When experience speaks and domain dons exchange insights, solutions-based thinking gets triggered. This was an inescapable takeaway from the just concluded power-packed sessions culminating this Friday evening with the Express Awards For Women Entrepreneurs or just ExpressAWE to the many participating.
After a welcome address by Roshun Povaiah, the editor of Financial Express Online, who shared a flavour of the things to unfold, there was Jayanti Dalmia, the national president of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FICCI FLO) on how rich dividends accrue when contribution of women is enhanced in the economic development of a nation. Sanjay Sindhwani, the CEO of Indian Express Online shared the imperatives that triggered the instituting of the ExpressAWE last year in partnership with FICCI FLO and how deeply Financial Express Online felt the need to not just recognise and honour women entrepreneurship but to also offer a wholesome package. Getting some of the finest entrepreneurs to share insights and help broaden the horizon on the possibilities that lie ahead and to let women entrepreneurs trust their gut and take informed decisions.
Taking off from there was an insightful conversation between Indra Nooyi, author and former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo and Anant Goenka, executive director of the Indian Express Group on a range of elements the spur and hinder women entrepreneurship.
They began by discussing the crucial role that affordable childcare can play in facilitating parents to retain their paid work. It is an area that is engaging Indra Nooyi’s attention at the moment, apart from the several things that occupy her mindspace.
Here are some nuggets from her invaluable insights: in the context of India, she felt “some sort of a maternity leave fund has to be created at the government level.” Giving the example from the US, she said, “one thing that works in the US is social security system and medicare.”
In a world dominated by men, especially in the arena of venture capitalists or investors, she felt, “we have to change the mindset of men”. It is to make them see merit in “evaluating the idea and not the gender behind the idea.”
She did not see the current narrative on unemployment and economic challenges of US as a correct reading of the developments there and pointed out that “everybody is focused on the tech layoffs but then we also have 11 million jobs going abegging in the US.”
She does see India as a bright spot and feels, “if India can get its investment in infrastructure right and seeing all the things it is doing, India could be unbeatable in the next decade or so.”
There were lot many other takeaways from the conversation but then it may be worth looking at the subsequent interaction that Anant Goenka engaged in with the grand jury members for the Express awards for those from the ‘established category’ – entities that were in existence for more than a decade. It was a discussion around the ‘power of her’ and what both, women and men, need to watch out for and guard against.
In discussion with Goenka were the grand jury members – Zia Mody, co-founder and managing partner, AZB &; Partners and Meher Pudumjee, chairperson, Thermax. Preetha Reddy, executive vice-chairperson, Apollo Hospitals
A link node running across was the need to align the interests of the women at home with the opportunities and on creating an awareness on where to begin. The discussion covered a range of aspects that had a bearing on women entrepreneurship – be it the urban and rural divide in the mindset and the role it played in letting women have the power over the purse to the maternity and paternity leave options and why it may have to be a more flexible, case-to-case approach in deciding over matters relating to maternity leave or work from home. Zia Mody, who has been a proponent of having KRAs for HR managers on retention of women in workforce says, she has gone a step further in the designing of the brief for the recruiters so they ensure 40 to 50 per cent of candidates who get to engage with HR are women. The nub was really about providing the initial enablers to ensure there is fair play and all men and women get a chance to present themselves and then to let the most meritorious win. Deepak Parekh felt encouraging women entrepreneurs was not just the right things to do but was good for the future of the country and that today there is talent available, as also the willingness and ability, the gap was only in getting to know how and where to begin. Agreeing, Zia Mody felt, educating the men would play a crucial role as a lot could change if more could imbibe the Australian concept of ‘male champions of change.’
Both Meher Pudumjee and Deepak Parekh saw technology playing a great enabler of change. Pudumjee pointed to how post COVID and triggered by technology that made work from home a possibility even for manufacturing companies, she saw it encouraging many women to come back into the workforce after a pullback during the pandemic. She however saw the need for a more enabling policy environment on maternity leave as it had to be one that encouraged and not hindered men from hiring women. While none of them were of the view that women needed any special treatment and it is merit that had to matter, however Zia Mody felt, in the beginning, one may have to do a little more for women given the societal structure. The minute, women start getting a sense of empowerment, it will have a ripple effect as she will have a greater say in educating the girl child also.
After a rather engrossing discussion, there was the turn for the much-awaited part of the evening – the Express Awards for Women Entrepreneurs:
Here, the winners were as follows:
– E-commerce: Anita Lal, Founder & Creative director, Good Earth.
– Social Impact: Shaheen Mistri, CEO, Teach ForIndia.
– Education & Skill Development: Lina Ashar, founder emeritus, Kangaroo Kids.
– Fashion & Lifestyle: Mira Kulkarni, founder and managing director, Forest Essentials.
– Finance: Soumya Rajan, founder & CEO, Waterfield Advisors.
– Pharma: Suchitra K. Ella, co-founder and managing director, Bharat Biotech International.
– Wellness: Vandana Luthra, founder, VLCC Group.
– Hospitality: Kainaz Messman Harchandrai, founder & creative director, Theobroma.
– Legacy Spin off: Dr Lakshmi Venu, managing director, Sundaram-Clayton Limited and deputy managing director, TAFE Motors and Tractors Limited.
– Lifetime Achievement: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, executive chairperson, Biocon Limited &; Biocon Biologics Limited.
– Promising FICCI FLO Entrepreneur (selected by FICCI FLO): Dr Harjinder Kaur Talwar, founder & CEO, Comvision Group
That apart, there were the winners for the ‘rising category’ – ventures in existence for less than a decade – and these were selected by a jury that comprised of members, who were the award winners under the ‘established category’ last year and they included – Ameera Shah, managing director, Metropolis Healthcare; Anita Dongre, founder of the House of Anita Dongre; Anu Acharya, CEO, mapmygenome, Chetna Gala Sinha, founder and chairperson, Mann Deshi Bank and Mann Deshi Foundation; and Lavanya Nalli, vice-chairperson, Nalli Group of Companies and the winner of the legacy spin-off award last year.
The winners in the rising category were:
– Travel & hospitality: Ankita Sheth, co-founder, StayVista Private Ltd.
– Health & wellness: Shauravi Malik & Meghana Narayan, Co-founders, Wholsum Foods Private Ltd.
– Fashion & Lifestyle: Rachna Jaiswal, founder/director, AKJ Industries Private Ltd.
– Technology: Prerna Kalra, CEO & co-founder, Daalchini Technologies Private Ltd.
– Education & Skill Development: Vidhu Goyal, co-founder, WONK.
– Education & Skill Development: Pooja Sharma Goyal, co-founder, COO, Avishkaar.
– Social Impact: Khushboo Jain, co-founder and COO, Impact Guru Technology Ventures Private Ltd.
The evening concluded with a vote of thanks by Maloo Natarajan from the FICCI-FLO National Governing Body.