Rate this item
(0 votes)

They were born in India and achieved fame, glory, and success in other parts of the world. These women earned their spurs across countries but one thing's for sure: you can't take India and their Indianness out of them. After all, many of them are what and where they are because of their cultural roots, and their ability to adapt them to a new milieu. We profile some of these women.

Indra Nooyi is no ordinary woman. She is one of the most powerful women in the world. She broke the glass ceiling many years ago and has managed to rise and rise in the corporate world even though she admits that she had to run to keep pace with the men walking. But that did not deter Indra, the king of gods in Hindu mythology. The god of thunder and rain, and a great warrior Indra is a symbol of courage and strength. The wind is his friend. Surely Indra Nooyi lived up to that name, working her life like the wind, with courage and strength

For Nooyi, 61, with two grown-up daughters, steering a $66.4-billion empire and earning a pay packet of over $18 million in 2013, is brutally honest and speaks from the heart, instantly striking a chord with many grappling with work-life balance issues.

Her basic grounding allows her to deal with a myriad of issues apart from work such as obesity and work-life balance. This despite the fact that she is one of the most powerful women in the world calling the shots at a mega multinational. She creates a buzz not only in the workplace but leads the chatter among the pack of global Indian women on the web too. And the social buzz around her is largely focused on three things; on her leadership qualities, her emotional appeal and her management of Pepsi as an organization.

But the buzz around Nooyi is grounded in reality. After all, it was under her stewardship that the cola giant revenues almost doubled from $ 35 billion to $66.42 billion between 2006 and 2014. She played a stellar role in giving shape to some of Pepsi’s biggest milestones since its journey since the late 1990s. She played a stellar role in the company acquiring brands like Tropicana and Quaker Oats and also to take the bold decision to venture into a separate restaurant business.

But Indra Nooyi’s story is a simple story of a powerful woman. The story of an Indian girl who grew up in conservative Chennai in Tamil Nadu and landed up in the US with little money and no safety net. While she studied in Connecticut, Indra worked night shifts as a receptionist.

The story goes that she struggled hard to put together US $50 to buy herself a western suit for her first job interview after she finished studies at Yale University. After she managed to get herself a suit, Indra was not too comfortable in her clothes. She got rejected and when she told her professor about it he asked her what she would have worn if she happened to be in India. Sari was her obvious reply, and her professor taught her something that day which she never let go. He said just be yourself and stick to what is comfortable. She got the next job in a sari and she never let go of the belief in herself. She has always been clear that she is so secure in herself that she didn’t have to play American in the corporate world.


It is not easy to find a woman and that too an Indian at the top of the Silicon Valley male mound. In a culture dominated by men, it is a rarity to find an Indian-origin woman created her won slot.

Padmasree Warrior is no doubt an exception. The chief tech officer at Ciscos Systems, Warrior ealier held positions like the the CTO and Veep at Motorola as far back as 2003. Before she left Motorola in 2007, she had become the topmost ranking officer in the company’s history. She joined the company in 1984 when she was one of the few women on the company’s rolls and went on to spend 23 years. She left Motorola to take up the job of CEO in Cisco.

Warrior’s background is that of an engineer. She was a student of the prestigious IIT-Delhi in 1982, one of five girls in her batch. She then went on to do a masters from Cornell University which gave her her strong domain expertise. She is also a great twiterrati with an amazing following of 1.46 million.

Firm in the belief that the quality of a loeader is based on the lasting difference the person makes while remaing true as a person. She has led Cisco in major market transitions and is looking forward with passion to mentor the next generation of leaders, with her special interest of training women in technology.

Growing up in India, Padmasree was very close to her parents. Engineering education in India is highly competitive, but she is proud to have been one of only five girls enrolled in her class of 250 at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

It was no mean honour when Fortune Magazine named her as one of the four rising stars on its Most Powerful Women list as far back as in 2006. Warrior believe in technology and is of the view that it has a strong impact on society and our lives. From the industrial revolution to the information revolution the impact has been largely positive but occasionally negative too. Warrior’s take on the future world is that the internet, mobile and cloud will be at the heart of the unprecedented change that is taking place across every industry today.

In 1982, Warrior went to study chemical engineering at IIT, Delhi — no ordinary feat three decades ago. Later Warrior was to recollect that when she went to IIT she thought she was the smartest. But soon realized that she was not and that was her first lesson in humility. And she learned that true scientists and technologists are always learning.

