Cover Photo: Vihari Jewels

Did you know that Vihari Sheth Poddar currently owns one of the world's largest Burmese Pigeon Blood Ruby collections as well as a Star Ruby, one of the largest unheated rubies in the world?

9 to 5 is a weekly series in which Tatler speaks to influential individuals about their unique journeys and finds out what keeps them going day to day.

While many of us struggle to figure out what we want to do in life, Vihari Sheth Poddar, the founder of jewellery brand Vihari Jewels, knew exactly what she wanted out of her career ever since she was a young child. 

Born into a family of diamond experts, Vihari spent much of her childhood watching her father, Rajesh Sheth, the founder of the diamond company House of Gems, trade diamonds and listening to him talk about how to select and analyse stones. With a keen eye for detail and extensive knowledge about gems, Rajesh was a favourite for many high-profiled customers looking for these high-quality gems. 

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“My objective and aims were crystal clear ever since I stepped foot into my father’s office when I was six years old. I have never looked back. I fell in love with diamonds and jewellery as a little girl and the passion has only grown with experience,” said Vihari.

The entrepreneur and mum of three shared that with her clear goals, she entered the Gemological Institute of America to become a certified Graduate Gemologist. She also took on the Business Graduate program, The Applied Jewellery program, and Graduate Jeweller program.

“I basically took each and every course they had to offer while I was there,” Vihari said with a laugh before adding that she also apprenticed in Florence for top Italian craftsmen in goldsmithing and stone setting for a year. 

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Of course, all this was primarily a formality for the talented entrepreneur who already had the business of jewellery in her heart and soul. In reality, Vihari had actually already launched her own jewellery brand at the age of 16 when she was still a young student. 

“My first sale from Vihari Jewels was to my high school teacher at Singapore American School and there was no looking back after that. The business of course officially started when I was 21,” said Vihari.

Vihari Jewels began as a small office boutique store tucked away in an office tower at Ngee Ann City. It was discreet, by-appointment-only and really only for jewellery collectors who were in the know. 

With a specialisation in meticulously crafted heirloom jewellery pieces, it is no doubt why Vihari was still able to accumulate a significant following despite her location. 

However, in December last year, Vihari got the chance to open her brand’s first physical boutique store at Paragon, right in the heart of Orchard Road. 

The 1,340 square foot boutique’s location was strategically chosen and aimed at making the brand more accessible. 

“The main purpose of the store was to be able to educate our clients on the process of jewellery buying and assisting them in finding the right product for their needs. The idea is to be there every step of the way—as a friend and consultant. I believe there is a lot of knowledge to be shared, and our clients value this service. Some have actually already built a nice diversified portfolio of heirloom pieces,” said Vihari.

She added that they run the store similarly to how they did their office boutique except that now, they are able to provide their clients with an experience while also entertaining them in their luxurious lounge.  

However, the journey to get to this physical store was far from easy. With Covid-19 restrictions and a newborn baby that she was breastfeeding as well as two other young children at home, this super mum certainly had her hands full in 2021.

“Manpower was an issue and getting every detail executed to my standard was very difficult. Renovation hours are usually at night so we spent several sleepless weeks at Paragon with the contractors going over certain issues. It didn’t help that I had a breastfeeding baby who was only a few months old at the time. I took her to the renovations every day,” said Vihari. 

Thankfully, all the work paid off when the physical store finally launched. The store is made to look almost like a museum with a small-scale gallery that features rare gemstones on display that are not for sale but that are there to educate guests on the process of collecting gems. 

In actuality, the store is not your typical jewellery shop and tends to look at gems as an investment which is what sets them apart. 

“Jewellery investments are like art. Some believe in it, and others do not. Jewellery does not degrade over time and the rarest pieces only get rarer since those particular investment-grade stones simply cannot be found again. For some families, jewellery investments are deep-rooted in their culture too,” Vihari shared. 

Her store actually showcases high grade coloured diamonds and gems and she owns some pretty exceptional pieces such as a 110 carat Yellow Dragon Diamond and the Star Ruby which is one of the largest unheated rubies in the world. Vihari Jewels also currently owns one of the world’s largest Burmese Pigeon Blood Ruby collections.

