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GLS University: Weaving a Rich Tapestry of Life
How every little stitch counts
Whilst working as an assistant merchandiser at JC Penney in the USin 1993, and studying merchandising from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, Chandni Kapadia could tailor academics to her passion. She went on to pursue a masters degree in business administration from the London School of Economics, and also holds a degree in psychology and philosophy, in addition to a law degree and nine gold medals. She was conferred with the World Women Leadership Congress Award in February 2019 for her immense contribution to the fashion industry. Building brands and providing impetus to strategic planning, she has been the COO at GLS for the past seven years. Hers is a seamless journey from fashion to education, proving the old adage:‘There is nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it. Anything is possible.’
GLS University is promoted by the Gujarat Law Society,founded in 1927, where visionaries like SardarVallabhbhai Patel, Shri Ganesh Mavalankar and Sheth Shri KasturbhaiLalbhai set the highest standards of excellence in education. From a single law college set up in 1927, which was nurtured by Shri I.M. Nanavati among others, Gujarat Law Society today stands tall, having put in nine solid decades in the field of education. The university has been successfully imparting quality education via multi-disciplinary courses over the years, offering diplomas, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in various disciplines like design, information technology, business administration, management, research, computer applications, commerce, law and research.
Chandniadmits she doesn’t give up easily. ‘I have always loved taking risks,’ she says. At 16, she left home to study design and make it on her own. ‘I went abroad during a time when even the thought of being in an unknown country all alone was unimaginable to many.’ Starting small, as an assistant merchandiser, she worked her way up to the country head, business head and the Asia Pacific head of multiple luxury brands.
She credits hardwork and a deep commitment to work ethics and teamwork for reaching where she is today.
Talking about the turning point of her life, she says, “Being the Country Head for Calvin Klein was a big high. I had dreamt of it since I was 16 – Mr Klein was a guest lecturer at FIT. I have been fortunate that there has always been a silver lining to every cloud in my life. Being an optimist, I believe I attract positivity and success.’
Her association with GLS University has helped the organization reach greater heights. GLS University has always encouraged freedom of thought among its employees. The institution heads and top management regularly take part in expert panel discussions, seminars and meetings. Institution heads attend conferences abroad, and participate in global forums, putting across their ideas for better decision-making. Says Chandni, ‘We encourage our people to speak their mind and think out of the box, and prioritize their bonding to boost interpersonal ties, ensuring a vibrant and warm atmosphere at work. This, in turn, throws up brilliant ideas and innovative thought.’
GLS University has a vision of creating values through economic, social and environmental developments, and fostering a culture wherein original ideas are generated through a ‘focus on innovation, inquiry, scholarship, creativity and research’.This helps to develop leaderships that are capable, compassionate, conscious and committed to the common good.‘And to achieve this vision, our mission is to provide the best quality education, with a responsibility towards its students, staff, alumni, and all other stakeholders,’ she adds.
The Magic of Mentors
Chandni understands the vital role that expert guidance plays in our life. ‘I believe that every leader should be a mentor both empathetic and foresightful, able to plan for the foreseeable future atleast for the next 10 years.His/her guidance and planning should be such that the organization survives and grows even without his/her presence. A leader should be alert to potential difficulties, always striving to anticipate consequences, as also ready to use reasoning and fact-finding to resolve difficulties and team-building skills to work together towards a collective goal, which is ultimately the goal of the organization,’ she says.
On the subject of female leadership, she says, ‘We have come a long way since 1993, but it is still a man’s world. Women still have to fight for equal pay and equal rights.’ But there are men who value a woman’s views and give them wings to fly higher, even higher than them. ‘My own mentor and boss, Shri SudhirNanavati, has always supported me, also ensuring that every female employee in our organization gets a safe and comfortable environment to work in. With more men like him, every organization will see womensoar.’
She cannot stress enough the importance of motivation and continuous learning to develop as a leader. She attends online workshops and advanced seminars and conferences to build business acumen and critical industry-specific skills. She learns from her own experiences and continuously challenges her comfort zones to grow as a better person and a leader.
All this hard-won success is offset by her zest to live life right. ‘I have been blessed with super-supportive parents who have always agreed with my life choices and supported my decisions. It is due to them that I am in this position today. I owe all my success to them.’
As a leader, it is inevitable that one faces numerous challenges everyday. The best way to grow as a leader is to have external support, she advises. ‘As I said earlier, Shri SudhirNanavati, a renowned senior advocate and the president of GLS University, has been my guiding light. A father figure to me, he has always motivated me to become a better version of myself, guiding me through important decisions and keeping me grounded during difficult times. Most importantly, a mentor like him has helped me learn faster from my successes and failures.’
Living Life Right
Chandni has always loved doing a lot of things at the same time. Working as a consultant for many luxury brands and associating with the education industry, has given her a sense of satisfaction. Life has indeed come full circle. ‘Education has played an important role in my life, and being in the judiciary and education system has given me many opportunities to give back to society,’ she says.
Education, she knows, is an important part of a successful individual’s life. ‘Youngsters like Malala Yousafzai have started advocating the need to be educated. Education gets you your bread and butter. Young girls are now vocal about their right to education. Teachers of this era are more dedicated and, with the use of technology, have made the e-learning teaching more convenient for each student. This pandemic has, infact, proved that education is without borders, and a student does not need four walls to seek knowledge,’ she adds.
Her take on competition? ‘I am my own biggest competition. I push myself to take up new challenges each day. I set my bar higher each day to work better, to deliver more than before. I never tireof work. I may have moments of weakness, but they only help me perform better and make me stronger. I believe a person is one’s own enemy and biggest cheerleader,’ she muses.
Never give up on your dreams, she advises. It is all about hard work; good luck will follow, and there will be guaranteed results. Also, during this pandemic, when the whole world is changing, she advocates keeping our positivity alive.’ Even at home, do something productive. And last, but not the least, be kind to human beings and animals alike.’
In conclusion, she signs off, ‘There is nothing I would do differently. I may have faltered in some decisions, but God has been good to me, with everything turning out right in the end.’