When Falguni Nayar’s beauty and fashion company Nykaa went public in early November, it was more than just a bumper listing. Yes, the stock soared 89 per cent on debut, making a lot of people, including former investment banker Nayar, very rich. But what it also conveyed was a message to many other women that they too can chase their dreams and hope to make them come true. In this annual Most Powerful Women (MPW) in Business special issue of Business Today, we celebrate women leaders whose achievements have made it possible for millions of others to dream big. Dilasha Seth and Smita Tripathi tell you how Nayar chose to give up a flourishing career at Kotak Mahindra Bank and set up her own beauty and fashion company which today is valued at upwards of Rs 1 lakh crore.
In this 18th edition of BT’s MPW listing—where we assess achievers across a mix of business segments for their leadership and strategic skills and influence during the period October 2020 to September 2021—we feature 52 iconic women, 46 from India and six from overseas who are of Indian origin. The good news: this year’s list has 17 debutants, the highest ever since the list was launched. The previous highest was 16, recorded in 2013. Over the years, seven-time winners have been placed in the MPW Hall of Fame, and are no longer considered for the main list, allowing us to celebrate the achievements of many fresh faces. This year, Accenture in India’s Rekha M. Menon makes it to the Hall of Fame. The 2021 list sees 12 achievers returning to the winners’ list after a hiatus, which also demonstrates that several women leaders are persevering on their chosen paths and continue to do very well. Among the global Indians this year are Gita Gopinath, who has just been elevated to First Deputy Managing Director at the International Monetary Fund and actor, investor and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra.
But despite all these achievements and successes, there’s a lot of ground still left to cover. As Vidya S. points out in her opening essay, female participation in the labour force is still very low at just 21 per cent, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 places India at 140th position among 156 countries. Binu Paul examines why, despite the number of unicorns growing by the day in India, there are still very few women-led start-ups and women investors in India. And this is exactly why the MPW list is even more significant. It is important for more and more women to stand up and be counted. As MPW winner and Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud says: “Find ways to stretch yourself, keep learning, and don’t be afraid to raise your hand. The worst that will happen is a door shuts. But when a door opens, charge through it.”
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