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Devita Saraf: “It’s Tough Being Fabulous!”

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When she was just 24 years old, Devita Saraf founded her luxury consumer durables company Vu Technologies. Today, she’s the CEO, Design Head and brand ambassador of a Rs 250-crore business that spans a wide spectrum of products with stores and “experience centres” across 20 cities nationwide. A business graduate from the University of Southern California, she is currently pursuing an Executive MBA from Harvard Business School and is also a trained Odissi dancer. Equally comfortable with balance sheets as she is with Burberry, Devita has featured in India Today’s list of 25 Most Powerful Women in India and represents a new-age businesswoman who has style and spunk in spades. The 34-year-old tech tycoon is also a prolific writer, commenting on everything from business and technology, to fashion and living the good life.

1. Make a fabulous “self” poster

When I was in college, I would cut up pictures from Vogue, Forbes, LA Times, and other mega publications that inspired me and make a mood board of sorts that I would hang above my dorm bed. I wanted to be like that, earn like that, and live like that. Focus always works, because after 15 years of effort, the international edition of Forbes recently featured me in an article referring to me as India’s ‘Model’ CEO.

2. Reach out to smart people

When I was a student, I was always emailing top CEOs, successful family friends, and professionals for meetings to learn and be inspired.  I once randomly wrote an email to my university’s President and asked for a meeting. We had a wonderful discussion and soon after, he enrolled me in a special Leadership class that only 30 out of 40,000 students are chosen for and personally trained by Warren Bennis, the world’s number one author on leadership. I hadn’t even applied for that class because my grades weren’t good enough, but you never know who sees potential in you.

3. It’s okay to fail

Please don’t think you need to be a topper to succeed, and don’t lose hope because you ‘only’ got 98% in an exam. We need to learn to fail and bounce back early, especially when we’re still students. I got 34% in my ICSE prelims, and after a month of giving it my best shot, redeemed myself to 86% in the finals. Was I first in class? Not at all. Do grades guarantee success in life? Can’t tell.

4. Do what you’re naturally good at

While dancing is my passion, I have a natural flair for business and that has served me well. It is better to keep your hobbies as a way to unwind and look for serious careers that pay well and offer personal and professional growth. Technology and Consumer Durables are tough, domain-oriented industries, but I really feel that I get to put my education, intelligence, and aptitude to good use.

5. Be smart, not cute

Save the fluttering lashes, high-pitched voice and drama for off-duty hours. The only way to get ahead in the corporate world (and be taken seriously) is being smart about your work, genuine about your inputs, realistic about your deadlines, and responsive towards management.

6. Use your age to your advantage

No one wants a young whipper-snapper telling them what to do, but while you’re young, you can ask people for advice and they will happily give it to you. You are also easily forgiven for your mistakes, so make them and learn from them while you can.

7. It’s tough being fabulous

Sadly, not everyone will be pleased with your success or happiness. If Facebook had a dislike button, it would glow brightly with jealous eyes. Sometimes, friendships or relationships don’t work out because people are bothered by your achievements. Don’t let it get you down. Be fabulous anyway!

8. Enjoy being yourself

Whether I need to make hard talk with a CEO or play with my two-year-old niece, I enjoy both roles. Whether I’m on stage in front of a thousand people or stuck alone at an airport for hours, I am okay with my own company. It takes a while, but sometimes you are the only person who can be there for you. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could savor the deliciousness of just being you?

9. Save up and buy quality stuff

When I was 19 years old, I earned $11 an hour at my first student job teaching Photoshop at the University of Southern California. I saved up for a whole semester and bought myself a Louis Vuitton demi bag. It’s in great condition and I still use it. The junk I picked up at the Forever 21 sale? Gone.

10. Live a quality life

It’s cool to get wasted, pull all-nighters, put up #aboutlast night posts on social media, or your next meal on Instagram (even if you didn’t eat it). But some stuff catches up with you as your grow older. Your health is your concern, so don’t be forced to eat or drink something that doesn’t agree with you. I have no immunity when it comes to street food, and I’d rather be uncool than sick. And be careful where and with whom you are photographed. Some stuff is best left without evidence. The best part of it all? You can look and feel young forever if you really take care of yourself!

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