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Making it all happen

A caretaker for the art collection, a planner who brings SRK to perform at the daughter's wedding, an image consultant - the author lists the people behind the fashionable persona of the affluent

Manavi Kapur 

The canvas keeper

Harsh Goenka, chairman, RPG Enterprises

Caretaker of the art collection

The caretaker of Harsh Goenka's art collection, who has carried out the tough task of cataloguing hundreds of paintings for 15 years now, prefers to remain behind the scenes. While he can pull up information about any work in seconds from his computer or his files, he is not very comfortable sharing his own name or personal details. The portfolio under his watch includes Goenka's most prized pieces such as a landscape from Akbar Padamsee's Metascape series and a large work by Bikash Bhattacharjee depicting Christ's suffering. The chairman says the other highlights of his collection are small-format self-portraits by more than 400 artists. The caretaker's records of these feature snapshots of the pieces, followed neatly by the artist's name, painting title, medium and size. Paintings by Gaitonde could soon join the assortment, going by Goenka's word. "I was not responding to him earlier but I can see myself developing a taste for his works," he says.

In storage, the custodian has to work like an art expert. He makes sure to bunch together paintings that are by the same artist or of the same size. For watercolour pieces, any contact with moisture could mean a trip to a restoration expert. To prevent the onslaught of fungus, he employs dehumidifiers that control moisture from rain or air-conditioning. Canvases are kept on a platform equipped with dividers so that paintings do not hurt each other. The platform is separated from the floor with a buffer to ward off white ants. If the works have to be moved for exhibitions, he packs them in bubble wrap and corrugated boxes before sending them to the destination in wooden crates.

Ranjita Ganesan contributed to this report
Directing traffic

Vidya Chhabra, general manager, Smart Vishwas Group
Responsible for the upkeep of B K Modi's cars in New Delhi

Bhupendra Kumar Modi, founder-chairman of Smart Global and Smart Vishwas, is a billionaire who loves his cars that reflect his flamboyant persona. Modi has cars in London, Singapore, New Delhi and Mumbai, ranging from a Rolls-Royce to Bentleys, and keeping them ship-shape can sometimes be a Herculean task. In comes Vidya Chhabra, in-charge of the chairman's office in Delhi, under whose purview Modi's prized yellow Bentley and Rolls-Royce fall. "I joined Modi's office nine years ago in a secretarial position, and was gradually given larger responsibilities," she explains. While she does not feel she knows the technical nuances of these high-end cars too well, she has come to understand and fine-tune the process over the years. Those with technical expertise report to her, allowing her to direct the workflow seamlessly. "We are apprised of Modi's schedule in Delhi in advance and both cars go through a fresh round of servicing before his visit," she says. Each car has its designated driver, who records the fuel consumption, technical or mechanical errors and other issues in a logbook every day. This is monitored by Chhabra and the accounts team. But she is quick to point out that she supervises the process, almost in a bid to rise above the rest of the staff. "The cars just happen to come under my supervision," she says.

The mandap manager

Priyanka Soorma, creative director, Entertainment
for the families of Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, and Anil Agarwal

There are few who haven't heard of the wedding of Lakshmi Niwas Mittal's daughter, Vanisha. But behind the whopping figures that were spent on the wedding is a careful amount of tedious planning that made the event successful. explains that this was possible because of the long relationship that has had with the Mittals. "The families that we work with know that we can get the biggest artistes to perform at their wedding, with any level of customisation that they ask us for." For instance, brought actor Shah Rukh Khan to enact the couple's love story in 2013 at the wedding of Priya Agarwal, daughter of Sesa Sterlite's As a descendant of one of the founders of Cineyug, the 30-year-old has been working with events and weddings for the last 11 years, where she oversees the creative process.

When asked if the task of planning and executing a large wedding like the Mittals' is challenging, Soorma scoffs, "We do this all the time. From chartering flights to ensuring a proper security detail, we can handle anything that our clients want from us." Orchestrating large weddings can take up to six months. But for industrialists short on time, Soorma claims that her team can pull off a wedding in one month. "Our team meets the family to understand what they want and how all relatives can be involved in the celebrations," she explains. Depending on their schedule, the wedding planners then hold regular meetings or communicate over email.

Under the spotlight

N S Rajan, global partner and managing director, Ketchum Sampark
Known to Work with and the Bajajs

Think image makeovers and Olivia Pope's character from the American drama Scandal comes to mind. From "handling" political scandals to businessmen in trouble, Pope "gladiates" her away through Washington, DC, with fashionable ease. But the action behind the scenes in the Indian business world is more sombre. From meetings with CEOs to tracking financial decisions, a public relations professional dons many hats, depending on the issue at hand. N S Rajan, with nearly 25 years of experience, explains how transparency is vital to the work he does. "Most progressive CEOs are paying attention to the importance of PR, and they tend to listen when they know that the advice they're getting is honest and logical." This may include advice that may seem unpalatable, especially in times of PR disasters. "Half the battle is won once the top management is willing to listen," he adds.

For Rajan, there are many factors that influence the course of action that he recommends to a company or its CEO. Some decisions are cut and dry, while others vary according to the current context. "Our relationship with the company or its CEO is fairly complex and each solution we suggest needs to be in sync with their business philosophy and culture, besides being relevant at that point of time." But do business leaders like hearing where they went wrong and what they need to change? "When business leaders begin to trust your opinions, they come to respect you for your contrarian views too, especially when they know and understand that you mean well and the suggested course is in the best interests of the organisation." Rajan adds that the public image is particularly critical in the financial services sector. It is no wonder then that he is the PR counsellor for leaders in companies like the DSP Group, ICICI Venture, Axis Bank, Bain Capital, Aditya Birla Financial Services and Finserv.

Foodie's favourite

Gurpreet Singh, corporate chef, Punjab Grill
Works with Amit Burman, vice-chairman, Dabur, and founder and chairperson, Lite Bite Foods

Just as doctors make the worst patients, some say that restaurateurs are the most difficult to please when it comes to food. This presents the chefs at their own restaurants with challenges every day. For 33-year-old Gurpreet Singh, cooking for isn't as much challenging as it is exciting. "He is well travelled and knows his food well. As a chef, I love cooking for him," he adds. A graduate from the Institute of Hotel Management in Bhopal, he has been associated with Lite Bite Foods, Burman's restaurant business, for five years now. Singh is no stranger to global food, especially since he travels for projects to the United States, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi and Sri Lanka.

Despite both keeping busy schedules, Singh knows Burman's food preferences well. "He loves red meat and grilled fish, though he likes to stick to a light salad for lunch," says Singh. While one would expect Burman and Singh to have little opportunity to communicate, Singh explains it's quite the contrary. "Burman is punctual and you'll find him in his office early morning." He also admires Burman for being approachable, with his cabin door always open for his employees. "He keeps us all motivated on a daily basis, with feedback that comes straight from the heart," adds an evidently gushing Singh. Even a nudge towards talking about the downside of things elicits no response.

First Published: Sat, February 14 2015. 00:19 IST