Ayesha and Katja’s Platinum Love Story
Entrepreneurs Ayesha Nageshwaran and Katja Hahnloser-Nageshwaran first crossed paths at the tender age of five and six, respectively. Introduced by their parents who were close friends as well, it didn’t take long for Ayesha and Katja to strike up a rapport. Katja shares, “During a trip to India in 1985, my parents got waitlisted to a flight to Jaipur, with Ayesha’s mother. Our parents instantly hit it off, and over time, their friendship only grew stronger. By the virtue of their camaraderie, Ayesha and I got close. When we were young, our folks would host annual vacations, either in India or in Europe.” But due to academic commitments, the two women lost touch for about six years. “But I was regularly in touch with her family, especially her brother and mother,” Ayesha recalls. But things changed when Ayesha’s work brought her to Europe and she decided to visit Switzerland on Katja’s mom’s invitation. “We met up and just instantly reconnected.”
While there was instant chemistry, the duo met as friends a few more times before Katja decided to visit Ayesha in Delhi for a 2-week holiday. But due to a misunderstanding where Katja assumed she would get a visa on arrival to India, her stay was abruptly cut short. Seeing how upset she was about having to leave early, Ayesha made arrangements for her to go to Nepal on the next flight—and then decided to surprise her by tagging along. After a few-too-many deep conversations and by the end of the trip, the two realised it was not something they could ignore. “Since we already knew each other from our formative years, it was incredibly easy for us to open up to each other. Our childhood friendship allowed us to be extremely honest about who we are as people, where we are in life, and our struggles. And, as we started dating, we felt a sense of ease as we both knew each other so well,” said Katja.
Ayesha says, about the two years of long-distance relationship before they tied the knot, “We have never spent more than two months apart. Either one of us would fly down to the other country at every available opportunity.” Katja shares, “We’d make dinner together on Skype and Ayesha would even order food for me online while she was in India.” On their one-year anniversary of being together, Ayesha proposed to Katja in Jaisalmer and she flew Katja’s best friend, her brother as well as her cousin down to Rajasthan in advance to join in the celebration as a surprise for Katja. “She had this beautiful evening prepared for me as a surprise. I was overwhelmed that I have this special someone who would go to such lengths to make this so memorable for me.” says Katja.
Backed by their resilient friendship, Ayesha and Katja have helped each other shape their individual identities and became each other’s cheerleader and support system to create a rare bond that has held steady in the face of uncertainties. Emboldened by Katja’s unconditional friendship and her need to pave her own path in life, Ayesha took the momentous yet daunting decision to branch out of her family business. Deprived of an airtight plan and a clear view of where she was headed, the journey of finding her passion wasn’t a cakewalk for Ayesha. But with Katja as her support system, she navigated through the emotional and financial misgivings, to kickstart a business which led them to become not just life partners but also business partners. Ayesha shares, “Since the age of eight, I’ve always been led to believe that I’m destined to be a part of my family business. And, while it’s great to have something like that handed down to you, one doesn’t get the freedom to actually discover oneself and who you are, more often than not, thinking that you have to act or behave in a certain way that is expected of you. Katja, who also runs a business with her family, understood these challenges that I faced. With her unflinching friendship and deep understanding, Katja helped me pluck up the courage to take the bold step of stepping out of my comfort zone to find my calling.”
She continues, “Once the decision was made, there were a plethora of uncertainties that we faced. My identity as a person was defined by my family business and when I did leave it, I felt disoriented and lost. Coming from a family that has a flourishing enterprise, I never really had to worry about the financial aspects of life. The entire process was a huge challenge for me and that’s where Katja stepped up. I have a tendency to overthink and overanalyze situations, but Katja, empathizing with what I was going through, said, it’s okay if you don’t have a plan or a clear goal in your mind right now. Take your time off and figure out what your passion is.’ Previously, I’d always been molded into understanding that my skill set was very limited to my family business. It is through Katja’s unwavering belief in me that I opened my eyes to the fact that I have more to offer.
Now, we have collaborated with Katja’s brother and started our own company with the aim of introducing high-quality products from Indian artisans and craftsmen in Europe and I feel there is a new meaning and fulfillment in my life!” Katja shares, “At first, I was a little skeptical about starting a company with Ayesha as I was worried that conflicts at work might start affecting our relationship. But now, I see that those fears were completely illogical! We understand each other so well and share similar values, vision and ethics.”
In difficult times, the duo’s friendship and continuous support towards each other have made their relationship fulfilling. “At the beginning of the lockdown, we were separated for a while we both struggled. My family business was shut down since we were in retail. Since this was something we hadn’t faced before, it was all new and stressful. Meanwhile, Ayesha was in India supporting her dad in navigating the impact of lockdown on their family business. And in that sense, we could share that experience and understand each other fears and anxieties,” Katja shares. “I was alone at home and I overworked myself while Ayesha was away. I would wake up at six in the morning and start working right away and I worked over the weekends too. When Ayesha came back, I had overworked myself for 5 months. She helped me realize how unhealthy it was and helped me reset and focus on myself.”
Marveling at how their friendship has been the backbone of their bond, Katja shares, “Our friendship has seen us through the ups and downs of life. Of course, there are times when we do clash. But since we know each other so well, we take the time to understand where exactly the misunderstandings are stemming from. Even when we’ve experienced rough patches in our relationship, our strong friendship has not only helped us figure out how to deal with disagreements, conflicts, and differences of opinion but also helped us remain anchored to each other.”
Friends through thick and thin, Ayesha and Katja’s camaraderie has helped them become better versions of themselves.