Power Women

Dec 29 2007, 23:10 IST
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SummaryAlmost all the 50 women that The Financial Express profiles in this special issue entered the corporate world at a time when the proverbial glass ceiling deterred many. They had the courage and the determination to shatter it and create a mark for themselves.

Almost all the 50 women that The Financial Express profiles in this special issue entered the corporate world at a time when the proverbial glass ceiling deterred many. They had the courage and the determination to shatter it and create a mark for themselves. Each one of them, a trailblazer in her own right, has nurtured families and met deadlines with an enviable spirit. Each one of them has a unique story to share – a success story that is, least said, inspiring.

And they are all Indian women who have reached out and achieved excellence in India.

It’s a given now that women are part of the workforce. In some industries they are in fact almost equal in number, if not more, to their male counterparts when they start out. But when it comes to rising up the corporate ladder or getting on top of a business, there are very few who make the grade. These are the happy stories of 50 women (technically 51) who’ve made it, despite visible and not-so-visible hurdles. Some of them have made a family business blossom (Meher Pudumjee), some have started their own only to take it to great heights (Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw), and some more have made it their business to get others to do business (Laila Tyabji). Then of course there are those who have made it to the top management cadre — like Leena Nair becoming Hindustan Unilever’s first woman executive director.

So read on to find out how each of them got to these pages.

Punitha Arumugam Group CEO, Madison Media

She is the winner of the GR8 Woman Achiever Award for the year 2006. In the same year she was voted among the Top 10 most influential people in the Indian media industry by the Brand Equity Ad Agency Reckoner.

Meet Punitha Arumugam, chief executive officer of the Rs 900-crore Madison Media, arguably one of the three most powerful media agencies in the country today.

In her 17 years in the industry, Arumugam has looked at every aspect of the media business — strategy, planning, buying, research and operations. Her experience spans a wide range of products, including FMCG, durables and financial services. She has worked with top agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and Initiative in the key markets of Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, before dropping anchor at Madison Media. Arumugam joined the agency as media services director in 1999. Interestingly, her first break in advertising came while she was a student. Here a little background may be handy. Born and educated in Chennai, Arumugam’s father was in business and her mother was a housewife. She completed her graduation in Physics and went on to study management at the Madras University. Media was her first break and she took to it like a fish to water. In fact, while doing her MBA, she was assigned a summer project with Chennai-based ad agency RK Swamy and it was there that her tryst with advertising began. She joined O&M on completing her education and stayed there for a full five years, soaking up all she could in her media planning job, even though her heart lay in servicing. After 17 years in this highly competitive field, Arumugam still loves everything about it — the numbers, the logic, the simplicity in thinking, the negotiation and the people.

Vinita BALI Managing Director, Britannia Industries

When ITC and local brand Priya Biscuits proved to be a threat in the middle of 2006, Britannia Industries made Vinita Bali, 51, its MD. An FMCG expert, Bali, who skeptics thought wouldn’t be able to deliver, proved them wrong. In a year-and-a-half she had turned round the company. And though margins are under pressure, because of rising input costs, and the controlling groups — the Wadias and Danone — are sparring, the topline’s doing fine, not least because of Bali and her pulling-everyone-along style of functioning. If she has succeeded at Britannia, it’s because she loves a challenge and more.

Bali has done stints with great brands like Coca Cola and Cadbury’s and has never shied away from exploring new terrain — from Santiago to South Africa, Atlanta to Bangalore. The story goes, perhaps not apocryphal, that she picked up Spanish in Santiago out of sheer necessity and then used it to her advantage while talking to local Coke bottlers.

She is low-key (the difference made sharper because her predecessor at Britannia was the highly visible Sunil Alagh) but has many interests other than her day-time job. Like playing the sitar, going to the theatre, dancing Kathak. She also loves reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and western and Indian classical music and is particularly partial to ghazals. Such eclectic tastes are probably helping Bali infuse new ideas into an old company that was till very recently in dire need of refurbishing.

Vedika Bhandarkar Managing Director and Head of Investment Banking, JP Morgan India

Becoming managing director and head of investment banking at JP Morgan India took very little time for Vedika Bhandarkar. It’s her reputation of being a star performer in the circles that actually got her there.

Bhandarkar has been in financial services for 14 years, and in the last six, she has earned plenty of laurels. This includes her stellar performance in the $1.1-billion Tata Consultancy Services public offering. This IIM graduate has been crucial to executing and closing significant deals. Examples include ONGC’s acquisition of MRPL from the AV Birla group. Right from the start, when ONGC chairman Subir Raha called up Bhandarkar and evinced his interest, the odds were tipped against the deal. MRPL’s balance sheet was far from healthy, being loaded with $1.5 billion of high-interest debt. Bhandarkar and her team pulled off what is considered a miracle by convincing the 15 lenders to the project to take an average 25% cut in shares.

She has been heading the investment banking division of JP Morgan India since 1998 and in March 2004, she was also appointed managing director of the firm. Here is a tip off from the finance wiz: there will be more outward than inward deals as Indian companies look to grow at a global scale. Within India, she sees telecom and IT and IT-enabled services sectors as ones that are likely to see M&A and consolidation.

Runa BanErji Sehba Hussain Founders, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)

IT was the early 1970s. Chikankaari was dying a slow death in Lucknow. Wages were as low as Rs 10-15 for a hard day’s work for the craftsmen. Most were looking out for greener pastures. Enter Runa Banerji and her friend Sehba Hussain on a UNICEF-sponsored project on child labour. The abject penury and exploitation of the workers, specially the women, shook them.

They began a school but soon realised “roti” was the first priority. So, getting the mothers who came to the school together, Banerji and Hussain formed SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) in 1984. Yes, it is the same name by which Ela Bhatt runs her NGO in Ahmedabad, but the areas of operation are entirely different. The aim of SEWA of Lucknow has been to get these craftswomen better wages and today, thanks to this effort, chikankaari has becoming haute couture. There were threats from local middlemen, money was in short supply, most of the time they had to work under cover of darkness, but Runa Banerji and Sehba Hussain just kept going. Their very first exhibition in Delhi was sold out. Many more such hits have followed over the years and others have tried to fake the SEWA brand name too. Financial gain has resulted in these women artisans getting themselves better houses and educating their children. SEWA today boasts of over 5,000 members, with each one having a happy story of progress to tell. And they have this tenacious duo to thank for fortune smiling at them.

