Indian women are breaking down societal barriers and have become pioneers across industries. The finance sector hasn’t been left untouched by this wave either. Although sexism in our workplaces still leaves a lot to be desired, various women in India have risen from the ranks based on their talent, hard work and intelligence. So, on Women’s Day, let’s look at some of the women who have spearheaded the much-needed change in the landscape of the world of financial and investment planning:
Heading the State Bank of India (SBI) as the chair-managing director, Arundhati Bhattacharya has worked with the bank for the past four decades. She began her career at SBI as a probationary officer at a very young age. Her exemplary work straddling several decades ultimately paid off when she became the first and the youngest female chairperson of SBI in 2013.
Her achievements don’t end there. She has taken up various initiatives for women since she took charge of India’s largest bank. She started an internal blog for female employees where they can share their problems and suggestions. She also pioneered a two-year sabbatical policy to attend to her female employees’ needs.
The chairperson and managing director of ICICI Bank, Chanda Kochhar efforts have revolutionised retail banking and mobile banking in the country. Having worked with ICICI Bank for three decades, she used all her experience to admirably steer the country’s second-largest bank during the 2008 financial crisis.
She also started the “iWork@home” programme – an initiative that was started to retain female employees. This programme allowed her employees, mostly women, to work from home for a year.
Coming from a middle-class south Indian family, Indra Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994 and had an almost-immediate influence on the company’s strategic direction. She chaperoned numerous key restructures in the company during the initial years. Her tireless work resulted in the company’s profits beaching the $4.5 billion-mark and the company debt to be slashed by more than half in 1997. She also accelerated the share buyback strategy which eventually revved up investments for further business development.
With 30 years of financial experience Sikha Sharma is the CEO and MD of Axis Bank, India’s largest private bank (assets). When she joined Axis Bank, the bank’s stock went up by 90% and its assets grew by 30% in the financial year 2012-13. She has been credited for having excellent leadership skills which have won her various awards and recognition. In the year 2012, she was awarded with Business World’s Banker of the Year Award, ‘Woman Leader of the year’ at Bloomberg-UTV Financial Leadership Awards and ‘Transformational Business Leader of the Year’ at AIMA’s Managing India Awards.
She is the president of Consumer Banking of India’s fourth largest bank (market capitalization), Kotak Mahindra Bank. When she was serving as the President of Corporate and Investment Banking, she managed to double the profit for the unit in 2012-13 even though the conditions of equity and debt markers were unstable. She was also hailed as one of the Most Powerful Women in Indian Business in 2014 by Business Today. Her colleagues have admired her for her astute decision-making skills and great leadership in the banking sector.
Kaku Nakhate — the India head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch — has spent almost her entire career with Merrill Lynch. With her guidance and leadership, the bank became one of the key players in the corporate finance industry in India. Balance sheets tripled within two years of her helming the company.
Naina Lal Kidwai
She serves as the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India. She was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School as an MBA. Besides having a lot of firsts to her name, she is admired for voicing her opinions on the state of women in India while she was the president of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
The chairperson and Managing Director of Punjab National Bank, Usha Ananthasubramanian is honoured for establishing Bhartiya Mahila Bank by the Finance Ministry of India. She has spent three decades of her career in the banking industry, bagging numerous awards for her achievements over the years. Her name has repeatedly appeared in the Fortune global list for Top Women in Business.
Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon Ltd, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw became India’s richest woman in 2004.
Just to give you a perspective, she founded Biocon India with a capital of Rs 10,000 in her garage in 1978. Today, Biocon is the first Indian company to receive US funding for proprietary technology.
It wasn’t a smooth sail for her though. In the initial years, her applications for loans were turned down by banks for various reasons like the term biotechnology not being common, a lack of assets in the company and scepticism shrouding women entrepreneurs. Fast-forward to today, she oversees the biggest biopharmaceutical firm in the country.
To sum up, such women invigorate our belief that anything is possible. They make us believe that talent and hard work is the key to success, and gender has got nothing to do with it. This Women’s Day, Aegon Life salutes the spirit of such zesty and fierce individuals, who never take no for an answer.