The power 30 : Most powerful biz women

The recession, downturn or whatever you call it, has dented most kinds of lists lists of billionaires, lists of most valuable companies, lists of top recruiters and so on.

But there is one list that has grown when others shrank BT's list of the Most Powerful Women in Indian Business. As we researched for the seventh edition of our list, we were confronted with an embarrassment of riches.

Successful women leaders are dotting the Indian business landscape in far greater numbers than ever. Result: our list is of 30 jewels. Many "regulars in our list have added more to their power in the past one year. Two large and rapidly-growing private banks are headed by women today, which wasn't the case last year.

Though banking and finance still dominate the list, woman power is growing exponentially in the business of Bollywood, consumer goods and public relations. Our list captures this too. Check out the new faces and the new achievements of the old ones.

VINITA BALI, 52, MD, Britannia Industries

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

What enthuses is the work that the list recognises.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It evolves... as you reflect on new experiences but fundamentally for me, power is about creating the context and environment where the right things happen.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

The discretion and judgement to know when to push and when to be patient in a volatile and unpredictable market!

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Global recognition for the work Britannia is doing in the area of kids nutrition, at the Clinton Global Initiative, for example.

What next?

More transformative change.

- Rahul Sachitanand

SHOBHANA BHARTIA, 52, Chairperson & Editorial Director, HT Media

It's been a tough period for publishing, but Shobhana Bhartia's HT Media had good news for shareholders and perhaps readers too in the quarter-ended September 2009. Profits spurted over the previous year's corresponding quarter (which was a bit of a disaster), and circulation revenues were up, although advertising revenues stagnated.

The 52-year-old Chairperson & Editorial Director has been buoyed by growing readership numbers of the group's Hindi paper Hindustan. "We would like to head into the smaller towns as that's where the wealth is going to be," says HTMedia CFO Piyush Gupta. Watch out for HT and Bhartia.

- Puja Mehra

NEELAM DHAWAN, 49, Managing Director, Hewlett-Packard India

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Yes, it is exciting to be on the list again. Being recognised amongst the best business leaders in the country feels good.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It has. Power has always meant influence and impact of thought and new ideas. In my role at HP, it's the ability to influence the complete business ecosystem to deliver results, remain focussed and be accountable for assigned responsibilities. It means being accountable to employees, partners, customers, shareholders and delivering results.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

In a tough year, a focus on the core strengths helped sustain our leadership.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Integration of acquired businesses. Acquisitions and mergers always have challenges of bringing people from different organisations and backgrounds together into the same cultural fabric of the company.

What next?

Grow the business the economy is showing all signs of recovery. The coming year will be one of success and growth. The big deals are back and even the consumer businesses are doing better.

Personal challenges?

I have to make sure my daughter does well to ensure she makes it into a good college!

- Kushan Mitra

FARAH KHAN, 44, Film-maker, Bollywood

Farah Khan is as grounded as she was almost two decades ago when she started out in the entertainment industry. She was picked to choreograph a song quite by chance for the Aamir Khan-starrer 'Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar' and has never looked back since. "I grew with the times. I managed to keep producing a variety of work and moved from being a choreographer to a film-maker over the years, says Khan.

Her spunky attitude has brought her many friends in the industry. In a Bollywood first, Khan managed to bring together over 30 top actors of different generations in her second directorial movie. Surely, that speaks highly of her standing. But Khan remains on the level.

"I have my priorities straight," says Khan, who, along with husband Shirish Kunder, is focussing on her home production house, Three's Company. "We're looking forward to producing a mix of television formats, concerts, and movies. Movies like I make thorough entertainers and the kind Shirish likes the 'arty', World Cinema appreciation kind.

Power to me means.

Having the prerogative to do or not do something. It's also about being able to make things happen.

My most memorable experience at workplace.

Bringing together over 30 actors for a song in the movie Om Shanti Om.

My favourite life-after-work activity.

Playing with my triplets and watching movies while they are taking an afternoon nap.

