Powerful Female Business Leaders & Their Inspiring Stories
Gender does not define who a person is; that was probably one mantra followed by many women in history who went beyond expectations to accomplish even greater achievements than was expected of them. Here are some inspirational women business leaders who have broken all stereotypes and achieved the unachievable.
• Indira Nooyi
Born in Madras on October 28, 1955, she has a double master’s in business administration from IIM-Calcutta and a master’s degree in Public and Private Management from Yale School of Management. At first she worked for Boston Consulting Group before progressing through Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri positions before eventually landing PepsiCo as CFO (2001) and CEO (2006) roles, and since that point has seen net profits surge from $2.7 billion to over $6. 5 billion – earning her recognition among Forbes 100 Most Influential People list ever since 2007. She also holds the 3rd position in the “world’s powerful moms’ list” and her daughters say that they talk to their mother at least 3 times a day. Her idea to shift Pepsi products away from being “fun for you” (like potato chips and regular soda) towards “better for you” (diet or low-fat versions of snacks and soda) and even potentially beneficial items like oatmeal made a substantial impactful statement to its consumers.
• Arundhati Bhattacharya
Born on 18 March 1956 in Kolkata, she made history when she became India’s inaugural female chairperson of the State Bank of India on 18th March 2016. After completing her master’s degree from Jadavpur University, she went on to join SBI in September 1977 as a probationary officer. She can be called a very versatile woman as she held various positions in SBI over a career of 36 years. She has also served at the bank’s New York office. She has been involved in the launch of several new businesses such as SBI General Insurance, SBI Custodial Services, and the SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund. She was named the 25th most powerful woman in the Forbes list and is the 4th most powerful woman in Asia Pacific.
• Chanda Kochhar
Born on 17th November 1961 in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, she did her bachelors in Mumbai at Jai Hind College. Her academic track record itself is proof of her grit and hard work. After graduating she studied cost accountancy and got a master’s in management studies from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. She received the Wockhardt Gold Medal for Excellence in Management Studies, as well as the J. N. Bose Gold Medal in Cost Accountancy. In the year 1984, Chanda started her career as a management trainee at the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI). Her talent and hard work helped her raise above her peers. She became the Managing director of ICICI in the year 2009. She brought instrumental changes over the years to the firm. Kochhar was ranked as the most powerful businesswoman in India in Forbes’ list of ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2013’. In 2015, she was ranked first in the Fortune List of 100 Most Powerful Women in Asia Pacific.
• Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
Born and brought up in Bengaluru, this woman needs no introduction. Born on March 23rd1953, Shaw graduated from Bangalore University with a bachelor’s in Biology and Zoology. Her father Rasendra Mazumdar, the head brewmaster at United Breweries, suggested young Kiran study fermentation. This was not considered a woman’s profession at that time and Shaw was the only girl in her class, although she always topped with high results. She worked as a trainee brewer in Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne, and as a trainee maltster at Barrett Brothers and Burston, Australia. Wanting to settle down in her hometown she searched for a job there but was rejected only because of her gender. She eventually got a position in Scotland. Before she could consider moving there she met Leslie Auchincloss, founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, of Cork, Ireland who wanted to expand their industry to India. Auchincloss was looking for an Indian entrepreneur to help establish an Indian subsidiary. And she thought Kiran was the right candidate. Mazumdar agreed to undertake the job on the condition that if she did not wish to continue after six months she would be guaranteed a brew master’s position comparable to the one she was giving up. Shaw rented a house in 1978 with Rs.10000 as seed capital. Initial struggles were ruthless as she got neither funding, nor the technology to expand her business. She did not even have an idea how to go about in the business world as she was a science student. Within a year of its inception, Biocon India could manufacture enzymes and export them to the US and Europe, the first Indian company to do so. At the conclusion of her inaugural year in Biocon, Mazumdar used her earnings to purchase a 20-acre property and dreaming of future expansion. That dream eventually materialised and today it stands among one of the leading pharmaceutical companies worldwide – Biocon. The list of awards won by this iron-clad woman is endless. She has consequently been listed in Forbes and TIME magazine’s most influential people for 5 years.
• Naina Lal Kidwai
Born in 1957 to an insurance company CEO, Kidawai is a banker, Chartered Accountant, and business executive. She is currently the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India. She is also the former President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Delhi (1977 batch) and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1982. Kidwai was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School and the first woman to guide the functioning of a foreign bank in India. She is also a qualified chartered accountant. Kidwai has repeatedly ranked in the Fortune global list of Top Women in Business, 12th in the Wall Street Journal 2006 Global Listing of Women to Watch ad listed by Time Magazine as one of their 15 Global Influential 2002.
• Mallika Srinivasan
Born in 1960 in Chennai, her academic track record would hold good for the rest of her life. A university gold-medallist in Econometrics from the University of Madras, she graduated as a member of the Dean’s Honour List, and the Alpha Beta Gamma Society, from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, United States, and was ranked as one of its top 125 most successful alumni. Mallika Srinivasan is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited, a tractor major incorporated in 1960 in Chennai, India. She is on the Board of AGCO Corporation – United States, Tata Steel Limited, and Tata Global Beverages Limited. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, the Governing Board (Rural Technology and Business Incubator of the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and the Bharathidasan Institute of Management, Trichy. She led the company’s growth to its present status with revenues of INR 96 billion with diverse interests in tractors, farm machinery, diesel engines, engineering plastics, hydraulic pumps and cylinders, batteries, automobile franchises, and plantations. In 2011, she was voted Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young; awarded the Woman Leader of the Year award by Forbes India; recognized by Forbes Asia as one of the Top 50 Asian Power Businesswomen, ranked second among India’s Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune India and named among the six Most Powerful Women of India Inc. by Business Today, while the Asian Business Leadership Forum (ABLF) honored her with the ABLF Woman of Power Award. NDTV Profit, India’s leading business television channel, accorded her the honor of Business Thought Leader of the Year 2012 Award, at the NDTV Profit Business Leadership Awards.
These women prove that no one should ever underestimate their capabilities to accomplish anything in life, serving as role models to millions of young girls who seek to follow in their footsteps and pursue a career of their choice while striving to excel against all odds to be the best at whatever it may be. While women were traditionally expected to stay home and care for family, these pioneering ladies broke stereotypes and perceptions by creating successful business empires of their own.
At GIBS, we encourage our students to follow their passion and spread their wings.