THE ASTUTE BANKER
In her graduation days, Shikha Sharma had to settle for Economics since her choice of subject, Physics was not available at the Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi. Thank God it wasn’t, otherwise India would have been kept from witnessing the phenomenon Shikha is. This Managing Director and CEO of Axis Bank, in a short period of time, has effectively changed the face of the principally corporate lending and retail liability portfolio of the bank into a full-service, end-to-end financial institution with sustained profitable growth at the centre stage.
Daughter of an officer in the Indian Army, Sharma travelled all over the country and attended seven schools in as many cities before finishing her schooling from Loreto Convent in Delhi and MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. Under her management, the bank has been growing at a steady pace and the stock price is at its lifetime high. After assuming the office in June 2009, she formulated the “Vision 2015” document and has reached most of the milestones she set for the bank. The group of products has widened along with the retail business growth and the systems and processes have been streamlined.
A Hindi movie buff, Sharma generally loves watching film with a happy ending. She is also a sea food junkie and a trained Hindustani classical singer, Sharma has also learnt classical music.
MY LOVELY LADY
Occasionally, a single incident can toss a woman into the headlines, establishing her as a leader of one of the most successful business empires. Savitri Devi is one such woman whose life changed after the death of her husband O P Jindal in 2005, and she was appointed the Chairperson of Jindal Industries. Having no clue about the business, she took charge with a view to unite her four sons; little did she know that she would become the wealthiest woman in Asia.
A simple woman draped in saree, who had devoted her entire life bringing up nine children, is now the 4th wealthiest mother in the world. Savitri Devi didn’t have the slightest clue about her husband’s wealth till the year he died. She is an organized and self-composed woman who is always seen wearing a charming smile on her face.
Being closely associated with Haryana, she was appointed as the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and also served as the Minister of Power in the Haryana Government till 2010. Keeping the company’s legacy of setting up a school and a hospital every time a factory was set up, the Vidya Devi Jindal School, a residential school for girls in Hisar was built by Savitri Devi.
WIZARD OF YARNS
Ritu Kumar, the veteran Indian fashion designer, is one of the first to make traditional wears a trendy affair. She is famed for her fusion of vintage weaves with the contemporary designs. The first lady of fashion plays around with leather, silk and cotton effortlessly to create a masterpiece. She has reinvented Indian pathanis, kurtis and saris and has taken the Indian craftsmanship to an international level.
Having been in the fashion industry for nearly four decades, Kumar has carved out a niche for herself with the unique use of colours, fabrics, motifs, embroideries and rich Indian aesthetic. She has been hailed for her initiatives in reviving traditional Indian weaves such as Zardosi and Chickenkari that were once patronized by the Mughals and Nawabs but were fading into the oblivion.
Kumar, who began her career with just four hand block printers and two tables in a small village near Calcutta, has had a dramatic rise. She has received Padma Shri for her contributions in the field of fashion, textile and craftsmanship.
Thank heavens that Kumar, who is an institution in herself, happened to India!
MAKER OF PRESTIGE
With a view to streamline all branding and communication-related initiatives, Uzma Irfan took over the role of Director, Corporate Communications at the Prestige Group in 2007. Since then, the Prestige Group has grown by leaps and bounds, and she is majorly credited for spiraling the public image of the brand during the rapid expansion and diversification phase.
Currently responsible for Marketing Communication, Corporate Communication, Branding and all image-related initiatives for the Prestige Group, Uzma has also established a media-buying house “Sublime” to help manage the diverse and voluminous advertising needs of the Prestige Group.
Soon after Sublime, she founded “Sublime Galleria”, which is said to be India’s first sky gallery in UB City in 2010. The Galleria is an initiative to support and promote both performing and fine arts. It regularly organizes exclusive art pageants featuring the work of both young and upcoming artists as well as renowned masters of art.
One of the most enterprising women in the real estate industry in Southern India, Uzma is a lady of strict deadlines and perfection!
FIRST LADY OF INDIAN IT
Mother, wife and MD, Neelam Dhawan plays all the roles with the same enthusiasm. The MD of Hewlett-Packard India is a woman of grit and determination, and it is sheer passion that has made her reach the pinnacle of success. As the MD of Hewlett-Packard India, she is responsible for revenues and profitability, and ensuring the greatest leverage from HP’s Services, Personal Systems, and Imaging and Printing businesses.
Neelam holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi and a Masters in Business Administration from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University.
She was also 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.
Neelam effectively took over the India operations of the computer-maker Hewlett Packard in 2008, and has scripted several success stories since then. She has also piloted the firm through rough times to take on rivals like Lenovo and Dell, and through the unstable market conditions in the first half of 2012 where a free fall of the rupee and scams deterred the economy, and decelerated private investment. She has worked on shaping the company’s overall business agenda, and leading its strategy and corporate development efforts to make HP the most admired company in India.
Even as Neelam focuses on her career, family remains her priority. She spends quality time with her husband and kids.
