The textile industry in India has grown by leaps and bounds, from simplistic heritage products to sophisticated innovations backed by cutting edge technologies !

Geetha Malini, our next pathbreaker, works as independent Textile Consultant, leveraging her vast technical knowledge and experience on various fabrics, product development, costing, color management, vendor / mill management and sustainability approaches.

Geetha talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her other role as a Trained Counseling volunteer of Psycho-Social First aid which is a  public helpline related to Mental health issues, based on her experiences during Covid.

For students, the journey of a raw material from fiber to fabric is as fascinating as it gets, thanks to the extremely diverse variety of challenges in terms of product development, costing and sustainability !

Geetha, your background?

My native is Vellakovil in Tirupur district. I did my schooling at Punitha Amala Annai and Carmel convent schools till 8th Std. From 9th to 12th std, I studied in Sri Avinashilingam Hr. Sec. School. I belong to an agricultural family. My father did his business along with agriculture, as the income from agriculture was not sufficient to educate us. My parents always wanted to give good education to me and my brother. When all my friends studied in schools in the area near our native place, my parents, with great efforts, sent me to Avinashilingam school from 9th std onwards. I used to write my parent’s names in my school notes /books. I was a kho-kho player and an athlete to some extent. During those days, I was a bookworm and my days started and ended with studying.

Their efforts motivated me to study well and I secured 1st Rank in 10th std. I was motivated by Amirthavalli madam who was my class teacher and my Maths teacher. I took Maths + Biology in 11th std and was the school topper in Biology in 12th std. I am happy I was able to fulfill my parents’ dream.

What did you do for graduation/ post-graduation?

I appeared for counseling for both medical and engineering seats on adjacent days. Though I got a BDS seat in the Sri Vinayaka mission, my dream was a medical seat, and so I did not join. So, I decided to choose engineering.  PSG college of Technology was my dream college as an alternative to medicine. I heard in my school days from teachers and friends, that if you got into PSG Tech, you would come out in flying colors😊. Next day, through the counseling for Engineering, I secured a place for a BTech (Textile Technology) seat in PSG. Another reason to select the Textile course was that my grandfather had some Textile business along with agriculture and my native place is famous for power loom, weaving of Home Textile products.

I joined BTech in 1999, but my parents were a little unhappy and insisted that I reappear for the medical entrance exam. But I wanted to move ahead. Slowly I convinced my parents to accept my decision of continuing BTech without any diversion. Along with studies, I participated in sports and was also a part of the 1st Woman’s wing batch in NCC. I received the Best Cadet award in NCC, got a Texcel 72 award in BTech final year and secured 60th Rank All over India in the GATE exam. I got a job through campus interviews as well during the final year of my BTech. I opted to continue higher studies and my parents also wished the same. So, with a merit seat and scholarship, I joined MTech Textile Technology in the same college – PSG Tech. During my PG days, under the guidance and motivation of my mentor Professor Dr. K. Ramachandralu, I published more than 15 Textile articles/ papers in various National and International Journals. I also did several paper presentations in various colleges, and got opportunities to take classes for juniors at times. I received the All Rounder award and also was class topper. In my family, I am the first graduate / postgraduate as well as the first one to take up a job in my parent’s family..

What were some of the influences that made you choose such an offbeat,, unconventional and uncommon career?

The seed for spirituality was sown by Professor Dr. R.P. Sundaram during my college days who was our BTech tutor all the four years.

Mr. Anbalazhan Sir, COO, Shahi Exports to whom I was reporting, gave me the opportunity to change my profile from Quality Assurance to Fabric Sourcing in Shahi. This formed the base of my career growth. 

I love to watch Indra Nooyi madam talk about work-life balance and try to follow her path in bringing changes in my life. 

My parents have continuously supported me throughout my journey, and further extended their support by bringing up my elder daughter from when she was 6 months to 8 years old. Their extended support and care helped me to focus on my career and grow.

Secondly, the support of my husband and my daughters, and their patience, love and understanding has helped me to excel in my career. 

