The Devout Shepreneur

Taran Mehndi is forging ahead with determination and with values intact

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From being moved to tears during Gurbani recitals in school, being given the prayer book earlier than others in nursery itself, earning a sangeet Visharad in Hindustani Classical by class 10, arranging and designing shows while still in college, to starting India's first celeb management company in 1996, negotiating with distributors and now as the CEO of DRecords International Pvt. Ltd, Taran Mehndi, has been unstoppable and always had clarity about what she would do.

Taran Mehndi
Taran Mehndi, CEO, DRecords International

The sole shepreneur in the music recording industry, the feisty Mehndi, is the better-half of Indian pop singer, Daler Mehndi. She owes her calling to music from the Gurbani recitals.

Says the lady with the mellifluous voice, "Gurbani drew me to music. Music, I think was, intertwined in myself and I did not like to sing songs. That much clarity I had. I think it was my mother's prayers, because she always wanted to sing. And she always wanted her children to do Gurbani."

Competing with T-series and Venus back then, without the core knowledge and as just a celeb management company, starting a record label was the most daring step she took.

She says, "We started the label not to release Dalerji's albums, but to promote Gurbani. That was my basic idea. But Mika's contract with BMG was over and he needed a label, so we released his Gabru under our label."

Mehndi adds, "I think it was a natural progression and an extension to what we were already doing in 1996. The natural progression was to become a producer, to produce music yourself, to get into the whole process of music making."

On the hardships of living your passion and walking the path of success, says the talented shepreneur, "As a woman initially, it was very difficult, because I was all of 24-25 years when we were working. And I was surrounded by all men; the entire process of coming out with an album was heavily male-dominated. It was ridiculous for them to take orders from me or to listen to me. I mean, they hated me. They hated my guts. It's only now after a good 15-20 years, they say, woman, you're great."

"But my passion was ki bass kuch karna hai (have to do something). If someone says, you can't get it, then I have to get it and with all my ethics in place. I think it's my internal drive to get up every morning and say, let's just do something."

On multiple occassions, Mehndi has shattered the glass ceiling and broken barriers, be it negotiating rates with distributors, the Coke deal, deciding the costume, and the 30-city international tour.

"I had my own say, I stood my ground, I was someone with confidence in her own wisdom, knowing it will work."

So, what stops women from doing the kind of work she does? Says the architect-cum-author-cum-sound designer, "No, no, nothing stops them. Women are unstoppable."

Speaking retrospectively from the late 1990s, she says, "At that time, I don't think music and women were considered as a business, they could be artists, but not behind the scenes. There was no such notion of women in the music business in a male-dominated country like ours. So I think, I was very lucky that I had the opportunity and full freedom to think and use my brains."

On managing failures, says Mehndi, "I work the best when I am under stress. I don't guard against failures. When you are 100% standing on your values, then nothing can go wrong."

Mehndi has donned many hats before becoming a CEO, and she prepares for the same by, "Taking over one single avatar, a little prayer and with the belief that it's given to me by the Divine who knows my strength."

On the changing business environment and customer expectations, "I have a record label, innovation is the new world of Bitcoin, Metaverse, NFTs. Customers will go in a different world and start consuming that. As a label, I have to forge ahead in that world and in that language to keep up and I am already there. We are the first to have India's and Asia's first artist to do the Metaverse concert."

"Collaboration itself brings innovation. Any new business/startup/product launch, music is needed for communication. Music is getting sold as NFTs. Collaborations and innovations will happen, music is always going to be there."

On future plans, "I have a dream of making music for social causes, do podcasts on mental health, do a lot of collaborations, work with music and children. Under Jewels of Music, we are looking at 40+ amateur artists with good vocals to give them a platform."

"Soon we will be dropping our NFTs too."