The most influential among India's businesswomen were feted for the eleventh time by Business Today magazine at a glittering function in Mumbai on Wednesday evening.
Leading the applause at the Most Powerful Women (MPW) in Indian Business Awards was Padmasree Warrior, chief technology and strategy officer, Cisco Systems, who had flown in from San Jose, California to be the chief guest at the event.
Phrases like "go for it," "grab the opportunity," and "walk through an open door," were tossed around in encouragement through the day while honouring 22 MPW awardees. Business Today together with executive search firm EgonZehnder, which acted as a knowledge partner, selected 55 nominees for the most powerful women in business from a preliminary group of over 170 candidates.
An independent jury comprising Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman of Microsoft India; Rajiv Memani, Country Managing Partner of EY India; and Leo Puri, Managing Director of UTI AMC then shortlisted 22 women achievers as the winners for 2014.
Aroon Purie, Chairman of India Today Group, of which Mail Today and Business Today are a part of, noted how the MPW list had changed over time - from its early years when the list used to be dominated with CEOs from banking, financial services, and the media.
"The list now sees a wider array ranging from all walks of life," he said. "This year, for instance, you will see people from robotics manufacturing, the public sector, art, film production, legal services, publishing, FMCG, technology and even venture capital. This is for a reflection of how women in India participate and excel across all industries."
Among the award winners were nine newcomers such as Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chairperson, SBI; Anita Dongre, Founder and CEO, AND Design; Sonali Kulkarni, President and CEO, Fanuc India; and Guneet Monga, CEO, Sikhya Entertainment.
There were also a few comebacks to the 2014 list in Ekta Kapoor, Joint Managing Director and Creative Director of Balaji Telefilms, and Neelam Dhawan of Hewlett-Packard.
Cisco's Warrior said women tend to second guess themselves often. Citing her experience while making hires, she said she found women asking for time to think over a job offer as different from men, who nine times out of 10 take no time in accepting an offer. "Walk through a door when it's open," she said.
The technology industry, she said, would look very different in the next 10 years driven not only by technology but also by business model changes. She cited the trend of how people had moved from desktops to mobile phones and the cloud to access information, and how technologies such as the Internet of things and self driving cars would be coming up.
A lot of new companies would be born in the duration, and many led by women, Warrior added. That, however, would specifically need a change in the leadership mindset as well.
"It will be important, for senior leadership going forward, not to know all the answers, but ask the right questions," she said. "Leaders have to get to the level of being comfortable with ambiguity and being able to change."
Before the evening's awards, food for thought came from three riveting panel discussions. Panellists on the topic "Boardroom quotas for women: Boon or Bane?" were balanced in their views.
Nishi Vasudeva, chairperson of HPCL and an MPW awardee, said quotas may not generally be the best way out, "but if there is a way to start, this is the way to bring in diversity". The next panel focused on entrepreneurship among women spoke on "To hire or be hired: What works better?".
Renuka Ramnath, Founder, Managing Director & CEO, Multiples Alternate Asset Management said her move from salaried employee with a cushy job into entrepreneurship taught her a lot. She was emphatic when she said, "When you can hire someone, you should never work for someone else."