Shobhana Bhartia Vice Chairperson and Editorial Director, HT Media

THIS Calcutta University graduate has definitely driven her father, industrialist KK Birla’s media ambitions to great heights. Shobhana Bhartia, 50, now not only runs the Hindustan Times, the capital’s favoured English daily, despite the tug-of-war with arch rival and Bennett and Coleman-run The Times of India notwithstanding, but also Hindi daily Hindustan. She also launched a business paper with a difference called Mint. If HT looks slick and stylish today, it’s largely thanks to Bhartia who was convinced the stodgy daily urgently needed a makeover. This year has been a year of many firsts for Bhartia. She saw her media empire expand to other genres like radio with FM channel Fever104 impressing in its debut in Mumbai and Delhi. She managed to bring together rivals — HT and TOI — to launch the capital’s first morning tabloid Metro Now. A Rajya Sabha member and till recently chairperson of the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Bhartia was conferred the Padma Shri in 2005 for her contribution to journalism. HT Media’s stock too has been doing well, having gone public in September 2005. Bhartia is now apparently going to concentrate on Hindustan, with HT Media planning to invest Rs 200 crore over two years to set up 14 more editions of the Hindi daily across India’s tier-II and tier-III cities.

Ela R Bhatt Founder, SEWA

HER father was a lawyer and her mother was active in the women’s movement. So becoming a social activist seemed to be pretty much in Ela Bhatt’s genes. She came through law college with a gold medal and went on to teach English, which she didn’t quite like. So, in 1955 Bhatt joined the Textile Labour Association (TLA) in Ahmedabad.

With marriage and motherhood, there came a break in her career. But she soon picked up the threads and joined the Labour Ministry of Gujarat as an Employment Officer in 1961. In 1968, she went back to TLA as head of its Women’s Wing. It was a revelation to her that thousands of self-employed women were not recognised as workers, and that there were no laws to protect their livelihood. That’s when, in 1972, Elaben, as she is affectionately referred to, founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). Today, SEWA operates in over seven states and provides these self-employed women banking, insurance, healthcare and micro-finance services. And, it has an impressive 800,000 + women as members.

Proving that there is strength in numbers, Bhatt has shown that the weak too can climb every mountain.

Rama Bijapurkar Leader on market strategy and consumer related issues

PROVIDING a “market focus to business strategy” is what keeps Rama Bijapurkar engaged. She worked with several reputed organisations before she decided to go it alone. And now she is doing what she likes best — problem solving. An alumnus of the IIM, Ahmedabad, Bijapurkar first opted for client servicing with Lintas. Disillusioned by the work content, she moved on to the market research agency of the company. She then moved on to Mode and six years later to HLL as a full-time consultant. Thereafter she joined MARG and stepped out as its deputy managing director only to move on to McKinsey. But two years on, she realised she wasn’t doing quite what she had set out to do. So since 1999, she’s set up her own shop and is happy being the bridge between business and consumer. Bijapurkar now serves as an independent director on the boards of Infosys Technologies, CRISIL, Axis Bank, Godrej Consumer Products, Give Foundation, Subhiksha, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts, among others. Her recently published book, We are like that only — Understanding the Logic of Consumer India, created quite a buzz. Today regarded as one of India’s foremost thougth leaders.

Madhabi Puri Buch Executive Director, ICICI Bank

M Puri Buch, executive director on the Board of ICICI Bank, has a job description that covers several areas. She looks after the global markets business covering treasury solutions for clients, fixed income and derivatives solutions, global operations of the bank, besides working as the chief brand officer for the ICICI Group. A graduate in mathematics from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and an MBA from the IIM, Ahmedabad, she worked for a year with an NGO before joined ICICI in its corporate finance department for four years. After a career break of three years to join her husband in the UK (where she is reported to have worked as a sales girl), she returned to India to do a one-year stint with ORG Marg in market research for financial products. In 1997, she returned to ICICI Bank, and worked to make ICICI the top bond issuer in the country. her efforts contributed to making it a leader in mutual fund distribution. The bank leveraged technology to create the pioneering online share-trading site with a market share of over 60%. The home loans business too grew four-fold. She now wants to bring the benefits of technology to the thousands of small-ticket customers doing daily transactions.

Schauna Chauhan CEO, Parle Agro

SCHAUNA Chauhan, the eldest of Prakash Chauhan’s three daughters, and chief executive of Parle Agro, says, “I’m like the eldest son in the family.” Prakash Chauhan, chairman and managing director of the Rs 8 billion Parle Agro group, handed over the responsibilities of the group to his 26-year-old daughter Schauna in 2002. Even as a high school student she would accompany her father to production facilities to keep herself up-to-date with the kind of technology in the industry. The young Chauhan, who holds a Bachelors Degree in International Management from Switzerland, has worked in different departments-including production, finance, advertising and sales-within the organisation.

As director Parle Agro, she has taken products like Frooti, Appy and N-Joi to the international market. She is also the brain behind the launch of Frooti in pet bottles, the first tetrapak beverage to hit the market in this avatar. Married to model-turned-actor Bikram Saluja, she is never out of step or behind time.

Lynn D’Souza Director, Media Services, Lowe

She has spent almost 25 years in the media industry training some of the best talent in the country. But more than this, Lynn D’Souza of Initiative Media is known for calling a spade a spade. A management graduate from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute, D’Souza began her career in 1982 with Speer before spending five years at O&M, working on brands such as J&J, Asian Paints, Titan Watches and Unilever. In 1988, she joined Trikaya Grey (now Grey Worldwide) as media director, where she championed the cause of media buying as an independent business. Today her venture is India’s largest print buyer and second largest TV buyer, with maximum number of AOR clients.

D’Souza is also passionate about animal welfare. She started and now chairs the Goa SPCA, owns and manages a veterinary hospital for strays and wildlife at Goa, is an active life member and volunteer for several animal NGOs.

Neelam Dhawan MD, Microsoft India

SHE had been a much-respected figure in the IT world for years, but when Neelam Dhawan was made managing director, Microsoft India, in 2005, it still came as a surprise. A pleasant one. It’s hard to find too many women who have zoomed up to the top in IT.

“Our priority is to become relevant to one billion Indians,” is what Dhawan is known to have said when she took over the reins. And she is pulling out all stops to ensure that. She is now all set to foray into Project Bhasha, a programme that focuses on hastening computing in local languages.

Prior to Microsoft, this hardware pro was vice president, Customer Solutions Group, HP India with additional responsibility for strategic alliances and partner relationships. This stint was for about six years, starting 1999. She's done stints with IBM and HCL before that.

Dhawan’s recipe for success: You need to have ambition, staying power and organising ability. And she also credits her supportive family for her rise to the top.

