Nothing is impossible: On the power track
October 2, 2008
The 25 most powerful women had better watch out—they have some serious competition snapping at their heels. The Rising Stars range from the CEO of a foreign bank to legal eagles and marketing whiz-kids. Some stumbled into their dream careers by chance, some are entrepreneurs and there is even a bureaucrat. The 10 rising stars chosen by BT this year are the epitome of today’s women, for whom nothing is impossible.Amisha Vora
42, Group Joint MD, Prabhudas Lilladher Group
Power to me means: The ability to make a difference in my areas of influence.
—Rachna MongaAnisha Motwani
43, Executive VP, Max New York Life Insurance
My favourite life-after-work activity: Spending time with children. The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: Demonstrate subject matter expertise.
Less than a year in the insurance business, Anisha Motwani, who was earlier with General Motors India, believes that “in marketing, inputs are based on science but the output is an art.” Her sector has shown a CAGR of 27 per cent over the last five years, and over 20 players compete for the consumer mindspace. She is quite clear that individual players can make inroads into this space only through consistent brand positioning that resonates with the core audiences. A mother of two, Motwani is among those modern women who have thrown off the guilt of being a working mom, of course, ably supported by a joint family. “I have not been a mother who gets up early and packs tiffin for my children, but I share a good understanding with them,” she says. “And as they have grown they take pride in what I do,” she says. That certainly helps.
49, India Leader (Transactions Practice), PricewaterhouseCoopers
My favourite life-after-work activity: An avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction books, I like spending time with my daughter Divi, 22.
As a young girl, Bharti Gupta Ramola wanted to be a doctor, but changed her mind later when she realised that a doctor takes almost 10 years to become economically independent. Arming herself with a degree from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College, she was thinking of the IAS exams, but the Emergency made her change her mind. She opted for an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. Joining PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 1984, Bharti rose to a leadership position in a few years. “In 1992, I became the first female partner in PwC India,” she says. Very rare in those days.
—Manu KaushikDeepa Misra Harris
50, Vice President (Marketing), Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces
My favourite life-after-work activity: Anything that de-stresses and recharges. Spending quality time with my family, doing yoga, writing or reading copiously (I am a compulsive reader).
It was a chance meeting with an Executive Director of Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces on an assignment that landed her a job offer in the hospitality industry— a career she had never planned. A Masters in English and Mass Communications, Harris has been with the Taj Group for 25 years. Starting off as a Sales Executive, she now heads the Marketing function across all four brands. Over the last one year, she says: “We have vastly improved the quality of marketing deliverables.”
49, Executive Director, PFRDA
My favourite life-after-work activity: Spending time with my daughters.
Meena Chaturvedi begins by saying: “I have no stories to tell you as I have had it relatively smooth.” But as the conversation progresses, it is clear that the way to the top has been an arduous one. Chaturvedi has been at the cutting edge of secondgeneration fiscal reforms in the last few years—as Executive Director of the Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority (PFRDA) now and earlier as Director of the Budget Division during the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility & Management Act, and as Director for Commercial Audit in the Comptroller & Auditor General’s office. On deputation from the Indian Audit & Accounts Service in her present job, she says most of the PFRDA staff, like her, “believe passionately in pension reforms.” Mother of two daughters, Meena is clear that bringing up her children is as important a job. “After all, I will give society two good quality assets,” she says.
—Shalini S. DagarMeera H. Sanyal
46, Country Executive-India, ABN AMRO
My favourite life-after-work activity: To have dinner with my family.
The best way to deal with a glass ceiling: To be yourself.
The biggest turning point in my career was: When I moved from Investment Banking to set up BPO operations in 2001.
Mantra for maintaining work-life balance: To give your 100 per cent, whether work or home.
A little-known interesting fact: After graduation, she joined a journalism course. She also won an all-India short story writing competition.
Meera H. Sanyal, the second woman CEO at a foreign bank, is on familiar terrain nine months into her job, having been with ABN since 1992. Sanyal is not fazed by the turmoil in the global financial markets, the domestic slowdown and the formal integration of ABN with Royal Bank of Scotland. (RBS is awaiting the Reserve Bank of India’s permission to re-brand ABN. “If we combine the two, you have real global powerhouse,” says Sanyal.)
—Anand AdhikariPallavi Shroff
52,Partner, Amarchand Mangaldas
My favourite life-after-work activity: I like to relax in my garden and listen to music.
41, Group CEO, Madison Media
My favourite life-after-work activity: Varies from “doing nothing” to travelling to gymming/swimming to movies to sleeping.
As group CEO of one of the three most powerful media agencies in India, Punitha Arumugam has added over Rs 800 crore of business in the last one year, pocketing new accounts and retaining the buying activities of Procter & Gamble, which was in danger of being shifted to JWT. She loves everything about her job— the numbers, the logic, the negotiations and the people.
—Anusha SubramanianSmeeta Neogi
40, Head (Marketing), West Side
My favourite life-after-work activity: Cooking and spending time with my daughter. Listening to Indian classical music—Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar, Rashid Khan.
From client services director at ad agency Ambience and working on the West Side account, Smeeta Neogi joined Trent as Manager (Communications) and Head (Research) in 2004. By April 2008, she was Head (Marketing) for West Side, the largest private label store chain in India with 32 stores. Neogi also helped create a separate identity for the West Side brand, associating it with the Lakme Fashion Week and making designer wear available at the store. She has chalked up major expansion plans for West Side moving on to the Tier II and Tier III cities.
—Suman LayakVuppalapati Madhavi
36, Chairperson, Prithvi Information Solutions
The biggest turning point in her career: Losing my job for the third time in the US because of a market downturn.
—E. Kumar Sharma