scorecardresearch

Most powerful women in Indian business

They span generations and are there in every field, from biscuits to banking, from HR to hospitals. Denied entry into a male bastion, they create another industry. They are the most powerful women in the corporate world.

Yet another edition of BT's most powerful women in business, together with the rising stars, the start-up heroines, the microfinance mavens and even the inheritors. The women listed here come from an amazing variety of academic and family backgrounds and have established themselves in an equally diverse range of industries despite the near-crippling drag of home and hearth.

 In pics: 25 best women of India Inc.

Some were lucky to have been at the right place at the right time; one admits that she is not the sort of mother who packs their child's tiffin in the morning-and another is "quite unashamed" to say that she eased up on her career to be with her children when they needed her most. And look out for the rising star who takes her two-year-old daughter jetsetting as she shuttles between two cities in the US and her Indian headquarters, and for the lady who came back to India to be near her ailing mother-in-law-but succeeded with yet another start-up.

Consider: would this list have been possible 20 years ago? On the other hand, how far is the day when BT will list the 250 most powerful women in Indian business and not just 25? The answer to the first question is a definite no. The answer to the second depends on how India builds its infrastructure. Not the infrastructure of expressways and trans-harbour links, but the infrastructure of child care and crches, schools that don't burden children with homework, on-call housekeeping services, et al. Today, if the child of a working couple falls ill or is let out from school early, or if the babysitter goes on French leave, who has to miss office? No prizes for guessing the correct answer.

Read the stories of BT's amazing women, and you will discover that there are no intellectual differences between men and women. But how many men with a PhD in theoretical nuclear physics or two post-graduate degrees from Yale and Harvard would choose to work for an MFI? The workplace brings with it another gender inequality: the woman rushing home to help her child with his or her homework cannot go out bonding or networking.

So, here's to a growing list of women achievers. May their tribe grow, may the list get longer and may they never have to tell our readers the best way to deal with a glass ceiling.

The top 25

They span generations and are there in every field, from tractors to television, from biscuits to banking, from HR to hospitals. Denied entry into a male bastion, they create another industry (as Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon did). They love their saris and their cooking, but also frame the laws that govern the world of alpha-male stockbrokers. They are the most powerful women in the corporate world.

Amrita Patel
Amrita Patel
Amrita Patel
64, Chairman, NDDB

Power to me means: Maintaining the highest standards of integrity at all times.
My favourite life-after-work activity: I am actively involved in two movements-ecological security and rural healthcare.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Fortunately, I have not had to fight the glass ceiling. Hard work, commitment and caring in word and deed helps people overcome obstacles.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Meditation.

I am not a businesswoman," says Amrita Patel, Chairman of National Dairy Development Board, the world's largest dairy development programme, which involves over 12.4 million farmer families, 117,000 co-operative societies and procures 21.5 million litres of milk every day. "I'm in the business of putting other women into business and enabling them to earn a daily income," says Patel, chairman since 1998. "We must ensure that we do not become importers," she adds. Patel is behind a National Dairy Plan that looks at demand and supply up to 2021.

-T.V. Mahalingam

Ashu Suyash
Ashu Suyash
Ashu Suyash
41,MD & Country Head-India, Fidelity International

Power to me means: The ability to influence and bring about change.
My most memorable experience at workplace: The period when we launched Fidelity's mutual fund operations in India in March 2005.
My favourite life-after-work activity: I love to spend time with my daughters and husband.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Focus on delivering.
The biggest turning point in my career was: When I joined Fidelity Fund Management

Striving for work-life balance? Look at Ashu Suyash, Country Head & Managing Director for India at Fidelity International. The March 2005 launch of Fidelity's mutual fund operations in India coincided with her elder daughter's board exams. Suyash planned the entire promotional exercise in such a way that she could be back home every 3-4 days.The fund was a huge success and her daughter did well. "Leading a brand like Fidelity gives you the calling card and the edge. You have a point of view, you get heard. But the key is to hold on to your own views when others don't agree with you. That's a challenge. But if you remain firm, over a period of time you get accepted," says the 41-year-old chartered accountant who has a 15-year stint with Citibank behind her.

