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Business style

Beena Kannan, MD of See with skill and a silky-smooth style, finds Prema Manmadhan


If you go to Seematti, chances are that you will see a well dressed woman taking in the scene at one of the four floors, sometimes answering customers' queries or helping someone choose what suits hin/her or getting the staff to attend to a customer who looks all lost in the textile jungle. She is the businesswoman who takes on competition head on, Beena Kannan, MD of Seematti Group (Kochi and Kottayam).

Multitasking is second nature to her. As she deals with the waiting visitors while taking a call from one of her contacts in a village `somewhere in North India,' she smiles sweetly and tells you she will be with you in two minutes. Just then, there is a message communicated to her from someone downstairs and she attends to it.

Doesn't she get irritated, having to do too many things at once? "I am so used to doing at least five things at a time," she smiles, wearing one of her new designer `album sari', a typical pure silk sari.

Her spacious office on the fifth floor of the Seematti building has some artefacts but more care has been taken to see that there is a lot of room for meeting people, lots of business chairs, two huge tables, a sleek PC, potted plants, and a large TV. A small framed Venkatachalapathi is on a side table.

Photo: (Cover and right) Thulasi Kakkat

In top form Beena Kannan loves multitasking

Across the office is a view of burgeoning Kochi, multi-storeyed buildings, some finished and others rising. Maybe the view keeps reminding her that one cannot be complacent. Complacent, Beena Kannan is not. A confessed workaholic, she is always reinventing herself and her business. Last year, she brought out the longest sari and got it into the Guinness Book. The Limca Book of Records also recognised this effort. This pure silk sari, half a kilometre long, (86 saris) had pallavs with different motifs, of Gandhiji, Mother Teresa, Vallamkali et al. "I took the sari to Dubai to exhibit it.

They are all sold out, but if somebody wants one with one of the motifs in it, we can get it done for them," she says.

Beena Kannan has been singlehandedly managing her dream, Seematti, (one of the outlets of the family. Her cousins manage other outlets in the State) with of course help from her father and son, Goutham.

Widowed some years ago, she is the only daughter of her parents, whose ancestors migrated to Kerala from Tamil Nadu, but are originally from Andhra Pradesh. She lives with her three children, two sons, Gautham and Vishnu, and a daughter, Thushara.

How is life, being busy all through the day? "I enjoy this job. It is creative and it really gives me a kick, selecting designs, waiting to see how it will turn out and finding out what really clicks. It is not merely a business.

I can employ people to do many of these things but I love doing a lot myself. It is a pleasure." Her biggest challenge is getting new designs done by weavers. "It was very difficult but over a couple of years, I have convinced them that innovation is the only thing that will keep them in demand. I go there myself, even if it is some place which has hardly motorable roads. Sometimes I stay in houses which have limited amenities. But I manage to convince them about my ideas and the hard work has paid dividends now. Entire villages now work for me. Every six months or so, there are new ranges of saris that come to my outlets," Beena contends. People in Kerala are very, very choosy while in Tamil Nadu, the insistence is only on good, pure silk. "So it's doubly difficult when you have to gauge the taste of the people rightly. A new range may or may not go down well with people. It is a risky business."


Relaxing is a limited exercise but the gym is a regular thing unless she is travelling. "Three movies on TV a year, perhaps, that's all, but I enjoy dancing. Even if I have to cut the gym, I will not give up dancing," she says. It's been ten years since Beena took to bharathanatyam, and she has given three stage performances.

Beena is a strict vegetarian by choice. "I used to be a good cook and when Kannan was alive and we were in Kottayam, we used to party eight days a week! But now socialising is a big zero. I don't have the time. Horticulture was also an obsession that I have given up," says the trim woman who keeps her figure in shape.

Holidays are not regular affairs, but last year, Beena went to Moscow, all alone and had a whale of a time.

Work is the adrenalin that pushes Beena 24/7 to do better and better and aim for the sky.

Fashion Trendometer

Who better than Beena Kanan will know the pulse of the fashion trendometer? For she interacts with customers whenever she can. So what's in this season? The sari of course, as more and more people buy saris for occasions, according to Beena. Lightweight silks sells as also patialas and Anarkali tops, in both cotton and partywear. Sleeveless is shunned by Keralites, whether for tops or kurtas.

Kurtis are popular and imported tops. They usually come from China. Short shirts are still in and suits with new cuts are also fashionable.

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