In a three-part series ‘Home @ Work’, we feature three women-led teams that do great work in unusual settings, with open spaces, plants and an emphasis on mindful living. This is part three.
WHO’S THE BOSS: Simran Lal, creative director, Nicobar
WHAT ARE THEY: Modern Indian fashion and lifestyle retail brand
WHERE THEY WORK: In Simran’s family-owned farmhouse in Delhi’s outskirts
Her mother is the founder of the luxury retail chain Good Earth, which is headquartered at the family’s farmhouse in the Sultanpur Estate, Mehrauli in Delhi. And so, the idea of a workplace was always slightly different for Simran Lal: it represented something earthy, rooted in nature and the Indian aesthetic, and yet high on luxury and quality.
After completing her Master’s in the art history from the University of Bangalore, Simran studied product development and merchandising from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
She joined her mother Anita Lal’s business as CEO, helping to streamline Good Earth’s merchandising and supply chain, and expanding it to 10 Good Earth stores around India, with retail partnerships in Turkey and China.
Many years after marriage and having had two sons, Simran along with her husband Raul Rai, launched a new fashion and lifestyle range in 2016.
They called it Nicobar, giving it a modern Indian, minimalistic resort vibe. The workplace is at the same location as Good Earth’s Delhi headquarters, Tulsi Farms.
It is a large spacious, two-storey building called ‘Treehouse’ because it is surrounded by tall trees that have been on the property for decades. Parts of the building have been deliberately left unfinished to give it a startup feel, and large windows allow for an abundance of natural light. It is an undivided workspace; there are no cubicles.
The ‘conference’ room is essentially a shed with a sunroof, and pots and plants abound all over the workspace. It also doubles up as a display area for visitors.
Over 100 employees – mostly young and female – work from this location; they have coffee breaks on benches in the open air with birds chattering away in the trees above them, and wear comfortable walking shoes to get around the expansive property.
There’s also a photo studio within the property – the brand focuses on beautiful visuals and a strong social-media presence – and models, makeup artists and photographers can be seen strolling about at all times.
Simran’s own personality has had a lot to do with developing this relaxed, global culture and informal work environment. Work-focused, amiable but somewhat publicity-shy, her workplace reflects the sort of person she is, and the kind of brand she has built.
Nicobar has nine brick-and-mortar stores in seven cities, and one more is coming up soon. They do a substantial amount of retail online, offering fashion apparel, home furnishings, décor, tableware, and travel accessories targeted at millennials and globetrotters.
“At Nicobar, we’re creating a modern Indian way of living, dressing and looking at the world,” goes the label’s ethos. It’s not so hard to do that when the people behind the brand are living it themselves.