The turning point of my career.

Choreographing a song for the movie, 'Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar', that was to be originally choreographed by Saroj Khan.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

It's very important to have a business of your own; a legacy to leave behind for your children.

- Anamika Butalia

NAINA LAL KIDWAI, 52, Group General Manager & Country Head, HSBC India

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Yes, it does. It is a reminder that a year has gone by and a time to reflect on the lessons learnt. And then I always look forward to the event, meeting some of the greatest women ever.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It changes to include broader spheres of influence and patience that the results will come in time. Also, the self confidence to be able to admit mistakes.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

That microfinance is an area which pays back its loans better than higher-income credit-card holders!

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Our insurance JV with Canara and OBC ranked 12th in its first year of operation; successful integration of our ILFS Investsmart buyout.

- Anand Adhikari

CHANDA KOCHHAR, 47, CEO & MD, ICICI Bank

She heads the country's second-largest commercial bank, which boasts of an asset base of Rs 3.6 lakh crore. The journey for Chanda Kochhar, who is a diehard fan of Bollywood movies and also loves to go on shopping sprees (mostly saris), hasn't been a bed of roses. She joined the bank as a regular management trainee and toiled hard for 25 years to rise through the ranks to step into visionary K.V. Kamath's shoes . In fact, within minutes of taking over from Kamath in May this year when the global financial crisis was burning, Kochhar said: "I don't regret the timing at all." Today, this alumnus of Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management is navigating the bank through tough times.

"We are using the current year to position our balance sheet to take advantage of the next phase of growth, says Kochhar, who aims to increase the bank's branch network from 1,520 to 2,000-plus branches. She is focussed on strengthening the deposit franchise to garner low-cost deposits, maintaining a high level of capitalisation and strengthening the risk management system.

All this will prepare ICICI Bank for high growth when the good times are back.

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

I definitely feel honoured to be part of this list once again. However, it also reminds me that there is a huge responsibility that I am carrying on my shoulders.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Being nimble-footed. It is important to be in a position to reorient strategies.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

For ICICI Bank, the current year is a time of consolidation. We have focussed on capital conversion, risk containment and efficiency improvement.

What next?

This year, the world's economic growth will be led by India. Indian banks will play a much bigger role.

- Anand Adhikari

ROOPA KUDVA, 46, CEO and MD, Crisil & Region Head-South Asia, Standard & Poor's

Her secret dream: to be a part of every credit or lending decision made in India, and to make India a hub for all S&P ratings in the South-East Asian region. Roopa Kudva, who took up the S&P post recently, wants the international rating agency to play a pivotal role in capital flows in and out of the region. Crisil's rating coverage has grown nearly eight times since 2008. From 400, the number of firms being rated has gone up to 3,000. Besides, its small and medium enterprises (SME) rating business, started in middle of last year, has got 7,000 ratings under its fold.

When the financial meltdown in the US put rating firms under the scanner, Kudva and her team promptly stepped up communications with its users of ratings. Crisil, a 51 per cent subsidiary of S&P, started sending out rating alerts to investors and general public even before a company was downgraded or upgraded. It also launched a product to measure the complexity level of financial products, and Kudva hopes it will become the key factor in every financial product bought or sold in India.

Power to me means.

The ability to make a difference in whatever you do.

My most memorable experience at the workplace.

Walking in unannounced into the-then Crisil MD's office and leaving with a Crisil job in hand in 1992.

My favourite after-work activity.

Reading and I like reading biographies.

The turning point of my career.

The international exposure and perspectives I got by working at S&P's Paris office.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

The increased sense of responsibility as a rating agency.

- Rachna M. Koppikar

KIRAN MAZUMDAR SHAW, 56, Chairman & MD, Biocon

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Yes, very much.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It has gone from a feeling of recognition to a sense of an important national responsibility.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

The absence of even the semblance of National Health System in India, which compelled me to work with Dr Devi Shetty to develop the first private sector micro-health insurance system.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Backed a scientist-entrepreneur in the US to develop next-generation mono-clonal antibodies for cancer and promoted a company IATRICa to pursue this innovation.