TANYA Dubash Executive Director and President (Marketing), Godrej Group

NOT many people would know that the eldest daughter of Adi and Parmeshwar Godrej, who is the executive director and president (marketing) of the $ 1.3 billion Godrej Group, has been nominated among 25 Indians in this year’s list of 250 Global Young Leaders by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. Inducted into the company as director at 28, Dubash began with the country’s most competitive markets — the FMCG sector. Two years ago, she made her intentions of expanding into the overseas market clear when she snapped up the Middlesex-based Keyline Brands in a $15.75 million deal to complement Godrej’s domestic business in hair colour, talcum powder and shaving cream.

On top of her agenda at the moment is a strategy to re-formulate and revitalise some of her brands, for which she has already hired a global consultant, the UK-based Interbrand.

Manisha Girotra Managing Director and Chairperson, India, Union Bank of Switzerland

SHE clinches the most talked-about deals and has a mean golf handicap too. She also finds the time to be a mother, work out and occasionally wave the ladle. That’s investment banker Manisha Girotra for you. A Delhi School of Economics topper, Girotra is quite an eyeful too, having been judged ‘Rose Princess’ in Chandigarh few years ago.

Currently managing director and chairperson, India, Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), she is known to have said her biggest competitor in the business is her husband, Sanjay Agarwal of Deutche Bank.

Credit to her the management of the Vodafone acquisition of Hutch-Essar and the Hindalco buy-out of Novelis.

Before UBS hired her, Girotra did stints at ANZ Grindlays and BZW Investment Banking where she spearheaded the team that secured the GAIL privatisation deal. Patience and tenacity are what you need to crack these deals, feels the pro. It’s been a steep climb up for this ace negotiator from the time she was mistaken for the secretary to the “Sahaab” when she visited ministries.

Shyamala Gopinath Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India

STRESS. If there is anyone who knows what that is, it’s Shyamala Gopinath. Her job as deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India requires management of risk on a daily basis. An ordinary CEO perhaps does not know this kind of stress. True strain comes with the pressures of running India’s monetary policy in the face of the falling greenback. Unlike the West and Japan, the central banker is a far more powerful entity in a relatively closed banking market such as India’s. As the deputy governor of this mighty central bank, she is in charge of not only the entire portfolio of the monetary policy, but also its internal debt department as well as the external investments operations.

Now if there ever was a handful of management responsibilities, surely this is it. Her management style is known to be solution oriented. To break down the big picture into workable and applicable regulatory frameworks comes naturally to this career banker. In 2008, Gopinath will have to grapple with the problem of plenty in the banking scenario. The stakes have never been higher and she knows that.

Shahnaz Husain Chairperson, Shahnaz Herbals

HER name is synonymous with natural cosmetics and she was one of the pioneers of herbal magic. But the beginnings this Padma Shri recipient made were small. Seeing that existing salon treatments had side effects, Shahnaz Husain decided to start her own, using herbal products. She launched a totally new concept of “care and cure”. Thus was born Shahnaz Herbal. She is best known for her specialised clinical treatments and therapeutic products for skin and hair problems. Today, Husain heads a chain of over 400 franchise salons in India and abroad, with outlets in prestigious stores and locations all over the world. Her franchise-based enterprise has helped in the worldwide extension of the Shahnaz Herbal clinics, popularising her formidable range of nearly 350 products. Her group’s products are sold in leading global stores like Bloomingdales (New York), Galleries Lafayette (Paris), Seibu (Japan), Harrods and Selfridges (London), and La Rinaeccente (Milan).

Ekta Kapoor Creative Director, Balaji Telefilms

SHE’S the lady who year on year has been ruling the soaps and her bubble just gets bigger. This 1975-born entertainer-entrepreneur started out earning a bachelor’s degree in commerce. But academics wasn’t her cup of tea. So at age 19, she ventured into TV production on the advice of her film-star father Jeetendra. Today, Ekta Kapoor is the creative director and head honcho of the mammoth Balaji Telefilms, where actors queue up to be considered.

Her most famous television venture has been Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, which started airing in 2000. Today, several of her serials feature among the most popular 25 programmes on the tube. And of course her fetish for the alphabet ‘K’ is well-known. It couldn’t be a coincidence that almost all her serials have names beginnign with the alphabet, whether it is Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, Kasautii Zindagi Kay or Kahiin to Hoga. Kapoor’s super-successful saas-bahu formula for her productions has been working its magic unfailingly on audiences that predominantly comprises women. Seeing the popularity of her storylines, senior and more experienced producers are also adapting their serials to give the Modern Woman portrayal a miss, settling instead for her “gharelu” avatar. Kapoor’s journey seems to have just begun and she almost certainly has many more hits coming up.

Renu S Karnad Executive Director, HDFC

SHE began her career in the legal and credit department of HDFC in 1978, supposedly by peddling loans to housewives, personally going to borrowers’ homes for interviews. Through the years, even as borrowers’ profiles changed, Renu S Karnad, who holds a master’s degree in economics from Delhi School of Economics, swiftly grew through the ranks to become head of the lending business in HDFC.

At 55, she is number 3 at one of India’s most well-known home loan companies. She travels extensively — home is Delhi, but she keeps traveling to Mumbai and other places. And despite the fact that the housing loan industry has slowed — due to various reasons, not least rising interest rates and soaring property prices — she has often said that the fundamentals are still in place. She would know, being in the profession for more than 25 years, and now overseeing an exciting phase in India’s mortgage industry.

Farah Khan Choreographer and Director

SHE made a name as a choreographer in Bollywood — think Aamir Khan in Joh Jeeta Wohi Sikander or Malaika Arora’s sensuous swaying in Dil Se’s Chaiya, Chaiya. And in 2004, she turned director and delivered the biggest hit of the year. Khan ruled the box-office with the Shahrukh Khan-starrer Main Hoon Na. Three years later, she has again ensured that her Om Shanti Om, a lookback at the 70s, made a huge splash at the box-office. She admits that her guardian angel is Shahrukh Khan, who formed a production company to produce Main Hoon Na.

Even critics agree that her biggest contribution to Bollywood is the fact that she is willing to take on the challenge to make a big-budget film. Khan, 42, won’t make a niche film just because of her gender. Her global fame came after she choreographed and was nominated for a Tony for the Broadway musical Bombay Dreams.

