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Chandni Nihalani
Chandni Nihalani

Chandni Nihalani

Co-Founder, Shwa - Handbags with Secrets



Chandni Nihalani is a member of:

Managing personal and professional life
I’ve realized that a little bit of courtesy can go a long way in both personal and professional lives. Also, I try not to be over-bearing, evaluate all possible alternatives for solving a problem and try and come up with a solution that’s acceptable to everyone concerned. If all else fails, I go with my gut instinct and it always guides me to the right path.
Current Job description
I’m currently Co-Founder & Strategic Director for Shwa – a handbag brand launched by Ms. Ira Jain and me.

While Ira is a Consumer insights and Market research expert, I specialize in Innovation and Strategic Product planning.

Being a startup, we both are involved in all aspects of the business from Innovation in Design, Manufacturing, Brand & Communication, PR, Marketing & Business Development both online and offline. I wear multiple hats and my role changes everyday based on the need of the hour. I invest a significant amount of time understanding the market and the consumer dynamics of the product, in order to Innovate better and faster than competition.
My advice
It would be refreshing to see new age leaders adapt an open and honest attitude towards leadership. A complete “What you see, is what you get” approach, where there are no hidden agendas. While the team must be committed to the leader, it’s even more important for the leader to be committed to the team.

Also, It’s all about the fundamentals! Getting the fundamentals of your business right would be the first step to building trust and credibility.
Team Management
At the end of the day, I’d want every team member feeling like they’ve given it their best, and feeling ownership and pride in their work.

I try to hire people who have the right attitude, especially since they would be working as part of a startup. It’s always good to try and provide development opportunities to the team, make them accountable for their actions, and enable them to realize their full potential.
Important career decisions
I’ve always been a risk taker and I don’t shy away from making bold career moves.

My first major Career move was when I accepted the Program Manager position at Microsoft, Redmond. Although my undergrad and MS are in technical domains, I realized my passion lies in overall Product Management and Marketing.

On relocating to India, I switched a couple of Marketing jobs, and finally took the plunge into Entrepreneurship and launched Shwa in Oct 2012, with my business partner Ira Jain.
I’ve also learnt Tarot reading, which helps people make better decisions for their life issues via spiritual guidance, and I’m working on developing that as an alternate career.
Influenced by
Over the years, there have been a lot of people who have helped me shape my personality.

I take a lot of inspiration from the late Prof. Randy Pausch and his last lecture, which has helped millions of people around the world follow their dreams and lead better lives.

I couldn’t agree more with Prof. Randy’s views on dealing with obstacles and setbacks.
As explained by him:
‘We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.
Brick walls (obstacles) let us show our dedication. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
Leadership qualities
Leadership to me is largely about believing in your vision, thinking long term, and having the foresight to building the right team culture. Great leaders are action oriented and always good at choosing the right team. It’s never going to be a one-man show. I’d pick having a stellar team over a stellar product any day.
Family background
We are a close knit family of 5. My dad is a 1st generation entrepreneur and currently runs a construction business in Mumbai, while my mom is a homemaker. My parents, although protective, have been extremely supportive of both my siblings and me, and encouraged us to pursue our dreams. My sister is an airline pilot and my brother will be graduating this year.
Ensuring Growth
I believe my Learning as an individual or as a leader can never stop. I find it essential to have career mentors who can provide insights and feedback to me on a regular basis. I also lookout for industry events / tradeshows happening throughout the year, as it’s a good place to meet industry experts and peers.

Also, I try to make sure my team is passionate about the work they are doing. I’ve always encouraged my subordinates to take initiative, run projects independently, and have a stronger sense of ownership in their work.
Awards and Recognitions
Within 6 months of launching Shwa, we have received a lot of appreciation and PR.

We wanted to build an experiential brand focusing on the emotional connect a woman feels with her handbag. Every Shwa bag is built with a concept, a little ‘secret’ inside that would help add comfort to a woman’s life.

Some of our key milestones include being featured in the Times of India and other magazine and Online PR mentions:
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