-Rachna Monga

Chanda Kochhar
Chanda Kochhar
Chanda Kochhar
46, Joint MD, ICICI Bank

Power to me means: The ability to impact the lives of common people.
My most memorable experience at workplace: When a customer wanted to see the window from where the teller places cash in an ATM machine.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Watching Hindi movies and shopping.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Concentrate on work and focus on performance.
The biggest turning point in my career was: The launch of retail banking at ICICI Bank.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Maintain a daily time schedule and prioritise things depending on the situation.

If you want to meet her on weekends, check out multiplexes in Mumbai running Hindi movies. Chanda Kochhar is a die-hard fan of Bollywood. She also helped transform ICICI Bank into India's secondlargest bank, changing the rules of the game using technology. "Now just 10 per cent of our customers visit branches for their banking needs," she says. She has seen it all- from corporate and infrastructure financing to retail, but the last is very close to her heart. "It (retail banking) was new for me and for the bank and for the industry," says Kochhar.

-Virendra Verma

Chitra Ramakrishna
Chitra Ramakrishna
Chitra Ramakrishna
45,  Deputy Managing Director, NSE

Power to her means: Shunning media glare and letting her actions speak for her work.
My most memorable experience at workplace: There has never been a dull moment over the last 15 years-with Indian markets growing the way they have-and personally for me as I grew with this institution. NSE has always provided an excellent environment for professionals and that is something I will always cherish.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Getting an opportunity to become a part of the team that set up the National Stock Exchange.

When you are a part of the team that created a world-class stock exchange, it's tempting to talk about that success and bask in its glow. But Chitra Ramakrishna, Deputy Managing Director, NSE, has always shunned the spotlight, though she is used to being at the forefront of framing crucial regulations. During her days at IDBI in the early '90s, Ramakrishna was selected to be part of a small team that prepared a blueprint for SEBI regulations. This led her to study the regulations in developed countries. "Her ability to understand business nuances is amazing," says former colleague G.V. Nageshwara Rao, CEO, IDBI Fortis Life.

-Rachna Monga

Ela R. Bhatt
Ela R. Bhatt
Ela R. Bhatt
75, Founder, Self-employed Women's Association

Placing Ela R. Bhatt in any listing of India's most powerful women is-on the face of it-a distinctly bizarre exercise. That's because it's the powerlessness of the womenworkers in the informal economy that has shaped the life-long efforts of the founder of the Self-employed Women's Association (SEWA). This Padmashri, Padmabhushan and Ramon Magsaysay Award winner earns a place here not because she has come to accumulate a lot of power in trying to empower the powerless. It's because of the worldwide impact that her work has had on not only the disadvantaged workers but also on government policies.

SEWA'S work is improving the lives of over a million direct members and about 5-6 million others in India. The SEWA family includes a trade union of selfemployed women with 1.1 million members and a cooperative bank. Her policy advocacy has also spawned the Unorganised Sector Workers' Social Security Bill and a worldwide awareness of the plight of workers in the informal economy.

-Kapil Bajaj

Indu Jain
Indu Jain
Indu Jain
76,Chairman,The Times Group

Power to me means: When people say 'yes' to my mission and do the work joyfully, happily and enthusiastically.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Whenever I catch and hold the high dimensions of my consciousness.
My most difficult decision: Whether I should be compassionate or punish those disruptive and tortuous people who hurt and cause suffering to others.
My motto in life: To become rich and make others rich, spiritually and materially.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: My inner growth must match my material growth and achievements. Learning, Living and Actions…. I move in Oneness. There is no positive. There is no negative. Simply, there 'is'.