Naina Lal Kidwai CEO, HSBC India

IN 1977, when Naina Lal Kidwai, after completing a course in chartered accountancy, joined Pricewaterhouse Coopers as a trainee, it is believed that one of the partners told her he didn’t quite know what to do with her because there were no other women employees. Kidwai has gone on to become one of India’s best known bankers — gathering many firsts along the way, not least being the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School (HBS) in 1982. Now, as CEO of HSBC India — she joined the bank in 2002 as head of its investment banking and bagged the top job in four years — Kidwai, 50, is driving the bank’s endeavour to tap the huge potential that India offers private banks. She made a name as an investment banker while at ANZ Grindlays Bank, which she joined soon after her graduation. In seven years she was promoted to head the entire investment banking division. In 1994, after spending a decade at Grindlays, she joined Morgan Stanley when they opened offices in India. She soon engineered a joint venture with JM Financials. It is no surprise that Kidwai is a high achiever — her father was CEO of an insurance company, her sister a top golfer and her husband is MD of a non-profit organisation.

Geetanjali Kirloskar Deputy Chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motor

Wife of Kirloskar Systems Ltd CMD, Vikram Kirloskar, Geetanjali has successfully managed to carve out her own identity in the corporate world. She started her career in advertising with the Kirloskar owned Ad Agency Pratibha Advertising. In 1998 she led her Agency in a 50:50 JV with the Interpublic Worldwide Group. The turning point came when IPG appointed her as President professionally to run the JV company Quadrant Communications Ltd for them. In 2003 started a non-profit venture The India Japan Initiative for better industrial and cultural relations between India and Japan.

The multi-faceted Kirloskar writes, is vice president, Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association and is is a great collection of contemporary Indian Art

The slim and tall Kirloskar, who works out regularly, loves the outdoors. She has acted in character roles in two Hindi films — Cheluvi and Samay.

And she has no plans to give up, she said in a recent interview. Kirloskar has also hosted a reality show for a news channel where she did 38 episodes.

Chanda Kochhar Joint MD, ICICI Bank

FOR the past three years, she has been on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Global Business. With her elevation to joint MD of ICICI Bank, India’s largest private bank this October, she is in line for the top job when MD and CEO KV Kamath retires in 2009. When she began at ICICI in 1984, Kochhar worked in the project appraisal division and moved through various divisions before being given charge of the bank’s retail section in 2002. In 2004, The Asian Banker named Kochhar as Retail Banker of the Year. With her at the helm of the retail business, ICICI Bank became the largest player in India in the retail market, garnering more than 30% share of all retail loans. In 2006, she also took charge of corporate banking and international operations. Now, as she has taken over as joint MD and CFO and become the bank’s spokesperson, the spotlight is on the 45-year-old Kochhar. The cost accountant and management graduate from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute has spent two decades at the bank and according to analysts has won acolades by adopting some winning strategies — like she has cut prices on consumer loans by reining in operating costs.

Roopa Kudva MD and CEO, CRISIL

IN October 1992, Roopa Kudva joined CRISIL, then an up-and-coming rating agency as a senior rating analyst in Bangalore. She stayed on and became executive director and chief rating officer a decade later. This year, Kudva, 44, was elevated to the top job, taking over as MD and CEO of CRISIL, now a leading ratings, research, risk and policy advisory company.

As CEO, Kudva, who has a degree in Statistics and an MBA from IIM-A, wants to maintain CRISIL’s ratings business’ current position of dominance in India and is expected to play a bigger role in the company’s rapid expansion and diversification, both in domestic and international markets. In this, her stint at Standard & Poor’s office in Paris in 1998, where she covered emerging markets in the Mediterranean and West Asian region should stand her in good stead. Kudva began her career with Industrial Development Bank of India at its project finance department before she opted to join a rating agency with a Bangalore posting.

Vandana luthra Founder and Mentor, VLCC Health Care

With her nationwide chain taking beauty and fitness to Indians as few others, Vandana Luthra was among the earliest in contemporary India to realise the potential of the wellness sector while making people look and feel happy. After a degree from Delhi University, Luthra did courses in nutrition, cosmetology, beauty care, fitness and skin care in Germany, London and Paris. VLCC, ehich she set up almost two decades ago is today present in 46 cities in India. And with a CAGR of 35% over the last five years, the company, which has a fifth of the national market share, is on an expansion spree. Luthra has chartered a beauty map for her Rs 1.20 billion business, which will see her open centres in 200 more cities in the country by 2009, besides more than quadrupling the turnover in the next four years. The expansion to over 250 centres will largely be through the franchise mode.

The company also plans to enter West Asia, Sri Lanka and the UK. Luthra has developed brand extensions of VLCC that include the VLCC Personal Care range of products, VLCC Nail Studio and Spa, VLCC Workout Factory and VLCC Institute. VLCC is the world’s first slimming, fitness and beauty corporate to get the ISO 9001:2000 certification and first of its kind to get the SA: 800O (Social Accountability) certification for implementing CSR standards. A factor in making her a name to reckon with in the business space.

Deena Mehta President, Bombay Stock Exchange

SHE can lay claim to have broken the glass ceiling at the Bombay Stock Exchange. Hitherto the domain of men, Deena Mehta was the first woman to go into the trading ring in 1986. She holds the distinction of being the only woman broker in the country to have been elected to the BSE board in 1997 with the highest number of votes secured by any member in its history. She's been a twice-elected vice president of the BSE. After 125 years, the BSE got its first woman president when Mehta, or Deenaben as she is fondly called, was elected. Mehta is the mastermind behind many reforms at the BSE. She is credited with reforming the archaic bylaws of the exchange, was a key player instrumental in computerising the BSE, amongst others. The lady did not set out to enter the crowded male bastion of the BSE. Her dream was to become an engineer. When that did not materialise, she shifted tracks and took up a Commerce degree, graduating from Mumbai's Sydhenham College. Mehta followed that up with a Master's degree in management studies, a CA later and then an MBA degree.

Zarina Mehta Founder Director, UTV

UTV founder-director Zarina Mehta is passionate about Mumbai and is pained that the city is losing its cultural spaces. So, in 2007, when she launched UTV’s Brand Bindass, India’s first 360 degree entertainment brand for Young India, she planned to open cafes for youngsters sometime soon. As of now, Mehta, 46, CEO, Bindass, is busy positioning the brand as an assortment of TV channels, events, mobile entertainment, websites, gaming and merchandising. The former theatre actor has many other firsts to her credit — the first daily soap Shanti; the first game show Snakes and Ladders and the first game show for children Gol Gol Gullam.

