The thought leaders
October 2, 2008
Don't worry about the economy: Just get the government to listen to these top-notch women thinkers, whose ideas and work have given Indian economists global respectability. But the rise to the top has not been easy-all of them had to fight to gain credibility in a male-dominated world. The youngest in this listing, though, shot to fame overnight after coining the term, BRIC, which has gained worldwide currency; the oldest happily adjusted her career to be with her children. And what a difference they have made and are making!Isher Judge Ahluwalia
63, Chairperson, Board of Governors of ICRIER
Indian economy's biggest weakness: Expanding fiscal deficit-much of it off-budget, imported inflation and infrastructure and skills deficit.
Indian economy's biggest strength: A vibrant private sector plus the ability of governments to manage macro-economic risks.
Biggest turning point in my career: My second book on industrial slowdown which anchored me as a serious economist.
Isher Judge Ahluwalia likes to keep an open mind and an empirical approach. If that was evident in her seminal work on industrial slowdown of the '60s and the subsequent productivity decline, then the same streak is visible in her current work, too-delivery of social goods and services in states with better infrastructure. Married to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Isher has happily kept a flexible work schedule to be with their two sons, juggling a busy career with an equally busy personal life. "I'm quite unashamed of saying that unless you spend time with children when they need it, they just slip away. And for that you need to be around. It's not an easy choice."
-Shalini S. DagarIla Patnaik
44, Senior Fellow, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy
Indian economy's biggest weakness: Infrastructure.
Ila Patnaik can spot a slowdown a few quarters ahead of anyone else. The last time she did this was in 1996 when investment euphoria prevented anyone from believing her. She could spot the present downturn ahead of others too. However, the prognosis is not as severe this time around as it was almost a decade ago. "Investments this time are in infrastructure, which is less prone to business cycles," Patnaik says.
-Shalini S. DagarAshima Goyal
53, Professor, IGIDR
Indian economy's biggest weakness: Not equipping people to realise their potential.
A warm and soft-spoken person, Ashima Goyal's main focus is on using rigorous tools to understand economic situations and arrive at a solution. She is currently researching exchange rate and monetary policy institutions, fiscal and monetary policies, technology and labour markets.... Goyal feels it has been a great battle for a woman from a developing country to establish credibility in this field. "But I hoped my contribution could make some difference," she says.
-Anusha SubramanianRoopa Purushothaman
29, Head, Future Capital Research
What motivated her to move back to India: I started covering India more and felt that I needed to be here to do the type of research I wanted to do.
After she co-wrote the renowned economics paper that coined the term BRIC (short for Brazil, Russia, India and China) during her first job at Goldman Sachs, this graduate from Yale and LSE came down to India to join Kishore Biyani's Future Group. So, what keeps her going? "I get to approach longterm development topics for the country, and address them in a unique light," says Roopa. "At the end of the day, I like data and I love to write, and I get to do both in my day-to-day job," she says.