At eight, she attended her first society handover meeting where dad, Lalitkumar Jain, handed over operations for a community housing project to the residents. That was just the beginning of Kruti Jain’s professional journey.
Pune’s Kruti Jain, made Executive Director of Kumar Builders at seventeen, has bagged multiple awards over the course of a very young and quick succession. The Top Management Consortium Award of Excellence for 2004-05, received from Maharashtra Governor S M Krishna is one of them (other prominent entities to receive the same award include the likes of Meher Pudumjee and Sulajja F Motwani). In 2012, she was also invited to speak on NDTV’s Young Guns of Real Estate.
But this story does not feature an easy and natural succession. Today, at twenty-six, Kruti tells us how she worked every bit as hard to earn her title.
How it all started..
When she was thirteen, intending to get some quality father-daughter time, she spent a summer with her dad in the office and on various construction sites – the whole time scheming of ways in which she could get him to quit and take them all on a vacation instead. Ironically, this very action got her hooked and eventually led to her taking on the reigns of business at a very early stage.
“I tried to get him out and instead he got me in,” is how she puts it. While she would nudge him to get him out of every meeting and occupy his computer all day, laboring away on Microsoft Paint, she would also sit in on discussions and take notes to understand the lingo. Kruti smiles remembering a particular incident where she happened to sit in on one of the legal council meetings where a solicitor had come in for a briefing. As the parties involved deliberated at the formal meeting the next day, she was very quick to point out a certain article they had missed. Five seconds of stunned silence were followed by multiple smiles.
“I anyway talked a lot and had an opinion about everything,” she says. Appreciation from the solicitor was just the final nudge needed to quickly change her decision from wanting to do architecture to studying law (a degree that comes very hand in this profession).
Succession did not come easy..
Kruti officially joined work at fifteen, the day after she finished her tenth grade exams. But her father did not make it easy for her. The next two years were spent with her rotating through twenty-three different departments, reporting to the very people who report to her today. She had targets to achieve, relationships to build.
She says being the boss’ daughter actually put additional pressure on her to be more disciplined. The only time she agrees to being “born with a silver spoon” is when she recalls the best talent and opinion makers in the industry being accessible to her at a very young age. Lalitkumar’s far and wide network helped answer all her questions from best practices in construction and design to ‘vastu’ and ‘ventilation’, all through simple phone calls. This helped shorten the learning curve to a great extent. Two years later, her ‘training’ culminated in her promotion to Executive Director, beginning her journey as perhaps one of the youngest executives in the city. She simultaneously enrolled in a dual BBA-LLB degree program that she went on to complete successfully.
The confidence instilled in her at a very young age brought in a drive and focus that never gave her the time to think about the possible gender bias. Kruti was a tomboy growing up and it did not matter to her that she was the only girl on a construction site or on an international tour with ninety other developers. She laughs recalling the first time it hit her that she was ignoring this fact – five years ago in a developers meet, the Pune CREDAI chairman addressed a crowd of two hundred as “my fellow developers and the lady.” She laughed then thinking, “He called me a lady?”
She says you actually monetize on being a woman since everyone always wants to know what a lady has to say!
Kruti has just two words to describe her inspiration – “my father.”
Her family has been entrepreneurial for generations. Being ambitious is in her blood. She speaks proudly of Lalitkumar Jain, calling him a visionary and her most valuable mentor. He would encourage her to dream big, draw inspiration from the likes of Calatrava and Zaha Hadid and think of parametric buildings even at a time when they were irrelevant in India. She recalls her father’s intentional dinner table conversations about new partnerships and land agreements, trying to get her interested and exposed to the lingo and ambition at a very early age.
What led to success..
Kruti says that focus and discipline are tantamount to any success, be it professional or personal. She played hockey at a national level when she was eleven. Even at thirteen, when she was on an agenda to get her dad to go on a vacation, she would show up at the breakfast table at 7.30 am every morning, ready to go to his office with him. At fifteen, she started a rigorous training schedule at work, when most other teenagers were engaging in social activities. And even when she became Executive Director at seventeen, she would be at work at 8 am every morning, no matter how late her social engagements concluded the night before.
“How did my friends cope with this?” she laughs.
Apparently, that is one of the things she is most thankful for – her social circle. Initially baffled by her sincerity and focus towards her career, traits that are not easily seen in seventeen-year-olds, her friends soon reconciled and encouraged her strong ambition in all ways possible. Supporting her through her education, keeping her in the loop with social plans, creating plans around her schedule, they did it all. She never felt like she truly missed out on anything by starting early and tried hard to keep work at an arm’s distance when with my friends. “I am just happy that I could coax some of them to think entrepreneurially.”
“I now have friends who are thirteen and seventy.”
Her take on starting early – “Making a new friend of my age today is hard because in all likelihood I am probably already friends with their parents!” she laughs.