What began as a small, single-handedly managed operation led by Sarita Handa from Tughlaqabad in 1992, has metamorphosed into an eponymous luxury home design brand today that deals in bed and bath linen, furniture, décor and fabrics. And the legacy of the 29-year-old brand, now headquartered in Gurugram, is being carried forward by Sarita's daughter, Suparna, and son-in-law, Rahul Puri.
Suparna worked with the Ralph Lauren and ABC Carpets in her early career. "After completing my degree in Fashion Business Management from FIT, New York, I decided to come back to India and join the business my mother had started in 1995, to revitalise the heritage Indian craft and needlework moulded in contemporary design," adds Suparna, who was just 24 then.
With a childhood spent travelling the country with her father who was in the army, and mother, a textile aficionado, Suparna received all the required ammunition to take the company to global heights with 50 retail giants and counting as clients.
In 2000, she met her life partner. Though an arranged marriage setup, it felt sealed by fate. "Rahul’s brother was doing his CA internship (articleship) and mom really liked him, but only until she found out that he was engaged. Then this common army family friend said, ‘ah, but he has a brother who is single'..." narrates Suparna.
Rahul had previously served in the Army's 14 Sikh Regiment-Infantry for five years, and left as Captain because of health concerns. "After going on just three dates, we decided to marry, and surprised our parents because just the weekend before Suparna had told her mom that she will take time to decide. We were at Nirulas in Sector 14, Gurgaon, when I had asked her about what she had thought on getting married. She said yes," shares Puri (50).
The same year, Puri joined Sarita Handa Exports as the Executive Director, with Surparna, 50, as the Managing Director. "I decided to venture into the business and do retail and lifestyle because we want to diversify into the domestic segment. Suparna was very happy about it."
Puri’s discipline and punctuality from the army is a bonus to the brand, especially since it comes without an ounce of ego. Suparna says, "I have never seen that side of Rahul. He has always been very supportive of me and my dreams. Moreover, he brings balance and financial prudence in my life."
Rahul looks after finance and administration in Sarita Handa Exports and heads the retail arm Sarita Handa Retail and Natara a vertical that handles interior projects and makes furniture for retail, while Suparna brings business and takes care of marketing for both exports and retail.
"I have never regretted working with her, but it has been a challenging journey. We have different roles, different paths, but yes it does require listening and talking and at times keeping quiet," says Rahul, who has made this rule between the two that they will not talk about work at home. Instead, after finishing work, they enjoy evenings together at home.
And under their leadership, the company experienced several milestones. The first Sarita Handa store was opened in 2004 in Delhi and at present, there are four stores, with the online retail space (saritahanda.com) launched in May 2020.
Travelling is something the two never have disagreement on. "He doesn’t allow me to carry the shopping bags, and he knows how I get when I am hungry," chuckles Suparna, adding that, “I reciprocate by telling him that he doesn’t need to accompany me to a social evening. It’s the biggest gift for him.”
In his free time, Rahul enjoys sketching, reading about old textiles and antiques; and visiting museums and flea markets. "I also love travelling to different parts of the world in search of interesting architecture, creative product design and old objects that unearth forgotten or previously unheard stories."
He is also a passionate collector of medals, coins, maps, decorative plates, jewellery and textile pieces for the past 35 years, and loves gifting vintage jewellery to Suparna.
Next, the couple wish to launch an international prêt line and establish Sarita Handa as a name synonymous with unparalleled quality, and collaborate with museums and exhibitions for curated experiences under the brand.
What she likes about him
his honesty, however tough it is
What he likes about her
Her nature, warmth, and smile
What she dislikes about him
(laughs) his honesty
What he dislikes about her
Too much multitasking
A weird/funny about him
He notices the littlest things in the people he loves
A weird/funny about her
Her sudden loud laugh whenever she is caught in a difficult situation