The quiet and content mien that Leela Bordia from Jaipur possesses seems very congruous with her persona. But beneath this aura of tranquility, is piquancy that led her to form NCR/a International. A woman with humble beginnings who by the sheer dint of hard work, single minded pursuit and a strong sense of commitment to her goal attained international recognition as an entrepreneur par excellence. She doesn't run fast to finish a race, but believes that slowing down and strategising is the best way to have a real shot at finishing first.
The scion of a well-known Marwari family of Jaipur, Leila s parents migrated to Kolkata in the 1940s. Her father, Shri S. C. Sacheti worked in Hindustan Motors, and her mother Nagina Devi Sacheti, was a philanthropist and homemaker. She was among the first few ladies who voiced her disregard for dowry, purdah system and several such mores that were rampant during that era. Her childhood recollections are vivid memories of holding her mother's hand and accompanying her to see slum areas with another lady who always had a smile and an openness of heart. "It was only later that I realised that it was Mother Teresa, whom my mother was working with", she gushes. One of the early lessons she learnt was to be courageous and stand up to coercion instead of succumbing. She was asked to be equal and fair to all. "My mother disapproved of inequality among male and female children. So, I would never carry a lunch pack from home. I would eat bread and chai like all the other children. By being a white collar officer's daughter, I was no different from any of them." She studied at Pilani, completed her formal education and got married in 1974 and settled in Jaipur.
The wind of change
A perchance visit to a slum area made her realise that hardworking farmers had to pay their respect at the altar to earn a paltry sum for their labour, with some women even resorting to prostitution to sustain their families. Enchanted by the beauty of blue pots and urns and cognizant of the talent that existed in the village, she decided to do something to help them, though she soon discovered that the product had no demand. She got thinking and wanted them to mould designs to suit the current market's requirement, but she was met with resistance—the artisans obviously sceptical of her intentions. It was difficult says Leela, to convince them that she wanted to help them out. One artisan named Kailash, however, relented and co-operated with her. What began as social work soon became a passion. While the opportunity for change was great, she found that it had added stress to her life by attempting to change everything too fast. She slowed down and spent the next two years was recognised by the Business in Asia magazine along with other giant corporations like Korean Hyundai motor company, Nintendo for a case study on amazing entrepreneurs. Leela Bordia is the vice-President of the Federation Of Rajasthan Exporters Association, member of the All India Women's Council, an erstwhile member of the Bead Association of California, founder Secretary of the Rotary Club (East) 1980-1981 and winner of the Best Performance Shield. Leela has certainly come close to substantiating her dream of making a difference to society. Today, she has over 200 different items, each with hundreds of designs, 90 per cent of the products are exported and 10 per cent available locally. She was felicitated with the National Outstanding Export Award by EPCH from 1993-2005; best Woman Entrepreneur Award from the President in 1990; best Woman Entrepreneur Award by EPCH for three consecutive years in 2003-2005.
and other ladies' accessories and displayed them at Anokhi retail store. This coincided with the filming of a movie called The Far Pavilions, and a few English actresses liked and bought all that they saw at Anokhi. For Leela, it was nothing short of a divine intervention. She says that "this is when the business actually took off." Suddenly, she was infused with a renewed drive and she focussed all her energy into fructifying her dreams.
Neerja's blue landscape Meanwhile, Paul Comar continued to be a good friend. With his help, a touch of her own creativity and improved quality control techniques, she rose from one potter Kailash to 150 potters and the foundation stone of Neerja International was laid. Rajasthan's blue pottery had found a champion who was busy promoting the dreams of thousands of craftsmen. Impressed with her global efforts and her achievements, her commercial success