Mukesh Ambani

A Chemical Engineer from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, Mukesh Ambani has pursued an MBA from Stanford University in the US. Being on the Board of Reliance Industries since 1977, he has played a significant role in the Group’s backward integration journey – from textiles to polyester fibres and further onto petrochemicals and petroleum refining, and going upstream into oil and gas exploration and production. Owing to his dedicated efforts in creation of multiple new world-class manufacturing facilities involving diverse technologies, Reliance’s petrochemicals manufacturing capacities have seen an increase from less than a million tonnes to about 21 million tonnes per year.

EXPANDING THE EMPIRE FAR & WIDE

In the late nineties, Mukesh Ambani not only created the world’s largest grassroots petroleum refinery at Jamnagar in Gujarat, India, with a capacity of 660,000 barrels per day (33 million tonnes a year), but also integrated it with petrochemicals, power generation, port and related infrastructure. In addition, he set up another 580,000-barrels-per-day refinery next to the first one in Jamnagar. No wonder Jamnagar emerged as the refining hub of the world with an aggregate refining capacity of 1.24 million barrels of oil per day at a single location. He also spearheaded the development of infrastructure facilities and created a pan-India organized retail network spanning multiple formats and supply chain infrastructure. Since 2006, Reliance Retail has been delivering superior value to its customers, suppliers and shareholders and has established itself as India’s largest retailer. Its network of retail outlets all across the nation, delivers a world-class shopping environment and unmatched customer experience by virtue of its state-of-theart technology and seamless supply-chain infrastructure. Extremely optimistic about the future of the nation, he applauds India’s entrepreneurial spirit. He feels that every small entrepreneur in India can become a Dhirubhai or a Bill Gates as the entrepreneurial talent in India is huge. An advocate of innovation, he asserts, “Essentially, whoever is successful, whoever is going to do things that make a difference, is going to be talked about.” He feels that business is a level playing field where everyone gets an equal opportunity to excel. “Everybody has equal opportunity and I think that is true for everything,” he says. Despite reaching the pinnacle of success, he feels that there is still a lot of scope to grow and expand. As he puts it, “I think our fundamental belief is that for us growth is a way of life and we have to grow at all times.”

DRIVING A DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Mukesh Ambani has created global records in customer acquisition for Jio – the Group’s digital services initiative. He has efficiently spearheaded the creation of one of the world’s most expansive 4G broadband wireless network offering end-to-end solutions. It caters to the entire value chain across various digital services in key domains of national interest, such as education, healthcare, security, financial services, governmentcitizen interfaces, entertainment, to name a few. He is of the view that India has a mobile network that is better or at par with any country in the world and it is all set to become a “premier digital society.” He feels that the big change driving this transformation is the deepening of mobile networks that are currently working at a much faster pace than before. “It all kick-started in 2014 when PM gave us the vision of Digital India … 380 million people have migrated to Jio’s 4G technology,” he says. “Pre-Jio, the data speed was 256 kbps; and post-Jio, it is 21 Mbps, he declares with pride. He believes that policy steps are needed to accelerate the early rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G services that are affordable and available everywhere. He is certain about the fact that 5G will enable India not only to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution but also to lead it.

ENRICHING THE WORLD

Mukesh Ambani believes in knowledgesharing and actively contributes his rich insights as a member of various national and international organizations. He is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry, Government of India, and the Board of Governors of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, India. He is also a member of The Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the Global Advisory Council of Bank of America, Stanford Global Advisory Council, McKinsey & Company International Advisory Council, The Business Council, India Advisory Group of the London School of Economics, Indo-U.S. CEOs’ Forum, International Advisory Council of The Brookings Institution and Board of Governors of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, India. He is an elected Foreign Member of the prestigious United States National Academy of Engineering. Mr Mukesh Ambani is an elected Foreign Member of the prestigious United States National Academy of Engineering. Only nine other Indians have received this honour. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University in Gujarat and India Advisory Council of The British Asian Trust.

GARNERING GLORY

Mukesh Ambani is the only Indian to be featured on Global Game Changers List of a leading international magazine. He has been awarded as Economic Times Business Leader of the Year, 2017 and has won Othmer Gold Medal by Chemical Heritage Foundation, USA in 2016. He was offered an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee in and Honorary Doctor of Science by Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai in 2013. He was conferred the title of ‘Entrepreneur of the Decade’ by All-India Management Association in 2013.

LAYING THE FOUNDATION OF A BETTER WORLD

Mukesh Ambani’s vision of an inclusive India is being realized through Reliance Foundation. Spearheaded by his better half, Smt. Nita M. Ambani, Reliance Foundation was established in 2010 to provide impetus to various philanthropic initiatives of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL). The efforts of the group have already touched the lives of more than 39.5 million people across India in more than 40,000 villages and several urban locations.

