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Kirpal Kaur: On The Silky Road

Discussion in 'Sikh Personalities' started by Admin Singh, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Silk. The mere mention of the word creates a vision of cascading softness and elegance, and entrepreneur Kirpal Kaur knows this natural fabric like the back of her hands.
    "It's one of my favourite fabrics, beautiful, luxurious, and yes, it can make you feel like a million dollar person," she beams with pride.

    This bespectacled mother of four has the kind of beauty that comes from having lived life to the fullest, of meeting challenges head on, of believing in herself and in the inherent goodness of people around her.

    "I feel blessed in so many ways, being surrounded by good hearted people who believe in me and share my vision. That, coupled with hard work and my faith in God, paid off, " she says in a matter-of-fact tone. Being surrounded by bales of exotics laces and silk fabrics from various parts of the world is not unusual for this 66-year-old grandmother of 10.

    She is, after all, the founder and the main driving force behind Gulati's Silk House, which is today one of the largest importers and retailers of fine silk fabric in Malaysia.

    Starting out as a small retail shop in the heart of Kuala Lumpur about 40 years ago, the group now has 13 outlets throughout the country with more in the pipeline. Kirpal is one two women vying for the 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (women) award.

    Never afraid of hard work, the soft-spoken Kirpal who is now the Chair of the family owed business, states quite plainly that she never gave up her dream of starting her own textile business when she married Manjeet Singh Gulati and relocated from Singapore, her birthplace, to Kuala Lumpur to be with her husband.
    Kirpal Kaur, the eldest of seven siblings, had a head for the textile business having learnt it first hand from her textile merchant father.

    She recalls a time when she and her husband put their textiles in their van, drove north and south, visiting wholesalers to convince them to buy materials on consignment.

    "That was our routine one week a month," she says. "It was tedious but it paid off eventually." She opened an outlet in Semua House, and as business grew, eventually bought a shoplot on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the only textile shop along that road.

    "It was a challenge juggling my roles as wife, raising my young family, and managing the business." When her husband fell seriously ill about eight years and eventually passed on, her second son, Pavitar, quit law studies to help.

    "Of course, I would have preferred that he complete his studies but he was adamant. Since he had set his heart on it I took him on board and taught him the trade."

    Kirpal, who often accompanies her managers on a buying sessions overseas, beams with maternal pride when she says that with him on board, the business expanded and an upmarket segment began to take shape. So she opened Euro Moda to cater to this niche. Today it boasts royalty, politicians and the well-heeled among its customers.

    Although the day-to-day running of the entire operation is left to her son, Kirpal still oversees the business. "Without my chop and signature, nothing moves!" she says, bursting into laughter.

    On a more serious note she adds, "We consult each other on all major decisions and if it's viable, I give the green light. We may be a family concern but it is run professionally."

    Her daughter-in law, Jasleen Kaur (Pavitar's wife) is Executive Director and attends to their high-valued clients.

    Except for Wednesdays and Sundays which are devoted to the gurdwara, she's in the office everyday from 3pm. "My mornings are reserved for prayers, taking care of the household, spending time with my grandchildren and cooking for the family," she says.

    Kirpal takes it upon herself to clear out the family's wardrobe regularly. "I've got this thing about rearranging and clearing wardrobes, including mine. Old and unused are donated, or we would run out of space to put the new outfits that I buy for every member of the family whenever I go overseas," says Kirpal, who enjoys shopping for costume jewellery, shoes and handbags.

    She is also active in gurdwara activities, where she's often called to do kirtan. She also plays the harmonium and violin.

    Her religious beliefs, she says, play a strong role in how she manages the family business. All her employees are treated as a family. Sometimes, she personally cooks for them. She gives much of her time and makes generous donations to worthy causes.

    As a member of the Sikh Welfare Society, she provides financial help to four poor families a year and helps in the annual week-long Sikh Youth Camp taking charge of cooking for close to 1,500 participants.

    "Keeping the kids well-fed with five meals a day is not an easy task. Can't serve the same things day in and out. They expect variety. But I enjoy cooking for anyone who appreciates a good meal," says Kirpal, who is in the midst of drawing up the menu.

    Every year during Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year, children of all races from several charity homes are invited to Gulati's and treated to high tea and entertainment.

    "I have always believed in bringing good cheer to those around me. It may be old school but generosity and kindness will never go out of style. Ever."

    ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR AWARD

    Kirpal Kaur and Datin Freida Pilus are the only nominees for the 2009 Ernst & Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
    The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award programme was created in the US in 1986 to honour entrepreneurs who have created and sustained successful, growing businesses. The programme is now held in 50 countries with awards presented to over 900 of the world's most successful and innovative entrepreneurs.

    In Malaysia, the programme was launched in 2002. The categories are Emerging Entrepreneur, Technology Entrepreneur, Master Entrepreneur and Woman Entrepreneur.

    Finalists are assessed are judged on their entrepreneurial spirit, company's financial performance, strategic direction, global impact, innovation, personal integrity and influence.

    Winners of the national Entrepreneur Of The Year awards from around the world are invited to the World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award celebration which will take place in May 2010 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
     
    [Courtesy: New Sunday Times]
     

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  3. spnadmin

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    This is the kind of person I have never been :}8-: and will always look up to. She is only one thing -- AMAZING. What goodness! :wah:
     
  4. Astroboy

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    ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
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    I have to agree with that because I often see her in sewa, kirtan and very poised whenever I visit Gurdwara Sahib Titiwangsa.:happy:
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    Yes, NamJap when I read her story I wondered if she was part of your Sangat. You are blessed to know her. She is blessed to know you. :happy:
     
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