My well-wishers and mentors are Dr. Ramachandralu, Mr. Hemanna Talur (Arvind mills & VF), Mr. Sridhar Bhaskar Naidu (Arvind mills), Mr. N.R.V. Appasamy (Arvind Mills), Mr. Suresh Balram (Ralph Lauren) and of course my dear friends. 

My friends and my brother have been my life supporters during tough times. 

During my college days, I got the opportunity to read the book “Tough Times Never Last But Tough People Do” written by Robert H. Schuller. This book instilled confidence in me to face challenges in life and look for opportunities from each challenge.

Once I was invited to present an elective for 2nd year BTech Fashion Technology students of M/s. Bannari Amman Institute of Technology. Those 2 days of teaching and interacting with students influenced me to be a bridge between college students and Textile companies & helped me to become a motivator. Further I got the opportunity to be a member of the Board of Studies meetings in 3 colleges from Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry through which I was able to share industry expectations to colleges and bridge the gap by helping them in revising the syllabus to meet industry needs and advancements.

In 2020, during the first wave of Covid, myself and my daughter, father, brother, and his wife were all positive and got admitted to the hospital. It was a tough time for me and took me several months to recover from the mental trauma. During this period, my employer M/S. Ralph Lauren offered counseling programs to the needy. I took counseling for 9 weeks and recovered slowly. From there on, I understood the importance of mental health and got inspired by the counselor services to the needy. My thanks to Ms. Marielle Bostrom, MD, Ralph Lauren India Sourcing office for creating a platform for us to help each other during the covid wave 2. I volunteered to help/guide my colleagues to overcome the trauma which I underwent earlier.

After 18 years of service in the Textile field, I took a break from work for personal reasons which was a bold decision, in order to be a full time home minister of my family from April 2022. During this transition, I followed my passion of becoming Coach, Counsellor /Mentor, Consultant. I was able to focus on my spiritual growth which I have been longing to do for years. I was inspired by Success Gyan founder Puja Puneet madam. I attended her programs and got certifications too. Her sessions brought a new color to my life and motivated me to switch over in my career. Of course, the thirst for learning never ends. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

My first job as Management Trainee in Centralized Quality Assurance at M/S The Arvind Mills Limited, Ahmedabad (2005) took me to the world of Denim Fabrics. I gained a lot of experience which formed the base for my career, as I got to know about everything from Fibers to fabrics like cotton fibers, varieties & their properties. I also learnt about processes like spinning, multi-count yarns, MIL standards audit, weaving, processing preparatory, Indigo rope dyeing, shade matching, testing, 4-point inspection, etc. Except costing, all other areas related to my future roles got covered here, my sincere Thanks to Mr. N.R.V. Appasamy. 

I have always been sincere in my work, I have a humble nature and learning attitude. My next role was a product development role in knits as Technical Services Manager. I got appreciated for setting up the process and for my resolute commitment for meeting development timelines. My sincere thanks to Mr. Gyana Ranjan Naik. 

Due to my marriage, I requested for transfer to the Bangalore branch and got the role of managing Fabric Quality assurance, Fabric and Garment Testing in The Arvind Mills, Denim Garment unit. Thus, I gained working experience not only on Fabric and Garment wash but also handled various brands and became a Spectrophotometer shade matching/grouping expert. My sincere thanks to Mr. Hemanna Talur and Mr. Shridhar Bhaskar Naidu.

In 2013, to reduce the hectic daily travel time of my husband, I made the decision to change job which could be near to his office location. So I appeared for an interview for a colourist position at M/s Shahi exports. After giving my interview, I was informed that I was over qualified for that role. Instead, I received the option to take on a role of heading the Centralized Fabric audit department for all the Bangalore woven units. So I happily agreed and explored the world of various non-denim fabrics and their behavior along with denim fabric. Here I got an opportunity to improve my managerial /people management skills by handling around 40 people. After 1 year, based on my performance and knowledge, I got promoted to manage fabric sourcing for the LSD and LFD Ladies divisions brand in collaboration with the Faridabad office. My sincere thanks to Mr. Anbu Sir. 

