Take a look at India’s 25 most influential women and their success stories.
Saina Nehwal, Badminton
She won India its third medal at the London Olympics and the first ever in badminton; and is currently the second best badminton player in the world. Nehwal already holds the title for the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championships and the first Indian to win a Super Series tournament. In a country where cricket is the only sport synonymous with moolah, she became India’s highest-paid non-cricketing sportsperson when she signed a $7.4 million deal with Rhiti Sports in 2012. Her unrelenting success and indefatigable dedication has inspired a lot of youngsters to ditch the cricket bat and take up the badminton racquet, bringing a much-needed change in attitude towards the sport.
Kareena Kapoor Khan, Actor
Kareena Kapoor Khan Pataudi is the highest paid female celebrity in India with earnings of Rs 73.47 crore in 2012. Her golden run at the box office continued post marriage with Talaash raking in about Rs 75 crore net in ten days. Besides notching up hits at the box-office she endorses over 16 big ticket brands making her the most sought after face in the ad space amongst Bollywood actresses.
Reshma Shetty, Managing Director, Matrix India Entertainment Consultants
As the founder and managing director of one of the best talent management agencies in the country, Reshma Shetty is the woman every actor worth his or her salt in Bollywood would like to manage their careers. Her star studded clientele comprises the who’s who of Bollywood, including Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sanjay Dutt and Kareena Kapoor Khan to name a few. One look at the surging career graph of these actors and you need no more proof of Shetty’s genius as a image builder par excellence. She is considered to be single-handedly responsible for turning around the bad boy image of Salman Khan, transforming him into the much-loved Dabaang Khan that he is today.
Ekta Kapoor, Joint MD, Balaji Telefilms
With an income of Rs 213 crore Kapoor, the driving force behind Balaji has clawed her way back to the top in 2012. Besides delivering on her financial commitments, she won critical acclaim for the success of The Dirty Picture, which netted Rs 82 crore at the box office and made Vidya Balan a bonafide star.
Balaji Telefilms, a company she started at the age of 19, created Bade Achhe Lagte Hain which airs on Sony Entertainment Television and is the biggest hit soap on TV today. She is determined to strike a balance between the small and big screens. There are a series of big releases lined up for 2013 including Lootera, Once Upon a Time Again and Shootout at Wadala.
Chitra Ramakrishna, Joint MD, National Stock Exchange
On April 1, 2013 Ramakrishna will take charge as Managing Director and CEO of the National Stock Exchange, becoming the first woman to head the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the second woman to head a top bourse in India. Ramakrishan, a chartered accountant, has been with NSE since its inception in 1991. She was part of a five-member team selected by the Government of India and tasked with the creation of a modern screen-based pan-Indian stock exchange. She was also part of a team formed to draft the legislative framework for Sebi. She takes charge at a time when NSE faces tough competition from other bourses.
Zia Mody, Managing Partner, AZB & Partners
As the founder and senior partner of AZB and Partners, Mody is considered a legal giant and one of India’s foremost corporate attorneys whose counsel sought, and kept, by India’s high and mighty. AZB & Partners advises the most influential companies in India and is usually their first point of call in any major merger and acquisition transaction. Her focus remains on ensuring the continued dominance of AZB in the legal market and to be seen as the natural firm to turn to for strategy, with hopefully flawless execution.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman and MD, Biocon
She started the company to make industrial enzymes in her garage in 1978, with seed capital of Rs 10,000. Today Biocon is Asia’s largest biopharma concern, worth $566 million. In 2004 this self-taught entrepreneur was named the richest woman in India with a net worth of Rs 2,000 crore. Not only is she an astute businesswoman but is also considered one of Asia’s top philanthropists, donating millions to charities that make medicines available to the poor.
Shikha Sharma, CEO, Axis Bank
The Managing Director and CEO of Axis Bank is a three-decade veteran of Indian banking and one of only two women to run a private bank in India. During her 29-year-long career with ICICI, she built ICICI Prudential from the ground up and went on to lay the foundations of ICICI Bank’s personal financial services. Under her the bank’s assets grew 30 per cent in 2012-13 to $55bn.