She is the matriarch of the most powerful media group in the country, estimated to be worth over $4-billion (Rs 18,400 crore). Indu Jain, Chairman of the privately-held The Times Group, hardly fits into any prototype of power-women, but she wears her power with a style that is her very own. Known to be an ardent follower of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Jain has pushed through her unique spiritual, cultural and social sensibility into Bennett, Coleman & Company, her group's flagship. At the same time, she is also known to have pushed through the agenda of internal audit, or, management assurance system, earlier on. She is the founder of The Times Foundation and is also the Chairperson of Bhartiya Jnanpith Foundation.

-Shamni Pande

Kalpana Morparia
Kalpana Morparia
Kalpana Morparia
59,CEO,JP Morgan India

Power to me means: The ability to make a difference.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Merger of ICICI and ICICI Bank.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Shopping and watching movies.
The biggest turning point in my career was: In 1996, when K.V. Kamath (now MD & CEO, ICICI Bank) asked me to move over from being a lawyer to head treasury.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: What's a work-life balance? To me work is life.

She has just begun her second innings after retiring last year from India's second largest bank. At 59, Kalpana Morparia, the ICICI Bank veteran of over three decades, has taken over as CEO of JP Morgan's India setup. The assignment came as she was enjoying her non-executive stint at three of the bank's subsidiaries. Morparia also became an independent director on other boards at this time. Now, she has to broaden JP Morgan's footprint in existing areas. "I never let my gender come in the way of my career, why should age become a barrier?" she asks. Why, indeed?

-Anand Adhikari

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
55,Chairman & Managing Director,Biocon

Power to me means: The ability to influence change.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Having to roll up my sleeves to work on the shop floor when employees went on strike in 1985.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Holidaying with family.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: To pursue your sense of purpose with a single-minded determination to succeed.
The biggest turning point in my career was: When I failed to get a job as a brew master.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: We, in the corporate world, are obsessed with work and tend to sacrifice social commitments to our families and friends. Family and friends bring about a great balance: make time for them.

She is among the largest private collectors of paintings, trained in Hindustani vocals and is all for public-private partnerships in city administration. As Biocon's boss, she is the face of the biotech industry. But she makes time for friends and family. "The recent loss of my dearest friend to cancer made me realise how important it is to show you care," she says.

-Rahul Sachitanand

Leena Nair
Leena Nair
Leena Nair
38,Executive Director, HUL

Power to me means: It's having more at your disposal to be able to help others.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Seamlessly moving our Foods Division to Mumbai from Bangalore and also ensuring that the transition was done in a caring manner.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Spending time with my family.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Getting appointed as the first woman on the Management Committee of HUL.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Just don't give yourself a choice and live life to the fullest.
Closest friends in business: Prem Kamath, Gurdeep Singh and HR heads like K. Ramkumar of ICICI Bank, Satish Pradhan of Tata Sons, Santrupt Misra of Aditya Birla Group.

For the second consecutive year, she is on BT's list of 25 most powerful women in business. As HUL itself did well, regaining the Day Zero slots at B-School placements, Nair has been given the added responsibility of being the Vice-President-HR for South Asia. The company has also been able to attract and retain talent, and lower its attrition rate. She also feels that she has grown personally in her job. But the modest Nair credits her achievements to her team.

-Anusha Subramanian

Madhabi Puri-Buch
Madhabi Puri-Buch
Madhabi Puri-Buch
42, Executive Director, ICICI Bank

Power to me means: Being able to make a difference in people's lives.
My most memorable experience at workplace: When one of my team members said: "why not make homes affordable for everybody?"
My favourite life-after-work activity: To set-up a charity website toofles.com
The biggest turning point in my career was: Taking charge of back-office operations after the merger of ICICI and ICICI Bank.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Use of technology, especially the Internet and mobile phones.