As COO of UTV’s Hungama TV, her innovations, including a nationwide hunt to set up a board of directors comprising children, drove the channel to become the top kids channel within 18 months of launch. It was finally sold to Disney in 2006. She has spent over 15 years nurturing UTV. Starting and creating some of the production house’s major divisions, producing over 3,500 hours of high-TRP award-winning multi-lingual programming, she has been awarded for her corporate documentaries. Mehta also loves to chill out on Sundays at home with her husband and Sprite, a gorgeous golden Labrador.

Zia Mody Senior partner, AZB & Partners

ONE of the topmost corporate attorneys in India today, Zia Mody stormed into this male-dominated territory in the 1980s. Daughter of former attorney general Soli Sorabjee, Mody studied law at Cambridge University, and did her LLM from Harvard Law School. Later, she qualified as an attorney in the State of New York. For five years, she worked with Baker & McKenzie in New York, before returning to India to start her own practice in 1984.

Today, AZB & Partners is India’s second-largest law firm with MNCs making up 80% of its clients. Mody, a senior partner, primarily advises on mergers & acquistitions, private equity, securities laws etc. Two of her biggest deals in recent times have been Tata Steel’s $12 billion buy of Corus, and Hindalco’s takeover of Novelis for $6.4 billion.

It wasn’t an easy ride though, initially. In an interview, Mody recalled how she had to work 16 hours a day. She said she could continue mainly because of her desire to take up the challenge of storming a male citadel and also because she had a supportive mother-in-law and husband.

kalpana Morparia Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, ICICI Group

FOR someone who just wanted to get married and have children, holding the designation of Chief Strategy & Communications Officer, ICICI Group seems pretty much like the other end of the spectrum. Kalpana Morparia thanks her mother for it — her mother encouraged her to be self-reliant and financially indepedent.

She joined ICICI in 1975, armed with a law degree from Bombay University. In 2001, she spearheaded the ICICI group’s major corporate structuring initiative, the merger of ICICI Limited with ICICI Bank to create India’s second largest bank.

A science graduate, Morparia has earned a track record of working in the areas of planning, treasury, resources and corporate legal services. Till May 2007, Morparia was Joint Managing Director, Corporate Centre at ICICI Bank.

Sulajja Firodia motwani Joint Managing Director, Kinetic Engineering

AS joint managing director of Kinetic Engineering Ltd, part of the Rs 1,200 crore Firodia Group, Sulajja Firodia Motwani is in charge of its overall business development activities. Under her leadership, the group graduated from being a manufacturer of mopeds and scooters to a full fledged two-wheeler and motorcycle company, (Zoom, Nova, and Marvel, Boss, Velocity, GF 170 City, Laser and Aquila, to name a few), targeted at a whole spectrum of customers.

Motwani has a management degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, and her first stint was with Barra International, a California-headquartered investment consultancy. Motwani claims she has been applying what she learnt on the badminton courts to the Kinetic Group ever since she joined it in 1996. Her grandfather HK Firodia set up Kinetic Engineering and father Arun Firodia founded the Kinetic group. When not launching new bikes, Motwani likes to play golf, ski, read non-fiction and watch movies.

Vishakha Mulye Chief Financial Officer, ICICI Bank

SHE joined ICICI as a management trainee in 1993. In 12 years, Vishakha Mulye, 38, has risen to become the group’s chief financial officer (CFO).

Mulye graduated in commerce from HR College, Mumbai. An aspiring chartered accountant, she joined ANZ Grindlays Bank’s merchant banking division in 1991. A year later, Mulye joined Deutsche Bank’s corporate finance team, which she quit after three months to join ICICI, her ‘dream employer’. Today, Vishakha Mulye has the tricky task of ensuring that the process of raising capital in ICICI Bank continues. In 2005, she helped the bank raise nearly $7 billion in equity and another $12 billion from international markets. Balancing her role within the family and her profession, Mulye also played a crucial role in preparing the blueprint for the merger of ICICI with ICICI Bank. Sounding every bit a workaholic, she recently listed “work-related stuff” as her hobby in a business magazine. She said the ‘turning point’ in her career came when KV Kamath left Asian Development Bank to join ICICI in 1996 as its managing director. Honoured with the India CFO Award, 2006, instituted by International Market Assessment (IMA) for excellence in finance in a large corporate, Mulye was also chosen as a ‘Young Global Leader’ for the year 2007 by the World Economic Forum.

Leena Nair Executive Director, (HR), Hindustan Unilever

A gold medallist from Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) Jamshedpur, Leena (Menon) Nair, the first woman and youngest ever executive director at Hindustan Unilever, is in charge of the company’s human resources. After completing her Bachelors in electronic engineering and her MBA, Nair, 37, joined the FMCG major in May 1992 as a management trainee. Today she has risen to head a team that is responsible for the well-being of about 15,000 employees in 70 locations across the country. Starting her career as a factory personnel manager in Taloja Chemicals, Chennai, Nair moved on to management development planning and then to HR for the company’s detergents business in April 2000.

Nair feels HUL is woman-friendly. And, with her at the helm of HR affairs at the company, HUL should see women playing a bigger role in handling its businesses. “Our trainee programme is part of a conscious attempt to increase the number of women leaders we could groom for the future,” she told a daily

Nair is the first woman in the history of HUL to have been appointed a member of the company’s management council. A Bollywood enthusiast who loves to travel and read, Nair is married to Kumar Nair, who runs a financial services firm, and has two sons.

Usha Narayanan Executive Director, Securities and Exchange Board of India

THERE is one woman who is keeping a constant eye on the primary market and foreign institutional investors. Usha Narayanan, 55, the first woman from within the market watchdog, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), to become its executive director. After school, Narayanan began work as a clerk with the Bank of India. Later, she completed her graduation from Delhi University and then her post-graduation from Mumbai University. After which, she went on to complete her masters in business law from the National Law School in Bangalore. Narayanan, who joined Sebi in 1991, once said, “Sebi is a happening place and there is a lot to learn. The job is demanding and there are challenges, but you have to take it as it comes and not worry about them.” A strong votary of the need for women to balance work and home, Narayanan is known to have never missed any parent-teacher meeting and still cooks before she leaves home for office. However, she does have a regret in life. “I didn't learn to play any musical instrument,” says she.