Chanda Kochhar, MD, CEO, ICICI Bank
In 2009 she became the youngest CEO and first woman to head ICICI bank, the second-largest lender in India. She oversees assets of $93 billion, more than 2,750 branches in India and the bank’s presence in 19 countries. Her prime focus remains pursuing new strategies and prioritising day-to-day banking business through its branches rather than big-ticket deals. Under her leadership ICICI was declared the best retail bank in India for five consecutive years.
Vinita Bali MD, Britannia Industries
As the face of Britannia for the last six years, Bali has gone all out in her efforts to promote nutrition. She is the only Indian on the 27-member United Nations committee set up to lead the ‘Scaling up Nutrition’ movement globally. She is passionate about fighting malnutrition and over the years has created a market for healthy food products. During her seven-year tenure, Bali has breathed new life into brand Britannia.
Nita Ambani, Chairman, Dhirubhai Ambani Foundation
Despite being married to Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani, she has created an identity of her own as an astute businesswoman. She sits on the Board of hotel operator East India Hotels and also leads a number of enterprises such as the Reliance Foundation, the Dhirubhai Ambani International School and the IPL team, Mumbai Indians. The wife of India’s richest man is also a committed philanthropist. Ambani heads Project Drishti, a Reliance Foundation and the National Association for the Blind (NAB) initiative that helps provide eyesight to blind people from the underprivileged segment, free of cost.
Vanitha Narayanan, MD, IBM India
With her appointment as the new Managing Director of global technology solutions company IBM India in January 2013, Narayan became the third woman – after Neelam Dhawan (HP) and Kumud Srinvasan (Intel India) – to head a large multinational technology firm in the country in recent times. Narayanan is dedicated to bringing women leaders to the forefront as the executive sponsor for developing women’s leadership in IBM’s India/South Asia region and a member of IBM’s Multicultural Women’s Network.
Kumud Srinivasan, President, Intel India
In January 2013 she was appointed the first woman president of the $54 billion computer chip maker Intel Corp. in India. Srinivasan, who joined Intel in 1987, has spent more than 25 years at the company, holding several business and information systems positions. Her current focus is to take India to the next level as a centre for innovation besides R&D and also realise its true worth in terms of its market potential
Naina Lal Kidwai, President, FICCI & Country Head, HSBC
When the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India took over as the new President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in December 2012, she became the first woman to head the leading industry body. Over the years Kidwai has established herself as one of India’s best bankers, a shrewd negotiator with a talent for anticipating new sectors of growth. Kidwai was awarded the Padma Shri for her contribution to Indian trade and industry.
Roshni Nadar Malhotra, CEO, HCL Corporation
Nadar, 31, HCL CEO and executive director, is tipped to take over the reins of HCL Corporation-the holding company of the $6.2 billion HCL Group-from father Shiv Nadar. As CEO and Executive Director of the HCL Corporation, she is responsible for strategic decisions regarding the overall direction of the corporation. The vision and strategy for the HCL brand and the Shiv Nadar Foundation and its related brands are guided by her as well. Nadar has been at the helm of the VidyaGyan School project which runs two free boarding schools in Uttar Pradesh for bright children from the economically weaker sections of society.
Rakhee Kapoor, Business Manager, Yes Bank
Kapoor, 25, is the heir apparent to the fourth largest private sector bank in India. After two short stints as an investment banker in the US, Kapoor returned to work as an intern in her father’s bank. In her present capacity as the business manager, she is responsible for building the Yes brand for a new generation of consumers. Kapoor, who holds a MBA degree from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, was among the three undergraduate students selected to matriculate into the MBA programme directly.