If you enjoy what you are doing then you are living a wonderful life. That has been Madhabi Puri-Buch's life mantra- which is why she opted for back-office operations work, seen by her colleagues as less attractive, when ICICI and ICICI Bank were merged. "I wanted to learn something new and, in a bank, the back-office is a key area of operation," she says. Buch feels roles that are not glamorous but are difficult to execute create more value for a person. At present, she is busy with a social cause in her personal capacity, and will soon launch a charity website where people can sell second-hand stuff.

-Virendra Verma

Mallika Srinivasan
Mallika Srinivasan
Mallika Srinivasan
48, Director, TAFE

Power to me means: The ability to influence people without using authority.
My most memorable experience at workplace: I enjoy every minute of my work, and so I cannot assign any particular experience as the most memorable one.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Spending quality time with my family.
The biggest turning point in my career was: My education at Wharton School of Business.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Understand your strengths; do what you are good at doing; have a flexible approach and a set approach to work and life but go with the flow.

Her infectious smile and softspoken demeanor conceals an aggressive and a shrewd persona. India Inc. had a glimpse of Mallika Srinivasan's aggression when Tractors & Farm Equipment acquired Eicher Motor's tractor business in June 2005. Three years later, the combined business (TAFE and Eicher Tractors) reported a revenue growth of 93 per cent, operating profit growth of 151 per cent and profit before tax growth of 183 per cent. Not the type to rest on her laurels, this scion of the Chennai-based Amalgamations Group has set the next objective: to make TAFE the first choice among the farming community in India.

-N. Madhavan

Naina Lal Kidwai
Naina Lal Kidwai
Naina Lal Kidwai
51, Group General Manager & Country Head, HSBC India

Power to me means: Being able to make an impact or a difference.
My most memorable experience at workplace: When I became the head of investment banking at ANZ Grindlays at the age of 28.
My favourite life-after-work activity: I like to read management-related books, business magazines and the Harvard Business Review. I also like to read poetry, if I get time.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Glass ceilings often exist in one's mind only. If they are real, be patient, analyse the situation and take mini-jumps forward.
The biggest turning point in my career was: The decisions to move from ANZ Grindlays Bank to Morgan Stanley and then to HSBC.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Enjoy whatever you do.

Over the past year, she has been busy nurturing the "two young babies" of HSBC: an insurance joint venture is one of them, and the acquisition of IL&FS Investsmart Brokerage the other. HSBC now offers the full range of financial services. "The challenge now is to manage the 35,000-strong employee force, get the best out of them and attract talent," says Naina Lal Kidwai. As responsibilities increase, hobbies like trekking have taken a back seat. But she makes it a point to go for short family vacations to wildlife sanctuaries.

-Rachna Monga

Neelam Dhawan
Neelam Dhawan
Neelam Dhawan
48, Managing Director, Hewlett-Packard India

My favourite life-after-work activity: I like going home and spending time with my family.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: I have never had any issues in any job because of the fact that I'm a woman.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Choosing to do an MBA rather than a Masters in Economics was one of them.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: I was helped immensely by a support structure when I was a young mother, but today, New Economy companies offer all employees, not just women, facilities that were not there earlier.

In 1980, after she graduated from Delhi's St Stephen's College, Neelam Dhawan had to choose between the DSE and Delhi University's Faculty of Management Studies. After a chat with her brother, she decided that she wanted to be a career woman. "There is a change happening with women in the workforce; there were far fewer women earlier," she says. HP has been proactive in retaining women, who account for 30 per cent of its workforce today. "Twenty years ago, this would have been unimaginable," says Dhawan who moved to HP from Microsoft.

-Kushan Mitra

Preetha Reddy
Preetha Reddy
Preetha Reddy
51, Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise

Power to me means: A sense of fair play allowing people to grow and flourish.
My most memorable experience at workplace: When the first heart transplant was done at Apollo-one Christmas day a decade ago.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Spending time with family and friends.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Break it.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Getting to join Apollo. Being the firstborn daughter, I was a housewife before I came on board-and would have probably remained one were it not for the circumstances.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Be like a Buddhist-be dispassionate about all decisions, particularly the ones that involve a choice between the hospital's betterment and personal betterment. That way there will be no regrets.