What next?

To transform Biocon into an innovative and global biopharma giant.

- Rahul Sachitanand

ZARINA MEHTA, 47, Founder-Director & Chief Creative Officer, UTV Network

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Yes absolutely, I'm truly honoured to be on the BT list for two years in a row.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

Not really. No one can have real power over another. And if we believe we have it, then it's best to use power as infrequently as possible!

New lessons learnt in 2009.

This past year has been so, so hard... Despite this, UTV Broadcast Network has become the fastest-growing network. So, the lesson is never give up, believe in brands and just keep fighting because bad times really make you stronger.

What next?

Our objective is to establish UTV Network as a significant player in the Hindi-speaking market. On a personal front, I am looking forward to 10 days of Vipassana!

- Anusha Subramanian

KALPANA MORPARIA, 60, CEO, JPMorgan India

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

It does not excite me in itself, but does to the extent it inspires young women in corporate India.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It's always the ability to make a difference to society and various stakeholders in an organisation. It doesn't matter whether you work for a local or global organisation.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

The learnings for everybody have been on the risk and compliance areas. There can always be financial catastrophies and one should never look at just the absolute numbers, but the risk adjusted returns or figures.

What next?

India is uniquely placed in the new economic world order. There are several things that we did better compared to the rest and now is the time to really see how we can reach 9 per cent GDP growth.

- Anand Adhikari

ZIA MODY, 53, Sr. Partner, AZB & Partners

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

It does. It is good to be continually recognised and fills you with a sense of responsibility.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

Yes, to some extent. Today, meaningful facilitation between various stakeholders and constituents is much more satisfying than simply negotiating or winning a point or two in a draft or transaction.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

One must continue to be extra cautious while analysing and interpreting government policy to anticipate litigation in a transaction... and to start understanding different regulatory systems over the world.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

I was appointed as one of the vice presidents in the London Court of International Arbitration and our firm opened offices in Chennai and Hyderabad.

- Suman Layak

VISHAKHA MULYE, 40, MD, ICICI Venture Funds Management

From doing project appraisals for a financial institution (then ICICI Ltd) to managing treasury funds to raising a billion dollars through stock sale (for ICICI Bank) to picking up stakes in companies as a private equity (PE) investor, Vishakha Mulye has virtually seen every facet of the financial services business. Six months into her new job, she is already showing her fund-raising skills, netting $250 million from domestic investors for a new PE fund. But money or just raising funds is not what she is aiming for. "Once you achieve consistency in performance then assets under management is really just an outcome, she says. That's quite a shift from its parent company, ICICI Bank's philosophy of going for growth. Mulye took over from Renuka Ramnath, who ran ICICI Venture for almost a decade and helped it become a dominant PE player. She then rebuilt the team and restructured the way it functions, and plans to follow a more hands-on approach with its investee companies. It helped that Mulye had built relations with investors and companies during her stint at ICICI Bank.

What does power mean to you?

To have the strength to make people believe in my vision.

My most memorable experience at workplace.

When our team raised $5 billion from an equity issue in just 57 days in 2007.

The turning point of my career.

In 1997, when I moved from the zonal office of ICICI Ltd to the corporate office as an Executive Assistant to Head (Corporate Banking). This helped me participate in the transition of ICICI Ltd to ICICI Bank.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Don't take anything for granted.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Launched a $500-million private equity fund within six months of joining ICICI Venture.

What next?

Take advantage of the opportunities in the private equity market and deliver consistent returns to investors.

- Rachna M. Koppikar

LEENA NAIR, 39, Executive Director (HR),HUL

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

It's always an honour and worthwhile. I feel humbled by the recognition.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

When I was younger, I thought that power was seniority, authority, hierarchy ... Today, power for me is ideas and about influencing change.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

The current working environment has become tough, so greater empathy and caring for the employees has become very important. Another learning is that the job of leadership is to build hope and optimism.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

We continue to attract and retain top talent.