Adar Poonawalla

The CEO and Executive Director of Serum Institute of Technology, Adar Poonawalla is a perfect combination of vigor, energy, and sharp focus. The son of Dr. Cyrus S. Poonawalla, the young leader has inherited all the right and relevant qualities to run a successful business from his father, who had established the Serum Institute of Technology in 1996. Now in his position as the leader, Adar is taking his father’s vision ahead with real-time planning, smart innovation, and the zest to take the firm to newer heights of success.

STEPPING UP TO BE THE LEADER

Adar got the first-hand experience of running businesses by observing his father, who was leading one of the biggest enterprises in India today. He always learnt keenly and was motivated to be a part of the growing company. Therefore, after completing his education from the University of Westminster, he joined the company in 2001. He spent a decade across positions learning the tricks and trades of business and keeping a fine balance between the two main aspects — leader’s vision and learner’s attitude. He was then promoted to the position of CEO and now holds full control of the day-to-day operations of the company. Since then, he has taken major policy decisions that have influenced the growth of the company in a positive way.

SUCCESS LEADING TO NEW VENTURES

At the time when Adar joined the company, the Serum Institute was very much India-centric and was exporting to not more than 30-40 countries.

Adar saw it as an opportunity to expand the company’s business to other parts of the world and successfully accomplished the mission in less than three years. Since then the company’s exports have grown and now Serum Institute exports to 147 countries.

Also, In the year 2014, Adar Poonawalla initiated the launch of Serum Institute’s Oral Polio Vaccine, which went on to become the best seller for the company, and now he plans to launch a new vaccine for promoting health every year.

Lately, the institute also collaborated with University of Oxford and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for making the COVID-19 vaccine, ‘Covidshield’ and is conducting trials in India. Adar has said India’s vaccination drive may begin by January 2021 as the company is hoping to get emergency-use authorization by the end of 2020.

AN EPITOME OF MODESTY, HONESTY, AND HUMANITY

The zeal to carve a niche has made Adar the honed leader that he is today. Apart from possessing great business acumen and being socially responsible, Adar Poonawalla also happens to have had a humble upbringing; being the only child to very fortunate parents did not spoil him.

In fact, his father had been a very strict parent to him during his childhood days and taught him the human values, shouldering responsibilities, and being accountable to those around us. Adar believes that his father has been the greatest source of inspiration for him and he has learnt a lot when it comes to the way one manages people, looks at opportunities and weighs risks.

He also believes, like his father, that wasting time on something that is not worth is useless and quick decision-making is a key skill for success in business. As a socially responsible entrepreneur, Adar has invested over $20 Millions in philanthropy and for various other humanitarian causes.

Smt. Savitri Jindal

SERVING HUMANITY WITH KINDNESS & COMPASSION

The Chairperson Emeritus, OP Jindal Group, Smt. Savitri Jindal is not only renowned in Haryana and India but in the whole world as a popular leader. She has lead with grace the life of a successful wife, a successful mother, a successful politician as well as a successful entrepreneur. Even though all of her four sons are successful businessmen, they are rooted in values and their philosophy of life is of Gandhism – simplicity is their special identity. She has also successfully handled the responsibility of Ministry of Revenue and ban cal dies in ayana, in the ast he is cntibting t the field of education as the Chancellor of Jain Vishwabharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan. Her role as the President of Maharaja Agrasen Medical College, Agroha, a symbol of medical service in Southern Haryana, is being appreciated far and wide. A philanthropist to the core, she is extremely passionate about serving the society. Donning many hats with élan, Smt. Savitri Jindal is a living legend, whose life is an inspiration for one and all!

Q. You have played an important role in taking Jindal Group to great heights. Please share your experiences with our readers on how you went from being a successful housewife to a successful entrepreneur.

A. I was taking care of the house but after the sudden demise of Jindal sahib, I had to come forward to handle the business. If the shadow of a father suddenly removed from the head, then the mother has to play the role of the father. Jindal sahib left behind a legacy of keeping the society and family together in the thread of love. He had an amazing ability to take everyone along, so taking inspiration from him, I played my part as a link – both with the kids and also with the Hisar-Haryana family. I am very proud of my children, who have not only successfully handled the business following the path shown by Jindal sahib but are also living together lovingly and operating their business and family together.

In today’s environment it is difficult for two brothers to live together but it is a big thing for us that all my children are living together with love. Jindal sahib also thought that everyone should live together and our children respected his wish. We are all together. In my view, love and mutual trust are the keys to success.

Q. You are an inspiration to those women entrepreneurs who are trying their luck in various fields and aspire to achieve big goals. What is your message to them?

