The Most Successful Indian Business Women!

The Most Successful Indian Business Women!

It is a long road ahead to bring more women to the top, experts feel that India Inc is on the right path. “Historically, the representation of women in the workforce has been low in India, but as more women enter workforce, more and more will start climbing the corporate ladder,” said Pranav Haldea, managing director at Prime Database Group.

This may eventually result in high representation of women as CEOs.

IIM Kozhikode director Debashis Chatterjee said women are not active in peer group networking, a skill needed to rise to the top. “There is also a learned helplessness among some very talented women who become vulnerable to competing demands from family, fear of failure and risk aversion,” he said.

However, in this article battling all the odds, here are a few who have made it to the top! Let us notice what we can learn from them!

Indra Nooyi, Board Member Amazon, Former CEO PepsiCo

It probably won’t surprise you that Indra Nooyi, the celebrated former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, has a book in the works. After all, that’s what many CEOs do when they’ve achieved folk-hero status, as she has.

While Indra Nooyi certainly knows plenty about succeeding, achieving and winning, the topics about which CEOs most often write, her new book will focus on a matter that is beyond the usual C-suite concerns (but shouldn’t be): How to integrate work and family without shortchanging either.

It’s an issue that tens of millions of individuals grapple with every day. And as a wife and mother, it’s an issue that occupied Mrs. Nooyi as well during her 12 years as one of the world’s most prominent and powerful corporate executives, heading a company with more than 260,000 employees and some $64.7 billion in 2018 revenues.

Honoured with Padma Bhushan and currently a board member of Amazon, International Cricket Council and Schlumberger, one of the points she said as “The Last Word” after retiring as the CEO of PepsiCo is I ‘ve been blessed with an amazing career, but if I am being honest, there have been moments when I could have spent time with my children and family; so I encourage you: be mindful of the choices, in your road ahead.”

Indra Nooyi was born in Chennai, India. In 1980, she moved to the USA to pursue her masters in Public and Private Management. She joined PepsiCo in 1994 and was made the CEO in 2006. As a strategic leader, she expanded PepsiCo’s business. Under her leadership, PepsiCo acquired companies like Tropicana, Pizza Hut and KFC. This made PepsiCo the biggest fast food chain in the world. During her tenure as the CEO of the company the sales went up by 80%. In 2018 she stepped down after completing 12 years as the Chief Executive Officer at PepsiCo. For more on what she has learnt as a CEO, please read this article : ‘Five Lessons I have Learnt as Pepsico CEO’

Vandana Luthra, CEO VLCC Healthcare Limited

VLCC Healthcare Ltd. is the largest provider of nutrition, skin care and beauty services in India. The woman behind VLCC is Vandana Luthra, a Padmashree Award winner. She started the company in 1989 after gaining expertise in food and nutrition, beauty and skincare. VLCC began its operation in 1989 and gradually it has emerged as the largest company in the wellness sector. Vandana Luthra has a keen interest in philanthropy.

VLCC provides vocational training to the unemployed under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana. She is also the Vice Chairman of an NGO named Khushii. She has strongly advocated for children with special needs and is also a patron for a charitable trust working for the same cause.

As per Vandana’s words, “Being a woman entrepreneur in the late-80s, trying to scale up in a highly unorganised industry domain like beauty and wellness services was one of my biggest challenges initially. While people were familiar with the ubiquitous ‘beauty parlour’, the idea of a holistic wellness solutions provider which combined scientific weight management programmes with advanced hair and skin treatments was a new concept.

I struggled to raise capital, and banks were apprehensive of something that was hardly deemed as sustainable and scalable. The support of my family along with my persistence helped me overcome most of these challenges. My greatest inspiration has always been my mother. Not having conformed to the gender norms, I felt brave enough to give in to the feeling of venturing into an area that had always interested me. I could not have done this without the support of my husband Mukesh, who always had belief in my abilities.

The reason I chose this path was because of the belief that I could do more. It was sheer perseverance and my interest in transforming lives that made me stay on this path.” For more, read: My biggest challenge as a woman entrepreneur and how I overcame it

Suneeta Reddy- Managing Director, Apollo Group

Suneeta Reddy, a member of the founding family, joined the Apollo Hospitals Group in 1989. Spearheading the finance function, she phenomenally took the organisation to the international equity markets through a successful Global Depository Receipt and roped in the first foreign direct investment in healthcare in India.

Reddy is the MD of the Apollo Group. Her financial acumen has been the key factor in the group’s dramatic growth and profitability. Her insights have played an instrumental role in encouraging medical value travellers to Apollo Hospitals and to India at large. She led the Apollo Reach Hospitals model to fruition, which was commended by the World Bank as an innovation redefining both healthcare and healthcare design. Suneeta now steers the corporate strategy, corporate finance, funding and investments and will be leveraging M&As to achieve objectives of an accelerated pace of growth and in optimising profitability.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations, Economics and Marketing from Stella Maris College in Chennai. She holds a Diploma in Financial Management from the Institute of Financial Management and Research, Chennai and has completed the Owner / President Management Programme at Harvard Business School (HBS), Boston, USA.

Suneeta Reddy is a director on the Board of Apollo Munich-Re Health Insurance Company and she also serves on the Board of several Apollo Hospitals’ Group companies. She is also the Chairperson of Aircel Cellular. A key influencer in the Indian healthcare industry, Reddy is widely recognised for her contributions and has held leadership positions including Co-Chairperson of Healthcare Sub Committee – Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and is a member in the National Committee on Healthcare. She is also a member of the Harvard Business School India Advisory Board (IAB).

Talking about the economy and gender equality, Reddy quotes, “Our economy (especially if we want it to reach $5 trillion by 2025), needs our women to hold steady and increase their contribution in both the formal and informal economy. Some data will make it clear that gender parity brings clear economic dividends.” 

The aspects that I resonate with are the following:

  1. Support from family is the key to help fight our challenges, we need to be mindful of the choices we make in the road ahead. We need to plan to spend time with family and make it happen!
  2. Gender parity can bring in economic dividends
  3. We need to have a vision, perseverance and interest in transforming other’s lives. There needs to an emotional connection! “Giver’s Gain”-(The BNI Philosophy)!

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