Warrior then moved to the US, where she read for a master’s degree in chemical engineering at Cornell University. It was during her master’s that she was first exposed to microchips; Warrior specialised in electronic material. Her research work involved finding ways to make materials that would create semiconductors.

When she joined Cisco, the San Jose-headquartered company was trying to rebuild its image from a staid legacy establishment to a young consumer-friendly technology firm. Over the years, Warrior has been at the forefront of transforming Cisco and building the company’s strength around its focus area—the concept of connecting things ranging from soccer balls to household gadget through the internet.

Named among the top 15 most influential women driving innovation (and revenue) in corporate America by PINK magazine in 2008, Warrior is a member of the board of trustees for Cornell University. She also serves on the boards of cloud storage company Box, and American clothing and accessories retailer Gap.


Alka Banerjee is the Managing Director — Product Management, S&P Dow Jones Indices, and also heads the company’s joint venture in India with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). This is the company that calculates the indices that tell you the mood of the stock market at any time. The company calculates more than a million indices every day — globally. And it covers 83 countries.

Alka Banerjee embodies the global spirit of S&P Global both personally and professionally. As managing director and head of equities product management at S&P Dow Jones Indices, Banerjee travels the world to meet with investment and trading professionals and market participants, such as leaders of stock exchanges and local market regulators. Her goal is to find out how best S&P Dow Jones Indices’ can meet their needs, whether it’s through creating benchmarks to gauge markets, or indices that serve as a basis for investable products.

Alka could at best be called a global citizen despite the fact that she reached the US in 1994. She has her feet firmly on ground and clued in to what is happening locally. She sees India poised at an exciting time today with the promise of a lot of dynamism and growth in the country. She has observed her country of birth very closely and witnessed a lot of changes for the better in the last decade.

Banerjee’s imagery and influence are strong in the community where she matters most: investors. Online conversations about her are almost entirely about her domain expertise. Banerjee feels India helped develop her personality as well as her work ethic. She is clear that she is who she is because of her Indian parenting, her Indian schooling and the Indian value system that she grew up with. Banerjee is keen to promote index-based investing across the world. She feels every country needs robust capital markets... and a complete range of transparent, cost-effective and liquid products accessible to all. She sees herself helping to bring this message to all the countries around the world.

She feels that there are many moments of pride and joy at small accomplishments, but the most meaningful invariably tend to be deeply personal ones like when young colleagues tell her that she has been an inspiration to them and motivated them to push their own limits. That she feels is very humbling as well as rewarding.


She is India's richest self-made woman. Yet last September when India’s Silicon Valley came to a grinding halt to protest the release of the Cauvery waters, it was Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw who raised her voice against holding demonstrations that crippled normal life. The prominent Bengaluru citizen got trolled no doubt but that did not cow her down.

This was not the first time that Kiran spoke up on issues of public concern. She has been as much vocal about Bengaluru’s civic infrastructure as she has been with gender bias in corporations. She is a strong person who is not afraid to share strong views that are based on fact.

It is this feistiness with which the 63-year-old chairperson and MD of Biocon has pioneered an enterprise in the field of biopharmaceuticals, emerging, in the process, as India’s richest self-made woman. Mazumdar-Shaw is at the peak of her career, and her strong return to the Forbes India Rich List for 2016, after dropping out in 2015, reflects her position.

Mazumdar-Shaw has always taken bold bets, some of which were ahead of their time and not always palatable to stakeholders to get to where she is today. But she stayed the course even as questions were repeatedly raised over Biocon’s business model and its need to spend copiously on research and development (R&D), without immediate sales and profitability.

Before establishing Biocon in 1978, Mazumdar-Shaw had returned to India with a master’s degree in malting and brewing from Ballarat College, Melbourne University. Her biography, Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech, points out that Mazumdar-Shaw, the daughter of Rasendra Mazumdar, former chief brewmaster at United Breweries, realised it wouldn’t be easy for a woman to land a job at a brewery in India those days. She was about to leave for Scotland to work at a malting company when she was approached by Les Auchincloss, the owner of an Irish company called Biocon Biochemicals. He wanted Mazumdar-Shaw to be their partner for the company’s proposed Indian foray.