MISTRESS OF MACHINE
Mallika Srinivasan is one of the few who is working to make farming a less tedious task for the Indian farmers through her designs and innovations. She is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of TAFE – Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited. Tractor manufacturing is considered a tough business; however, she has made a name for herself in the competitive business and is regarded as one of the most successful CEOs in India.
TAFE is the third-largest tractor manufacturer in the world, and the second-largest in India, by volume, with a presence in over 82 countries.
She is relentlessly working towards introducing a technology that is conducive to small farms. She has also changed the face of the company by rolling out new cost-effective products. Srinivasan also stresses upon the technology being relevant to the farmers.
A perfectionist by nature, Srinivasan always interacts with the farmers to take their opinion as she feels their feedback would give a clearer picture. She also promotes the cause of development of education and healthcare in India. A Padma Shri awardee, she believes in commitment and excellence.
Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi of PepsiCo has a phenomenal career track record! She has smoothly steered PepsiCo over the years through various transformations, and has established herself as one of the reigning monarchs of the business world.
Under her headship, PepsiCo has added several brands to its portfolio in both food and beverage sectors. It entails 22 brands, each generating more than $1 billion in estimated annual retail sales. Nooyi created headlines when in 2010 PepsiCo completed a major takeover of the Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas. This resulted in the formation of the Pepsi Beverages Company, a wholly owned subsidiary. Nooyi played key roles in the Tricon spin-off, the purchase of Tropicana in 1998 by PepsiCo and the merger with Quaker Foods.
She received a bachelor’s degree in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics from Madras Christian College in 1974 and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management (MBA) from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 1976.
Before joining PepsiCo in 1994, Indra Nooyi was Senior Vice President of Strategy and Strategic Marketing for Asea Brown Boveri, and Vice President and Director of Corporate Strategy and Planning at Motorola. She also had successful stints at Mettur Beardsell and Johnson & Johnson.
Nooyi’s dedication towards her dream and mantra of performance with purpose has gained her many followers. Her quick decision making ability and sticking to the work until it’s got accomplished is admirable.
A voracious reader, Nooyi, whenever free likes to strut at her guitar!
INSPIRING AND ASPIRING
As the Head and Director of Online Operations, Facebook India, Kirthiga Reddy has built a reputation as a driving force behind Facebook India’s market operations segment. Being the first employee of Facebook in India in 2010, not only did she make a fresh start of the Facebook operations in India, (literally opening the office shutters on the first day), but also grew the user base in the Indian sub-continent. She and her team cultivated relationships with people and reached out to new customers with a view to getting business from both big and small brands.
Her position at Facebook India is a rarity for women in the country’s Science and Technology sector, as it is an industry that remains male-dominated. She was serving the US-based Phoenix Technologies before Facebook decided to start its operations in India in the year 2010. Facebook has seen a growth from 8 million users back in 2010 to 25 million users as of now, under her leadership.
Immensely excited about her current job – which she describes as a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity job – she dreams about creating a next generation of women leaders in India, wants to work on children’s causes of education and safety, and eventually wants to make a national-level impact.
FULL OF COURAGE
One of the most powerful women in the biotechnology segment, Kiran Mazumdar chose biotechnology as a career option, something unheard of at that time in India, without the necessary infrastructure. Her first employee was a person who was a garage mechanic earlier; her model of business was untested; she didn’t have financial backup; but she moved on and started Biocon India in the garage of a rented house in 1978 with an initial investment of Rs. 10,000. Today, Biocon is a multi-million dollar brand! Biocon India released its IPO in 2004, which was over-subscribed 33 times, instantly making Kiran India’s richest woman.
With her husband, John Shaw being detected with renal cell carcinoma in 2007, she learnt how to help a family member cope with cancer. Understanding the expense of the disease and trying to make it more affordable for people across the nation, she joined hands with Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya with a view to set up a hospital in Bangalore. She believes that once you have cancer, the fear never goes away but keeping up one’s spirit is crucial.
She has been felicitated with Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan. She believes in “affordable innovations”, which is also the driving philosophy of Biocon India
THE WATER ORACLE
Despite being trained in fashion styling, make-up and photography, Jayanti Chauhan, the only child of Bisleri owner Ramesh Chauhan, decided to follow her father’s footsteps. When she took over as the director of the brand, she faced a humungous task of proving herself to the world as the rightful heir of 1,000 crore iconic bottled water brand. She did not disappoint! She took calculative steps that would not only add to the face value of the brand but also preserve its stature. She started with infusing much-needed energy into the team, ensuring that the brand does not lose out to other players in the market, and also perking up the face value of premium water brands of the company like Vedika and Bisleri.
Bisleri was the first bottled water brand to venture in India, and such is the popularity of the brand that it has become a standard name for the bottled mineral water across the country. An Italian company bought by Parle in 1969, it offers mineral and mountain water in various packs for household and office premises. Jayanti believes in providing an affordable and purified drinking water to people, and also supports eco-friendly initiatives, that helps purify the natural sources of drinking water.
Having learned the finer nuances of the business from her father, Jayanti has scripted a success story that is worth admiration.