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These 5 powerful businesswomen redefine the phrase ‘do it like a girl’ this International Business Women’s Day

Sanjana Ray
22nd Sep 2016
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“Let her sleep. For when she wakes, She will move mountains” - Napoleon Bonaparte

That’s the thing about women – you never know what you’re dealing with.

Women are making history. It’s a no-brainer, really, that they have the same willpower, intelligence and burning ambition that has so often been ascribed to men all these years. But the truth is women have always been leaders, be it when they took to the streets to fight for their voting rights or when they battled their way, tooth and nail, into many a political platform to represent their kind. Today, we can tell a little girl that she has the power and, more importantly, the opportunity to run an office, a state or even a country if she so wishes because the world is hers for the taking.

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On the occasion of this Business Women’s Day, we want to thank the women who are rooting themselves deep in the crème of the Indian Business World and giving us a legacy to boast about. Their relentless efforts and unmitigated focus towards achieving their dreams in the face of dubious patriarchy inspires us to not hold back and never apologise for sprinting after our own.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

“People told me, no we can’t give you a job as a brewer, you’re a woman. I was very determined to show that a woman can manage a business. Any business.”

Who would have thought one of our country’s most powerful businesswomen, with a current net worth of $1.89 billion, had started her entrepreneurial journey in a rented garage in Bengaluru? Shaw was a woman with a vision and a well-cultured interest in the world of Biochemistry. In 1978, she managed to get a job at Biocon, Biochemicals Limited in Ireland as a Trainee Manager, despite being a woman of colour in a mostly male-dominated industry. A few months into learning the trade, she convinced the management to open up an Indian branch that she was determined to head.

That’s how her journey begun – a rented garage space, an initial investment of Rs 10,000 and censure by people and banks, and her first employees comprised of retired garage mechanics and non-professionals who took a leap of faith. With little of the mandatory resources required to run a lab, the future seemed bleak for Shaw, but she refused to cower down. A few months later, she initiated an industrial enzyme manufacturer that she began to export to the USA and Europe, and that’s when her sales started soaring. She got enough funds to buy a 20-acre property for her firm and continued with the discovery of novel enzymes and techniques that got her company a venture capital fund of $ 250,000 by Narayan Vaghul of ICICI. In 1989, they became the first Indian biotech company to receive US funding for proprietary technology, and in 2004, her company became the second Indian company to cross the 1 billion mark on the first day of listing. As of 2015, its net income was over $140 million and the sales have only pointed upwards, thanks to the unwavering faith of one woman.

Chanda Kochhar

“Aim for the sky, but move slowly, enjoying every step along the way. It is all those little steps that make the journey complete.”

This is an excerpt from a letter that Chanda Kochhar wrote to her daughter at the crux of her career, which soon became viral. Chanda is the embodiment of the phrase “work hard and you will be rewarded.” From the time she joined ICICI Bank way back in 1993 as a Management Trainee, Chanda put in her superhuman efforts at suggesting and incorporating revolutionary stances in the world of retail banking, which was soon to give her the due recognition and much critical acclaim. Featured rank 40 in Forbes’ 2016 list of ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’, Chanda occupies a net worth of $655 Million. In 1998, associated with changing the superfluous face of retail banking, Chanda’s decision as General Manager and Head of E-commerce and Strategy Divisions to tap into the aspects of innovation, technology, diversification, expansion and distribution is what made the industry reel on its heels and pick up. It also marked her as the brain behind the expansion of the banking system into these profitable threads. Chanda became CEO and Managing Director of ICICI in 2009, and representing India in the International Market, she later trudged up to becoming the President of the International Monetary Fund.

Arundhati Bhattacharya

“Nothing is as bad as it seems to be. If you take the plunge, you will somehow manage to swim across.”

The current Chairperson of the State Bank of India, who ranks 25th in Forbes’ 2016 list of powerful women, was minutes away from putting in her papers as an employee in the Lucknow branch. But her boss and mentor M.S. Verma intervened and told her to hold on through the rough patch. Today, she couldn’t be happier. Bhattacharya is one of those novices who accidentally walked into world of banking, after pursuing the creative field all her academic life. Making the cut for the SBI all the way back in 1977, Bhattacharya went through a series of rapid promotions after serving almost 35 years in service. She went from being the MD and CEO of SBI Capital Markets to being the CFO and MD of the bank in August, 2013. Two months later, she superseded three male colleagues to reach the corner room as the first woman chairperson. For her latest role, she is determined to meet the expectations of women employees, who make up about 20 percent of the workforce. She intends to introduce measures such as a two-year sabbatical to pursue higher education, a transfer policy which allows them to be close to their family and special training programmes to enrich their professional lives.

Sabina Chopra

“Yesterday's roadblocks are today's opportunities and this progression will continue. So enjoy what you do.”

A Delhi graduate, Sabina Chopra is no-nonsense about the fact that she’s in the game to win it. She is part of the trio, which includes Dhruv Shringi and Manish Amin, who founded Yatra.com, an Indian online travel agency and search engine that has a ready spot in all our smartphones. Sabina first worked with Japan Airlines and then with ebooker and picked up on the global trade of the travel market, building trends and offers based on human usage and psychology. Under her, the company has become one of the leading online travel website in India, with a revenue of about Rs 263 crores, recorded earlier this year.

Suchi Mukherjee

“You need the fighter gene to survive.”

If there’s anyone who has metaphorically kick-boxed the notion against women leading successful enterprises, it is Limeroad Co-founder Suchi Mukherjee. A former investment banker at Lehman Brothers with degrees in Economics and Finance from St. Stephens, Delhi and London School of Economics respectively, Suchi is well versed in the throes of building, transforming and re-inventing businesses, having also worked with companies like eBay, Skype and Gumtree. The idea for the popular e-commerce company Limeroad struck her one evening when she was nursing her second child and she found a picture of a piece of jewellery. She instantly fell in love with this piece, but could not buy it because it was only on sale through a local artisan in Mumbai, and sitting across the ocean, she couldn’t have it soon. She thus visualised a company that would give women around the world the option of choosing and scrap-booking any product online.

Returning to India, Suchi launched the company along with Co-founders Prashant Malik and Ankush Mehra in 2012. As of 2015, the revenue from operations grew from Rs 1.8 crores in FY 14 to Rs 9.3 crores in FY 15, spearheading further sales for the company.

As we watch these powerful women dazzle the world with their finesse and stop at nothing to make their businesses the best in the market, we hope to inspire a new generation of businesswomen, ready to set their mark on the world.

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