We meet a trailing spouse who moved here for her husband’s job, only to start her own global venture fitting out hotels and more. Now they both work for the business! She talks to us about setting up business and being one of many entrepreneurs in Singapore that have found it pro-business.
In 2008, after studying and working in New York for almost two decades, ARCHANA VELUKUTTY came to Singapore with husband Bharat Vijayan and their twin boys. While the move was precipitated by Bharat’s job in private banking, it was in Singapore that she saw the opportunity to create a business that fulfilled her vision of connecting people across cultures.
We chat with Archana and find out a little more about how she grew her brands, and why Singapore was an ideal place for an expat to start her own business.
What’s the story behind The Varisan Group?
Majoring in psychology and economics in New York, I developed a deep understanding of both people and business. I then spent a decade working with an international firm in New York that dealt with fashion and home furnishing. My experience helped me understand the harmony between people, objects and spaces – this is what enabled me to create uniquely beautiful living experiences.
My passion has always been to bring people together through food and events. So, during my early years in Singapore, I began consulting on a friend’s seaside villa renovation. During this project, I saw an opportunity to launch a business here that offered a complete design and procurement solution.
Was Singapore a good place to get started?
This is a great place for entrepreneurs because it has pro-business policies and provides clear guidance on starting up a business quickly. And the location in Southeast Asia also gives us access to a large market both in the East and the West. In addition, the business environment is stable and encouraging to foreign investment; so it’s been hugely beneficial as a base for our group of companies.
After starting the company, I connected with designers and manufacturers in Italy and Asia and brought them into The Varisan Group’s network. During this period, we saw a rise in the number of clients with luxury residential and hospitality projects. Over the years, we developed strong relationships with importers and manufacturers in Asia and Italy, allowing us to source the best products for our clients at competitive prices.
Why do you think The Varisan Group is a success story?
Varisan is proof that you can build something successful through hard work and passion. As the business expanded across the globe, my husband left his job and joined me in heading The Varisan Group.
A decade later, we are busier than ever with two established brands in furniture and design: Varisan and Vero. To remain vital and relevant, we’re constantly looking for new collaborations with the biggest names in design, product and hospitality.
What are some collaborations you’re excited about?
One successful collaboration is with Bertani S.p.a. – a renowned name in Italian distribution with over a hundred years of history. We’ve also partnered with acclaimed Indian interior designer Sussanne Khan and J. Bradley Hilton, grandson of hotelier Conrad Hilton. These collaborations were years in the making and have launched two new brands: Vero Sussanne Khan and Hilton Vero Luxury Concepts.
The Vero Sussanne Khan partnership came together because of our shared passion for culture and aesthetics. As the Creative Director of VSK, Sussanne Khan showcases unique fusion designs influenced by Eastern and Western cultures. Our ability to bring her designs to life lies in our network of manufacturing partnerships. This luxury collection will include partnerships with premier Italian brands and cater to global hotels, luxury homes, cruise ships and more. The collection “VSK – Chelini Edition” launched at the Salone del Mobile 2021 in Milan.
Our other partnership, Hilton Vero Luxury Concepts (HVLC), will design and provide solutions around the globe for luxury hospitality developments and yachts. This partnership was established in Singapore and brings together our collective experience in design, product ideation and procurement strategies.
What advice do you have for trailing spouses who want to start their own business?
There’s something truly special about building your own legacy. It’s about finding your passion and creating something unique. You’re going to need persistence, for sure. But if you surround yourself with people who support your dream and stay firmly connected to why you’re doing what you do, you’ll succeed.
I hope to see more female-led businesses taking the lead in solving problems and giving back to the community. Women bring a unique perspective to problems, which can add a lot of value or even disrupt very traditional markets. It’s about seeking out opportunities to grow and never letting anyone make you feel guilty for dreaming big. Singapore is also an excellent place to both raise a family and start a successful business. The framework is here for you.
Find out more about Archana’s work at varisangroup.com.
This article first appeared in the October 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
Looking for furniture? Read our huge list of furniture stores in Singapore!