Though initially hesitant, she decided to enter into a joint venture with the Irish firm. Just 25 at the time, she became the head of Biocon India. (Biocon Biochemicals was acquired by Unilever in 1989, and its stake in the Indian joint venture was sold to Mazumdar-Shaw in 1998. The brewing industry’s loss has been Indian pharma’s gain.

Behind many dreams that come true, there is a choice Kiran made that many might quail at. She put her work before all else and it was only when she was 44 that she decided to get married. She never once thought of having a family but then she does admit that she does miss having a child. But that’s a sacrifice she made with her eyes open and she is proud and happy of all that she has achieved in life. She discovered herself and the biggest gift of all she made ordinary people do extraordinary things. That’s no mean achievement.


Banking has come a long way from its male-centric image of yesteryears. In fact, surprisingly some of the biggest banks in the country are headed by women bankers. Naina Lal Kidwai, 60, is one such woman who has shattered the banking glass ceiling years ago and went on to be known as one of the biggest dealmakers in the country.

She started her career with the prestigious Price Waterhouse, now PricewaterhouseCoopers. An economics graduate and a chartered accountant, she was bluntly told during the job interview that the firm did not employ women. Yet it hired her.

The list of Kidwai’s firsts is staggering: she was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School or HBS; the first woman to be hired by PriceWaterhouse in India; the first woman to lead a foreign bank in India. Kidwai says she had to work "very hard" to find her space among the men.

Kidwai reveals she was the first woman in her family to work. She comes from a very conventional north Indian family. One of two daughters, her parents had aspirations for the two sisters as they did not have a brother. She studied for a Masters in Business Administration at a time when her friends were mostly getting married. She was the youngest member of the HBS class of 1982

The years at Harvard altered her worldview and greatly influenced her leadership style. Kidwai is charming, highly amiable, and possesses a lot of pizzazz.

Despite her degrees and soaring career, Kidwai often faced tremendous pressure to give up. Her mother often asked her to quit once Kidwai herself became a mother.

But she persevered, inspired primarily by her father. There were no flexible working hours those days. Washrooms for women were usually located in a dark, dingy corner of the office. There were no laptops - reams of paper had to be carried home in bulky folders to work on at night.

Three decades of long hours, meetings at odd hours and constant travel have meant that Kidwai has missed attending important birthdays, anniversary celebrations, festivals and other important family moments. Some of it was tragic, but she never faltered in her focus. In fact, she found no time to visit her ailing father for months and when she finally fixed a day to visit him, he passed away two days before that.

Even now, Kidwai works out of two offices, one in Delhi and the other in Mumbai.

After years of hectic deal-making and negotiations - during her 13 years at ANZ Grindlays, eight at Morgan Stanley and more than a decade with HSBC – Naina also got involved in doing some pioneering work in water conservation and women's empowerment. She is also a non-executive director on the board of Nestle, a member of the Audit Advisory Board of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, and on the governing board of the National Council for Applied Economic Research.

At 60, she feels as enthused as when she started.

In a recently published book, 30 Women in Power, a chapter on Kidwai rightly mentions her as ‘The First Lady’.

In an era when Indian women stepping out of their homes to chart careers was impossible to imagine, Naina chose to leave the country in pursuit of her dreams and the vision she had for herself.

A pioneer, she turned down the best international jobs to return to India because her heart was set on working in her own homeland. She is a nonconformist, who finds time for social causes and turns every adversity into an opportunity. A feminist in the best sense of the word — a doer, not a preacher — Naina Lal Kidwai is a woman of substance


Women have changed the way family businesses were once run as male bastions with sons as the natural inheritors. A fine example of such a change in our social and business mores is sisters Monica and Sonica who in tandem is marking new heights in a business established by their father.

Monica Malhotra Kandhari, Managing Director of MBD Group, and Sonica Malhotra Kandhari, Joint Managing Director of MBDGroup run the entire business together, a business founded in publishing and expanded into diverse areas. The two sisters decided to handle sectors that are close to them. So while, Monica handles the E-Learning, Teacher Capacity Building, Stationery, MLearning, Skill Development, Eco-Friendly Notebooks, Paper Manufacturing, ICT Infrastructure, Project Management, Sonica looks after the Hospitality, Real Estate, Mall Development and Management aspect as well as corporate finance, taxation, and legal for the entire group.

