For a ‘chance’ entrepreneur, the charismatic Mandhira Kapur has made all the right moves to emerge as a Global force in the Automobile Ancillary Space as the high-powered MD of the internationally renowned Sona Mandhira Pvt. Ltd.
SMPL was established in 2012 by Mandhira’s father, the late Dr. Surinder Kapur, Founder and Chairman of the Sona Group of Companies. Yet, until she joined the firm in 2020, Mandhira had never even thought of going into the family business. “Growing up, I had dreamt of becoming a policeman, a veterinarian, a lawyer, even a tennis player, but never a businesswoman. As an Indian girl, my brother probably thought more about taking over the business than I did at the time,” she recalls.
Mandhira discovered a passion for marketing while working in London for a PR firm in fashion and luxury branding, in her early 20s. When she returned to India, her father asked if she wanted to manage the treatment plant in Pune, but the time wasn’t right. By then, Mandhira had achieved her goal of financial independence as in their family, girls were not allowed to marry until they could stand on their own two feet.
It was the death of her father in 2015 that eventually saw Mandhira take over the reins of her destiny. However, following in her father’s footsteps was no mean feat. “As the only female in a male-dominated environment, some of the higher executives couldn’t handle it. In the end, I had to build a new team, but that challenge proved a high point. Seeing how my team now works as one, is a beautiful thing,” shares Mandhira with unmistakable pride.
Blessed with keen business acumen, Mandhira was quick to realise that she needed to transform SMPL from a traditional manufacturing and distributor of auto parts in the SAARC region into a dynamic and disruptive global force. “I had a vision for Sona Mandhira to become the world’s number one aftermarket auto parts brand – so I set up SMIC Autoparts to move to London and break into the EMEA and MENA regions.”
Outlining her business strategy, she adds, “Thinking outside the box and future-proofing. I think about what the next generation would like and make sure my business stays ahead of the curve. In the end, it’s all about relationships – how can your strategic partners help you and vice versa, my first thought is always how can we improve each other’s lives.”
Empathy and innovation are Mandhira’s two big strengths. She recently set up the Sona Mandhira Think Tank, a company to stimulate global thought leadership and provide sustainable solutions for future challenges. And has been granted a prestigious Innovation Visa by the UK Government because of its scope. “The is my first real business baby, and although it influences the aftermarket business, it really is something completely new and innovative and a way of evolving the group,” she opines.
It is difficult to talk about the Sona Mandhira group without making a mention of the ‘Sona family’ that the two generations of Kapurs have nurtured as their biggest business philosophy. “I employ a lot of people and we look after our employees and their families. When you get a job with us, you’re joining a family,” states Mandhira, who also does a lot of charity work in India and will be starting some charitable ventures in the UK too.
Mandhira’s mantra for entrepreneurship is ‘Think Big’. And the passion that drives her is to see one of her thoughts come to life. “I have a book of thoughts and I sleep with the book on my bedside as I wake up constantly and write things down. Everyone should feel like they are giving into the world,” she says.
A people’s person, Mandhira is the Indian Women’s Network Northern Region Co-Chairwoman. She has also been honoured by the Asia One Awards as Global Leader in the Women Empowerment Principles Leadership (2021), and is heading to the House of Lords to receive recognition from WCRC Asia as one of the World’s Best Emerging Leaders 2022 and Sona Mandhira, India, as one of World’s Best Emerging Brands 2022.
A proud mother of two (son JaieVee and daughter Nyna), Mandhira feels the work-life balance settles naturally. “I don’t think anyone can balance anything. It just happens. For me, the children are part of my routine even when I’m at work and vice versa. Personally, I am very spontaneous. I’ll just get up and go and have lunch with my kids if I feel I haven’t seen them enough. Making moments that matter together at home or in business is more important than trying to balance things,” sums up the lovely Mandhira Kapur.