Falguni Nayar Managing Director, Kotak Investment Bank

FALGUNI Nayar, the 44-year-old managing director of Kotak Investment Bank (KIB) likes her work to do the talking. Nayar, who started her career with AF Ferguson after graduating from IIM Ahmedabad, joined the Kotak Mahindra group in 1993. Since then, she has been responsible for steering the group’s institutional equities franchise business in the UK and the US, and now in India. Nayar joined Kotak Mahindra when the firm offered her to join their M&A team. She was on her path to building a client franchise when she decided to move to London along with her husband. So, she was asked to build the Kotak Institutional Equities franchise in the UK. Later in 1997, she moved to the US where she was working on secondment to Goldman Sachs for eight months, after which she joined Kotak again when they decided to set up in the US. In 2001, the family moved back to India and she joined Kotak’s Institutional Equities department as Co-Head. In 2005, she took over as managing director of KIB. One of Nayar’s primary responsibilities included steering the investment banking business and institutional brokerage business using local expertise.

Amrita Patel Chairperson, National Dairy Development Board

GROOMED by her mentor and ‘father of India’s co-operative movement’, Verghese Kurien, Amrita Patel took charge of NDDB in 1998 when Kurien stepped down after a 33-year reign. Patel specialised in veterinary science and agriculture from Bombay Veterinary College in 1965. Later, she undertook advanced training in animal nutrition at the Rowett Research Institute, UK. In 1965, she joined the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union in their cattle feed factory as animal nutrition officer. In 1971 Patel joined NDDB as project executive. In September 1990, she took over as managing director of NDDB, which controls Mother Dairy. Honoured with prestigious awards, like the Padma Bhushan and the Norman Borlaug award, Patel has a challenging task ahead. At a time when private businesses and MNCs, like Nestle and Britannia, have entered India’s milk sector, she has to ensure that the country’s 96,000 dairy co-peratives, 170 milk producers’ co-operative unions and 15 state co-operative milk marketing federations emerge stronger in the days to come.

Villoo Morawala Patell Founder & CEO, Avestha Gengraine Technologies

KIRAN Mazumdar-Shaw was the poster girl of the Indian biotech industry. Until Villoo Morawala Patell, the founder and managing director of Avesthagen, came along. A first generation scientist-turned-entrepreneur, Patell founded Avesthagen in 2001, eight years after completing her PhD from Louis Pasteur University in France. Today, the Rs 31-crore Avesthagen, with a state-of-the-art facility in Bangalore, focuses on achieving convergence of food, pharma and population genetics. Its activities include agri-biotechnologies product pipeline, development of clinically validated botanical bio-actives derived from Indian medicinal plants, as well as the development of a pipeline of 11 bio-similar drugs. The company has spun off into four strategic business units, namely bioPharmaceuticals, bioNutrition, bioAgriculture and science and Innovation. It expects to close this fiscal year with $14.2 million in revenue. With foreign investment at 31% and a patent portfolio of about 140 applications, Avesthagen has set a precedent of sorts among young companies.

Rajshree Pathy CMD, Rajshree Sugars & Chemicalsm

She believes equally in the value of working and networking. Rajshree Pathy wears four hats and with equal aplomb. The first is as the CEO of sugar major Rajshree Sugars; the second is that of a lobbyist as the first woman boss of the All Indian Sugar Manufactures Association; the third is as a champion of alternative energy — specifically ethanol, which she believes can pull the sugar industry out of its current troubles; and the last is of a brand builder having launched an organic sugar brand recently. Her management style includes giving priority to incorporating new technologies into the working of sugar mills as well as innovating in terms of inventory management. She has resisted the urge to diversify and meticulously stuck to her core competencies. Her passion for growth has seen her company grow from a Rs 50-crore business in 1990 to a Rs 600-crore enterprise. This even as sugar manufacturers all Indian have struggled. She has often said that gender will make no difference to a balance sheet. So far the corporate journey for this baron has been sweet as sugar.

Priya Paul Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels

1990. With the economy in doldrums, a designer hotel was probably the last thing a prudent financial advisor would have counseled then. But Priya Paul has never been known for following the beaten track, and her gambles have paid off over the years, establishing her as a business leader to look out for. It’s a journey achieved through constantly putting in well over the requisite hours, for this graduate in economics from Wellesley College, US. She started her career as the marketing manager of The Park in 1988. But the untimely demise of her father left her in charge. Hospitality then was a new area for a group known for its holdings in tea, shipping and steel. Paul has not just overhauled design, but also modernised the company’s business processes. In another unusual move for the sector, The Park aims to go public in a few years. Her wide-ranging interests range from yoga to conservation efforts.

Swati Piramal Director, Nicholas Piramal

SWATI Piramal was born into a family of textile businessmen and married into another. But her heart was in medicine — and she already had a MBBS degree from Bombay University. With Datta Samant striking at textile mills and the business not doing too well, the Piramals decided to foray into pharmaceuticals. This was in 1988. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

Nicholas Piramal India, with Rs 2,470 crore in revenue, is the flagship company of Piramal Enterprises and a key player in the domestic pharmaceutical market. In her 19 years at Nicholas Piramal, she has been in the thick of it. Now, she is director, strategic alliances and communications of the company. Under her leadership Piramal Enterprises has made significant progress in discovery research, clinical research, new drug protocols, contract research and technology partnerships with other leading companies in the world. The government has appointed Piramal as a member of a special committee set up to transform India into a Knowledge Power. She is also on the board of three non-pharma related companies — LIC, Prudential ICICI Asset Management Company and SBI Capital Markets. Her plate is quite definitely full.

Meher Pudumjee Chairperson (non-executive), Thermax

AT first look the tall, reedy Meher Pudumjee seems to belong to the creative world. Actually that’s how it is. She may have succeeded her mother as head of Thermax, but she is also a soprano and a pianist. She takes her music very seriously, practicing regularly and singing with a Pune-based choir, the Chamber Singers. But as head of the Rs 2,200 crore corporate conglomerate, business does dominate.

After passing out of Nowrosjee Wadia College, Pune, Pudumjee did a four-year degree in chemical engineering from the Imperial College of Engineering and Technology, London, and then joined Thermax as a trainee engineer in August 1990. In April 1991, she and husband Pheroze Pudumjee took over the responsibility of managing the UK subsidiary of Thermax. Returning to India five years later, she joined the board of directors of Thermax, which had recently gone public. Taking over from her mother in 2005, Pudumjee set the struggling company on a new growth path. Now, she also heads the newly created corporate strategic planning unit, which is working on consolidation and growth plans for the company as well as new ventures and acquisitions.