What next?

Miles to go before I sleep, I have just got started.

- Anusha Subramanian

SUNITA NARAIN, 48, Director, CSE

As an activist, I am never happy with what happens, I always want more, says Sunita Narain, whose work has prompted industry representatives to sit on a dharna outside her office, or to file Rs 100-crore defamation notices. The Joint Parliamentary Committee that Narain faced led to a report parts of which are now being implemented. Sample: the Food Safety and Standards Authority and the cleaning up of pesticide registration system. Sunita has followed up with more campaigns. And she believes the more stink it generates, the better it is. "Noise is part of change in society. Otherwise, we all want to change by working internally decisions between a few people. That should not be the way it has to be done. Society must feel it, and it must be divided and then come together on such issues.

What does power mean to you?

Getting something done for the right reasons, and in a way that can bring change.

My most memorable experience at workplace.

When I first faced the fourth Joint Parliamentary Committee for the pesticide controversy. It took me 20 minutes to turn them to my side. Their assumption was that we were basically doing the study as an extortion racket to get money out of Coke and Pepsi.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

It is getting tougher to bring about change. Bringing change is highly contested in a society which is highly inequitable.

What next?

Same battles climate change, water, sewage.

- Shalini S. Dagar

AMRITA PATEL, 66, Chairman, NDDB

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

I am not a businesswoman. I am in the business of putting other women in business. If young women can be inspired in anyway by this then I feel something has been achieved.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

No. Power to me is not really an individual thing. It is an ability to empower all and collectively reach a goal.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Dairy sector cannot be seen in isolation ... and there is need to have a holistic approach.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Used the year more to focus on internal strengths.

What next?

Continue being a catalyst so that focus remains on enhancing milk productivity.

- E. Kumar Sharma

RAJSHREE PATHY, 53, Chairperson, Rajshree Sugars

A fourth generation businesswoman from Coimbatore, Pathy grew up to inherit a deep love of art from her mother. In fact, she still has the first M.F. Hussain painting she bought when she was barely 17. Since then she has collected many eclectic pieces, more as things of beauty than for resale. At the age of 34, she was drawn to manage her father's business in sugar after his sudden demise and was advised to sell it on the grounds that it was highly regulated, tough and non-profitable. But she is a contrarian and loves to experiment. Barren lands were transformed to thriving cane fields to ensure committed supplies she was among the earliest to introduce integration in the industry with cogeneration and ethanol production, and was also the first woman President of the Indian Sugar Mills Association. Her latest venture, however, takes her back to her passion the launch of Contemplate a forum that would educate ordinary students and people to appreciate art and make it less elitist . Ayurveda and holistic healing have inspired her to promote a range of natural cosmetics called Kama Ayurveda.

What does power mean to you?

The ability to give.

My most memorable experience at workplace.

When one of my farmers thanked me for making him a crorepati!

My favourite after-work activity.

Being with people I love.

The turning point of my career.

When my father dropped dead at age 52 and I decided to fulfil his vision.

To maintain work-life balance.

I listen to my inner voice and stay positive at all times.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

That life is good after the recession!

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Stretching existing boundaries and creating new dreams.

What next?

CoCCA or Coimbatore College of Contemporary Art, which will be the finest art school in India! A passion to make quality art education accessible to all!

SWATI PIRAMAL, 53, Director, Piramal Healthcare

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Yes, yes. Absolutely. This year, I became the president of ASSOCHAM. I have invited 100 women to chair all the national committees this year. What helped me in this effort was the little club we started with the 25 women who made it to the BT Power List every year.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

I have identified three areas taxation changes, lack of R & amp;D, and education & amp; health. Power for me is the ability to intervene in these areas.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

For the rural and Tier-II markets, we need to customise our offerings through smaller packs, lower prices.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Finding new, easy ways to deliver a drug in a global market.