A. Knowledge, hard work, honesty, patience, mutual love and trust are the basic formulas of success in business. Jindal sahib used to say – “Each one belongs to us. All employees are ours, like family members.” I believe the same and my children also believe that employees are members of the family. I want to tell my entrepreneur sisters that you need to be always up to date about your businesses. Do your business with hard work and honesty; if you do not cheat on anyone, then God also helps you and you move forward.

Q. Despite having reached the pinnacle of success, you remain grounded and humble. We, at AsiaOne, appreciate your remarkable efforts to give back to the society. Please share some of the social causes which are close to your heart.

A. As a child, I have seen my grandfather, parents, uncles and aunts and both brothers and sisters – how they used to come forward to help the needy. After marriage, I got inspired by Jindal sahib as he used to take a great interest in social work. He used to say, “God has given us a lot, so we should also do something for the society.” He laid great emphasis on education because he believed that education is the right way to attain prosperity. He always used to inspire everyone for girl child education. He used to say, “If a girl studies, then two houses will prosper and if a boy studies then only one house.”

Education and health & wellness are subjects that are very close to my heart. I would also like to share one thing that wherever we have factories, we have built schools, colleges, and hospitals for the kids of workers so that they can study. Basically, our aim is to ensure that they can learn employable skills so that they may get employment after completion of their studies.

Vidyadevi Jindal Residential School, OP Jindal School, OP Jindal Global University, OP Jindal University – Raigarh, OP Jindal Community College are some of the initiatives through which we are trying to promote the talents of the country. Similarly, Acharya Shri Mahashraman ji has entrusted me with the responsibility of being the Chancellor of Jain Vishwabharati, which I am trying to fulfil sincerely.

As far as health is concerned, right now my focus is on the development of Maharaja Agrasen Medical College, Agroha. Apart from Haryana, people from Punjab and Rajasthan also come there for treatment. Our team did a commendable job in the COVID-19 pandemic.

I believe that only a healthy and educated person can contribute to nation building.

Q. AsiaOne Magazine, through its “Greatest Brands and Leaders Asia GCC” series, endeavors to publish the inspirational success stories of top Asian brands and leaders from around the world who have enabled Asia to acquire a special place in the world. This series will highlight the contributions of top Asian leaders, who have contributed in making this world a better place. What is your message to Mr. Rajat Shukal, Global Head and Principal Partner, AsiaOne Magazine and AsiaOne Media Group for this endeavour?

A. I congratulate Mr. Rajat Shukal ji, and your entire team for the success of this series. I also thank you all as the initiative has given me an opportunity to connect with the world community. I am very much sure that I will definitely get an opportunity to learn from all of them. Keep doing positive journalism like this, which changes the lifestyle of people and makes them happy, healthy and prosperous.

Ananya Birla

Apart from being a karmayogi, who is living the dream, she is driven by the vision to bring about a positive change in society. Her venture Svatantra Microfin supports women entrepreneurs in the rural areas to grow and become financially more secure.

PLAYING PLEASANT NOTES

Ananya always chose to do things differently. A quiet, observant and introspective child, she had an interest in music since an early age. She learnt to play santoor when she was just 11 years old. As she grew, so did her interest in music. She taught herself to play the guitar with the help of video tutorials on the web. This was the beginning of a passion that continues to grow even today. She is an acclaimed singer who writes her own songs. ‘I Don’t Want to Love’ is her much acclaimed song which first brought her to the music scene. She was signed as an artiste by the Universal Music Group (India). Her debut single ‘Livin the Life’was launched worldwide in November 2016. ‘Meant to Be’ is the second international single to be released in July 2017 & has been certified ‘PLATINUM’ as per the standards followed by the Indian music industry, which makes her the first Indian artist to go Platinum.

EMBRACING LEARNING FROM ALL DIRECTIONS

Ananya studied at the Oxford University, UK, where she pursued degrees in Economics & Management. As a student, she developed keen interest in music & started singing & playing the guitar; while still managing her microfinance venture Svatantra over Skype calls with a capable team back home in India. During her stay in London, Ananya also worked as a counsellor for a student welfare charity. She met & interacted with many young people of her age who were suffering from anxiety & depression. This experience shook her from within & after returning to India, she set up a mental health initiative called MPower along with her mother Neerja Birla. MPower works to stamp out the stigma towards people with mental illness in India. It also sensitizes people towards mental illnesses like anxiety & depression that are so common in our society today & can be controlled with family’s cooperation. She felt a greater need to start Mpower because in India, it is difficult to change perceptions related to mental health, so she decided to take up the challenge of repairing the innate conditioning of the people which perceive mental illness as an evilHer venture MPower is a timely step in this direction as it is high time to fight for rights of people with mental illness & help them to be understood & treated supportively like any other person who is unwell. Under her able leadership, The MPower centre provides holistic mental health care solutions to children, young people, and adolescents, & their families. The foundation helps people with psychological difficulties lead meaningful lives without social exclusion. It also helps create awareness by organising workshops for the youth. Ananya’s entrepreneurial instincts led her to start an e-commerce platform – Curo Carte – which is a global ecommerce platform that provides handmade & high-end luxury products, curated from nine countries. The online portal is an amalgamation of design, beauty and lifestyle & offers around 1500 products across 70 categories. An inspiration to today’s youth, Ananya Birla exemplifies the courage to let go of the comfort zone and pursue one’s dreams by working hard to be the best at each & every endeavour, and light up the way for others simultaneously.

