Serene Tharian-Malayatoor
Owner, The Kalikut Story

‘Throughout the pandemic, and despite the challenges, we have stuck to our core philosophy of rejecting fast-fashion in favour of only the best renewable, sustainable and ethically sourced products. This brings about improved societal and environmental outcomes, ensuring that our production lines are fulfilled in small family-owned manufacturing units that use ethical labour practices to improve their lives and be part of our global transactions’

From her home-state of Kerala to her 32 years in Dubai – and now in Cyprus, Serene Tharian-Malayatoor’s life has been a journey that almost equals the magic of Bollywood movies. An ex-banker – starting at Citibank Dubai and then moving to join the core team setting up the banking systems at Dubai Bank, she is currently living in Nicosia, and is the owner and partner of Kalikut Designs Ltd, registered in Cyprus, operating the brand, “The Kalikut Story.”

A board member on WICCI Cyprus (Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) – an International Business Chamber for Women, WICCI boosts women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, global trade and networks and enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, and incentives. Serene hopes to empower women in business, industry, and commerce across all sectors.

Tell us about your company.
“Kalikut Designs Ltd., registered in Cyprus and trademarked in Europe and the rest of the world, exports luxury products from India, and is associated with high-end manufacturing and sourcing across India, for markets based in Europe and the Americas. I am also part-owner of a sustainable wood furniture manufacturing venture based out of North India that currently produces design quality furniture for exclusive designers. This business is part of a venture, sourcing authentic antique furniture from India. In Cyprus, I run an amateur cooking club called, ‘The Best Exotic Kerala Kitchen,’ where cooking lessons are held for friends and family.
Kalikut Designs Ltd was established eight years ago when I met my business partner Gabriella Paphitis. We continue to source and produce only small quantities of our clothing, accessories, and homewares, at value-defined pricing that allows our manufacturers to benefit from their artistry. Currently we support over twenty small, family-owned units and hopefully they will continue to bring our customers the beautiful stories that are part of their artisanal creation and design.”

Why do you think companies would benefit from having more women at the top?
“Research shows that gender-diverse businesses are more likely to outperform male-dominated organisations. I do believe that companies with gender equality for hiring are probably more likely to have gender balance across all their operational hierarchies. Women make up half of the global population and perform two-thirds of the work for 10 per cent of the income – only 1 per cent of the assets.
Empowered and educated women make for stable, more successful, and more peaceful economies. Soft skills and emotional intelligence are often cited in gender studies, as are emotional awareness, adaptability, empathy, compassion and conflict management, different skills brought to a board room by a woman. Women account for more than 80 per cent of consumer purchases around the globe and it is time to value this contribution and use it effectively in business circles.”

How should women support other women in their organisations?
“It is the not just the power of the pack, it is the impact that the ‘girls club’ brings with it. My theory is, “find your squad” and treat them well, so they do not remain just a stack of business cards on your table. Connect and nurture: stand up for women who are called ‘bossy’ or ‘aggressive’ because we would never dare judge a man with the same rules. Celebrate their accomplishments and put it down to innate qualities and skills rather than luck. Commit time and energy to be mentored and to mentor. I have a squad, and my squad is extremely important for my business and my wellbeing, not only do I get support, feedback and criticism, but I feel connected to a circle who wishes me nothing but success.”

What is your definition of success?
“For me, success means having the strength and fearlessness to own who I am. Success is my sense of balancing a work-life career, having a family that has learnt to support me, doing what I love every day, working with people who are genuine, sincere and honest, being financially independent, setting an example for my children, making an impact on the community and people around me, while doing all this without sacrificing my freedom to be who I want to be.
Nowadays, consumers care more about where something comes from, who produced it, and how it was produced. This has become the backbone of the stories behind the products at ‘The Kalikut Story.’ And we certainly know where our products come from and who produced them.
Kalikut Designs has become a sort of beacon of blended ethos of our two countries; I believe that ‘Indo-Cypriot’ is no longer just a hyphenated term, instead it has become a fast-paced growth embracing element that sits strongly between India and Cyprus. The High Commission of India in Cyprus has welcomed and supported our interests and constantly checks in to assist where possible, as have the local Cypriot authorities. My adventure on this island continues with a heart full of joy, a head full of ideas and plans in no hurry, as I have truly embraced and love the easy pace of this island life.”