Illustration: Smaeer Pawar
As Forbes India
was putting together this issue, news of Clayton Christensen’s death hit the headlines. The well-regarded Harvard Business School professor, who had been battling cancer, succumbed at the age of 67. While The Innovators Dilemma
, a book he published in 1997, which pioneered the idea of “disruptive innovation”, is his most seminal, a personal favourite is How Will You Measure Your Life?
In it, Christensen recasts his management theories as formulae for how best to live your life. He writes, “I know I’ve had substantial impact,” referring to his management ideas that helped leaders, including Intel’s Andy Grove and Netflix’s Reed Hastings, rethink their business strategy (and generate enormous revenue). “But as I’ve confronted this disease, it’s been interesting to see how unimportant that impact is on me now. I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.”Forbes India Self-Made Women 2020: See full list here
What is my life’s strategy? What is my purpose? How can I have a lasting impact? Christensen forces you to think about these questions as you thumb through the book. Interestingly, the ladies you’ll read about in the following pages—a longlist of 45 formidable names, all self-made, was drawn up by our reporters; an equally formidable jury, comprising Ireena Vittal, Meena Ganesh, Naina Lal Kidwai, Padmaja Ruparel and Vinita Bali, whittled it down to 20—seem to have figured out the answers.
Consider Vedika Bhandarkar who, after a successful first career in finance, delved full-time into helping poor households gain access to safe water and sanitation. Or Suchita Salwan of Little Black Book who is helping small, offline local businesses get discovered, come online, and generate sales. Geetha Manjunath, who was part of the team that built India’s first supercomputer back in the ’90s, is using her deep domain expertise to take low-cost, non-invasive breast cancer screening technology to the masses, while Usha Vishwakarma, instead of wallowing in self-pity after escaping a sexual assault attempt, has chosen to train women in self-defense so that they can ward off predators. Then there’s sprinter Dutee Chand who has fought long odds—her humble background, hyperandrogenism and society’s backlash for coming out as gay—to emerge among the best athletes in the country.
Audacious in their ambition, yet not so much worried about the level of individual prominence they’ve achieved as the impact they’ve had, this qualitative selection of women from business and entertainment to social work and sport, is inspiring. As Christensen put it, “Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.”Forbes India Self-Made Women 2020: See full list here
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(This story appears in the 13 March, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)