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Of CEOs Styles And Smiles!
Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena and Photographs by Richard Pereira
Published: Volume 18, Issue 11, November, 2010

48 powerful heads of industry took time off from their packed schedules and walked the ramp in designer wear for their favourite charities. Verve shares the excitement of the electrifying event that was the brainchild of the Toofles Foundation

Nitin Paranjpe of Hindustan Unilever showing his best angle…legal eagle Zia Mody beaming in a red and gold creation…the mother and daughter duo, Anu Aga and Meher Pudumjee of Thermax, upping the glam quotient…Ogilvy & Mather India’s Piyush Pandey ad-libbing with a jig…Manisha Girotra of UBS India banking on her graceful glide…. All in designer drapes that could not have got better role models to showcase their style!

The high-profile DB Realty-Toofles Style for Smiles event at the Hotel Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai, proved beyond any doubt that nothing – absolutely nothing – can ruffle these power players. So, even if you prod them out of the quiet – sometimes heated – environs of their boardrooms and well-appointed offices and put them on the colourful stretch of a ramp, the corporate head honchos take the move in their stride, literally.

That is the way it was during the Joy of Giving Week, when 48 of India’s top CEOs strutted their stuff on the catwalk on the occasion, as they walked the talk for their favourite NGOs affiliated to GiveIndia. And, as one after another boardroom biggie made an appearance – blowing kisses and waving to friends and family in the audience – to sashay down the ramp to thunderous applause from the city’s elite, raising money was never such fun. The fluctuations of the Sensex were forgotten, such was the corp cap on show that night!

The room went quiet in anticipation when the lights dimmed for a fleeting second. Some fuzzy smoke blurred the outlines on the stage…and when the air cleared, the fashion show – with a difference and for a cause – began. The tone of the event – Style for Smiles which is now in its second year – was set by the easy repartee between the hosts, cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle all togged up on a completely new pitch and business anchor, Shaili Chopra. Clad in designer togs, the women wore Zoya jewels to best effect, followed by the men; many sporting Titan watches to mark the moment. As the guests, champagne flutes in hand, raised a toast to their favourites, the models of the moment smiled, posed, preened and vanished oh-too-soon. But, with Bhogle around, an action replay was called for, and India Inc’s best bowed to the inevitable and made a second entry. Amongst them all, the woman in red, Anu Aga got the most whistles when she appeared and did her turn again with such dignity.

As the ‘models’ sported jewellery from Zoya and Titan watches, their smiles were reflected in the dazzle of the pieces. The mood was infectious – the tempo built up from the dressing room where the CEOs were getting ready for their important walk.

Designers Anamika Khanna, Wendell Rodricks, Narendra Kumar Ahmed and ‘The Collective’ took a bow as each segment ended with a flourish. Each spoke about how “giving is all about putting a smile on someone’s face. It makes one feel so much lighter.” A sentiment that was lavishly echoed by the participants who had stepped off the ramp to put their signatures, this time not on cheques, but on the specially erected wall in the Crystal Room. Meera Sanyal (The Royal Bank of Scotland) pointed out, “The joy of giving is doubled, if one can invest time and not just money. I love fashion but most of the time I am someone who watches than wears it. I am so happy to be here to raise money for a cause close to my heart.” Ramkumar K (ICICI Bank) opined, “The joy of giving is an opportunity ‘given’ to me to be a worthy human....” Caught later, Zia Mody smiled as she received warm praise for her ramp act. And admitted, “This is something no judge has ever seen!” True, for as Ram Iyer (The Collective) summed it up, “I’ve done a lot of fashion shows but this one is completely different. Here we don’t have models, we have role models.”

Finally, it was left to the gracious and smiling Madhabi Puri Buch (ICICI Securities), the mover behind this event to sum up the feeling that infused the show as she thanked all the people who had lavishly supported her – her husband Dhaval Buch included, who joined her on the ramp in a moment of smiling togetherness – and inspired her to take it ahead: “The joy of giving is truly everywhere. The last two years have taught me that people are really willing to give…but it must be easy and it must be fun.” And by the smiles on her peers’ faces, it was great fun! Verve is looking forward – as we are sure the CEOs are too – to the third edition, next year!

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