They may have started off in the business as daughters of the chairman of the group, but they have slowly and surely been leaving their own mark on the footprints of this mega business. And it has been no cakewalk for the two as it took a while for them to establish their credibility in-house. “It was a bit difficult initially, but once we proved ourselves, the acceptance was far greater,” says Sonica

It all started off with their father Ashok Kumar Malhotra, who began working at the family bookshop, Malhotra Book Depot (MBD), while still in school. At the age of 13, he authored and published his first book. It was the first step in the direction of what today is the MBD group. Later, Ashok Kumar Malhotra’s foray into the publishing world saw him at the helm of one of the largest publishing houses in the country

Today, the group has diversified into a multitude of areas which include hospitality, real estate, mall development and management, ICT infrastructure, skill development, among others. His legacy is being carried forward by his two daughters who have innovated and expanded the business along the way.

They have had their fair share of challenges and losing their father was tough on them. “After my father’s death, we not only had our own personal grief to deal with but also had the larger responsibility of MBD Group, as well as the need to protect what our father had given his life to build up. It was a very critical time for us; yet, we did not let this discourage us. We were successful in directing our multiple business verticals through many pitfalls,” Sonica recalls.

But the greatest challenge they faced was to bring innovation into the group without losing out on the MBD legacy. They have retained a lot of the key employees and talent in the company, and are proud that some of their employees have been with the company for more than 40 years.

Born in Jalandhar and brought up in Delhi, the sisters graduated from Jesus and Mary College in New Delhi.

Their mother has been a major influence in their life too. “My mother has always ensured that her daughters are brought up to be strong individuals with independent thinking and yet be grounded. It’s because of her remarkable contribution that we both are qualified (postgraduate diploma) Kathak dancers from Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, under Pandit Birju Maharaj Ji. This truly helped us in personal development, attaining emotional maturity, and meeting artists from all walks of life,” says Sonica.

The sisters share a comfortable working relationship that is based on understanding and mutual trust. Sonica says, “In some cases, although I may have a different opinion I would go by Monica’s judgement, as she has better knowledge of certain things and same is the case with her, on matters on which Monica feels I have a better understanding she would leave the final call to me.”

Monica was passionate about singing, dancing, and basketball. The other thing that drove her at a young age was the craving for learning. This led her to start working since the age of 15. She wanted to know what her father did at work and how he handled different business situations and would go and work in different departments in publishing after school every day. “Where my classmates bunked classes at times for a movie or so, I did for work and office.”

Monica’s own style of working has emerged from her father’s style, “My dad was a Karma Yogi and I idolise him. He taught me to learn from my mistakes, to be humble, to never stop learning. While he taught me to aim for the sky he also told me that creating job opportunities is the greatest social work. Do not learn tricks of the trade instead learn the trade. He also taught me ‘either be the best or the biggest at work’.”

She has always been drawn to the education sector and enjoys working towards bringing new techniques in the e-learning field of education.

Given that there are multiple verticals that need attention and the group as a whole needs dedicated attention, Monica’s business mantra is to keep the business backward and forward integrated as much to have better control on costs, time, and quality. Her focus is to create a fine blend of rigidity and flexibility in policies that help keep the team motivated. She wants the group to be recognised as futuristic and visionary.

Sonica was a top student through school and college. She studied BCom at Jesus and Mary College (Delhi University) and later pursued an MBA specialising in finance International Management Institute, New Delhi. She has also attended a Program in Leadership Development (PLD) from Harvard Business School, Boston.

“My father gave me total freedom – no supervision, no policing. It was his trust that kept me on my toes and helped me to work hard and not let him down. He explained that we all are born in an orbit. We can either choose to stay there and waste our potential or strive to push ourselves ahead to the next level that not only benefits us but also benefits the people walking along with us,” Monica remembers.

In these past few years, MBD Group has established itself in the hospitality industry through its maiden venture, Radisson Blu MBD Hotel Noida (Delhi NCR). The second venture of the group is the Radisson Blu Hotel MBD Ludhiana, which is the first fivestar deluxe hotel in Ludhiana.

They have also ventured into premium mixed-use developments, encompassing five-star hotel, premium retail and entertainment, under The MBD Neopolis again in Ludhiana and Jalandhar.

The group has recently signed a Joint Venture with Steigenberger the leading German hospitality chain to open hotels in India.

Goa is a destination, they are aggressively looking at

Read 143 times
Login to post comments