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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

March 07, 2014 12:11 IST

Image: Chanda Kochhar, CEO, ICICI Bank.
Photographs: Getty Images

Modern Indian women have come a long way from playing the stereotypical role of a housewife to donning the roles of CEOs in leading Indian and foreign companies. 

Today, Indian companies boast of a high percentage of women CEOs. 

While Fortune 500 companies account for only 3 per cent of women CEOs, around 11 per cent of Indian companies have women at the helm, a reason to cheer for India Inc.

These inspiring business leaders, heading companies ranging from banking, hospitality, food and beverages, pharma and information technology have turned into role models for many young women entrepreneurs and middle level managers across the country.

It is interesting to note that 7 national banks in India have women as CEOs. 

Meet India’s most inspiring and powerful women business leaders… 

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Tags: India Inc

India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Chanda Kochhar
Photographs: Reuters

Chanda Kochhar
MD and CEO, ICICI Bank 

“The leader in a way has to be like a sponge that has to absorb the stress because you know if you just allow stress to filter through and pass to your team then you're not doing a leader's job.” (Chanda Kochhar in an interview with CNN)

One of the most powerful and inspiring leaders in India Inc, Chanda Kochhar is credited for shaping the retail banking sector in India and steering the ICICI Group through the difficult times.

An extremely focused person, Chanda Kochchar who heads ICICI Bank, began her career as a management trainee in 1984 and successfully rose through the ranks.

She has been named a ‘Woman of Power’ by the Asian Business Leadership Forum. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the government for her services to the banking sector.

ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar has been ranked as the most powerful businesswoman in India for the third consecutive year by Fortune Magazine.

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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Shikha Sharma
Photographs: Courtesy, Axis Bank

Shikha Sharma 
CEO, Axis Bank 

"Till such time I get everything right, I'm willing to learn and I'm willing to make mistakes," she says. "I always tend to spend a couple of months understanding and learning, and frame a point of view about businesses, and then I get into execution mode." (Shikha Sharma to Business Today)

A simple and modest leader, Shikha Sharma attributes her success to being a good learner.

She started her career with ICICI, India's largest financial service provider in 1980. 

In 1998, she became the Managing Director of ICICI Personal Financial services. Shikha Sharma also served as the Director of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company till April 2009. 

She is the Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director of Axis Bank Limited and Chairperson and associate Director of Axis Asset Management company Limited since June 1, 2009.  

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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Aruna Jayanthi
Photographs: Courtesy, Capgemini

Aruna Jayanthi 
CEO, Capgemini India 

“Another thing that is true of this industry is that, you are not doing a 9-5 job. You have to be available to network. You have to be available to meet customers on weekends. You have to do so much more to succeed." (Aruna Jayanthi to

Aruna Jayanthi is the Chief Executive Officer of Capgemini India, one of the biggest business units of Capgemini group. 

A person with over 2 decades experience in the IT services industry, Aruna oversees the operations across all the business units – Consulting, Technology services and outsourcing services in India. 

Earlier, Aruna was the Global Delivery Officer for Capgemini Outsourcing, where she improved quality, productivity and profitability of Capgemini’s outsourcing operations worldwide. 


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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Preetha Reddy
Photographs: Courtesy, Apollo group

Preetha Reddy
Managing Director, Apollo Hospital Enterprises

“Carrying the Apollo beacon of hope, I am committed to take quality healthcare to a billion people.” (Preetha Reddy to The Economic Times)

Preetha Reddy’s mission is to make quality healthcare available to a billion people and build India a global healthcare destination.

Reddy joined Apollo Hospitals as Joint Managing Director in 1989 and five years later, she became the Managing Director of the Group. 

Preetha steers the operations of the Apollo Hospitals group and works closely with the clinicians to continually raise the bar for clinical outcomes. 


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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Mallika Srinivasan
Photographs: Courtesy, The Wharton School

Mallika Srinivasan

“You don’t need to love money to run a business. You have to have a dream to build an institution, to build centres of excellence, to create a great team. (Mallika Srinivasan to The Economic Times)

One of India’s most successful CEOs, Mallika Srinivasan is known for developing TAFE into one of the three largest tractor manufacturers in the world.

