In a list chiselled by a power packed jury, Forbes recently released a ranking of ‘The 100 Most Powerful Women In the World’. The list acknowledges the inroads women are making in the business world despite gender inequalities. It includes four incredibly talented Indian women who command tremendous influence and authority right now and are among the most powerful women on the planet. They are: Arundhati Bhattacharya(30), Chairperson of SBI bank; Chanda Kochhar (40), MD and CEO of ICICI Bank; Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (77), Chairman and MD of Biocon; and Shobhana Bhartia (93), Chairperson and Editorial Director of HT Media Ltd.
Having reached the pinnacle in traditionally male-dominated bastions of business in India, these women are making waves with their achievements. With their inherent talent and access to robust financial resources, they are powerful enough to impact their organisations and the economy in a big way.The significant power they wield derives from a combination of influence and authority, success in delivering outcomes and real personal responsibility.
Ranked 25th on the list, Arundhati Bhattacharya joined the State Bank of India as a 21-year-old intern and today leads the 200-year-old bank !
She is not only an achiever as the first woman Chairperson to lead the Bank, but is also the youngest person to reach this position. Few people know that Bhilai-born Arundhati’s background does not have anything to do with banking or finance; she graduated from Jadavpur University as an English Honours student. She converted her first job into her passion, which swiftly led her up the corporate ladder. On the way, she became an icon for every banker in the country.
Under her, the SBI started an internal blog for its women employees, a platform where they can share their problems and suggestions, and the SBI In-Touch galleries, a digital banking outlet with all services under one roof. She also pioneered a two-year sabbatical policy for female employees in need of maternity leave or those wanting to provide extended care to their families in case of medical emergencies, etc. Today, while facing the twin challenges of SBI’s mounting bad loans and obsolete image, she is working to help SBI emerge as the modern bank for every Indian.
Ranked 40th on the list, Chanda Kochhar, Chief Executive of ICICI Bank Ltd., India’s largest private sector bank, is currently spearheading the Bank’s push into retail lending.
Born in Jodhpur, Chanda Kochhar was a brilliant student who dreamt of becoming an IAS officer. She received the Wockhardt Gold Medal for Excellence in Management Studies as well as the J. N. Bose Gold Medal in Cost Accountancy for highest marks in the same year. She met her husband, wind energy entrepreneur Deepak Kochhar, at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai and is today the proud mother of a son and a daughter. In her off time, the lady loves watching Hindi movies and shopping for saris with her daughter.
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Kochhar has led a remarkable transformation at India’s largest private sector bank, which experienced major setbacks after the 2008 financial crisis.Mobile banking is one of her pet projects and in a bid to retain female staff, she has launched “iWork@home”, which allows employees to work from home for a year.
The self-made Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has transformed a small industrial enzymes company into India’s largest publicly traded biopharmaceutical company.
Bangalore-born Mazumdar Shaw started her professional career as a trainee brewer in Carlton & United Beverages, before joining Biocon Biochemicals Limited of Ireland as a trainee manager. She commenced her entrepreneurial journey from a rented garage in Bangalore, from where she started the Indian arm of the company. Battling the initial hurdles of securing bank loans, research equipment, and workers with advanced scientific skills, she focussed on research and discovery, post which, there was no turning back.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s hard work has taken the company’s operations to a new dimension. The first Indian biotech company to receive US funding for proprietary technology, today, Biocon is a pioneer in the field of biopharmaceuticals and clinical research and a company that distributes its products in over 85 countries. Mazumdar Shaw has also been involved with several philanthropic activities through her CSR wing, has established the Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre in Bangalore and supports the Arogya Raksha Yojana.
Ranked no 93, Shobhana Bhartia makes her debut on the Forbes list with her impressive work as the chairperson of Hindustan Times Media.
The daughter of renowned industrialist KK Birla and granddaughter of GD Birla, Shobhana Bhartia inherited a newspaper that was started with the intention of helping with the freedom struggle in pre-independence India. She spent time in each department of the publication to gain an appreciation of the different cogs of the business, before taking on the top job. One of India’s most well-connected women, Bhartia is married to Shyam Bhartia of the Jubilant Bhartia Group.
Revolutionising the business, Bhartia started several news supplements, including ones on lifestyle, fashion and food. She also received the first ever foreign direct investment in the Indian newspaper industry. Today, HT Media is the 13th largest media company in India in terms of market capitalisation, with interests ranging from newspapers and radio stations to online job portals and education.