMETC alumna Heena Puri is making a foray into the United Arab Emirates market with her own jewellery brand

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After a successful career as a banker and banking educator, Apeejay Institute of Management & Engineering-Technical Campus (AIMETC) alumna Heena Puri is now making a foray into the United Arab Emirates (UAE) market with her brand of sterling silver jewellery called Trinklelane.

Before she decided to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and shifted to Dubai, Puri received valuable exposure to the world of finance during her stint with ICICI Bank at their Mumbai headquarters. Subsequently, she also worked in Bengaluru’s Manipal University as a banking trainer. Now, Puri says she is eyeing the Emirates market with her range of dainty silver jewellery products in Dubai, conventionally perceived as a gold souk destination. In a wide-ranging interview, Puri explains her passion for silver jewellery, how her banking stint helped understand the nuances of consumer behaviour and the dynamics of setting up a new business along with the lessons that she learnt when she was pursuing her MBA at AIMETC, Jalandhar. Edited excerpts:

Please tell us about your educational and professional journey from school, to management school, banking and now entrepreneurship?

I come from Nabha, a small but historically rich town in Punjab. I’ve done my schooling from DAV school, Nabha, my Bachelors in Computer Application from Khalsa College, Ludhiana and my Masters in Business Administration from the esteemed Apeejay Institute of Management & Engineering-Technical Campus, Jalandhar (AIMETC). My father was an HR Manager with Glaxo Smithkline Beecham at their Horlicks plant. I really looked up to him and this motivated me to pursue an MBA and follow in his footsteps. This turned out to be an excellent decision.

While at Apeejay, I got campus placement in the Mumbai headquarters of ICICI Bank. I worked as an Assistant Product Manager with them for six years before joining Manipal University, Bengaluru, as a Banking Trainer as a part of their on-campus training programme for fresh recruits as well as experienced managers. My latest entrepreneurial project emanates from my passion for silver jewellery.

How did you think of turning entrepreneur and launching your own line of jewellery?

I had a great and rewarding journey with ICICI Bank but after a decade I felt like doing something additional and using my business skills for myself. Jewellery has always been my passion. With gold prices soaring, gold jewellery is heavy on the pocket of customers who may prefer to wear other alternatives. Silver jewellery on the other hand, is affordable, stylish and boasts a wider array of designs to choose from.

What made you switch from a career as a banker and a banking trainer to launch your own business venture?
When I joined ICICI as an Assistant Product Manager, I was expected to look after paperwork and have thorough knowledge of the product. I underwent training sessions to deal with customers. So there was a lot of emphasis on product knowledge, selling skills and finding a suitable product according to customer requirements. This knowledge can be applied in a number of fields. As an entrepreneur, I thought of using my skills and learnings for myself.

When you chose to launch your range of silver jewellery in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, what considerations did you have in mind?

Located between the East and the West, Dubai is a strategically located flourishing market. With its big expat population, I found it a suitable location to penetrate Western customers as well. Conventionally perceived as a gold souk attraction, Dubai is spoilt for choice when it comes to gold but for customers, especially western ones, who like Sterling Silver or 925 Silver, the choices are limited. I am looking forward to establishing my online silver jewellery business in Dubai using my experience from India.

Please share some insights that you got about the Dubai market while doing your market research.

I am still getting to learn new market insights every day. On one end there are expats professionals who are willing to pay higher amounts and on the other clients from the Indian subcontinent for whom I have to create product awareness about 925 silver. Expats appear to be already aware of this product category.

What exactly is 925 silver?

The number refers to the quality benchmark of 925. This variety of silver starts from Rs 110 per gm, even as normal silver is priced at Rs 70 per gm. The number 925 signifies silver purity of 92.5 %. So, we take the current silver rate plus additional making charges starting from Rs 30. Worldwide, 925 silver is synonymous with purity. Real silver never changes colour or attains a darker hue unlike the varieties that get oxidised over time and don’t come with the 925 stamp.

Did your background in banking come handy when launching your own business venture?

At the bank, we received a lot of exposure to market needs and dealing with customers from pursuing them, finding the right product and handling post-sales grievances etc. We learnt to understand what customers were looking for and how to pitch a product. I feel an alternative to gold jewellery is something which must be catered to, looking at the safety and affordability issues.

The worldwide lockdown triggered by Covid-19 made us realise that online presence of a brand is very important. So we have come up with an online delivery model for the UAE market in which the product is delivered safely to your doorstep.

What are your memories of the time you spent at AIMETC, Jalandhar?

I have warm and happy memories associated with AIMETC. I feel proud and thankful for being associated with the Apeejay Group. There was a tough time when I was devastated by the loss of my father in the middle of my MBA, but the faculty was so approachable and motivating that they didn’t let my morale fall. Their counselling helped me a lot to go through that challenging period. I will particularly like to thank Rajesh Bagga Sir, Rajneesh Arya Sir and Rajan Chaudhary Ma’am.

Did you pick up any life lessons in college that have helped you later in your career?

Apeejay inspired me to adopt an attitude for life that tells you to stay strong, stay motivated and keep moving. The soft skills that we learnt in the classroom are very useful in real life as well. In fact subjects such as ‘Organizational Behaviour’ by Stephen Robbins, Principles of Marketing by Philip Kotler and HR Management are subjects which were very useful for me as a product manager and now I am embedding the same knowledge in my venture.

With many more women turning entrepreneurs these days, what is the edge they enjoy over others?

I believe women are naturally gifted with management skills.  They are very good at multitasking and are hard-working by nature. They have to focus and use these skills for the right purpose. A woman is seen as compassionate and caring and they can use these gifts to build their brand image.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74

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