Meet the Top Women Leaders of India

What does it take to change a woman’s life? Or how does a woman become a leader, a protagonist? Our lives are little, quite sporadic, yet there’s too much to be done. In India, women still face several kinds of demoralizing forces, be it at home or at office space, that takes away their energy, literally snatches away their peace of mind. Eventually, they sink deeper into the morass of identity crisis, because being a woman has made them an ‘object’ that can be easily scorned, rubbished or trampled.

In such situations, how does a woman lead? How does a woman fight and stand out against the hegemony of men, always ready to overpower her?

How does she become more than a house-wife but a role-model for thousands of other girls who can dream with open eyes!

Here’s a list of few life changing inspiring women who took a different path and opted for the difficult path.

Mira Kulkarni: Managing director of Ayurvedic cosmetic brand Forest Essentials

Perhaps what makes Kulkarni stand apart from the rest is her exemplary drive to stand out. She always wants to leave a mark, get noticed and do the unusual. When she first started to enter into Ayurvedic cosmetic brand segment, women were hardly a part of it. The profession was dominated by men. Rather, the profession itself did not exist in a much nuanced manner. But Kulkarni, a lady with a strikingly simple persona, she battled it out.

She started her brand in 2000, it was after almost 3 years that Forest Essentials had its first customer—an expat working as the general manager at Hyatt Regency in Delhi. Today, the brand has expanded its presence to 16 stores across seven cities.

There are two factories in Haridwar and one in Lodsi in Uttarakhand. All because of the power of a single woman’s dream! No matter how many challenges she faces, she believes that real honesty is being yourself in a world that wants you to be someone else, a copy. And she has fought every battle for her own identity, being the person she always wanted to be.

Renuka Ramnath: MD of Mutiples Alternate Asset Management

In April 2009 when she quit ICICI Ventures, Renuka Ramnath felt like “a mother whose child has been snatched away. It was a heartbreaking and difficult time for her. ICICI Ventures had been second home for her for 23 years. But Ramnath is a brave woman.

She has seen worse. She was just 32 and a mother of two when her husband died in a car accident.

So, what endowed her power to carry on? What kept her flame alive? Well, in her case, it was religion that bestowed her courage to survive and face the worst hardships, without ever giving in. Perhaps, that was what kept her strong even after she quit ICICI Ventures.

She knew it was time to create something new, something original.

Today her dream is to build Multiples as a bridge between providers of long-term risk capital and the new generation of capital-hungry entrepreneurs in India. Multiples Alternate Asset Management has earned itself fame by raising significant funds in a short period of time, in spite of being an independent private equity fund and with no institutional name associated with it.

Aruna Jayanti: CEO, Capgemini India

The 49-year-old Capgemini veteran is a walking history of the French company’s evolution in India. In her current role, she is responsible for leading the consulting, technology services and outsourcing services for Capgemini India that has about 40,000 employees.

She strongly believed that there is no ‘glass ceiling’ in the IT industry.

If there is one, it’s only in one’s head. During her leadership sessions, she counsels women to remove any iota of guilt that they had. She asks them to fight, to struggle and rise on the ladder. She hates in taking no for an answer and strongly believes that there is no end to growth. She ardently believes that one needs to have the fire in the belly

Priya Paul: Chairperson of the Apeejay Surrendra Group

Famously called as the ‘First Lady of Boutique in India”, Paul joined the legacy of Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels as a Marketing Manager at The Park, New Delhi in 1988 at a young age of 23. When she had joined, there was a huge vacuum in the hospitality industry. Women were usually not employed. It was a tough time to battle out her identity. Her family also suffered severe losses. By 1990, everything changed. The family lost a young son in a car accident in 1989, and nine months later, Surrendra Paul, then just 54, was killed in a terrorist attack in Assam.

She revived her strength and made sure that she was able to rejuvenate what her father had built, set new standards, streamlined operating procedures and hired the right professionals.

Today, she seems unruffled at all times and exudes confidence born out of years of hard work and experience. She credits meditation as the tool that helps her stay aloof from the chaos.

Rekha Menon: Chairperson of Accenture

Right from the time she graduated from XLRI, Menon knew that there was a dearth of women business leaders in the country. But she was not to be hemmed by the norms. She still remembers that in spite of being a Gold Medalist, Hindustan Lever did not recruit her because she was a woman. Today, she heads human resources for all of Accenture’s growth markets – a division carved out at the end of last year to tap domestic business opportunities across the globe and a decision that could even alter Accenture’s fortunes. She might be doing a lot, but Menon says what she loves doing most is starting something up.

She loves start-ups, the ambiguity, and the confusion that they bring with them.

Well, all these women leaders have one thing in common. They were never afraid. They went through the worst times in life and hit back. They stood upright, faced the calamities and never ever gave up. Definitely, a reason to salute them for their struggles!


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