- Suman Layak

URVI PIRAMAL, 57, Chairperson, Peninsula Land and Ashok Piramal Group

Real estate is normally considered the preserve of men. But Urvi Piramal never thought of it that way: not only does she head Peninsula Land, but she has also set benchmarks for the industry. When most real estate companies were staggering under huge debt burdens and were saddled with large land banks, Peninsula Land took its net profit to a new high for the year ended March 31, 2009. "We didn't focus on just land acquisition, but on profitable land acquisition, says Piramal. Moreover, she de-risked the business by focussing on project-wise viability and minimum use of debt. This helped the firm to do well in the storm that has ripped through the industry over the last 18 months, and also gave it a very low debt-equity ratio of 0.3. Other than running the real estate business, she also heads the Ashok Piramal textile business under Morarjee Textiles. The group's vision is to touch the life of every fifth person in the world, and she has taken a personal interest in helping the poor with education and health services. "We have been providing vocational training to people and absorbing them in our group companies, says Piramal. And yes, she does have a life after work. That's mostly with her grandchildren and nephews. She also loves to travel.

What does power mean to you?

Freedom to choose in any situation.

My most memorable experience at workplace.

When the oldest Board member (D.M. Popat) of the company endorsed me as the Chairperson.

My favourite after-work activity.

Growing organic vegetables in Alibaug.

The turning point of my career.

When I took over as Chairperson of Ashok Piramal Group in 2005.

To maintain work-life balance.

I meditate and work out.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Indian companies are very resilient, have the ability to innovate and adapt to change.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

We're the only real estate company to grow in net profit in the financial year 2009.

What next?

Touch the life of every fifth person in the world.

- Virendra Verma

MEHER PUDUMJEE, 43, Chairperson, Thermax Ltd

Meher Pudumjee freaks out on western classical singing and is often spotted with her Pune choir group, Tuesdays. She is better known as the daughter of Anu Aga and the late Rohinton Aga, who built the Thermax brand into what it is today. So, what's Pudumjee's claim to fame? She's the one who took Thermax from just Rs 850 crore in revenues in 2004-05, when she took over from her mother, to a staggering Rs 3,300-crore enterprise today. Under her, Thermax has grown at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 40 per cent. But the modest Pudumjee says: "I took over at a time when the economy was in an upswing. When she took over from her mother, she wasn't very confident whether she was the right person. The challenge, she says, was to live up to the expectations that came with the new job. Her mother's words of wisdom helped her: "You have to be your own person, she was told. Over the years, Pudumjee has blossomed as a businesswoman. As Thermax's Vice Chairman (in 2002), she was instrumental in divesting the non-core businesses and restructuring the business portfolio. Pudumjee delegates a lot as she steers Thermax towards a bigger vision. "We are looking to see how we can build clean coal technology and a green portfolio, says Pudumjee, adding: "I would like to build an organisation where people really enjoy coming to work, she says. And she is not chasing haphazard growth. "We follow a strategy of sustainable profitable growth, she says.

My most memorable experience at workplace.

During my induction into Thermax as a Trainee Engineer in 1990, we had an HR session in which each of us had to earn Rs 10 without revealing our identity or motive. After knocking on many doors and being turned away, I was welcomed by a gardener to help him dig the flower beds, after which he took me to his hut and offered a cup of tea. What a humbling experience ...

The turning point of my career.

A year after I joined Thermax, my husband and I were sent to the UK to turn around a small subsidiary ... In 1996, my father suddenly passed away ... Overnight, I was elevated to the Board ... I had to support my mother and help turn around the company

- Anand Adhikari

MADHABI PURI-BUCH, 43, MD & CEO, ICICI Securities

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Oh yes! Very much so! I look at every year as a fresh start and think about what I want to do that will make me look back on the year with a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It has from the ability to make a difference to the ability to empower others to make a difference .

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Bad markets give us a great opportunity to do new things.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Building a framework in which people achieve what they never thought was possible.

What next?