The soft-spoken and self-effacing Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals firmly declares that she is not the first among equals among her siblings, (all are involved with the hospital), and that it is age rather than ability that has given her that commanding designation. That done, she reveals her latest healthcare effort, which goes beyond the growth numbers. "We are working (through research and processes) to improve diagnostics by looking at the human body holistically rather than in parts-back to the old approach. If we succeed, this will be a major step forward," she says with a glow in her face.

-Nitya Varadarajan

Radhika Roy
Radhika Roy
Radhika Roy
54, MD, NDTV

She appears to come with the trappings of the quintessential business tycoon-a super-connected family. Her sister is Brinda Karat, the first, and only, woman member of the CPI(M) Politburo, and her husband Prannoy Roy, who defined English news on TV. But Radhika Roy, Managing Director, NDTV, has in many ways slogged for every little bit of the success that is NDTV today.

A former print journalist, Roy is known for exacting standards. "She's a terrific person with a remarkable sense of strongwilled ethics and understanding of what is right and wrong…. I owe her a huge debt," says Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN.

Tales about her principled approach are legendary and insiders still recall her calm despite the pressures that the channel faced during the Gujarat riots. Roy lets reporters do their jobs without once questioning their coverage or reporting. The group, meanwhile, has launched several new channels and media platforms. This year has been big as it also forayed into the Hindi general entertainment space with NDTV Imagine.

-Shamni Pande

Rama Bijapurkar
Rama Bijapurkar
Rama Bijapurkar
51, Independent Management Consultant

Power to me means: The ability to get people to think differently about things.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Being lazy, watching TV and reading fiction.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: To ignore all the rules of the game and do what your gut tells you to.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Being told by a psychologist friend-even as I complained about my high-profile employer not "getting it"-that "if there is a game that only you know how to play, then you will have to create your own playground to do so."
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Merge the two worlds, do not have separate spaces… go to the beauty parlour on Monday mornings if you need to, and to meetings on Sunday afternoons if you want to.

Rama Bijapurkar's 'We are like that only' published in November 2007 and its international edition, Winning in the Indian Market, made many bestseller lists and made her a household name. She is the most respected Indian consultant on consumer affairs and market strategies, and is on the boards of top companies like Infosys Technologies, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, Mahindra Holidays and Bharat Petroleum.

-Suman Layak

Renu Sud Karnad
Renu Sud Karnad
Renu Sud Karnad
56, Joint Managing Director, HDFC

Power to me means: The ability to lead, to take decisions and to drive change. My most memorable experience at workplace: When HDFC crossed Rs 1 lakh crore in disbursements.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Watching movies with my husband now that my son and daughter have left home, else it was mostly heading home to spend time with family. The last movie I watched was Rock On.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: To be honest, work hard, do your job well and not ask for special favours as a woman.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Getting hired in the right company, at the right time.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: I'm good at managing professional time but not personal time.

Renu Karnad's first job interview was at ICICI. The then ICICI Chairman H.T. Parekh was setting up Housing Development Finance Corporation, and offered her a job with the new organisation. Karnad has been with HDFC since then.

Now, as the financial sector grapples with a global credit crisis, Karnad reminds us that HDFC is as solid as ever: "Our lending was always based on cash flows and not assets." She finds the Indian sari her power statement. Married to strategic affairs expert Bharat Karnad, she spends several days a month travelling.

-Shalini S. Dagar

Renuka Ramnath
Renuka Ramnath
Renuka Ramnath
47, Managing Director & CEO, ICICI Venture

Power to me means: The ability to improve the economic condition of a large number of people.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Spend time with friends and family.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Raising $250 million for ICICI Venture between 2001 and 2003 just after the Internet bubble.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Prioritise the needs depending on the situation.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Perform at the workplace.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Buy-out of Tatas' entire stake in Infomedia India.
Business Friend: Shikha Sharma, MD, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance.