I gained troubleshooting experience on the job and have traveled to units within Bangalore and Salem mills. So I gained fabric costing experience and negotiation skills. Thus, I completed a full circle of working experience/exposure in all major departments  /Technical areas, from spinning mills to fabric mills to garment factories with different brands.  

In 2013, I got the opportunity to join Ralph Lauren as Senior Fabric Technologist handling fabric from development to bulk. The role shift from supplier to buyer / brand representative took some time for me to adopt. And then I progressed towards handling woven and also knits fabric with more RL brands/labels and categories. My sincere thanks to Mr. Suresh Balram.

Thanks to my parents for their extended and continuous support in bringing up my first daughter from 6-month-old to 10 years old, which really helped me to focus and progress in my career.

For my second pregnancy, I extended my maternity leave by taking some break. Later in Jan 2018, I joined VF Brands as Assistant Manager, Fabric sourcing and development. Here I got the exposure to how a brand works from end to end – from design , development stage to final retail business stages as all under one roof. So I got the opportunity to witness seasonal shows, selection processes, online business models, retail / wholesale demand, customer complaints handling, etc. I developed and introduced recycled cotton products along with other sustainability raw materials category and also competitive online fabric developments for Lee and Wrangler brands.

Meanwhile, in Jan 2020, I got the opportunity to join the new Ralph Lauren India Sourcing office as 7h employee in the role of Manager – Raw Materials. I was proud to be a part of setting up the department and play all key roles in developing Knit/ Woven/Trims strategies, costing negotiations, troubleshooting, mill management, sustainability projects handling, digitalization of fabric etc. My sincere thanks to Ms. Marielle Bostrom. 

In 2022, I took a decision to take a break from my job based on family demands. Thus, I took on the position of full time home minister for my family. I took up textile consultancy and started following my passion which has gained importance now.  I got trained as PSFA counseling volunteer for the public helpline service founded by the Heartfulness and Ripples of Change foundation. My interest to focus on spiritual growth helped me enroll in some of the programs along with daily meditation practices.  Some of mental health related online course learning are under progress, as no end for learning, as new career opportunities are enormous. 

How did you get your first break? 

I got my first job through campus interview selection at PSG from The Arvind Mills Limited for their Ahmedabad Denim Manufacturing plant which is the biggest denim manufacturing facility in India and was one of the largest denim fabric manufacturers in the world during those days. This happened during the beginning of my 3rd Semester and I was so excited. My parents were initially opposed to sending me far away for a job, but later got convinced after several discussions with my professor Dr. K. Ramachandralu Sir. Thanks to him for his great support and guidance. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: 

As fabric development and sourcing professionals, we face challenges in developing new fabric with respect to meeting standards, target cost, shorter lead-times, especially maintaining fabric cost from development to bulk order cycle when raw materials/ cotton prices are fluctuating a lot. Also, troubleshooting during bulk order execution is needed.  To overcome this, we need to possess not only technical knowledge but also work experience on handling different limitations of fabric, hands on experience in costing, forecast analysis and better mill management skills. 

Challenge 2: 

Currently, being into various roles, time management is another challenge for me. Priority focus, planning schedules and following a daily / weekly to- do checklist are the important steps /tools that I follow to perform.

Where do you work now? 

Currently I’m working from home as Textile Consultant, as Trained Counseling volunteer of Psycho-Social First aid which is a  public helpline related to mental health issues. Of course, Home minister of my family 😊 which is my primary role. 

What problems do you solve?

With respect to the textile field, I am involved in finding the right source at the right cost at the right time with the right quality. 

With respect to the counseling field, I help to address mental health related issues at an early stage by coaching professionals on goals, setbacks, etc. 

What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?


Textile technical knowledge on various fabrics, product development, costing, color management, vendor / mill management, sustainability approaches, troubleshooting, mill SWOT analysis, and managerial skills. These skills have been acquired initially from technical studies, and later from on-field exposure, experience and interactions.

