Reliance Industries director Nita Ambani and State Bank of India chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya have been ranked top two in Forbes’ “Asia 50 Power Businesswomen 2016” list, which acknowledges the inroads women are making in the business world, despite gender inequalities.
Including Ambani and Bhattacharya, eight Indian businesswomen have made the cut in the latest list who among them bring to the table representations from diverse business fields — banking, bio-tech, data analytics, textiles, pharma and even wellness and beauty.
“In a country where billionaire wives tend to remain in the shadow of their husbands, Nita’s rising profile in the Reliance empire is unusual and earns her a debut spot on our Power Businesswomen ranking this year,” said Forbes, which also ran a separate story on her.
Incidentally, a Reliance Group entity is a licensee for publishing Forbes India.
“As Reliance’s non-executive director, Nita has no formal operational role in the conglomerate that her husband runs as chairman and managing director. But it’s no secret that ‘Bhabhi’ — Hindi for brother;s wife — as she is called by insiders, is a power near the throne.”
Mukesh Ambani, her husband, is the group chairman.
Among her achievements, the magazine said an an accidental entry into sports made her the face of her group after Reliance spent $112 million for a cricket team, snatching such icons as Sachin Tendulkar. Mumbai Indians, as he team is called, went on to win two titles after her induction.
On the flip side, the magazine said the Ambanis have been criticised for not having personally been givers, commensurate with Mukesh’s $22-billion wealth, and for moving into Antilla, a 27-storey sky palace in south Mumbai, billed as the world’s most expensive home for its $1 billion tag.
Here’s what Forbes said on other Indian women on the list:
Bhattacharya: She facing her most challenging test yet with the State Bank of India, the country’s biggest. Mounting bad loans, which stood at $11 billion in December, caused net profit to plunge more than 60 percent to 190 million in a recent quarter.
“The days of promoters gaming the banking system are over,” she warned in February, before urging the arrest of liquor baron Vijay Mallya, whose defunct Kingfisher Airlines owes more than $1.3 billion to state-run banks.
Ambiga Dhiraj, chief executive, Mu Sigma: In February Dhiraj became the first female boss of an Indian-owned tech unicorn when she took over Mu Sigma, a provider of data-analytics services, from husband Dhiraj Rajaram, who founded the firm in 2004. With estimated revenue of $250 million, it is valued at $1.5 billion, based on its latest funding round.
Dipali Goenka, chief executive, Welspun India: Five years ago, when Goenka took charge of home textiles maker Welspun India, the buzz in the male-dominated industry, she recalls, was: “Welspun has lost its mind.” Goenka has doubled down to disprove that.
Vinita Gupta, chief executive, Lupin: Gupta runs India’s third-largest pharmaceutical company, with $2 billion in revenue. In the past year she has spearheaded $1.2 billion in acquisitions, the biggest of which was the $880 million purchase of Gavis Pharma, giving Lupin its first manufacturing facility in the US.
Chanda Kochhar, managing director, ICICI Bank: As boss of the country’s largest private-sector lender, Kochhar has to contend with the current bane of India’s banking system: Bad loans. In a bid to retain female staff, she launched [email protected], which allows employees to work from home for a year. Executives can also take children under the age of 3 on business trips, with a caregiver, at the bank’s expense.
Vandana Luthra, vice chair, VLCC Health Care: Luthra pioneered the concept of a beauty and wellness chain in India. She opened her centre in New Delhi in 1989, offering weight management as well as hair and skin treatments, and now has 313 centres in 11 countries in Asia, the Middle East and East Africa.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chair, Biocon: Amid a volatile stock market, the founder of Biocon took its thriving research arm, Syngene International, public last August. With a recent market cap of $1.1 billion Syngene shares are up more than 52 percent. The self-made Mazumdar-Shaw has positioned Biocon as a large player in insulin. Biocon is the only Asian firm ranked among the top 20 biotech employers worldwide by Science magazine.