At one point, she almost gave up plans to raise $250 million (Rs 1,150 crore) for ICICI Venture from third-party investors just after the Internet bubble burst in 2001. But she managed to convince domestic investors even as the foreign ones shunned her. "I believed in the strength of the ICICI brand," says Renuka Ramnath. She has increased the awareness about private equity and shown the way-from management buyouts to investing in real estate and new businesses. She remembers the buyout of the Tatas' stake in Infomedia India (Tata Press). "We did not have money to buy the stake initially, but believed in the business as it was getting cash into the company," she recalls.

-Virendra Verma

Shikha Sharma
Shikha Sharma
Shikha Sharma
50, MD, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company

Power to me means: The ability to influence change.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Setting up a debt and equity desk at ICICI Securities.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Watching Hindi movies.
The biggest turning point in my career was: When N. Vaghul took charge of ICICI.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Prioritise, depending on the situation.

She's the start-up queen of the ICICI Bank group. Life insurance, consumer finance, equity and debt market desks… Shikha Sharma has been instrumental in scaling up these businesses from scratch. And don't forget that she never had any experience in any of these businesses. Sharma remembers taking charge of the market desk at ICICI Securities (ISec) in the early '90s as a key point in her career; within three years, I-Sec was competing with leaders in the business, which included Citibank, DSP Financial Consultants (now DSP Merrill Lynch), JM Financials and Kotak Mahindra. Despite her schedule, Sharma still finds time to learn classical-singing with her daughter.

-Virendra Verma

Shobhana Bhartia
Shobhana Bhartia
Shobhana Bhartia
51, Chairperson & Editorial Director, HT Media

It has been business as usual for HT Media, as the company delivered good first quarter results this year, and the 51-year-old media baroness would have it no other way. Shobhana Bhartia, 51, Chairperson & Editorial Director, HT Media, known for her fierce time-and-agenda prioritisation, has been chipping away at her vision since the early '90s. Says Rajya Sabha Member Chandan Mitra, Editor & MD, The Pioneer: "I was probably part of her first experiment to engineer change at HT. Way back in the '90s, the paper had forayed with a new segment on 'Infotainment' and later launched its weekend lifestyle magazine… she has been very quick to spot trends and has been aggressive in pursuing change and growth." Mitra was Executive Editor at HT (1992-96). "

Bhartia knows what she wants and gets people to achieve results-the group has already seen key top-level exits, including that of two editors, in the last few years.

-Shamni Pande

Sunita Narain
Sunita Narain
Sunita Narain
47, Director, Centre for Science and Environment

Power to me means: Making a difference and being humble.
My most memorable experience at workplace: The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe during the Cola-pesticide controversy when we were grilled about the bona fides of our organisation-it was only the fourth-ever JPC probe in India and its enormity took some time sinking in.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Sleep, though I also do regular things like watching movies and reading-having just finished Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Never to live under one.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Travelling to the Chipko movement villages in the Himalayas in the early '80s and understanding the environmental connect of villagers with their eco-system.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Keep working. Closest friends in business: I think I have enemies, and may be associates but not friends in business.

She's the vigilant voice that India Inc. wishes was not so shrill-raising questions about pesticide content in colas, groundwater depletion and the Nano project's impact on Singur farmers' livelihoods. "It's a misconception that we are against industry-we want India Inc. to grow but that growth should be inclusive and benefit all sections of society," says Narain. Initially hurt at the personal attacks launched against her, she has learnt to shrug them off. Her own management style is consensual-her organisation has 120 people on its rolls and Rs 7 crore in revenues. "We want to be 'impactful' and we want to be angry-and remain angry," she asserts.