Sania Mirza

Born to a sports journalist, Imran Mirza, Sania was introduced to the game by her mother Nasima Mirza. Touted as one of the finest doubles players in the world and without doubt the finest women’s tennis player to have ever represented India, Sania Mirza’s achievements also include laurels like Arjuna Award, WTA Newcomer of the Year, Padma Shri, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, and the Padma Bhushan to name a few. She has won 13 medals for the country. Sania is the highest ever ranked singles player in the men and women category in the last 30 years and has been ranked as 27th in singles and the world number 1 in doubles.

MAKING A MARK

Her remarkable journey is replete with memorable singles wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marion Bartoli, & Vera Zvonareva. The world number one tennis doubles player acquired this position by recording notable triumphs over the existing toppers of the sport, which included Martina Hingis, Victoria Azarenka, & Dinara Safina. Her powerful strokes and effective style of playing made Sania one of the highest-paid & extremely successful high-profile public figures not only in India but internationally as well. As the first Indian woman to win six Grand Slam titles, she has set really high benchmarks.

TENNIS – HER CHILDHOOD PASSION

Born and brought up in Hyderabad, Sania’s journey began at the age of six at Nizam Club Hyderabad. She received her initial training in tennis by C.K. Bhupathi, father of another tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi, for the initial training. After obtaining professional tennis training from Sinnet Tennis Academy, Secunderabad, Sania joined the Ace Tennis Academy in the United States. As a junior tennis player, she won 10 singles and 13 doubles titles, which proved that she was meant to make it big in the realm of tennis. Since then, there has been no looking back for the champion. In February 2005, she defeated the ninth-seeded Alona Bondarenko in the A.P. Tourism Hyderabad Open finals. This enabled her to grab a WTA title, making her the first Indian woman to have achieved this feat.

THE UNDAUNTED TRAILBLAZER

Despite financial pressures and infrastructural constraints, she chartered her distinct course to success owing to her passion for the sport. While 2007 was the golden year for the tennis player as she was ranked the highest in her career as the 27th singles player in the world; the year 2008 brought a brief halt to the player’s career while she represented India in the Summer Olympics. She got eliminated from the singles tournament at the event because of a severe wrist injury. The injury led to her withdrawal from the famed tournaments. Although it was a major injury, she didn’t stop & continued with the doubles championships.

GARNERING GLORY

The ‘Pride of the Nation’, Sania Mirza has been featured by various national and international publications. An international magazine has named her as one of the ‘50 Heroes of Asia’. She was also listed among the ET’s ‘33 women who made India proud’. Time magazine listed her as one of the ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ in 2016. Having played the singles, doubles & mixed doubles formats, she has chosen to share her wealth of knowledge and will join broadcasters Star Sports as an expert to analyze the day-to-day action of the ongoing Wimbledon for fans across the country.

Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote GCON (Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger) is a Nigerian billionaire and the founder of Lagos headquartered Dangote Group with the designation of President and Chief Executive. He is also a member of the board of the Corporate Council on Africa and the Steering Committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, the Clinton Global Initiative, the McKinsey Advisory Council, and the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. Though he was born in a wealthy business family of Nigeria – his great grandfather, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, was the richest African at the time of his death in 1955 – he was so interested in business that even in his primary school he bought cartons of sugar boxes and sold them to make money.

This gentleman’s reputation precedes him, worldwide. The richest in Africa, he also surpassed in 2013 Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi by over $2.6 billion to become the world’s richest person of African descent.

DECLARING DOMINANCE

Starting in 1978 as a trader of rice, sugar and cement with a loan of $3000 by a family member, he soon ventured into full-scale manufacturing. Focusing on meeting the basic needs of the Nigerian population by providing local, value-added products and services, he expanded the Dangote Group by leaps and bounds.

Today, he heads the multi-trillion-naira industrial conglomerate that deals in cement manufacturing, sugar refining, salt refining, oil refinery, polysacks, beverages, flour, pasta, seasoning, real estate, telecommunication, steel and fertilizers with a presence in 18 African countries and employing more than 30000 people. In the late 1990s, Dangote forayed into manufacturing consumer goods such as sugar refining and flour milling and then in cement manufacturing. One of his subsidiary companies is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange whose market capitalization is accounts for almost 20 percent of the total capitalization of the stock exchange. The visionary leader also signed a contract for the installation of a large underwater offshore pipeline with CNOOC Group.

