In a sign of the growing clout of women business leaders from India, eight such leaders feature in Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen 2016 list, released by Forbes on April 6, including Nita Ambani, the 52-year-old director of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). Nita Ambani
, who is also the chairman of Reliance Foundation, the oil-to-yarn and retail conglomerate’s philanthropic arm, is joined by State Bank of India chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya; Ambiga Dhiraj
, CEO of data analytics firm Mu Sigma; Dipali Goenka
, CEO and joint managing director of textile firm Welspun India Ltd; Vinita Gupta
, CEO of pharmaceuticals company Lupin Ltd; Chanda Kochhar
, MD and CEO of India’s largest private sector lender ICICI Bank; Vandana Luthra
, founder of beauty and wellness company VLCC Health Care Ltd; and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
, chairman and managing director of biopharmaceuticals firm Biocon Ltd. PHOTO GALLERY: The 8 Indians in Asia's 50 Power Businesswomen 2016 list
Women from 14 countries are represented on the list; China and Hong Kong dominate with 14 women, followed by India with eight, Thailand with five and Japan with four.
Nita Ambani, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani’s wife, debuts in this year’s list. She has been playing an active role in various aspects of the $57 billion-conglomerate over the years. She looks after the conglomerate’s sports business, including the cricket team, Mumbai Indians, which is a part of the popular Indian Premier League; as well as a joint venture with sports management firm IMG. She is credited with driving changes in the way the conglomerate approaches its relatively new consumer-focused businesses.
Ambani, a trained Indian classical dancer, also looks after the Dhirubhai Ambani International School, a premier co-educational school in Mumbai and the HN Reliance Foundation Hospital.
Known for her sense of aesthetics, Nita Ambani was instrumental in designing the residential part of the township at RIL’s integrated refining and petrochemicals complex at Jamnagar in Gujarat, the largest of its kind in the world. She is also a director on the board of the PRS Oberoi-led hospitality chain, EIH Ltd, a company in which RIL holds an 18 percent stake.
Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman to helm the nation’s largest lender State Bank of India, also makes her way into the list. She has been at the forefront of driving deep-rooted transformational changes at SBI, pushing through major digital initiatives and restructuring HR practices to ensure it is future-ready and in step with changing customer trends. Bhattacharya, known to speak her mind freely and boldly, is also waging a battle against corporate loan defaulters in the face of mounting bad loans in the banking system, including at SBI.
The feat of these eight women is special in context of the fact that India fares poorly compared to other countries when it comes to the proportion of women who occupy business leadership roles to their male counterparts. According to a recent Grant Thornton study, India ranks third lowest in the proportion of business leadership roles held by women, with 34 percent of the companies surveyed having no women playing a senior leadership role.
In 2015, the capital markets regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India made it mandatory for all listed companies to have at least one woman director on their boards.
Chanda Kochhar, a five-time listee has been pioneering initiatives at ICICI Bank to make the workplace more friendly for female employees, including a scheme that allows female staff to work from home for up to a year and allowing executives to take children under the age of three on business trips at the bank’s expense. PHOTO GALLERY: The 8 Indians in Asia's 50 Power Businesswomen 2016 list
Full list here: Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen 2016 list
(Reliance Industries Ltd is the owner of Network 18, publisher of Forbes India)