Money & Me: 'There is no secret sauce to investing but I have learnt to diversify'

Neeti Kashyap, the founder of Curate Home, says having children means that savings are a necessity

Neeti Kashyap, founder of Curate Home, says one of her most cherished investments is a painting by one of India’s leading artists that she bought during the pandemic. Ruel Pableo / The National
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Neeti Kashyap founded Curate Home to trade in ethical and sustainable handcrafted products from Indian artisans for fair wages.

After completing an economics degree and majoring in fashion at Delhi's National Institute of Fashion Technology, she worked with manufacturers, textile mills, weavers and printers, and as a product development head and sourcing partner for European and American brands.

Ms Kashyap, now 48 and a mother to two girls, quit to start a children’s clothing venture before her husband’s job brought them to Dubai. They live in Jumeirah.

Did money feature in your upbringing?

I was born in New Delhi. My father, an engineer, moved on job assignments across India and then we lived in Africa. His family came from money, lived in Myanmar and relocated back to India because of the Japanese invasion.

They lost it by the time my father came along, so he had to figure out a different track for himself. My mother taught but was largely a homemaker. The value of education and the need to do well at school and be independent was instilled in us. You should be able to feed yourself and your family.

It was a comfortable life. I would not say we were rolling in money, but money was not an issue. We did not have so many international brands [in India], so even if you had money there were few things to spend on. My father travelled overseas a lot and had lists to shop for us.

Did your early jobs pay well?

We did market surveys to earn pocket money. After my postgraduate degree, my first job was a campus placement. I was 22 and worked in an apparel manufacturing factory as a merchandiser. I wanted to learn how things were made, so that I knew how to set up my own thing. My salary would have been, in equivalent terms today, Dh500 monthly. Whatever I earned, I wanted to give to my parents. Not that they took it, but it felt nice that I could.

What brought you to the UAE?

My husband was headhunted by a bank and here we are 17 years later. Six months before that, I had quit my job in Delhi to start a children’s wear label, Tangerine. I was always really burnt out with the hours. I thought that maybe it was not a bad idea to go to Dubai, enjoy the sun and the beach. Dubai was saturated with so many international brands, I did not have the kind of pockets it would have required to sustain a business, so I decided to take a break.

Why start Curate Home?

I had joined a local start-up in the sustainability space, sourcing for them. That sort of went belly up. I joined a recruitment company and ended up starting my own agency but when Covid-19 hit, recruitment came to a grinding halt.

I posted [online] about some of our products and received 250 inquiries. There was an opportunity, so I grabbed it and set up a direct-to-consumer business website. It is a year and a few months old now. We have expanded the product range and have two physical points of sale. We would like to expand to the rest of the GCC. It is self-funded. Cash should come and go, should continue to flow; you earn money if you spend money.

Do artisans benefit more?

India had this huge migration of labour from the big cities back to villages. Non-profit groups were reaching out during Covid because artisans did not have food. We work with artisans directly, no middle person, and with materials, production, manufacturing systems, which are not harming the Earth.

What is your spending and saving attitude?

I was a mother when I was 28, so there has never been excess cash around. We now have a child at university in the US and a 15-year-old here. Savings have always been a necessity, not an option. I am not a big spender, I am somewhere in the middle. If it were left up to me, I would keep the cash and sit like a snake on top of it. We strike a good balance. If there is a big expense, I plan for it, I am not an impulsive spender.

Neeti Kashyap, founder of Curate Home, invests across a range of assets, including stocks and property. Ruel Pableo / The National

How do you save and pay?

Across different assets – stocks, bonds, gold, property. We own a villa here and an apartment in India. A lot of stocks that have done well are in the technology space and renewable energy.

We spend on a credit card. It is easy to keep track of expenses. It is used more like a debit card, with Apple Pay. I do not think we carry cash any more or really even plastic. It is so much easier. You earn points and hopefully earn some miles when travel is back to normal.

Do you have a cherished purchase?

A painting by one of India’s leading artists. Last year, during the pandemic, we were saving on other things, so I connected with her. It was custom made, a very lavish treat, an investment. And I love it.

How do you feel about money?

I feel confident that I have money and it gives me pleasure when I can share it with people around me; a holiday or an experience. I would always like to be in a giving position. That is something my father and my mother taught. It does not make me anxious not having it but I would like to be in a position of comfort.

As you grow older, you realise it is not the things, it is the moments with family ... the pandemic taught that you could have all the money tucked away and you just couldn’t get to family
Neeti Kashyap, founder of Curate Home

Do you maintain an emergency fund?

You must have something when you have children, mouths to feed. For a lot of us who have been through these cycles, of the crash, et cetera, we are taught even now that at some point this can come crashing down. You have got to keep that reserve. When times are good, when times are bad, keep a long-term plan and strategy and believe in it.

Have you had an investing blip?

We bought property in Dubai because everyone was buying, at the peak, two months before the 2008 crash, maybe a month. We sold at a huge loss and learnt you have to diversify your portfolio to various streams and stocks across industries. I do not think there is a secret sauce to investment, you have to see what works for you. At any point, if you lose a job, your investments should hold out for you.

What are you happiest spending on?

My background is fashion, so I love my handbags, my shoes. I like spending on “affordable luxury”, on my house and a holiday. As you grow older, you realise it is not the things [that make you happy]; it is the moments with family … the pandemic taught that you could have all the money tucked away and you just couldn’t get to family. It is time spent with people who you treasure. But if you have to get something, get something you will feel good about. Save for that.

What are your future financial goals?

Everything is sort of feeding into the retirement plan. I do not know what the financial number would be – with inflation and depreciation, it is a shifting goalpost. My personal financial goal is to scale up Curate Home. In terms of retirement age … I am just getting started growing a business. I want, when we are in our 60s, to be able to have money that is making money for itself. At the same time, I do not have the luxury of risks that my 28-year-old self could have taken.

Updated: December 23, 2021, 6:00 AM