CONCLUSIVE CONVINCING

Dangote takes a no neither easily, nor seriously. In 1990s, he got a yes from the Central Bank of Nigeria to be allowed to manage at cheaper rates their fleet of staff buses through his transport company. In July 2012, he approached the Nigerian Ports Authority and received the rights of an abandoned piece of land on lease to build facilities for his flour company. These approvals are not easy to get, but Dangote is capable of convincing others decisively.

LEADER OF PEOPLE

He is passionate about doing everything for the people of Nigeria. He encourages them to invest within the country and keep their profits or rewards with themselves. Dangote’s telecommunications project resulted in building 14,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables to supply in entire Nigeria. For this, he was honored as the leading provider of employment in Nigerian construction industry in 2009.

Acknowledging his extensive efforts towards manufacturing and employment in Nigeria, in 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him as the Chairman, National Job Creation Committee to assist the government in creating employment opportunities for Nigerians.

As a result of his global impressive contributions, recently in June 2021, he has been honoured with Cameroon’s top civilian award – the Commander of the National Order of Valour.

In 2015, he was also among “50 Most Influential Individuals in the World” list by Bloomberg Markets and also won ‘the Guardian Man of the Year 2015’ award. Additionally, he is the Chairman, National Partnership Committee of Government and Private Sector on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET); Member, Honorary International Investor Council (HIIC); a Malaria Ambassador; and Founding Board Member and Patron, Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), thus contributing towards various aspects such as skill development, good governance and reengineering of the economy, to name a few.

INTERNATIONAL LOVE

In 2013, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, along with six other eminent Nigerians, was conferred Honorary Citizenship of Arkansas State by Governor Mike Beebe, who also declared May 30 every year as Nigeria Day in the US. Dangote is not only a foremost industrialist in Africa, he is equally loved and respected abroad. He is a member of several national and foreign organizations through which he contributes to the growth and development of people of several countries.

He has been quite active in philanthropic activities including the United Nations’ World Food Programme, Clinton Global Initiative, World Economic Forum, United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Corporate Council on Africa, and many others thus contributing towards global education and eradication of polio. Dangote entrusted a $3.3 million complex to Bayero University Business School. He also donated 150 fully kitted operational cars to the Nigeria Police Force and 200 housing units to Boko Haram victims – mostly women and children. He was also associated with the board of directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative. In addition to this, he had contributed N50 million (US$ 500,000) to the National Mosque under the aegis of “Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku” and N200 million to the Presidential Library. In 2014, Dangote had donated N150 million for stopping the spread of Ebola virus.

Moreover, to speed-up the work in health, education, economic empowerment and disaster relief sectors, Dangote made an initial offering of $1.25 billion to the Dangote Foundation which now has become the largest private Foundation in sub Saharan Africa. On behalf of his foundation, he also supports stand-alone projects which have potential for significant social impact and works with state and national governments and national and domestic charities. Recently in 2020, he donated N200 million towards the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Vishwajeet Rana

Dr. Rana hails from the village of Seohara in Uttar Pradesh, India. He went to the US to acquire an MBA at Ohio University before completing his MS and a PhD at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, USA. The well-versed leader is a seasoned investment banker. He began his investment banking career in investment portfolio management at UBS Investment Banking in New York. Furthermore, while working at HSBC’s New York office, he completed a series of complicated cross border equity/debt structured investments and financing transactions in Canada, the UK, Australia, South Africa, and Hong Kong. Following a career in finance, as an Assistant Vice President at HSBC in New York, he moved to London in April 2009 to launch his career as a social entrepreneur.

Right from his childhood, Dr. Rana had an innate passion for the transformative power of education. This fascination led him to seek ways to have a tangible impact on the marginalised communities. In 2008, he decided to get actively involved in the educational field to materialize his noble ambition of making education accessible to all. To that end, he formed the Lokmani Education Trust, an active nonprofit organisation that operates two higher education institutes in India, with a focus on teaching females from the poorest and most traditionally conservative districts.

AN ANALYTICAL BENT OF MIND

Dr. Rana’s passion lies in analysing various global education models and implementing them to help students realise their full potential via higher education. Following the early visible signs of success, he saw an opportunity to provide higher education access, along the same lines, in the United Kingdom, which led him to establish and lead the Global Education Group, which is situated in the United Kingdom. Despite the differences in context, he saw clear parallels to the work he had rolled out in India. There were deprived and marginalized communities largely supported by educational institutions and consequently held back by the system. GEDU is founded by Dr. Rana and has revenue of GBP 100 million. A portfolio of its offerings include the Global Banking School, the largest non-degree awarding higher education institution listed with the Office for Students (OFS) registered in the United Kingdom, Campuses in India (Lokmani.com), Dubai (gbs.ac.ae), and Malta (gbsplus.com). Englishpath.com is another venture by GEDU in the area of apprenticeship and language schools. Since the global environment is disrupting all aspects of our lives and businesses, Dr. Rana believes social and environmental sustainability must be weighed in planning the future of today’s ambitious youth.

