Business Today

Leading From Front

Abanti Sankaranarayanan is steering Diageo's transformation in the face of multiple regulatory, other challenges
Rukmini Rao | Print Edition: October 4, 2020
Leading From Front
Abanti Sankaranarayanan, Chief Strategist and Corporate Affairs Officer, Diageo India - Photograph by Rachit Goswami

"There is never a substitute for being closely connected to those connected to the front line of the business." The statement by Abanti Sankaranarayanan, head of Corporate Affairs and Strategy of Diageo India, is also the key to her success in navigating Diageo through the country's complex, fragmented and non-harmonised regulatory landscape, including taxation, prohibition in some states and hundreds of different state-level regulations.Dynamism is the key. In March this year, Diageo India repurposed its manufacturing units to produce sanitisers. The sanitisers were donated to governments and health workers. She also worked to ensure that alcohol home delivery was allowed in six states during the national lockdown, including big states such as Maharashtra and West Bengal. Leading a cross-functional team of 50-odd people, Abanti believes there is nothing like a well-oiled and cohesive team. "You can be a team of stars, it's quite different to be a star team, and companies and businesses need star teams," she says. Abanti is the first woman to co -chair the International Wines & Spirits Association of India which represents 80 per cent of the premium and luxury segment in India. Abanti, who considers her husband, Govind Sankaranarayanan, a mentor, friend, a guide and her sounding board, enjoys cooking a range of cuisines in her free time.

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