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2014: Five business women to watch in the corporate world

Last updated on: January 07, 2014 15:35 IST

2014: Five business women to watch in the corporate world

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Alokananda Chakraborty

A disclaimer first: this is not a New Year honours list. You see, this is that time of the year when we all draw up lists - mental lists of things to do/not do in the New Year, people to unfriend/confirm as friend and so on.

And if you are a journalist you would probably have compiled lists of people who made a difference in the past year or the big trends that moved the needle - lists one would probably read to count the number of times the same name or the same trend pops up in the different “most admired” and “most powerful”, and these days the “most searched” lists.

To cut a long story short, this column is just that - about 5 people you’re sure to want to watch as 2014 unfolds.

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Image: Valerie Wagoner, CEO & Founder, ZipDial Mobile Solutions

Tags: New Year

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Alokananda Chakraborty

Valerie Wagoner, CEO & Founder, ZipDial Mobile Solutions

I suggest her name not because of Wagoner’s looks but because she is among the front runners in an industry tipped to change the whole business of marketing in a big way.

For those who came in late, ZipDial is a Bangalore-based company that offers mobile-marketing solutions for large and small business clientele ranging from marquee companies such as Cadbury, Gillette, Proctor & Gamble to small local businesses such as real estate agents, beauty salons and event managers. 

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Image: Valerie Wagoner, CEO & Founder, ZipDial
Photographs: Courtesy, ZipDial
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One can use ZipDial to engage with customers for pledges, voting, contests, customer referrals, opinion polls, mobile number verification, coupon delivery etc.

A lot of small businesses also use ZipDial for lead generation. A recent ZipDial campaign was the pledge campaign to support the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill of Anna Hazare conducted by The Times of India group.

Can she find a way to make the mobile a viable sales platform?

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Image: Valerie Wagoner.


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Avani Saglani Davda, CEO, Tata Starbucks

First, she is among the few women in the retail business. Second, at 33, she is also the youngest CEO in the Tata system.

The Tata Administrative Service officer has also risen very fast in the group. An MBA from the Narsee Monjee Institute in 2002, Davda became general manager in five years and spent the next five as executive assistant to RK Krishna Kumar, who got her involved with many group initiatives that honed her strategy skills. Her task is cut out: 

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Image: Avani Saglani
Photographs: Reuters

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Yes, coffee retail is the fastest growing segment within food retail, but the segment already has a lot of brands operating at different ends of the price spectrum and Starbucks will have to quickly identify a differentiator to make up for lost time.

Consumers carry the Starbucks cup as a badge brand because people look at you differently when they see you carrying it. Can Davda foster the same kind of cult following for Starbucks in India?

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Image: Avani Saglani Davda
Photographs: Reuters

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Nandini Dias, CEO, Lodestar UM

At the fag end of 2013, Dias was named CEO of LUM, the third largest media agency in India according to RECMA.

Dias has been with the company for 18 years now. And in these 18 years, the media business has changed completely.

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Image: Nandini Dias, CEO, Lodestar UM


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If 10 years ago, the change agenda was about cost reduction and efficiency, today, it is about innovation and agility. Empowered consumers, more self-reliant advertisers and ever-evolving technologies are redefining how media is bought and sold, and how consumers are tracked.

After a few bad years, can Dias push for growth at Lodestar and stall the march of WPP’s media juggernaut?

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Photographs: Courtesy, Lodestar UM
Tags: WPP , Lodestar

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 Avni Biyani, concept head, Foodhall

For some time now, Avni has been looking into the day-to-day functions of Foodhall, a food retail venture targeted at affluent consumers started by the Future Group, India’s largest listed retail chain.

She is also part of the group’s food strategy council that brainstorms on consumer goods and private brands to be sold at Foodhall and Food Bazaar stores.

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Image: Avni Biyani


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Avni studied at Dhirubhai Ambani International School and graduated in sociology from New York University, after which she joined her father in launching Foodhall’s first store in Mumbai.

Yes, she has the advantage of being in her family business, but the younger daughter of Kishore Biyani, chief executive of Future Group, is reportedly being groomed for bigger things.

Can she make sure Foodhall turns profitable?

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 Last but not least, Usha Ananthasubramanian, chairman and managing director of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank:

Ananthasubramanian, 55, started her banking career in 1982 at Bank of Baroda as a specialist officer in the planning stream.

Her experience could come in handy in her new assignment since she has in the past led similar initiatives, such as overseeing the formation of Bank of Baroda’s life insurance joint venture.

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Image: Usha Ananthasubramanian with Finance Minister P Chidambaram.


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One of the key objectives of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank is to focus on the banking needs of women and promote economic empowerment.

Can the Indian woman bank on Ananthasubramanian?


Image: P Chidambaram with Usha Ananthasubramanian at the inauguration of the Mahila Bank.


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