Cover Story

Spinning A Success Story

By Rachna Virdi December 20, 2023

Dipali Goenka is the CEO & MD, Welspun Living (formerly known as Welspun India), one of the largest home textile brands in India with a turnover of $1 billion. Her focus on customer centricity, innovation and sustainability has helped the brand become a global leader in home textiles. In conversation with the astute businesswoman and beacon of gender diversity and sustainability.

Dipali Goenka believes in celebrating every milestone and learning from every roadblock. "Everything that concerns my business is my responsibility. I manage the operations of the various businesses and products we have under Welspun Living. I also manage partnerships with our retail brands across the world. I am involved in meeting our sustainability targets for every year, and in the development of new and innovative products for consumers. I work towards ensuring the well-being and productivity of our 25,000+ employees. I truly believe a leader is as good as their team," emphasises Dipali Goenka during an interaction with Marwar India.

With the launch of her domestic brand Spaces and acquisition of global brand Christy which manufactures towels for the Wimbledon tournament, she turned the venture into a global leader in home textiles. Today, Welspun Living works with top global retailers and hospitality partners with a presence in over 50 countries. Welspun Living is the biggest supplier to the US with a revenue of $1 billion.

The page called life

Coming from a traditional Marwari family in Jaipur, she completed her schooling from Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ School in Jaipur but a majority of her learning came from her mother Asha Golcha. "My mother instilled a sense of discipline in me and taught me the importance of work commitment. I try to imbibe her values in every aspect of my life and my success is a result of that," she asserts.

After spending a protected childhood in Jaipur, she came to Mumbai after getting married to BK Goenka of the Welspun Group at the age of 18. As a dutiful daughter-in-law, she managed the family and home and mothered two daughters-finding a firm ground to balance it all with the desire to learn and grow in life. When her daughters turned 10 and 7, Goenka decided to embark on her journey into the professional world. In 2002, she stepped into the family business Welspun Living. She was given the charge of the design studio but her husband was clear that she would not receive any special treatment in the office.

Armed with more passion than expertise, Goenka ventured on the shop floors to bridge the knowledge gap, took consumer insights, met distributors and worked on strengthening the design. "I would commute to the factory every week, determined to grasp the intricacies of the business, all the while tending to my home and caring for my two young daughters," she quips. Her perspective as a homemaker helped her bring in a different approach to business and move towards success. Within a year, she was ready to launch Spaces, a premium bed and bath brand under the parent company.

CEO with a soul

Goenka’s focus on providing top quality products that fulfil the needs of their end consumers helped transform the organisation into a leading textile giant. "Being in touch with what our core consumers, mainly women, desired in their home textiles was a game-changer. I would be the only woman in those board meetings, passionately advocating for the consumer’s viewpoint, which happened to be mine as well," states Goenka.

As the driving force, her vision in an erstwhile male-dominated industry has been to nurture a culture of inclusivity and progress. "I am glad to share that we are dedicated to promoting equality at every level. I aspire for the company to shine as a beacon of gender diversity, with over 50 per cent women employees in every role," says the leader who is nothing short of an inspiration. With her focus on women’s empowerment, she undertakes initiatives to promote skill and entrepreneurship development. She envisions a landscape where opportunities are abundant and gender equality is a norm rather than an exception in future. "One invaluable lesson I have learned, which I always share with aspiring women aiming to make a mark in their careers, is the importance of voicing their opinions. Let your work be your voice, but also be unafraid to assert yourself when it comes to seeking out prestigious projects or having a say at the decision-making table," she states.

Her pioneering work and affection for people often led people to call her as the ‘CEO with a soul’. "Growing up, the importance of helping others was deeply ingrained in me. So, it felt natural to make a positive impact on society in the form of social initiatives like Wel-Netrutva, Wel- Krishi, and Wel-Shiksha. We have managed to touch almost five lakh lives in rural areas around the country. It is a way of life that brings me great satisfaction."

The feeling extends to her work family. "I have wanted to do everything I can to make every Welspun employee feel as happy and content at work as I do. For me, the title of ‘CEO with a soul’ is my biggest award."

A perfect partnership

Dipali Goenka believes that her marriage with her self-made business magnate husband BK Goenka has been a partnership in the truest sense. "Even though we work as equals, it hasn’t stopped me from learning from him. I have always been thankful to him for giving me the opportunity to contribute to Welspun," she says. Thanks to their teamwork, the group’s consolidated sales having jumped multi-fold with a presence on the global map. "The fact that our company and other emerging businesses are outpacing market growth shows the effectiveness of our strategy, our ability to make strategic decisions and adapt to unpredictable circumstances quickly in running our business."

Goenka believes that her husband’s commitment to nurturing a workplace where all employees are treated as a family has left an indelible mark on her. "He is a true visionary in every sense, leading Welspun World from the front towards higher growth and success," she affirms.

