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Hands That Care



It is very rare that altruism and art find a common meeting place.

We find both on the 22nd floor of a Sandton skyscraper, where businesswoman and philanthropist Saloni Wahi is hard at work.

There’s aesthetics everywhere in her bright, beautifully-appointed home – the paintings on the walls, the handcrafted pottery in the foyer, even the orange fruit basket she has made with clay.

Unflattering balls of clay turn into ebullient masterpieces in her hands. At this moment, by the kitchen counter, she is moulding what looks like a golf hat, “inspired by a Saturday game of golf”.

This yen to seek inspiration in everyday objects, tapping into her talents, be it pottery or golf, to create “templates” for her work, is perhaps what makes Saloni the purposeful aesthete she is – giving her all to art, and giving her art to all.

Over the last decade since she first became a “potter by chance” in Johannesburg – and it went from pastime to passion – she has made over 70 pieces of an eclectic range of ceramics she calls The Collective that are “often whimsical and light, identifiable by their intricate patterns and fusion of color”.

These contemporary creations will all be part of her exhibitions coming up – on November 9 in Dubai and January 8-9 at the Gallerie Ganesha in New Delhi.

All proceeds from the sale will go to fund another passion Saloni holds dear to her heart – the ABN Education Trust set up in 2011 by her husband, Rakesh Wahi, the co-founder of the hugely-successful CNBC Africa and FORBES AFRICA brands.

As the Trust’s patron, Saloni has tirelessly worked to help the lives of the less privileged. And every pot she makes, no matter how arduous the process of creation, is for them.

In the living room of her home, she shows us Effervescence, a glazed work of art inspired by a paper cup, which took her a tenacious 15 hours to craft. She was at the gym one day holding a paper cup after a workout session when the idea hit her: why not translate it into ceramic?

“When the clay is not talking to you, you cannot make something that satisfies you,” she says, of her intuitive art. “It’s like doing yoga. Pottery stills your mind and is almost like meditation.”

Effervescence, Wahis work inspired by a paper cup, that took 15 hours to create. (Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla)

The pieces are like her babies, she says.

“Except you don’t give your babies away, but for me, rather than possessing the piece, it’s the actual process of creating it, and sharing it that makes me happy. I am very passionate about the Trust, and pottery is my second passion, and it was sometime earlier this year that I said ‘why don’t I just combine these two passions’?”

Thus, the concept of “ceramics that care” was born.

“God has been kind to us, so I don’t want to create money from my art, but if I can create funds and use it for my other cause, then I would consider my mission successful,” says Saloni.

READ MORE: Going Above And Beyond

It is something she truly enjoys, as you hear her speak of the chemistry and science – and the infinite patience – that goes into each creation. No piece is like the other.

“I am very adventurous as far as clay is concerned. Pottery is a very loose word for what I create; some of my pieces have minute holes, almost 500-600 holes a piece.

“In fact, I stretch the clay, and push it to its limits. And very often my first teacher Charmaine, and Denise, my second teacher in Parktown North, would always keep a watchful eye on me as they knew that Saloni would always be up to something dangerous with the clay. So I find it works, and there have been instances where I have spent a minimum of four hours on a piece and after making it, it completely collapses but for some strange reason, it’s never put me down. I just start all over again… It makes you resilient towards life in a strange, bizarre way.”

Saloni Wahi at work. (Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla)

When not in Johannesburg, Saloni continues her work in Dubai, where she has been based since 1989.

Originally from Delhi in India, Saloni moved to Johannesburg in 2007 after her husband, Rakesh, along with Zafar Siddiqi, set up the ABN Group, of which CNBC Africa and FORBES AFRICA are a part.

CNBC Africa is celebrating its 10th year, and Saloni has had a stellar role in its success, supporting Rakesh and the business in every way.

Living between their homes in Delhi, Dubai and Johannesburg, Saloni is always on the move.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to experience three different lives in one lifetime. And the three lives are so diverse – our life in India is completely in contrast to the life we live in Dubai, which is again completely different to the life in Johannesburg.”

Whenever she is in South Africa, her first ports of call usually are the orphanages the Trust supports.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in India or Africa, children are the same everywhere. To me, giving back is integral to my being,” says Saloni.

Despite being a small business, and very conscious of its corporate social responsibilities, the ABN Group has participated in several charitable causes in sub-Saharan Africa since 2007.

The Trust gets its funding from the Wahi family, the ABN Group companies, Trans National Academic Group and through the efforts of Saloni. The Group’s Managing Director Roberta Naicker, along with other trustees, have worked hard to raise funds through various initiatives including ladies events, golf days, auctions and appeals to corporates and individuals who help the needy.

