Harper's Bazaar March 2016 - Page 143

Salma Merchant Rahmathulla arrives at the chic West Village spot, Cafe Cluny, wearing a bright ear-to-ear smile with deep dimples, Mise En Dior earrings, and a pair of black, patent Ferragamo flats. While her beauty, style and grace are the first things one notices when meeting her, her noteworthy education, career, and business acumen are brimming just below the surface. She is a director at her family-owned leather goods business, Pelicans Group. In business for over thirty years, Pelicans is one of the foremost manufacturers of leather marketing and fashion goods in the world. The core of Pelicans is the automotive industry, as it creates the glove box packs that come with most vehicles—brands such as Aston Martin and Volvo. The business eventually are getting the best in quality from start to finish. And being a complete logistical grew to expand into industries that required high-end, hand-crafted leather company, when a client works with Pelicans, they know that—from concept goods, such as hospitality and fashion. The beautiful desk sets you might see at to execution to distribution—the team will handle everything. It’s a one-stopyour favourite five-star hotel or a wallet fromTory Burch are the sorts of things shop.“I think the one thing that we really do well is our customer service,” she that Pelicans makes. Even the royal households, like Kensington Palace, turn explains, as their clients have to deal with only one point person to look after to them to create bespoke leather goods like key and card holders. their orders. “From the idea to making it happen, rather than speaking to this In another major win for the company, Pelicans recently acquired BMW team for logistics or that team for distribution, I’m the one person who then Worldwide as a client. Most exciting, though, are the changes in the industry filters all that information. It’s much nicer for the client.” as a whole since her clients are growing into true lifestyle brands. Brands like As being a singular point person for her clients, disseminating the workload Bentley and Jaguar are expanding their product offerings to include accessories and managing the logistical aspects of the job requires a team-oriented leadership for home and travel. “We are perfectly positioned to help with this as these are style. “I love bringing everybody together so we can find the answers, and longtimeclients,andwehavethebandwidth creating an environment that people can to execute their vision,” she explains. take the initiative, because I don’t have all the IaskRahmathullaabouthowshemanages answers,” she says. “By selecting a great team to help run a business with offices in New Ihavetheconfidencethatwecandoamazing York, London, and Mumbai, raise her son, things and so I wanted for the team to have an active social life, and keep time for understand through that initiative we can herself all at once. In a note of humility—a make great things happen.” trait I quickly learn is a big part of who she While she may be in the world of DIRECTOR, PELICANS GROUP is—she reminds me that she is only one part manufacturing and business, the part of her of a big team that makes things happen. that was committed to human rights work How the businesswoman balances “Remember that I am one of many directors in her former career still exists, manifesting motherhood and philanthropy, while that helps to run the company,” she says, with in different ways—through philanthropic a smile. “You have to be organised, and you work for non-profit organisations. She is a helping run a transcontinental company have to have a very supportive husband and board member of the Global Partnership for family as well. The great thing about working WomenandGirlsandacommitteemember in this millennial age is that I can work of the New York Women’s Initiative for around my son’s schedule so I know he’s CARE. “We do many projects, creating getting everything he needs and our family awareness around global issues. We just life is never affected, even though I am ambitious and the business is really worked on something related to the Syrian refugees, and now we’re working important for me. It’s sort of that balancing act.” on domestic violence issues in Guatemala. It’s a whole range of issues,” she says. Rahmathulla didn’t step into the family business right away. After graduating Rahmathulla credits New York City’s 24/7 energy for her ability to do as from London School Economics with a master’s degree in industrial relations, much as she does. “You’re able to get things done that might take time in a she worked at some of the world’s most high-profile organisations. She started different city, you’re able to have all of that done very easily here, so you can at the BBC, where she worked on a human rights programme, and then moved actually focus on the things you want to,” she says. “And this is a really great city to JP Morgan bank’s London and Paris offices for two years. Stints at the United to be able to take care of yourself in emotional, physical, and mental terms.” In Nations and the World Bank followed, and she and her boss worked closely her spare time, she likes to stay fit—yoga, spinning, and pilates—and also loves with the president of the latter.When the presidency at theWorld Bank changed, to explore the city with her husband and son, who is now two. she decided to leave and join the family business. “It was always something at What does the future hold for this multi-tasking businesswoman? She answers the back of my mind. Pelicans was like our second family growing up.” with a sigh and a laugh, exposing again the dimples that she greeted me with Born and raised in London as the eldest of three siblings to a Mumbaiker when we started the interview. “I want to definitely add to my family—have father and Hyderbadi mother, Rahmathulla takes great pride in how the another little one. And I want the future to keep this balance that I’ve been able company operates. When a client comes to them for a project, they know they to have now, between the different worlds that make up my life.” She takes a pause, and looks away for a bit, as if to think about all the wonderful things she is hoping for, only to look back to me and say with a twinkle in her eye. “All I can say is that the future is bright.”  IMAGE COURTESY SOFIA COLVIN SALMA MERCH A NT R A H M ATHUL L A By Rebecca Suhrawardi 143