PROVIDING ACCESS TO GLOBAL EDUCATION

Recognising the huge social benefit derived from educating people from deprived communities, Dr. Rana began to identify areas of deprivation to create educational opportunities for individuals to pursue courses in healthcare and business– the two areas in which he excels. Consequently, he launched the Global Banking School (GBS), which has carved a niche for itself as one of the fastest growing education providers in the UK. As the Group CEO and Chair of the Executive Board, the leader has been successfully leading the institution to achieve new heights of success. With GBS, he aims to create the next generation of pioneers and trailblazers in the industry.

GBS currently has 8 campuses across the UK – from Leeds to London, with the best faculty members to educate its students. Among all the attributes of GBS, its student centered approach deserves special mention. With over 5000 new undergraduates enrolling in 2021 alone, the school is set to witness an exponential growth. Furthermore, many of those students were attracted by recommendations and reputation, with the National Student Survey awarding GBS an astounding 93% for overall satisfaction in 2021 – an outstanding achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more, considering UAE’s potential as an international educational hub in the making, Dr. Rana launched a fully-equipped GBS campus in Dubai’s Knowledge Park in 2021. It offers myriad industry-relevant courses, such as Higher Diplomas in Business Management, Digital Technology, Construction Management, and much more, to make the learners job-ready besides helping them achieve their career goals. In addition to its initial focus on finance and business, the school has diversified to offer healthcare training, which has been recognised as an asset that positively impacts local communities in a significant way. Dr. Rana’s goal is to contribute to the school’s growth and development by offering world class educational opportunities to more students from communities typically under represented in higher education. There are over 90% of students from BAME communities at this institution, a demographic which is almost unique in this sector and which is targeted not by quotas but by focusing on those who have not yet had the opportunity or background to pursue higher studies in the past. Furthermore, GBS has established a network of innovative partnerships with several UK-based universities to provide students with even greater opportunities to thrive and diversify their skills.

COMMUNITY-DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT

Keenly interested in charitable activities, he plays a proactive role in supporting literacy, numeracy, and project management in Commonwealth countries. Through his work, he has been able to provide access to higher education to over 20,000 students across the country and now globally. The benevolent leader has particularly been struck by the fact that the benefits of educational aid extend way beyond the students, through their immediate families as well as communities and ultimately to the country as a whole. Anyone who has benefited from GBS’ services can offer their skills and knowledge in a diverse range of ways, such as improving the collective capacities and expectations of the marginalised communities.

Razat Gaurav

Born and raised in northern India, Razat is a global citizen that has lived in London, Toronto, and Chicago, before most recently settling in Austin, Texas in 2021.He first came to the United States to further his education, pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.

He began his career as a management consultant after college and since then has served in executive leadership positions at several organisations, including Blue Yonder, i2 Technologies, and Ernst & Young’s management consulting practice. Additionally, he served on the Board of Directors of Sparta Systems and Llamasoft. During his tenure as the CEO of Llamasoft, Razat was instrumental in developing AI-based supply chain design and decision making products, a strategy that resulted in doubling the company’s revenue in 3 years and a successful $1.5 billion acquisition by Coupa in 2020.

In his current capacity as the CEO of Planview, Razat is helping companies transform and adapt in an increasingly complex business environment that requires a renewed focus on how to prioritize and operationalize critical initiatives across the business.

A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LEADER

Among Razat’s fundamental life quotes, is from Dr. Martin Luther King: “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” These are powerful words that have motivated him to consistently learn and adapt regardless of the circumstances, while also encouraging him to be passionate, proactive, and tenacious both in his professional and personal life. Throughout the course of his career in enterprise software, Razat has worked with and led diverse teams focused on solving customer pain points and creating more value for customers by leveraging leading technologies. These experiences have provided him with a holistic understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by executives undergoing digital transformation, along with the need to connect strategy with delivery – especially in times of great change. Major macro shifts – from digital transformation, to changing ways of working, to faster innovation cycles creating fierce competitive pressure – have highlighted the need for businesses to operate more dynamically and with greater agility than ever before. At the same time, businesses must ensure that their teams are working on the most important work for the business, aligned with company strategy. It calls for a carefully constructed strategy and a thoughtful approach to connecting work across the business.