ICICI Securities should be known as a game-changer in the investment banking business.

- Virendra Verma

NIIRA RADIA, 48, Chairperson, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications

Because she decides what the world knows of India's two largest business groups the Tatas and the Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani Group. Because her companies have handled the two groups' PR through very challenging times the Singur episode for the Tatas and the ongoing feud with the younger brother for the Ambani. Because despite being a late entrant in the PR business, she notched up the top clients for her agencies. Because she did not let twice-failed attempts to set up her own airline flag her entrepreneurial spirits. Because even though she may not be building industrial empires, in a world where image is everything, Niira Radia sits as the Queen of the hill.

For these reasons, and some more, Radia, Chairperson, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, makes a debut on the BT's power women list. However, she doesn't think she should be part of this list not as yet. "I don't understand why I'm on this list. Yes, we are fortunate to be working with some of the finest companies in the world. Any recognition they enjoy comes from the positive change they bring to stakeholders and the nation. Our helping them communicate this does not make us powerful; meaningful yes, but not powerful. While we are proud to have brought new standards of excellence to our industry, I think a place on your list is hardly relevant or justified, she told Business Today. How Radia deals with the challenges of handling the communication of two of India's biggest business groups each facing its own unique challenges will determine whether she stays on in the Most Powerful listings in the years to come.

- Kushan Mitra

CHITRA RAMAKRISHNA, 46, Joint MD, NSE

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It is just about executing one's responsibilities, and ultimately, if they contribute to the economy or society, then some purpose is served.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Every period holds out its own lessons to be learnt. Likewise, with last year, when businesses learnt to face new challenges in the environment in view of the meltdown.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

NSE has been able to bring to the investors completely new asset classes like currency and interest rates. These are universal asset classes and NSE is very excited about being able to offer these products to the masses.

What next?

At NSE, we continually challenge ourselves by innovating and bringing world-class products and services to the huge mass of savers and earners in this country.

- Rachna M. Koppikar

PREETHA REDDY, 52, MD, Apollo Hospitals Group

Preetha Reddy, the eldest of the Reddy daughters, who stands to inherit the chairmanship of the Apollo Hospitals Group from founder Prathap C. Reddy, has been voted by her siblings of being eminently capable of executing their father's "vision . Preetha has her feet firmly planted on the ground she believes in doing daily rounds of the Chennai hospital where she is based, and relying on instinct as much as active preparation in making business decisions. Few know that she has an eye for symmetry, perfection and painstaking detail and that events or hospitals planned under her supervision seldom face hiccups. Likewise, her ability to "take things as they flow ensures a calm demeanour, something that augurs well in a hospital that is constantly charged.

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

The BT Power List is certainly an appreciation, motivating me to work harder, to reach out and touch more lives.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

Power is the ability to make a difference in people's lives. Being a part of a group that has taken giant strides in healthcare in our country, I have been able to touch many lives.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

The recent economic slowdown has reiterated the value of prudence, reminding us to be more watchful of our expenses. Another important lesson has been in leveraging collaboration rather than worrying about competition. The case for collaboration extends to softer areas such as sharing of research, innovations and best practices.

What next?

A concerted effort to reach out and take healthcare to a billion lives.

- Nitya Varadarajan

SHIKHA SHARMA, 50, MD & CEO, Axis Bank

She has had an action-packed year so far. In June, she left the ICICI Group's life insurance company to join Axis Bank, the country's third-largest private bank. "A lot has changed, says Sharma, who after popularising insurance, especially the unit-linked insurance plans (popularly known as ULIPs), is now hawking consumer, corporate and SME loans. Her profile may have changed dramatically in 2009, but she has a record of excelling in whatever task she was entrusted with in the past.

An alumnus of IIM-A, Sharma powered ICICI's insurance arm from zero to a leadership position in a fiercely competitive business and also made it ICICI Bank's largest non-banking subsidiary. Sharma, who loves classical music, believes in embracing change with a positive attitude. Five months into the new job, Sharma created four strategic business units retail, corporate, non banking subsidiaries and a corporate centre. Next, she plans to expand the board of directors from 12 to 15.