Nisaba Godrej, President, Human Capital and Innovation, Godrej Industries
In the last couple of years, Nisaba Godrej, the younger daughter of Adi Godrej and President Human Capital and Innovation, has emerged as a likely successor to her father, as and when he decides to step down. She has changed the way the company functions by bringing in a more performance-oriented culture. She is said to have brought in fresh talent to give the company a much-needed makeover. She heads the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and is on the Board of Directors of Godrej Consumer Products, Godrej Agrovet.
Jayanti Chauhan, Director, Bisleri Group
Chauhan is preparing to take over operations of the 1,000-crore Bisleri brand from her father Ramesh Chauhan. The former fashion stylist worked at her father’s company for a brief while in 2009 before she left to pursue a Masters in Arabic from London. After travelling across the globe, she returned to put to rest rumours of a company buy-out and with the “perspective and motivation” to take forward her father’s legacy. Chauhan’s long-term goals include capturing 100 per cent of the Indian market, taking Bisleri overseas and making it an international brand.
Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini India
As CEO of Capgemini India, Jayanthi is responsible for the company’s consulting, outsourcing and professional service target. Under Jayanthi’s leadership, the company’s India operations grew phenomenally, with the 30,000-strong head count soon surpassing that of its headquarters in France. Jayanthi is responsible for leading the consulting, technology services and outsourcing services for Capgemini India that has about 40,000 employees.
Zahabiya Khorakiwala, MD, Wockhardt Hospitals
The 30-year-old joined her father’s business as an executive director after financial difficulties forced the patriarch to sell ten hospitals in 2009. Six months later she was appointed Managing Director of Wockhardt Hospitals with eight hospitals under her watch. She is now overseeing the rebuilding of the Wockhardt hospitals network. Keeping her busy right now is a Rs 350 crore state-of-the-art hospital slated to open up in south Mumbai by the end of June this year.
Aisha De Sequeira, MD, Morgan Stanley India Investment Banking
As head of investment banking at Morgan Stanley India, she is considered to be one of the most influential women in India’s financial industry. De Sequeira, who joined Morgan Stanley in 1995, feels tough times and volatile markets are best to build client relationships. Under her leadership, Morgan Stanley worked on 10 transactions in 2012 as compared to five by its closest rival.
Mallika Srinivasan, CEO, TAFE
In a traditionally male-dominated business of tractor manufacturing, Srinivasan heads Tractor and Farm Equipment (TAFE) and is determined to further her father’s legacy. Under her leadership, the company’s turnover grew from Rs 86 crore in 1985 to Rs 5,800 crore in 2011, making it the second largest tractor manufacturing company in India and the third largest in the world. TAFE rose to the second number position after she made the smart move of acquiring Eicher Motors in 2005.
Kirthiga Reddy, Head, Facebook India
She heads Facebook India, where the number of users has grown by 150 per cent to notch 65 million users. Under her leadership, Facebook India has managed to not only grow its user base but also make significant contribution to its global business. Success mantra “Don’t be afraid to take risks. In risks will come your biggest opportunities. Be realistic and be prepared for any outcome while giving your best to whatever you do. “
Neelam Dhawan, MD, Hewlett Packard India
Dhawan was among the first women to head a technology firm in the country, when she was appointed India head of the world’s largest software company, Microsoft in 2005. She took over the India operations of computer-maker Hewlett Packard in 2008, and has managed to navigate the firm through choppy waters to take on Lenovo and Dell. Dhawan managed to successfully navigate turbulent market conditions in the first half of 2012 where a free fall of the rupee and a scam-ridden, policy paralysed govt slowed the economy which in turn decelerated private investment and delayed decisions on contracts.
Abanti Sankaranarayanan, Managing Director, Diageo
She serves as the Managing Director of Diageo, the world’s largest spirits manufacturing company. Well known for her expertise in brand marketing, Sankaranarayanan is responsible for spearheading Diageo India’s ambitious expansion plans. Prior to joining Diageo, Sankaranarayanan was Executive Director and Deputy CEO at Mount Everest Mineral Water (a Tata enterprise), where she was responsible for crafting the Tata Group’s foray into the bottled water segment.