Sangeeta Purushottam Institutional Business head, Religare Securities

OK first things first — you guessed it. It’s IIM Ahmedabad. When Ranbaxy promoted financial services major Religare, it was looking for someone to head their bread and butter institutional sales business. They zeroed in on the bright Sangeeta Purushottam. She is known to have that rare quality on Dalal Street that combines a nose for opportunity with a deeply ingrained sense of risk. Her forte is to work out equity picks the old fashioned way. Search it, research it, recheck and only after all that, recommend. In her earlier stints at Wall Street major Morgan Stanley, whose office she helped set up in India, the focus was research-based investment. Her management style is simple and up front. Networking is not important — working it out is. Hard work replaces speculative networked tips that are at the core of her investment decisions. In a male dominated securities brokerage industry, she has repeatedly made correct calls. The problem that she may face in the days to come is that of size — while Religare is large, it’s not a match to the big foreign institutional investors. How this IIM maverick handles the problem of size will be her litmus test.

Renuka Ramnath CEO, ICICI Venture

PRIVATE equity investors are known to take some risks, but Renuka Ramnath is a risk-taker by a mile and more. Her investments are never sector-specific and are usually varied — for instance, she has made an investment in movie chain PVR, retailer Subhiksha, security agency Tops Security to name just three. ICICI Venture is the largest fund in the country with over $2 billion under management in private equity, buyouts, real estate and mezzanine assets, and what’s interesting is that it has a diversified portfolio. So, it has invested in real estate (Kolte-Patil), retail (Shopper’s Stop and Pantaloon), banking (Centurion Bank of Punjab), life sciences (Biocon), entertainment (Miditech), hospitality (Mars Restaurant which runs Not Just Jazz by the Bay, Dosa Diner et al and also Sachin Tendulkar’s restaurant in Mumbai), textile (Welspun India) and so forth. In her nearly two decades at ICICI, Ramnath has headed the corporate and equities business of ICICI Securities and its e-commerce arm, ICICI Eco-net, which was merged with ICICI Venture in 2001. Even as the PE industry tries to get access across sectors in growth-bound India, big and small players could learn a lesson or two from how Ramnath has steered ICICI Venture towards being the largest fund in the country — and growing. This mother of two also believes it is important to use her position of power judiciously.

Preetha Reddy Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Group

FOR someone who studied art at the famed Kalakshetra in Tamil Nadu, running a hospital couldn’t have come easy. In fact it happened quite by accident for 50-year-old Preetha Reddy. She was a stay-at-home mom till 1989, and only when her sister got married and moved to Hyderabad did Reddy step in as deputy managing director, Apollo Hospitals Group. Five years later, she became its managing director. Today, Apollo has made the cut as the largest healthcare group in Asia. Not armed with a fancy B-School degree, this amateur artist says she’s learnt on the job. And much of that has been observing her father at work and listening carefully to people around her. Today, Apollo is the largest healthcare group in Asia, with over 8,000 beds in 41 hospitals, besides a pharmacy chain and clinics.

Reddy is the eldest in a line of four daughters and all of them now play key roles in the business. She also makes time to be the mother of two boys.

Radhika Roy Managing Director, NDTV

AS board member of NDTV and alter ego to Prannoy Roy, she is one of the most low profile lady board members in India Inc. But make no mistake little happens in NDTV without her say.

Roy, an English graduate from Delhi University and a qualified speech pathologist from Oldrey Fleming School in London, also completed a course in television production from the TISCH School of Arts, New York University. She has been associated with the television media since 1988, being involved in editing, producing and writing the scripts of The World This Week and the production of the various live election and budget specials. She also has over 10 years of experience with leading publications such as The Indian Express and India Today. She has assiduously contributed in building up NDTV from a one-TV-programme firm to a media conglomerate. Those close to her affirm she is a beach and mountain person with the villas she owns in Goa and Landour in the lower Himalayas, which she frequents.

Shikha Sharma MD and CEO, ICICI Prudential

STARTING her career with ICICI in 1980, Shikha Sharma wound her way up through various divisions and channels — project finance, corporate planning and resource raising — to ultimately find her groove as managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Prudential. Thanks largely to Sharma’s disciplined stewardship, ICICI Prudential has managed to establish itself as the country’s leading private life insurer. Of the 20 policies sold, 16 are still sold by LIC. ICICI Prudential sells one — no mean achievement given that there are a dozen other private insurers also jostling for a piece of the pie. An IIM-A alumnus, between 1992 and 1997, Sharma was involved in setting up ICICI Securities. In April 1997, she was appointed general manager for strategic planning, policy department and information technology. And in 1998, she was appointed senior general manager of ICICI as well as the managing director of ICICI Personal Financial Services before finally taking charge of ICICI Prudential. It is under her stewardship that ICICI Prudential Life pioneered the multi-channel distribution model that involves bank tie-ups, corporate agents, brokers and advisors.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw CMD, Biocon

REFERRED to as the ‘Mother of Invention’ by New York Times, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps of working in breweries. But when she realised that women were not welcome in the field in India, she pursued her other interest — biology. Today she is the chairperson and managing director of India’s largest biotechnology company, Biocon Ltd. Mazumdar-Shaw did her B Sc in zoology in 1973 and later joined Ballarat University in Australia, qualifying as a master brewer. She began her career as a trainee in Carlton & United Beverages in 1974. In 1978, she joined as trainee manager with Biocon Biochemicals Ltd in Ireland. The same year marks the genesis of Biocon Ltd. With a capital of Rs 10,000, she collaborated with an Irish company. She successfully extracted from papaya an enzyme used to tenderise meat, among other things, and from the swim bladders of tropical fish a collagen that helped clear beer. Biocon soon turned from an industrial enzymes company to an integrated biopharma company. In 2004, when Biocon came up with an IPO, its issue was over-subscribed over 30 times. She has also been felicitated with the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan.

Pooja Shetty Wholetime Director on the Board of Adlabs Films

Attractive and slim Pooja Shetty is the new age woman in the boardroom. While father Shetty built up Adlabs from a film-processing firm to a million dollar end-to-end business was conservative in approach. The daughter brings on board a fresh risk taking approach that is not averse to barter control for growth. As with many children of entrepreneurs America is the choice for a higher degree in Pooja’s case its Purdue University. She is known to work long hours and her management style is hands on with an emphasis on innovating ideas. After selling off their firm Adlabs to Anil Ambani, Shetty has still got her sight firmly fixed on the entertainment world. Movies are her passion and the lady has her hands full. Four films are already on the floor in various stages of production. The smaller screen is her new interest. With a stake in Siddharth Basu’s Synergy Production House there is now a focus on making content for television.

However the big challenge in front of this new-age corporate woman will be in finding and keeping talent in fiercely competitive and increasingly expensive entertainment business. As for unwinding, the 28-year-old is known to prefer Las Vegas! Enough said.