Mallika Srinivasan has established herself in a male-dominated industry. Daughter of industrialist A. Sivasailam, Mallika was determined to innovate and change the profile of her company.

Her moves to invest in research and development and introduce newer innovative products paid off. A big breakthrough was acquiring Eicher Motors in 2005.

She is on the Board of AGCO Corporation - USA, Tata Steel and Tata Global Beverages.


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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Shobhana Bhartia
Photographs: Courtesy, HT Media

Shobhana Bhartia 
Chairperson, HT Media

“I am one of those who are punctual in whatever I am doing and I expect that. Things aren’t too bad then it is just about time management and just prioritizing. So one has get to get ones priority right and just go after whatever one feels is important, not forgetting that you need some time for yourself as a person and as a family member.” (Shobhana Bhartia to

An influential business leader, Shobhana Bhartia, who has been associated with HT Media since its inception, took over as the Chairperson in September 2008. 

Daughter of industrialist KK Birla, Shobhana Bhartia has more than 25 years of experience in the newspaper industry and has been in charge of formulating and directing the editorial policies of the company.


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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Photographs: Courtesy, Biocon

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Chairperson and MD, Biocon

I have been single-minded in my determination to see my venture succeed. I have never been the one to give up easily. So, when I faced the initial hiccups that any start-up in India faced during the pre-liberalization period, I simply became more determined to make it work. (Kiran Mazumdar Shaw to

A self-made billionaire, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw has transformed the company into a fully integrated biopharmaceutical enterprise, which manufactures affordable drugs.

Her pioneering efforts in biotechnology have drawn global recognition both for Indian Industry and Biocon.

She received the Padmashri in 1989 and Padma Bhushan in 2005. 

She has been ranked among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. 


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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Photographs: Courtesy, Penguin India

Zia Mody
Co-founder, AZB Partners

"I think the main challenge is constant perseverance, constant hard work, and at least for the first 10 to 15 years, constantly having to prove yourself." (Zia Mody to The Wall Street Journal)

Zia Mody joined as an advocate with the Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa in 1978 after her LLM from HarvardLawSchool. 

Daughter of Soli Sorabjee, Zia Mody started practice as a corporate associate with Baker & McKenzie in New York from 1979 to 1983. 

She came back to India and started practice at the Bombay High Court.  Later she decided to become a corporate lawyer.

In 1984, she started her own practice and later entered into a partnership with the law firm called AZB & Partners, Advocates & Solicitors.


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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Vinita Bali
Photographs: Courtesy, Piramal Group

Vinita Bali
MD, Britannia Industries

The analogy I use is that you say you are Sachin Tendulkar and so you don’t need to practice. But you are great only because you practice. I admire that in artists and sportspeople. They polish and chisel away till they get it perfect.” (Vinita Bali to Forbes magazine)

If Vinita Bali had not joined the corporate world, she would have been an Indian Foreign Service officer.

After her MBA, she joined Voltas and then there was no looking back. It was the beginning of a successful career in the corporate world.

Vinita Bali became the Managing Director of Britannia Industries on 31 May 2006.  Vinita was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the Company in January 2005.

She has also worked with Coca-Cola as its worldwide Marketing Director.

In 2011, Forbes named her among ‘Asia's 50 Power Businesswomen’.


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India Inc's pride: Meet 10 powerful women leaders

Image: Naina Lal Kidwai
Photographs: Courtesy, Ficci

Naina Lal Kidwai
Country Head, HSBC India

“I reiterate that the long-term India story remains intact. If you are an investor looking at the 20-year or 30-year horizon, India is still the place to be and there are many, Indian and foreign investors alike who share this view.” (Naina Lal Kidwai to

Naina Lal Kidwai considers persistence, ability to learn and humility as some of the biggest traits employees must have.

Regularly featured by Forbes and Fortune magazines as one of the most powerful business persons in India and globally, Naina Lal Kidwai, a chartered accountant by profession is currently the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India. 

From 1982-1994 she worked at ANZ Grindlays, where her assignments included Head of the Investment Bank, Head of Global NRI Services and Head of the Western India, Retail Bank.

She has been ranked among Fortune’s global list of ‘Top Women in Business’ and Time Magazine's most influential people globally in 2002. 

Naina Lal Kidwai has also received the Padmashri.

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