Saloni Wahi with a beneficiary of her Trust. (Photo supplied)

The group’s focus is three principal activities.

The first is to support orphanages and give opportunities to children in desperate situations for no fault of their own. The Trust mandated to support orphanages that were small and rudimentary and didn’t receive any government grant or corporate support.

When Saloni speaks about Thuthuzela in the township of Alexandra, you can tell this is an orphanage close to her heart. Through her diligent efforts, the Trust first gifted it a minibus in 2012 and then in 2014, helped to move it to a permanent home in Kelvin from “their one-room facility at the back of a local factory”.

“It is creditable how the founders and caretakers of the orphanage have worked tirelessly to help children who would otherwise have died or ended up on the street,” says Saloni.

READ MORE: Remorse And Rubble In Nepal

Over the years, through the Trust, Saloni has committed significant resources for children in need. The Trust is currently assisting Abangani Enkosini, another Day Care Center in Alexandra, and has provided it a daily soup kitchen, freezers, cupboards, clothes and books, and also waterproofed its facilities.

The Trust’s second objective is to provide bursaries to students, particularly women, for tertiary education including but not limited to financial journalism in universities such as University of Johannesburg and University of the Witwatersrand. Over the last six years, it has provided bursaries to over 30 students to complete their graduation, and has also provided support to the children of its own staff through bursaries for their university studies. Similar bursaries have been provided to students in Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa.

The Trust’s third aim is providing internship opportunities to young Africans for invaluable work experience within the ABN Group companies. Over the last 10 years, over 250 internships have been disbursed by the group. Christina Mhundwa, a recipient of the ABN bursary, is currently in Germany working as a journalist for a leading news broadcaster.

Saloni’s support for all the work has come from the team at the ABN Group including Nola Mashaba, Celeste Meidecen, Thameshan Sooriah and Sue Gounden.

In addition, the Trust participates in other activities that resonate with the core values of the founders. One such was supporting an organization in Kenya working to get young girls off the streets to re-settle them from an existence of abuse into a dignified life.

“It was at CNBC Africa’s All Africa Business Leaders Awards in Rwanda last year that I was introduced to Damaris Too, a successful businesswoman doing amazing work in Kenya. She was one of the contenders for the ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ award. I was so touched by her story – she basically worked with getting young girls off the street. It was very sad to hear that for want of a pretty dress or just a bag, these girls were led astray,” says Saloni.

Back in Dubai, Saloni got to work, creating a WhatsApp group, and mobilizing her friends and their friends to make donations in kind for the girls.

“I was hopeful I would get a few suitcases of assorted clothes and bags and shoes. But lo and behold, thanks to the power of social media, I had almost a container-load of stuff. The entire consignment was sent to Kenya, and since then, we have sent a second load,” says Saloni, proving a kind gesture can go a long way.

Philanthropy is not new for the Wahis. Hailing from an illustrious business family in India, Saloni says she has seen acts of kindness from a young age. Marrying into an equally-philanthropic family has allowed her to continue to do social good all her life.

“My great grandfathers had established charitable trusts in India and I have seen the family’s involvement in schools and hospitals in North India that benefitted children from disadvantaged families. Their work has outlived their time on earth… For me, as a woman, if the work my husband and I are doing is carried forward and built on by our children, I would consider myself blessed. Both children have been involved with the Trust through their own contributions. Sidharth, our son, is a Trustee, while our daughter, Shweta, a young fashion designer, has raised significant funds through her own initiatives,” says Saloni.

Last year, in India, Saloni and Rakesh set up “a corpus for Class 4 employees at the National Defence Academy” and earlier this year, set up “a fund for caddies in Dehradun” (near the Himalayan foothills), as they are both “passionate about golf”.

“We set up a trust in the name of my mother-in-law [Shobhana Wahi], again in Dehradun. Wherever we get an opportunity, we always try and give back.

“You come alone, you leave alone. What you take along with you is your name,” she says.

Saloni’s mission for the next few years is to do as many exhibitions as she can across the cities she travels and lives in.

“I know in South Africa, a lot of people are doing good work, and if anyone has a charity event and is looking for pieces, I would be very happy to give my pottery, so long as I know the funds these pieces generate, are going for the right cause. I have set a very high target for myself,” says Saloni.

As we conclude our meeting, it’s hard not to ask Saloni how she manages to live in so many cities and call each of them home, to which, she laughs: “I have a non-conventional entrepreneurial husband, and just as I create pieces of pottery, his passion is developing people and creating businesses. I mould clay, he moulds people!”


Quote Of The Day



We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

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From The Arab World To Africa



Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty




In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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