According to Razat, “The strength of an enterprise depends on the connections between its component parts – between teams and ideas, ideas and impact, and opportunities and value.” He continues, “Removing functional, hierarchical, physical and even communication silos that block or hinder an organisation’s ability to connect its strategy to the work being delivered will be the key to navigating an increasingly changing market. Organisations that fail to do so will face significant business challenges in the near future.”

EMPOWERING TEAMS IN UNIQUE WAYS

According to Razat, organisations must create a business environment in which all employees are empowered to deliver their best work and can see how their day-today-jobs are influencing the strategic direction of the company and customer outcomes. In his opinion, this emerging future has the potential to give everyone a license to innovate and democratize data-driven decision-making in the enterprise. Simultaneously, he stresses the importance of transparency in leaders, which allows knowledge to cascade and empowers teams to make local decisions more rapidly. The highly proficient leader believes that the most influential factor in the job labor market in the recent years has been the speed at which changes have occurred. Owing to the severe shortage of talent, especially in the technology field, companies need to keep attracting, developing, and retaining their workforce. In addition, generational changes have had a profound influence on the workforce according to him.

EMPHASIZES FUTURE-DRIVEN WORK CULTURE

Razat sees the future of connected work as one centered around empowering employees to deliver their best work, no matter how they work, aligned with company strategy and in service of the organization’s most important priorities and initiatives. He also believes that creating transparency in an organization and visibility into work being done will go a long way in shaping the future of connected work, as companies can become more nimble and improve the ability to shift resources when and where they are needed to boost output. To be competitive in today’s environment, companies must create faster planning cycles. Companies must plan and replan more frequently, with more focus on bi-directional feedback between the teams doing the work and those setting company strategy. To make better strategic decisions for the company, executives need information from teams closest to the work those teams are ultimately closest to customer needs. He asserts that at the same time, leaders must be transparent in their mission and vision for the organization, cascading information to empower teams to make local decisions more rapidly. He suggests that this real-time data will enable faster planning cycles so companies can adapt to changes quickly.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTS

In 2020, Razat was recognized by Goldman Sachs as one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs. The goal-driven leader is regularly quoted in esteemed publications, such as The New York Times, Forbes and The Hill, among other top media. Razat is also involved in philanthropic and policy projects linked to medical research, STEM education for minorities, and carbon reduction measures.

Mandhira Kapur

With extensive experience in formulating marketing and branding strategies for numerous national and global brands, Mandhira has been efficiently spearheading SMPL as Chairman & Managing Director since 2020. The company, located in Gurugram (Haryana), is one of the leading automobile spare parts manufacturers in India. Her adept leadership has spurred 100% growth for SMPL, which is indeed a remarkable achievement. She is currently driving the organization’s transformational initiatives to make the brand shine bright in the aftermarket segment by creating unparalleled value for the consumers.

Mandhira is known for her dynamic skills and charismatic persona. Despite the fact that the Indian automotive market suffered a severe blow due to the onset of the pandemic in 2020, she never lost hope and stayed strong. When even the most powerful leaders in the country struggled to deal with the ongoing pandemic, she was able to guide SMPL to expand beyond its current geographic scope and cater to a broader audience during lockdown 2.0.

ENCOURAGING TEAM SPIRIT

As a leader, Mandhira exemplifies incredible team spirit. Growth in SMPL was stagnant when she took reins of the company. To combat this situation, the determined leader rallied her enthusiastic team and got SMPL back on track, eventually achieving the highest sales figure in the company. Additionally, during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, her primary concern was her team’s well being. In addition to implementing standard operating procedures to secure employee safety, she ensured that employees attending duty adhered to all safety protocols, social distancing norms, and hygiene requirements. Additionally, vaccination campaigns were also implemented under her direction by collaborating with local health authorities.

Mandhira believes that people, processes, and values are the foundation of a firm’s success. She believes that, in order for any organization to succeed, all employees must feel empowered and motivated to assume ownership of the tasks assigned to them. SMPL has open door policy where every employee is free to provide their inputs. The company treats them equally and considers them as a family, “Sona Parivaar.” She regularly engages with her employees and guides them. They also put their trust in her leadership and direction. Such a positive culture fosters organizational success, making employees feel valued.

HER ROLE MODEL

Mandhira credits much of her fast-rising success to her father, the Late Dr. Surinder Kapur, who instilled in her the spirit of integrity, commitment, and hard work in life. He propounded that success is not a coincidence, but the result of striving and hard work. He believed that success only favors those who are true to their dreams. As a daughter, Mandhira seeks to uphold her father’s glorious legacy by following his priceless ideologies.