-Tejeesh N.S. Behl

Swati Piramal
Swati Piramal
Swati Piramal
52, Director, Piramal Healthcare Ltd

Power to me means: The ability to make a difference to people's lives; in my work, my big dream is to help to reduce the burden of disease.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Meeting President Bill Clinton on his state visit in a small Irani restaurant and holding a one-onone conversation with him. It stopped Mumbai's traffic completely.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Reading Sufi poetry, studying medieval history and literature and sailing on my 116-year-old wooden dhow.
The biggest turning point in my career was: My education at Harvard University in 1992. At Harvard, I learnt about management et al.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Enjoy every moment, with a smile and a sparkle in the eye. Do what you love, so work is a passion and relaxation.

In June this year, Swati Piramal had moved L.K. Advani to tears with a few lines from 13th century poet Shiraz Sheikh Sadi's poem Gulistan as she offered a vote of thanks at the end of a speech by the "Iron Man". Sufi poetry is one of her passions and one is sure to see more of it as Piramal takes over as the President of ASSOCHAM next year. She will be the first woman to head an apex business chamber in India. Professionally, Piramal Life Sciences, of which she is the Vice-Chairperson, is hoping to deliver the first drug developed by an Indian research company soon.

-Suman Layak

Vinita Bali
Vinita Bali
Vinita Bali
52, MD, Britannia Industries

My most memorable experience at workplace: Having the opportunity to visit distant countries on work.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Working out and listening to Indian and western classical music.
The biggest turning point in my career was: When I got the opportunity to work overseas in London with Cadbury's early on in my career.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: Look at work as life and vice-versa.

Nearly three decades after she served as an intern at the United Nations, Vinita Bali is headed to New York, this time to be a panellist on the Clinton Global Initiative. The reason for her presence: Britannia's work with Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) on fortified nutrients for the malnourished. There are about 120 million children below the age of five in India, of which around 47 per cent suffer from malnutrition, and Britannia decided to make a difference. "It is important for us to create a sustainable model for our business," says Bali.

-Rahul Sachitanand

Zarina Mehta
Zarina Mehta
Zarina Mehta
46, CEO, Bindaas, Co-founder, UTV

Power to me means: Nothing-no one can have real power over another.
My most memorable experience at workplace: Creating India's first local kids brand Hungama and now creating India's first local youth brand Bindass!
My favourite life-after-work activity: Reading in my veranda with my dog Sprite and a cup of tea.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: To excel in what you do.
The biggest turning point in my career was: Vipassana. It taught me the real meaning of hard work and how to find joy at work.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: I do not work on Saturdays and Sundays. That's family time for me.

Zarina Mehta is one of the founder members of United Television (UTV) and CEO of its Bindass channel. At UTV, she has produced some of the most popular shows. She was also behind Hungama, which became the top kids channel within 18 months of launch and was sold to Disney in 2006. Declining an offer to head Disney's India operations, she came up with the idea of creating an iconic local brand for youth. "The minute everything i going well, I am bored to death," she says. Thus was born Bindass.

-Anusha Subramanian

Zia Mody
Zia Mody
Zia Mody
52, Senior Partner, AZB & Partners

Power to me means: Being an effective agent of change and to create a longlasting institution of world class calibre.
My favourite life-after-work activity: Spending time with my husband travelling.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: To punch right through it on merit.
The biggest turning point in my career was: When I won my first court case as a young junior in 1985.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: I haven't discovered the mantra for work-life balance-will be happy to learn the secret.
Little-known fact: Plays the piano and had achieved distinction at the Royal School of Music. Also, at one point she wanted to be an air-hostess.

In the last one year Zia Mody has been appointed to the World Bank Appellate Tribunal and the London Court of International Arbitration- appointments she is suitably proud of, as she is of the growth achieved by AZB & Partners, where she is a Senior Partner. The firm is probably the second-largest in India now-and advises major corporations on mergers and acquisitions. AZB has advised the Tatas, Blackstone, Carlyle and Lenovo, to name a few. Mody is daughter of India's former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee and is a committed Baha'i by religion.

-Suman Layak