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
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
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,"
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,
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
Work is the adrenalin that pushes
Beena 24/7 to do better and better
and aim for the sky.
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
Kurtis are popular and
imported tops. They usually
come from China.
Short shirts are still in and
suits with new cuts are also
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