A COMPASSIONATE & THOUGHTFUL LEADER

Mandhira is driven by compassion and empathy towards society. As an avid child rights advocate, she has pledged to support the education of children in every corner of India. The leader acknowledges that a growing consciousness toward zero-waste sustainable living has been sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. She believes that India is well-positioned to invest in zero-emission modes of commute and lead the way in green mobility sector. Under her exemplary leadership, SMPL will soon embark on an electric vehicle venture, thereby promoting the Make in India concept in the automotive aftermarket sector.

Ajayya Kumar

Astorehouse of talent, Ajayya is known to many as a virtuoso because of his extraordinary abilities. The professional journey of this versatile leader began with technology giant ABB as a Management Accountant in 1994. Since then, he has worked with some of the leading names in the GCC region, such as Federal Foods. He made his way up the ladder of success by sheer willpower and hard work. In 2004, Ajayya joined Emircom as its Chief Financial Officer and led the company to become a market leader in ICT services in the Middle East. Over the past two decades, he has assisted Emircom in laying a sound, solid financial foundation. The visionary leader has played a crucial role in every step of Emircom’s growth and has given insightful advice to every strategic decision to take the company to new heights of success.

EMPHASIZES TEAM SPIRIT

Ajayya is an exceptional team player, an astute tactician and someone who is flexible and willing to dive right into the job at hand. To defend Emircom’s interests, he has worked tirelessly to create assets, reduce bad debts, and establish a bulwark of solid financial practices. Consequently, he has become a key figure in Emircom’s corporate affairs. However, he had to overcome unique challenges in steering his company to success. It was only by adopting a forward-looking, objective approach, making the right investments, and taking calculated risks that he was able to get the company through tough times.

MENTORING FUTURE LEADERS

Ajayya has been involved with mentoring two prominent and rapidly growing start-up companies in education and IoT segment. As a mentor, he teaches his protégés to have a positive entrepreneurial attitude and be dedicated to their cause, and not give up regardless of obstacles. Additionally, several startup leaders have been trained by him to develop both practical and financial wisdom. These concepts are the core of his recent book, Formula G – How to Scale your Startup or Company into a Growth Machine, which he has co-authored with peers in the industry. The modest leader is committed to the advancement of innovation in management and education, for grooming the next generation of students and entrepreneurs.

A CULTURE ENTHUSIAST

Despite relocating to the Middle East’s Abu Dhabi, Ajayya is more connected to his traditional roots. After moving to Abu Dhabi, Ajayya made a promise to himself that he would do everything possible to stay connected to his culture. Born and raised in Kerala, he spent his childhood watching performances and spent time backstage with Kathakali artists, and that’s what keeps him close to his culture. He has been instrumental in coordinating many major events in Kathakali as well as other art forms across India and abroad.

As a cultural activist, Ajayya is associated with a number of organizations that promote Indian art and culture. Since he holds a special affinity for Indian culture and arts, he also serves as the Founder and Chief Curator of Sarvamangala Arts Initiatives. Sarvamangala Trust is a non-profit cultural foundation contributing to the fields of culture, art, and cinema through curated events, fundraisers, film production, and services to the creative community. The organisation registered in Thrissur, India is affiliated with the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy and has a presence in the UAE as well. To date, Sarvamangala Arts Initiatives has organized a dozen events at prominent temples and art centres in across India as CSR activities through Sarvamangala Trust. Its project, Temple Series – Stories of temples and their arts, was dedicated to classical arts that emerged around temples.

Additionally, his venture, Sarvamangala Productions, makes conscious interventions in the field of OTT and films, which reflects his artisanal streak in a significant way. The company has produced more than 10 short films, among which Burning and Dammy have been featured and recognized at many international film festivals, such as Indian Panorama, Madrid International Film Festival 2019, South Asian Film Festival of America 2019, and San Diego International Film Festival. The short film ‘Burning’ has so far been screened at 40 film festivals across the globe. Eventually, the Production House plans to start producing full-length features.

A WELL-ROUNDED LEADER

Ajayya has drawn inspiration from several books written by Jim Collins, including Built to Last, Good to Great, and Great by Choice; The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma, as well as concepts such as Grid Theory. Gabriel Marquez is his favourite legendary writer, who he admires the most. His favourite reads are Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

Taking inspiration from such legends, Ajayya himself has co-authored four books — out of which two are about management, one is about parenting aspects, and the other is a work of fiction. His other interests include travelling and he has visited most of the countries in the world.

GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY

Ajayya strives to make a positive contribution to society through CSR activities. Under his leadership, he partnered with a multinational computer technology company to provide laptops and computers to students in the UAE and India at much-subsidized rates during the pandemic.

Families with multiple children taking online classes at the same time were relieved by the efforts. In addition, he has provided direct financial assistance to more than 1,000 artists through his Sarvamangala Arts Initiative. His dream project is to mentor 1000 startups within the art domain in the next five years, which will include dance, playwriting, and other forms of entertainment.