It was a late Saturday afternoon, and Bengaluru’s UB City was bustling with activity with Art Bengaluru at its peak; you wouldn’t expect Uzma Irfan, Director of Corporate Communations, Prestige Group to be on time. And yet, she walks in with her nine-year-old daughter Alayna, and even apologises profusely for a five minute delay.
It is a standard practice Uzma follows- she is at work every morning by 10 am, and from what her co-workers say, extremely punctual. “How can you expect someone else to respect your time if you cannot respect theirs?” asks 37-year-old Uzma.
While the daughter of Irfan Razak, the Chairman and Managing Director of the Prestige Group, Uzma firmly believes that in order to get the respect and trust of your team, you need to work from scratch, and sometimes work harder to prove that.
For the past nine years now, Uzma has been working with Prestige, and has done several things, from baking to art shows, and even launching a brand of tea.
Honestly, none of this would be possible without the support of my family. My mother is my biggest support and source of encouragement. She stands by me and pushes me, and my husband too has been super encouraging.
A hands-on mother, a go-getter and a workaholic; a colleague says that the first time she walked into Uzma’s office nine years ago, one-month-old Alena was there with her mother. “She would change Alayna’s diapers and yet talk business with complete ease.” Uzma adds that women, by nature, are multitaskers; she says we can juggle several things at once. “A man cannot multitask as we women do,” she adds.
The main source of inspiration for her independence and courage to do different things is her father. He gave Uzma the freedom to try different things. She says that while he didn’t throw her to the sharks, he didn’t hand hold her, and let her make her own mistakes.
“I wanted to learn the ropes while I was in college. I started out as a marketing executive. If you have to work in a place, it is important that you add value, otherwise just don’t join there. And you also cannot reach the top without climbing the first rung of the ladder. It has been a challenging journey, but without challenges, life can be boring and mundane.”
Uzma would take customers to site visits then. She however went to London for a degree, with her husband. They were in London for six years. One day, her father told her that if she didn’t want to come back to India, he had no plans to expand further.
At that time, Prestige was in residential real estate, and counted forum mall among its projects, and they wanted to expand into the leisure and hospitality segments. Uzma recalls it to be a big decision and responsibility. Deciding to take the plunge, Uzma came back to India and returned to Prestige in 2007.
It was then that she realised that, while the company had grown, the brand still had to achieve a bigger name. In a marketing survey, she found that people were still thinking of Prestige in terms of the Prestige Cookers brand. Everyone seemed to be using the logo in whatever way they felt like. The first order of business was to create a brand manual, set the tone, and get corporate campaigns in place.
“Today, I have reached a stage where I can tell people that I am still learning, and I definitely don’t know everything. But neither do I have to prove anything more. I believe your work should do the proving,” says Uzma.
While she went ahead and built the department of corporate communications, she did not want to stop there. While considering that Prestige had a luxury mall, UB City, amongst its assets, Uzma realised that they could do more with it.
It was then that a friend of Uzma’s, Raj Bagaria, gave her the idea that art and luxury go hand in hand; that is when they conceptualised Art Bengaluru. Starting small with seven galleries seven years ago, today, Art Bengaluru attracts international artists. Uzma says that the idea every year is to raise the bar.
They shifted focus to the artists. This year, Art Bengaluru tied up with the British, Spanish, Italian and Israeli consulates, to ensure that different kinds of art, like movies, music, and paintings, were on display at, what is today, a cultural event.
The ride doesn’t end there. Uzma later started Sublime, a company of her own. Started with baking and the idea of helping a friend showcase her artworks, the company is into Sublime Galleria, Sublime Events, Sublime Events, and has a Sublime House of Tea. As the place got leased out, Uzma’s father one day took her to a bridge, and told her Sublime wasn’t just one gallery, it was the whole space.
I have a brilliant, young, passionate, hardworking team, who make it their goal and agenda to ensure that things work seamlessly. Nobody can achieve perfection, there are flaws, but the idea is to get better every time. It is amazing to work with like-minded people.
She adds that work is a way of life for her and she gets this from her father. A central figure in her life, Uzma’s father has pushed and encouraged her along the way. She says that to see a place under construction grow from the ground up and become a residential complex is a high in itself. “When you see happy families fill those buildings with memories, work becomes a way of life in itself.”
To be the best, you need to think differently, and keep pushing yourself.
The best cannot be achieved. If you think you have done the best, then there is no learning; you are dead. Learning is a lifelong thing. I believe the world is your oyster. If you have a dream, then go for it; there should be nothing that stops you. The world isn’t a bad place, the opposite person is a reflection of yourself.