Ashni Biyani is the first woman from her family to step out of home to attend college. If that sounds a little startling, it is important to note that she grew up in a Marwari joint family. There were 22 members in a large house in South Mumbai, with a common kitchen that, by her own admission, served great food all the time.
It was this milieu that honed her people skills. “I certainly did not grow up in a conservative family. My father has always been a liberal and comes close to being a contrarian or even a rebel,” she says. No opinion was ever imposed on her or for matter her younger sister, Avni, as they were growing up. “We made our own choices and it was a case of life just unfolding on most occasions. Nothing was really planned ahead of time,” recalls the 31-year-old.
Ashni says she possesses a lot of curiosity, a trait that she has inherited from her father, Kishore Biyani, Future Group’s founder. “He has a certain way of looking at people and analysing them,” is how she puts it. Like her father, she has an obvious fascination and intrigue for human behaviour. “It could be how technology is causing shifts there, or just the unmiddleclassing of the Indian mindset,” she quips. This is what keeps her mind ticking all the time.
Learning the ropes
The summer break for an eight-year-old is most often about playing with friends and having a good time. But for Ashni, it was about work. “At that point, our stores were about to be launched and Dad used to be in the respective city for about a fortnight before that. The family tagged along and I just observed what he saw and did what he was doing,” she says. The tasks on hand included being a part of the team or just putting the merchandise on the shelf. As she got older, Ashni was able to absorb a lot more, without realising it was work. “The basics were learnt intuitively and it came to us as we did it. More importantly, I saw what it takes to give birth to an idea,” she says.
In many ways, that is how the whole process of seamlessly integrating work with routine took place. “Even now, they are not hardbound realities and interconnect quite easily,” maintains Ashni. To drive home the point, she goes back to the time when Biyani was opening his Pantaloons stores. “While that was taking place, we saw the emergence of the Indian consumer. It was what