Mallika Srinivasan Director, TAFE

MALLIKA Srinivasan’s life and career proves that entrepreneurship has nothing to do with convention. The two can co-exit. Born to a convention-bound southern business family, she wanted to work in her father’s Tractor & Farm Equipment company. So what if, before her, TAFE, the country’s second-largest tractor manufacturer, the flagship of the $630 million Chennai-based Amalgamations Group was controlled only by the Srinivasan clan’s male heirs? Rarely if ever, was the dynastic control of a family-run business ever left in the hands of a daughter. But her case is different. Armed with an MBA from Wharton, and with both her father and her husband (she married into the TVS group) by her side, she joined TAFE as a general manager in 1986 and within a few years, TAFE’S turnover increased from Rs 85 to Rs 700 crore. In her two decades as director at TAFE, she has transformed the company through innovative products and processes, multiplying revenue by a factor of 30. For starters, Srinivasan invested substantially in research and development. TAFE introduced the trend of rolling out newer models of tractors and farm equipment into the market every year just as car companies do. Indeed, since 2002, TAFE has introduced over two dozen variants. So if in 2002 about 40% of TAFE’s domestic sales came from new products, this statistic now stands at 63%. The gamble no doubt is paying off. Revenues have increased from less than US $20 million in 1986 to US $660 million in 2006.

Ashu Suyash MD and Country Head, Fidelity Fund Management India

ASHU Suyash heads the Indian branch of Fidelity, the world’s largest fund manager. Fidelity Fund Management, an arm of Fidelity International Ltd, along with Fidelity Management & Research Company, Boston, US, has $1.2 trillion assets under management. And Suyash took over as head of its mutual funds business in India in 2004.

A chartered accountant by qualification, Suyash, 37, brings with her over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry. She has earlier worked with Citicorp Brokerage India Ltd as CEO (1996-1998) and as head of investor sales (1998-2000). She also did a year’s stint with Timesofmoney.com. Before her present job, she was head of strategy and business development for Citigroup in India. Suyash recently relaunched Fidelity’s flagship equity scheme, Fidelity Equity Fund, with the objective of shifting focus from new fund offers (NFOs) to existing schemes.

Now, it is following that up with the launch of Fidelity Growth Fund, an equity fund that targets fast-growing companies. Suyash lays stress on the primacy of the customer, who she describes as the company’s reality check. In an interview, the Mumbai-based fund manager is believed to have said: “I don’t think I have a mindset. It means I am always open to ideas, which I look upon as my strength.”

Laila Tyabji Chairperson, Dastkarm

CLASS comes naturally to Laila Tyabji. The chairperson of the NGO Dastkar, that bridges the gap between the finesse of an artisan and the free market is credited with making some of the finest Indian artifact accessible. Young at heart vivacious and engaging on many subjects beyond art, Tyabji is known for her fondness for the sari. The sari has been almost an obsession with her and she has been its best brand ambassador. Few can carry a sari off more elegantly. A walking encyclopedia on textiles, she can hold forth on the meaning of texture, the richness of colour and all this mixes with a subtle understanding of style. If there ever was a designer who does not design it will have to be her. As a single woman she has charted a bold artistic course that is at once rigorous and bohemian. In her management style there are two challenges — communicating with the rural folk artist and the urbane corporate buyer. This is easier said that done. For many years hers was a lonely journey. Lately, with art picking up in sync with the Indian economy, things have changed. These days there is demand from corporate and collectors as well as consumers and to meet it she has added staff to Dastakar — improved avenues where the merchandise is displayed and added depth to the materials on offer. A self-driven individual who is zestful in all she does, those who know her closely swear by her commitment to detail. She also has that rare quality in spotting NGO partnership for growth. Tyabji has worked with institutions other than her own and made them grow. A case in point is her celebrated work with SEWA where she has worked to cut the middleman out of those who wanted to improve their standards of living. This openness of outlook is her trademark and has helped in finding innovative solutions that would make any management consultant proud.

Sangeeta Talwar Executive Director (Marketing), Tata Team

TWENTY eight years ago, in 1979, Sangeeta Talwar entered the corporate world as a product manager in Nestle. She hasn’t looked back since. Talwar went on to head its marketing operations as executive vice-president and later moved on as the CEO of Mattel, the toy giant responsible for the South Asian region! After a year’s sabbatical, in 2004, she took over as the executive director of Tata Tea, ready to juggle the sales and marketing initiatives of the global tea major. She was entrusted with creating a global footprint for a company that enjoys a substantial presence in over 35 countries worldwide. By any mean measure the task would have seemed formidable. But not for Talwar.

Thanks to her efforts, Tetley and Tata Tea went on to be integrated successfully. Her brand management strategy worked equally well.

Lest we miss — her name is also synonymous with the 2-minute-wonder — Maggi, the brand that she successfully launched for Nestle. A marketing graduate from IIM Kolkata, Talwar has significant international experience to her credit. As part of the Nestle group she was offered the opportunity to join its international headquarters in Switzerland as marketing advisor on the coffee, confectionary and biscuits businesses.

Known for her innovative methodology, Talwar believes in “spreading the idea virus.” She is known to have said “often most innovations do not emanate from the idea source. One of the easiest methods to ensure that varied applications of the idea are fed into the innovation process is to treat the idea like a virus and spread it quickly within the organisation. This must be done regardless of the functional barriers in the organisation.” Now that’s an idea that seems to have worked for her.

Usha Thorat Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India

AS deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Usha Thorat has been known to push for the financial inclusion of “unbanked” Indians. Born on February 20, 1950, Thorat received her master’s degree in economics from Delhi School of Economics. She joined the Reserve Bank in April 1972, and has worked there in various capacities since then. She now often cracks the whip on banks that are reluctant to facilitate banking for the less privileged. After the floods in Bihar and Orissa earlier this year, she pushed bankers to mitigate the plight of flood victims by offering them loans.

She has been on the boards of Bank of Baroda, Indian Overseas Bank and the Securities Trading Corporation of India. Thorat was on several committees of RBI and is also member of the Committee on Global Financial Systems of the Bank for International Settlements.

One of the things that the central bank has done since November 2005, the month Thorat was appointed deputy governor, is to ask banks to make available no-frills savings accounts. About 6,000,000 no-frills accounts have opened between March 2006 and 2007. It perhaps helps that Thorat’s husband, YSP Thorat is the Chairman of NABARD, and is involved in providing credit to the poor.

The deputy governor is a yoga enthusiast and also interested in bird watching.

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