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Being in the list is an endorsement of the ability to make a difference; definitely a privilege.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It hasn't. Power to me means the ability to make a difference in whatever sphere that I chose to work in. What changes over the years is the areas I'm focussed on.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

The times of biggest changes are the times of greatest learning. This year has seen maximum learning in a long time.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

The year 2009 has meant a lot of change to me personally; the organisation I worked with, the business that I was involved with, and even small things, like technology I used and my travel.

What next?

I ask four questions to myself on a periodic basis: Am I learning today, am I making a difference today, am I touching somebody's life and am I happy doing what I am doing?

MALLIKA SRINIVASAN, 49, Director, TAFE

For Mallika Srinivasan, Director of TAFE, her policy of adopting a considerate approach and allowing people to learn from their mistakes is finely balanced with being a stickler for performance. Her employees talk of her unconventional but structured approaches in crisis situations that have invariably benefited TAFE. A great believer in delegating and an ardent supporter of crossfunctional teams, Srinivasan is at her best in communications. The last worked very well during the downturn when TAFE grew despite the gloom in the environment. This year, along with its subsidiaries, TAFE is poised to touch a turnover of Rs 4,225 crore, against Rs 3,702 crore in the year to March 31, 2009. The company has set a benchmark for financial performance, being virtually debt-free and with a high credit rating. "The quality of perseverance is something I've learnt from my father at 75, he still pushes himself around in a wheelchair and comes to work," she says.

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Any recognition for me is for the team, so all of us are enthused.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

It stops with the ability to influence others to a common goal not through coercion but through mutual respect and trust.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Mainly de-risking from the financial turmoil, from currency fluctuations, from revenuestream uncertainties, and the implication of the downturn on our vendors.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

We strengthened our partnership with AGCO for product development, and a supply-chain solution.

What next?

Continue to expand the market for TAFE and its subsidiaries.

- Nitya Varadarajan

RENU SUD KARNAD, 57, Joint MD, HDFC

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Yes, it is still a nice, reassuring feeling, of course. Simultaneously, it is also good to see the next generation of women rising to the top.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

Power to me means the ability to lead, to take decisions and to drive change.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

It has been a tough year. So, one needed to chalk out fresh strategies to keep growing the market and maintaining clean books.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

HDFC crossed the mark of Rs 2,00,000 crore in home loan disbursements. That was an enormous achievement for the company.

What next?

Business is far better than last year, but is still far, far away from "a business as usual scenario . Driving down costs will be a major challenge.

- Shalini S. Dagar

JYOTSNA SURI, 57, Chairperson and Managing Director, Bharat Hotels

Don't for a moment think that Jyotsna Suri inherited a hotel empire when her hotelier husband, Lalit Suri, passed away in 2006: She has been involved hands-on ever since their flagship New Delhi property came up in the 1980s. "Mr (Lalit) Suri was the face of the company, I worked in the background, she says. But when her husband passed away suddenly her grief was not limited just to that loss: some friends turned out to be anything but. "There were people out there who were waiting for me to fail, like I was easy prey. But I did not want them to succeed I wanted to turn my personal adversity into an opportunity for my business. In the past 24 months, Jyotsna Suri has not only revamped her flagship in Delhi but also opened several properties across the country, acquired new ones and built up a new brand, "The Lalit . It is now one of the fastest growing hotel chains in India. "Some people can be overcome by grief when they suffer tragedy. I could not afford to be. I am responsible for the livelihoods of 5,000 people, and they needed to see that we will carry on and become even better, she says. How would she classify her management style? "I do not let emotion cloud my judgement, I do not get angry and the 'four-letter' word is not part of my vocabulary. But while my decisions are based around logic, I take quick decisions.

What does power mean to you?

Power to me means nurturing talent.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

That you cannot just build a hotel somewhere and be done with it, you have to develop the 'destination'.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

The Polo tournament we hosted in Dras was quite a frontier!

