Balaji Naidu

A Commercial Maverick Thriving in Diverse Business Sectors

Balaji Naidu

Head of Commercial,

22 Neuro

Not many dare to challenge the conventional, yet Balaji Lokiah Naidu breaks the norm. A seasoned entrepreneur, he has charted an unconventional course that spans diverse industries. Balaji has built an impressive legacy with determination and a strong pursuit of his dreams. He has shown exceptional skills in navigating various sectors, such as hospitality, healthcare, and mental health services.
He displays rare adaptability and versatility, from managing operations in the hospitality industry to overseeing duty-free operations in aviation. In his role as the co-founder and chief operating officer at ValueTime Online Services, he plays a crucial role in driving the company’s growth and operational efficiency. Balaji’s entrepreneurial spirit goes beyond; he ventured into the healthcare industry, co-founding 22neuro. com and Younoia, emphasising his commitment to making a positive impact on people’s lives.
His unique strength lies in seamlessly integrating skills across different fields, rooted in labour management. Balaji’s strategic thinking and operational excellence challenge the idea that entrepreneurial success is confined to specific 10 BEST IN INDIA 2024 Commercial Leaders industries. His journey signifies more than conquering sectors; it underscores his dedication to continuous learning and development. Balaji’s commitment to refining skills, tackling challenges, and seeking growth opportunities forms the foundation of his achievements.
In a conversation with TradeFlock, Balaji reflects on diverse experiences and shares insights into how this journey has shaped his entrepreneurial approach. His adaptability, problem-solving skills, and innovation, honed across the nuances of various sectors, equip him with a versatile skill set. Networking is a significant strength, providing diverse perspectives and opportunities for collaboration. The resilience developed through facing challenges in different fields contributes to a global perspective, which is crucial for recognising international market trends. 

How did your upbringing influence your leadership approach at Garment Mantra, especially in dealing with challenges?

My upbringing played a pivotal role in shaping my leadership philosophy and approach, instilling in me values and perspectives that are integral to my role as a leader. Raised in an environment that emphasised integrity, resilience, and empathy, I learned early on the importance of firm principles, the ability to persevere through adversity, and the significance of understanding and valuing diverse viewpoints.
Growing up, my parents emphasised holistic development and instilled a strong work ethic in me. Rejections fuelled my determination to excel, and with each setback, I embraced challenges head-on. This mindset guided me through various stages of life, including school, college, and higher studies. Today, as VP of Business at Garment Mantra, I continue to approach challenges with determination, drawing upon the lessons learned from my journey.
I thrive on challenges, constantly challenging myself to learn and evolve, enabling me to grasp market dynamics, pivot strategies swiftly, and make informed decisions. Embracing calculated risks and decisiveness are integral to my leadership philosophy, reflecting my proactive approach to navigating the dynamic business landscape. For this, I would like to thank my parents and in-laws. 

What's the toughest challenge you've faced, and how did you approach it?

Challenges in the business world are common. Markets usually tend to fluctuate, and with the current situation (the global crisis), we need to be prepared all the time. Particularly in the fashion industry, you need to be very proactive and understand the market accurately; if you don’t, you are easily put behind. However, some challenges come up to you as a test, and that’s where you show your metal. Navigating the challenges presented by COVID-19 was paramount. The sudden shift from physical to digital operations in the garment industry posed significant hurdles.
Our strategy involved prioritising the wellbeing of our staff while swiftly adapting to the digital landscape. We intensified our focus on analysing our digital strengths and enhancing our online presence. Understanding and reaching our customers in a remote setting became crucial. We implemented tailored marketing strategies to facilitate sales and support our clients in navigating the changing market dynamics. Our goal was not just to sell inventory but to empower our customers to thrive in the digital marketplace. 

What prompted the formation of Full Choices, and are you providing training to the entrepreneurs?

The inception of Full Choices alongside Garment Mantra was spurred by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing the need for affordable garment options. In today’s tough times, everybody is happy with extra income, and that’s where Full Choices helps them. Our mission is to empower individuals, especially women, to launch smallscale businesses from home. We provide comprehensive training covering pricing strategies, digital marketing, and product presentation, along with practical support like designed marketing materials. With over 400 successful entrepreneurs supported to date, we are committed to fostering economic independence in line with the ‘aatmanirbhar’ vision.

What is the vision of Garment Mantra and Full Choices?

Garment Mantra aims to establish Hylex as a household brand across India within a decade. Enlisting or being recognised as a “brand of India” in the domestic market but also paving our way in the global forum. Spreading the joy of wearing a garment at a very reasonable price and excellent quality is what we are thriving for.
With regards to Full Choices, we wish to create more self-independent individuals, envisioning over 150 outlets following a hub-and-spoke model. These outlets will serve Tier II, III, and IV cities, offering affordable garment options and fostering economic growth in local communities. The mission is to empower individuals to start small-scale businesses from home, aligning with the ‘aatmanirbhar’ philosophy. Through this expansion, we seek to create opportunities for economic independence and growth, particularly for women entrepreneurs. 

What defines your leadership style?

My leadership style is characterised by dedication to excellence, resilience, and the prioritisation of mental well-being. I maintain a never-give-up attitude, strive for excellence in all endeavours, and prioritise mental health for optimal decision-making. I’m committed to transparency, fostering a culture where open communication and honesty are paramount in building trust and collaboration among team members. I prioritise active listening, ensuring that every team member feels heard and valued, which I believe is essential for nurturing a supportive workplace environment.
Adaptability is the foundation of my approach, as I believe a leader must be flexible and responsive to changing circumstances, demonstrating resilience and a capacity for innovative problemsolving. I emphasise the importance of continuous learning and self-improvement, both personally and as a team, fostering a culture where feedback is welcomed and opportunities for development are seized. Visionary thinking is integral to my leadership style, where setting clear, ambitious goals and inspiring the team to envision and work towards a shared future is key to driving motivation and engagement. 

How do you plan to expand Garment Mantra and Full Choices amid the current geopolitical climate?

Despite the current geopolitical situation, I view it as an opportunity for expansion. Recognising that every problem has a solution, we are proactive in seeking out opportunities amidst global uncertainty. Rather than solely focusing on expanding our own brand, we aim to assist individuals in establishing their own home-grown brands.
By leveraging our manufacturing capabilities, we plan to penetrate the global market while helping others realise their entrepreneurial aspirations. This approach allows us to adapt to the current landscape while continuing to grow and thrive in the domestic market. 

What advice do you have for emerging entrepreneurs?

For emerging entrepreneurs, thorough market research is paramount. Have a clear long-term vision, remain persistent, hardworking, and passionate, and be adaptable to changes. Embrace setbacks as learning opportunities, but don’t let your business consume your peace of mind. Strike a balance between dedication and personal well-being.

What is your fiveyear plan?

In the next five years, I aim to elevate Garment Mantra’s sales to Rs.500–750 crore. Additionally, I plan to delve into the tech realm and become technologically sound, integrating AI, VR, and AR into our operations. It’s crucial to embrace business process re-engineering and delegate tasks effectively while fostering a gender-neutral work environment. We want to establish at least 50–60 Full Choices outlets so that more people will join us.
Family support is integral. With my wife’s expertise and visionary in-laws, we aspire to achieve significant growth and innovation in the garment industry. 
















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