Counseling/ Mentoring:

Intention to help others, positive approach, open mindedness, listening skill, Techniques / know-how.

What’s a typical day like?

My typical day starts at 5.15 am with the home minister role followed by meditation & counseling volunteer calls. I later shift to consultancy meetings, mentoring meets, email replies, planning & execution. My day ends at 10.00 pm.

What is it you love about this job? 

I love to offer Textile solutions or guidance based on the knowledge I have gained through my 18 years of experience. I love connecting with people, getting to know their problems and helping them find solutions and see improvements which gives me satisfaction and purpose in life. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to be a bridge between job seekers and job providers, and helping them select the right ones. This is a small way of giving back to the industry.

My circle of contacts are my strengths. I love to keep in touch with them which help me to progress in Textile consultancy as well as in my mentoring /coaching role.

How does your work benefit society? 

Textile professionals have enormous opportunities to grow. 

Job opportunities are not limited to only fabric mills. One can also get into the Apparel fashion industry as an expert in Fabrics. Fabric development and sourcing form the base of the Apparel industry / Brands sourcing. So, a Textile professional can explore areas like Quality Assurance, Merchandising, Planning, Color management roles based on their interests. There are immense opportunities in the Indian and foreign brands sourcing offices as well in Indian retail sectors/ online platforms.  

Since the textile / apparel industry is one of the biggest employment providers in India, and India is one of the largest cotton growing countries, one can become an entrepreneur also.

There is great demand for Sustainability roles in the Fashion industry, perhaps in other industries also.

And on the other side, mental health related issues which we avoided so far are gaining importance now. Thus, Counseling professionals’ demand is growing, so this is going to be an emerging industry in future. 

I write motivational quotes to inculcate positivity in people.

Helping people by bringing changes that they want in their life is a great service to mankind which Iam trying to fulfill. This leads to professional or personal development or transformation in an individual.  

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

There are several which are very close to me.

Some of them are:

As a part of the sustainability approach, I explored and developed Natural Earth dyeing of garments in Ralph Lauren, thus meeting chemical and testing requirements. This got adopted in seasonal development in several RL brands, converted into bulk order and also acknowledged/ appreciated by RL NYC leaders. This is a memorable one. 

Also, my role in the Fiber Trace project establishment in RL India sourcing is a memorable one to me.  

As a fabric development and sourcing professional, each fabric development is unique and has limitations and goes for trials to meet standards before getting adopted. So, each such development story is memorable. 

I have been the only female professional in Fabric sourcing and development profile at M/s. Shahi, Bangalore (2009-2013) and Ralph Lauren (2014- 2017) and VF (2018-2020). More than memorable, I am proud to represent Women Empowerment through these roles in various organizations. 

Recently, when I volunteered on mental health related issues at first aid level, the caller’s acknowledgement about positive changes in their life were memorable and close to me. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Try to listen to your heart and decide. If you are sincere in your work, eager to learn always and open minded with humbleness, you will get fruitful results. Have an approach of embracing changes / challenges as opportunities to learn/ grow, which will take you to new heights. Be positive in your approach and get attracted towards positive people. Have friends and well-wishers who will guide and support you always. This world is full of infinite opportunities, willingness to explore them to reach your goal or set new goals is in your hands. Think, decide and go for that! 

Future Plans?

I am open minded and positive to explore more opportunities and want to keep expanding my career in Textile Consultancy, Counseling and Coaching areas along with spiritual progress. I have a long way to go and a lot more to give back. I want to do a certification course in Sustainability in 2023, if time permits. 

I have observed in these years, working professionals are ignoring their mental health. This is directly related to their performance in any company. As an evolving coach, Counsellor/ mentor, I would like to bring awareness about mental health in organizations and support them. I would like to guide the needy in professional or personal growth. Also I would like to take on projects on bridging the gap between colleges and organizations in the Textile field. 

You will hear more from me in the coming years😊…Stay tuned…