Asha Chaudhary: President, Jaipur Rugs
From Rugs to Riches
By Caroline Cox
Asha Chaudhary says she “grew up in the business.” And she doesn’t mean it figuratively. Along with her two sisters and brother also in the business, the 33-year-old witnessed firsthand as her father grew handmade rug company Jaipur Rugs from two looms and nine artisans in India during the late ’70s into the $15 million international design brand it is today. Their goal? To hit $30 million in revenue in the next few years – and at this rate, it seems achievable.
As president of U.S. operations for Jaipur Rugs, Chaudhary melds her passion for design with serious marketplace know-how. Moving from India to the U.S. for college in 1997 helped her gain confidence, a chameleon-like adaptability and inspired her to, in her words, “keep on going and never stop.”
Here, she talks to Little PINK Book about her no-fail networking tips, her big move and what inspires her.
PINK: What’s your success secret?
Asha Chaudhary: Being fearless and courageous. Being a woman entrepreneur and small business owner, I’ve gone through a lot of phases and difficulties. Sometimes, at the end of the day you think, why am I doing this? It requires a lot of strength and knowing that, no matter what, you can do it. I’ve always believed that. Beyond that, I really love what I do.
PINK: How has fearlessness helped you succeed?
AC: We’d been working with our bankers for a long time. When the [economic meltdown] happened in 2008, they took away our credit line, which was a more than a million dollars. That was a lot of cash for our company. I came to a point where I thought, oh my God. I didn’t know if we were going out of business the next day – it was a strong blow. Being able to face that challenge and figure my way out of it taught me a lot.
PINK: How do you network?
AC: When I go into networking events, I always make a point to talk to a lot of different people and get their business cards. You meet people from so many different areas. I keep business cards organized in my files, and I always make notes about what I thought of the person and where I met them. Then I send a note introducing myself and saying it was nice to meet them.
PINK: How has networking made you more successful?
AC: I bought a business building last year. The bigger banks I was working with weren’t ready to finance it. I had met one of the members of the chamber of commerce in a smaller bank. I had his card and just happened to send him an email saying, “Hey, I met you at this event. How are you? I’m looking to have a loan, would you mind talking to me?” We met up, spoke and [that bank] gave us more than $2M in financing.
PINK: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
AC: My true mentor is my father. I’ve seen how hard he’s worked all my life. One thing I’ve learned from him is to never give up. As long as you love what you do, keep doing it. That’s so crucial because, with our current times, there’s so much uncertainty. The environment is changing and we need to be flexible. Our company has gone through a significant number of changes – in our product line, our team and across the board. The most important thing is believing in yourself and that’s really worked for me.
PINK: What kind of leader are you?
AC: My leadership style has evolved over the years. I’m learning to become a better manager. I’ve become more direct in expressing what I think. At the same time I’m very compassionate. I’m very aware of people’s needs and I treat everyone like a family, but there’s a clear distinction. Expectations are set with the team and they know what they need to achieve. I’m also fairly flexible. I’m a good listener so they know they can come to me with anything.
PINK: What’s your biggest weakness as a leader?
AC: I’m impatient, so that can always be a challenge. Secondly, I’m not very good at conflict management. I don’t like conflict. Unfortunately, whether you’re in big or small business, whether it’s people conflict or client conflict, it’s just part of the job sometimes. I have to learn to deal with it better and not let it bother me.
PINK: What non-resumé characteristics do you look for in a hire?
AC: The attitude an employee has plays a huge role. We have set job descriptions, but there are times when you have to step out of that. A lot of teamwork goes on here. Attitude, how they see themselves, how they [collaborate] with their co-workers – that plays a huge role. The other thing is being honest, transparent and losing your ego. When people have big titles or egos, it doesn’t really fit well with the way we run our company.
PINK: How has your upbringing resulted in your success?
AC: I was born right after [my father] started the company. I’ve seen him grow it from two looms to a team of 45,000 artisans. That’s a trait my siblings and I have all acquired. There are no shortcuts to success. It takes hard work, will power, determination and passion. My father was very passionate about people – helping them and improving their lives. I saw that passion growing up and inherited it.
PINK: How do you balance life and work?
AC: I have long working hours, so I never take work home. When I go home, no matter what has happened during the day, I leave it behind. I really love the time I have with my husband. In summers, we go to the park, take a walk or watch some mindless TV. On weekends, we’ll take a short trip to the mountains. Travel is a great escape for me to find balance. I’m also a vegetarian. I have a trainer, so I work out. All those things help me live a balanced life.
PINK: What’re you reading right now?
AC: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. I read it eight or nine years ago when I was in college. I felt like I needed to read it again because it will probably have a whole different meaning for me now.
PINK: What stood out to you when you moved to America after high school?
AC: The first thing was how everything is so clean. You don’t have a zillion people, cows and other animals on the road. Everyone drives in such a disciplined way. In India you’re crammed with other people. There’s so much room and personal space between people here. It’s like two different worlds.
PINK: What’s your next professional goal?
AC: To expand our management team. We’re in the process of hiring a lot of new people. We’ve got to empower and train them so we can take our company to the next level in the U.S.
PINK: What’s your favorite inspirational quote?
AC: My father always said, in order to do great things, you have to start with small ones . I always keep that in mind. Just do one thing at a time. It’s simple but it means a lot.
PINK: How do you measure success?
AC: I measure it by how we’ve impacted the people that touch the company or our products. Does our product make customers happy? Does it make their houses beautiful? Are our employees better daughters? Are they better off financially? It’s about improving the lives of every single person that touches us. To me, that’s true success.
PINK: What legacy do you want to leave?
AC: After age 45 or 50, I’d like to retire and work with children. My goal is to go into developing countries, India being my home country, and make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of these people who don’t have the things we take for granted, like clean water, medical care and education. I want to dedicate myself to that. Hopefully I can use my skills as a businessperson to make an impact on a large scale.
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