Goenka also looks up to Babuji (her father-in-law) as her mentor in her professional journey. "To many, he was the visionary behind our company, but to me, he was a father figure and a teacher in the truest sense. Despite being my father-in-law, he wholeheartedly embraced me as his daughter. His guidance and unwavering support were instrumental in my development. He not only encouraged my educational pursuits, including my time at Harvard, but also fuelled my passion for personal and professional growth. His leadership was nothing short of exemplary, and I aspire to follow in his footsteps, hoping one day to embody his remarkable qualities."

Her biggest inspiration is, of course, her mother. "From my mother, I learned the importance of being disciplined and honouring deadlines. She taught me to live a life where there should be a time for everything, and everything should be on its time. This lesson was especially crucial for me as I balanced work and my home during my initial days."

Staying ahead of the curve

Every successful business follows a philosophy that guides it through decisions. Welspun takes pride in its consumer-centric, sustainable, innovationled approach that emphasises on value creation. Through this, it aims to be the brand of choice for home furnishings and delight its consumers with its range of products for every home. The organisation’s three-pronged strategy includes strengthening the portfolio, expanding consumer businesses across geographies, and exploring alternative revenue streams. The result: better brand penetration driven by distribution and fuelling of e-commerce sales, including initiatives to get in touch directly with consumers. "I am proud of the fact that we are already the most distributed brand of home textiles in the country and we will continue to offer innovative solutions to consumers to enrich their daily lives," adds Goenka.

Welspun, no doubt, stands out as a leader in the industry, thanks to its exceptional edge derived from a unique business model, cutting-edge technologies like blockchain, and valuable customer proposition. "We remain focused on our goal of becoming the leading manufacturer in the home textiles sector, supported by innovative investments, trusted brands, and our successful businessto- consumer and direct-to-consumer efforts worldwide. With our newly refreshed identity, we bring all our brands under one umbrella, hoping to step into the future with an all the more enhanced focus on the pursuit of excellence for our customers," she shares.

Beyond that, her mission extends to making the venture a sustainability trailblazer. She feels that today’s consumers are inclined to connect with brands that resonate with their personal values-pushing the textile industry to prioritise loyalty by actively engaging with customers on various fronts. "Sustainability has become a focal point, driven by the growing demand for environmentally-friendly products. The challenges of the past few years have ushered in a surge in e-commerce sales. The effectiveness of logistics and streamlined supply chain management systems has become pivotal for companies looking to maintain a competitive edge in the market," she elaborates.

The leap of faith

It is paramount for the management to lead by example, embodying inclusivity and dedication to equity in its actions and decision-making processes. "I believe that these efforts have been very fruitful, considering my daughter Vanshika is now the CEO and MD of Christy Home, the UK brand of Welspun Living," says the mother with pride.

Christy, with its 170-year legacy, stands as a distinguished luxury brand worldwide. Christy Home is the official towel licensee to the Wimbledon and Australian Open Tennis Championships. As the official towel supplier of The Championships-Wimbledon since 1988-it continues to uphold its esteemed reputation. It was recently given a new and refreshing look by Vanshika. Says Goenka, "It is a moment of great pride for us as we share that Wimbledon has been associated with us for well over a decade. Our association traces back to 2006 when we acquired Christy, a renowned British towel brand. After acquisition, we shifted the manufacturing base of these premium towels from Hyde, Greater Manchester to Gujarat, India at our Terry Towel facility in 2010."

She adds, "We are diversifying into the digital realm to cater to the millennial demographic and expand accessibility. Our design team has meticulously designed classic towels for all players in 2023. Apart from the Championship colours that remain consistent, we launch a stylish new colour every year-which often sparks lively debates among enthusiasts."

A rewarding journey

Managing the pitfalls on home ground, meeting the challenges in the US and gaining from the experiences along the way, Goenka’s professional journey has been pretty exciting and rewarding. "My experience has taught me that crises are the best opportunities to innovate and reinvent. While focusing on employees and communities during a crisis is the right thing to do, an added bonus is that it also translates to good business."

A relentless determination to learn and grow in her career helped Goenka find the right balance between responsibilities and emotional well-being. "Over the course of time, I have learned to schedule every minute of my day for maximum productivity. And yes, I do take breaks, but the key lies in allocating time for everything and ensuring that everything happens in its own time."

Besides managing textiles, she spends her day by dedicating herself to exercising regularly, and maintaining her physical and mental well-being. "I am also very passionate about dance-being a trained classical dancer, it is my way of letting loose and having some fun. Reading is another hobby that helps me de-stress while also opening me up to new insights and perspectives. Unwinding with Tara, my pet, is my favourite part of the day. Spending quality time with my family is also something I hold very dear. We love catching up and sharing stories about our day, and travelling together, which brings me to my absolute favourite hobby. Travel fuels me. Exploring new places and experiencing different cultures and meeting new people from all walks of life add a wonderful dimension to my life," concludes the CEO with a heart and soul.