Vihari’s multiple collections, including the Eternal Orchid collection, a collection launched to celebrate her first flagship store, are also displayed for clients to view. 

“It’s been encouraging so far. I’ve met some very nice people by chance simply because they happened to be there and walked in. I believe in destiny and I’m lucky to have met some wonderfully supportive friends along the way,” she said.

As a hands-on perfectionist, Vihari now spends most of her days at the Paragon boutique meeting customers and hosting more intimate gatherings with her clients when she is not at home tending to her three young children. 

With her business and family, Vihari is certainly a superwoman when it comes to doing it all. Below, she shares how she does it all in her own words. 

What is a typical morning like for you?

Vihari Poddar (VP): Mornings are usually very hectic. I’m a mother of three, so it usually involves getting breakfast for the kids and getting them off to school. This is followed by a quick workout before I catch up with work.

What do you usually have for breakfast?

VP: The first meal of my day is usually lunch. That’s how hectic my day tends to be. 

What does a standard workday look like for you?

VP: I’m usually off to the boutique around 11 am and will spend the bulk of my day there. If I have client appointments or special events, I will stay longer.

Otherwise, I try to leave by 5 pm to spend time with my kids. My third child is only six months old so I need to be around for her.

How would you describe your working style?

VP: I’m very hands-on and have been for the past 15 years of running my business. This business requires personalised attention and being a perfectionist means that I want to dedicate as much time as I can to it. 

What time do you usually have lunch? What do you usually have for lunch?

VP: Lunch is usually a balanced meal of rice, vegetables and protein. I’m vegetarian and typically prefer home-cooked food unless I have a lunch appointment with somebody.

How do you prioritise tasks?

VP: I write everything down and then I assign myself deadlines for each task and try to finish them according to the deadlines.

How do you achieve a work-life balance? How do you set boundaries?

VP: This is one of the hardest things to achieve considering retail customer service needs round the clock attention. Boundaries are basically always blurred. However, the simplest way is to keep my cell phone away when I’m with my kids.

Free time: overrated or underrated? Why?

VP: Free time is non-existent with three kids.

How do you chase your dreams?

VP: I follow my dreams one step at a time. I know where I want to be and try to take small steps to get there.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a solid foundation is very important. Sometimes you just have to wait for the opportunities to emerge which help get you there and you have to be ready to grab them by the horns.

I have never forgotten those opportunities—especially the ones I lost.

Risks: should you take them? Why or why not?

VP: I believe this is a very personal question. I believe in taking calculated risks. I would not be able to take the risks I have taken without the encouragement of my father.

How do you deal with your shortcomings?

VP: I try to focus on my strengths instead. Nobody can be perfect, I’m certainly far from it myself. However, I believe life is too short and I seem to fare better when I play to my strengths.

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?

VP: “Don’t be afraid of or intimidated by anyone. They’re human, and so are you. Have confidence in your ability and trust yourself. Believe in what you’re doing, and give it all. Always look forward, don’t look back.” These were words from my late grandfather that I live by.

How do you unplug?

VP: I love to exercise and I do Muay Thai regularly. I also go on walks and do yoga weekly.

How do you stay grounded?

VP: I always remember what my dad tells me, “You were born with nothing and you will die with nothing.” 

How do you stay motivated?

VP: I read a lot of books on positive thinking and self-motivation. My husband is also a person I speak to every day and he always finds a way to keep me motivated and encourages me to keep going.

Do you have moments of doubt and how do you overcome them?

VP: I am human and I always have moments of doubt. Some doubts take longer to overcome than others though.

I try to pause, and stop thinking when in doubt. I allow myself time to clear my mind before I revisit those issues.

Carefully analyzing the pros and cons of any actions or plans with a clear mind helps allay my doubts over time.

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

VP: I say a prayer and take a few deep breaths to calm myself. It helps me reflect on the events of the day and analyze what went smoothly and what didn’t. It’s very useful to plan better for the next day.


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