“I have never let gender define me. I choose to do the things I absolutely love,” says Roshini Jaiswal, the woman behind Jagatjit Industries Limited (JIL), an Indian liquor brand set up in 1945 in the erstwhile royal state of Kapurthala, Punjab.
Jaiswal believes that her gender neutral attitude to life is thanks to her parents, who never treated her in any particular manner just because she’s their daughter.
Perhaps that’s why Jaiswal has always worked in industries where women are rarely seen, such as the liquor manufacturing business. Though JIL is a family concern, Jaiswal has a strong entrepreneurial streak and in 2000, when she returned from college in the US, she immediately opened a lounge bar in Bangalore, named 180 Proof, three themed restaurants, and in 2003, another lounge bar in Delhi.
The food and beverage industry has been Jaiswal’s life. Even before she left to study abroad, she had teamed up with her father to acquire the North Indian rights for the Pizza Hut and KFC brands in 1997. And she remained a restaurateur till 2014, when she joined JIL as its Chief Restructuring Officer.
I have never let gender define me
A position like that comes with tremendous responsibilities, and can often throw the work-life balance out of kilter. But Jaiswal is strict about her time off. “I try to maintain the discipline of not responding to work calls or emails on weekends,” she explains.
Jaiswal has extensive plans for JIL, aiming to make it one of India’s top three liquor companies in a couple of years.
“We are making major strategic changes to the business and we are re-launching four of our brands in new avatars,” she says.
JIL makes the entire range of Indian-made foreign liquor: whisky, vodka, rum, gin and brandy. Given its history and the fact that the company had been patronised by the Maharaja of Kapurthala, Jaiswal runs JIL on the philosophy of ‘A Heritage of Quality’.
Being a working woman in a senior position doesn’t faze Jaiswal at all. She will not change simply because of her job status. “I find so many women let go of their femininity and parts of their identity to work in the corporate world,” she says. “It’s such a huge sacrifice and yet so many women make it without even realising they are doing so.”
Hold on to your identity, she advises young entrepreneurs. It’s what makes you who you are. And, Jaiswal adds: “Take people’s advice, but follow your own instinct. This is my mantra and it has always worked.”