Dipali Goenka was married at 18. "I come from a traditional Marwari background and it is quite normal there," she says. However, nothing quite stopped her from wanting to learn more. Once her daughters were 10 and 7, Goenka was clear she had to get to work. She started with a design studio and, in 2003, launched Spaces, a premium bed and bath brand. "I wanted to evolve as an individual and was clear about it," she says. Her husband B.K. Goenka, Chairman, Welspun Group, told her very clearly she would not be treated differently at work: "You are not Mrs Goenka here." Time was spent in meeting Welspun's distributors, being on the shop floor, and picking up every nugget of consumer insight that came by.
The global financial crisis in 2008 had her move to the textile business. Goenka terms it a challenging situation since she knew very little about it. It was time to learn the basics again and today she speaks about "having the ability to roll up her sleeves and run the plant". Then, August 2016 presented a major crisis. American retailer Target had decided to end all contracts with Welspun India after it was alleged that the premium Egyptian cotton sheets it supplied were made from a cheaper substitute. "Our world came crashing down and my task was to save the company's reputation," says Goenka. She met each of her customers to say nothing was amiss and "barring one, they all stayed with us".
The pandemic has imbibed in the company the need to create a more robust digital framework. The ambition is to be the FMCG of textiles where "we want to have a large portfolio of brands apart from a big digital presence". For Goenka, Welspun is top priority, and even on their wedding anniversary dinner, conversation was around that.
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