Women leading in unconventional sectors


From automobile to alcoholic beverages, from retail to private equity, women leaders are making their mark in sectors hitherto considered the male preserve. These bold and strong women are paving the way for the younger generation to an exciting and challenging future. Let us celebrate their stories.

Abanti Sankaranarayanan, Marketing & Innovation Director, Diageo India

Diageo is the world’s leading premium drinks company with a turnover of over $15 billion, and a portfolio of world-leading iconic brands such as Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Guiness, Bailley’s, Tanqueray, Ciroc and Gordon’s. Who would have imagined a woman in leadership role at an alcoholic beverages brand a few years ago? Times are changing surely. Innovation and marketing at Diageo India are led by a woman named Abanti Sankaranarayanan. Abanti studied Economics at St. Stephens and then later completed her MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Post which, she served in various roles as Tata Administrative Service offer, before taking on the leadership role at Diageo India. 

Avani Saglani Davda, CEO, Tata Starbucks Ltd

Avani Saglani Davda is the CEO at Tata Starbucks Limited at Starbucks Corporation. She was appointed to the role in September 2012. Davda joined Tata Group as a TAS (Tata Administrative Service) offer in 2002 and has been with the firm for over 10 years. She worked in the Vice Chairman’s office for Tata Global Beverages, prior to the appointment. Under her leadership, Starbucks has already launched 30 new stores in India across four cities and continues to invest in the market.

Bala Deshpande, Senior Managing Director, NEA India

Bala joined New Enterprise Associates India Pvt. Ltd. (NEA India) in 2008 as Senior Managing Director based out of its Mumbai office. Since that time NEA India’s assets under management have grown from ~$100mn to over ~$350mn. Under Bala’s leadership NEA has invested in several companies like Air Works, FSS, InTarvo, Intellisys, Naaptol, Nova, Trishe and Vishwa. Her private equity experience has seen the full cycle from nurturing young companies to executing multiple exits, including IPO’s, buybacks, strategic sales, and capital market divestments. She is also an Independent Director Board Member of Future Retail and Info Edge which are listed on National Stock Exchange and leaders in their sectors.Prior to joining NEA, Bala was with ICICI Venture (a leading Indian venture capital private equity investor), where she used her operational experience to identify opportunities for investment and played a strategic role in shaping the future of the investee companies. While at ICICI Venture, she was a Director on the boards of several companies, including Aaj Tak, Shoppers Stop, Nagarjuna Construction, Air Deccan, TechProcess Solutions etc. Prior to ICICI Venture, Bala worked across functions like sales, distribution and brand management with leading multinational companies such as Bestfoods, Cadburys, and ICI.

Chitra Ramkrishna, Chief, National Stock Exchange

CA Chitra Ramakrishna is the Managing Director and CEO of National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) with effect from 1st April, 2013. She is an Indian Chartered Accountant by profession. Chitra serves as Shareholder Director on the Board of NSCCL, the clearing corporation of NSE.The 50-year-old Chitra has been with NSE since its inception in 1991. She was part of the core five-member team selected by the government to create a screen based pan-Indian stock exchange.  In 2013, she was ranked 17th in ‘Fortune’s’ 50 Most powerful Women in the World.

Roopa Kudva, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, CRISIL

Roopa Kudva is Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of CRISIL and she is also Region Head, South Asia, Standard & Poor’s which is the foremost global provider of financial market intelligence. Prior to this, she was the Executive Director and Chief Rating Officer of CRISIL. She is also a member of Standard & Poor’s South Asia Governance Council. She joined CRISIL in 1992 and has worked in emerging markets in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries during her secondment to Standard & Poor’s, Paris, as Director, Financial Institutions Ratings. Previously, she worked at Industrial Development Bank of India for six years in the Project Finance department. She is a graduate in Statistics and a post-graduate in management from IIM, Ahmedabad.Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Vice Chairperson, Kinetic Engineering


While automobile giant GM’s appointment of Mary Barra as Chief Executive has resulted in media attention worldwide, India was already leading the way with Sulajja Firodia Motwani at the helm of Kinetic Engineering. Sulajja holds an MBA from CMU. Sulajja is taking bold steps by forging new partnerships and acquisitions and leading Kinetic unconventionally to success.


image credit: adgully, the hindu and tribuneindia 


Updates from around the world