What next?

We have a lot of new properties coming up in 2010, including the revamped Great Eastern in Kolkata ...We are also going to unveil a new 'mid-market' brand.

- Kushan Mitra

ASHU SUYASH, 42, MD & Country Head (India), Fidelity International

Once again in the BT Power List. Does it still enthuse you?

Yes, it does. It's very satisfying to get such external recognition such as the BT Most Powerful Women award. Such recognition is important as somewhere it helps us in becoming a role model for younger women.

Your definition of power has it changed over the years?

No, I still believe that power is all about your ability to bring about change, make a difference and influence decisions.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Two things: It vindicated our stand of being consistent in what we are doing. Second, leading the team through a period of uncertainty.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Our decision to not launch new funds at the peak of the bull market in 2007. Also, I have definitely grown as a leader over the past one year.

What next?

To bring back the investor. The industry is in the midst of a sweeping regulation change and it's happening at a time when the investor sentiment is yet to come back.

- Rachna M. Koppikar

SANGEETA TALWAR, 53, Executive Director, Tata Tea

These days Sangeeta Talwar is on a flight every other day globalising, integrating, doing new things as her company goes through its biggest ever transformation exercise. And even through all this, she makes the time to keep the Jaago Re campaign bubbling. Launched in 2007 as a campaign to project the brand, not merely as a wake-up brew but as a medium of social awakening, Jaago Re has gained immense traction under Talwar. Last year, the campaign was to get people to vote in the elections. This year's theme is corruption, and Talwar plans some big events on December 9, globally observed as the Anti-Corruption Day.

The most visible woman in the Tata Group and one of the very few woman executive directors in India Inc., this IIM-C alumnus cherishes her 20-year bonding with Nestle India and a two-year stint, later, with Mattel, the world's largest toy company. At Nestle, she built her reputation as a tough marketer Maggi was launched in her watch. Leaving it was the most difficult decision she ever made in her career.

What does power mean to you?

The ability to contour and craft a new future.

My most memorable experience at workplace.

At a sales review meeting at Mattel in 2001, we decided to have some fun by playing with all the new toys we were going to launch. The sales managers in 30-35 years age group ran around building windows, fixing stickers, hanging curtains, delighting in their creation of the Barbie summer house. It was an amazing experience.

The turning point in my career.

My decision to leave Nestle India after 20 years of successfully launching Maggi.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Husbands can be a great help, never underestimate their capacity in this regard. My husband actually anchors our home.

New frontiers conquered in 2009.

Helped in creating the Jaago Re campaign on corruption. And I have opened an account on Facebook!

- K.R. Balasubramanyam

JAYSHREE VYAS, 56, MD, SEWA Bank

She has got 50,000 poor women in Gujarat to save for old age. For Jayshree Ashwinkumar Vyas, better known as just Jayshreeben, it is important that poor working women from rag pickers to vegetable vendors save and think beyond today. She is getting them to invest in a mutual fund under a micro-pension scheme that has been put together by SEWA Bank along with Unit Trust of India Asset Management Company (UTI-AMC).

SEWA Bank follows, what Vyas calls, "a life-cycle approach to address all the financial needs of the poor working women . They are surely in demand. Just look at the numbers. From 1986-87 (around the time she took charge) to now, SEWA Bank's members have increased from 10,339 to 70,000 today, depositors 23,834 to 4 lakh, deposits from Rs 1 crore to Rs 100 crore, disbursements Rs 62 lakh to Rs 55 crore and profit from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 75 lakh!

What does power mean to you?

Power to me means the ability to make a positive impact on people's lives.

New lessons learnt in 2009.

Invest more in relationships during a downturn.

New frontiers crossed in 2009.

Getting 50,000 poor women working in the informal sector to invest in a pension scheme.

What next?

Hope to cover 1 lakh such women in the pension scheme.

- E. Kumar Sharma

 

 

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