Business Today has released its special issue comprising the annual listing of 25 Most Powerful Women in Indian Business. Allen Solly was roped in as the presenting sponsor, while eBay’s Chairperson and CEO, Meg Whitman, was the Chief Guest. Whitman and Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief, The India Today Group, unveiled the special issue at a special gathering on February 22, 2006.
Speaking on the occasion, Poorie began, “Good evening ladies and the men who just happen to be here!” With this, he went on to divulge some points about the listing a concept originally conceived in 2004. In its third year, the listing included eight names that were never featured before and, according to Poorie, this was one of the factors that hinted at the growing positivism in the country in regards to the contribution by the women professionals and entrepreneurs.
Throwing light on some of the points, Poorie informed that half the women in the listing were in the age group of 41 to 50 years. 44 per cent were from the finance and banking sector, only 5 per cent came from family businesses, while the others were professionals from various walks of life.
Also addressing the audience was Hemchandra Jhaveri, President, Madura Garments, who spoke on the growing empowerment of women in India and the manner in which female professionals had made their place in the country’s economy.
Whitman, the Chief Guest of the evening, gave her point of view on India’s growth, the role that Indian women play in that growth and the opportunities that platforms like eBay provided to Indians – both men and women. Beginning her address, she said that there were women who chose to leave careers for a family life, and there were those who prioritised careers, and those who found creative ways to balance professional and personal life. “The point is that in all cases, she can choose and that to me is women empowerment – to choose what is important to them,” she added.
She further said that Internet had given the opportunity to explore new businesses, brought efficiencies and took segments like micro enterprises, families, college going as well as elderly people in the global economic domain. Citing some statistics, she informed that 50 per cent of the professional sellers on eBay were women.
On the success of e-commerce in the country, she cited the example of baazee.com, that eBay acquired in 2004, being an early player recogniser of the kind of success that e-business model could be in a country like India. “There are people who have started businesses from scratch on these portals and have consequently created a thriving site,” she said.
Whitman also spoke on how the eBay marketing strategy kept away from mass advertising. “At a time when other portals where spending on the medium, we kept away as we saw that it wasn’t working for the other players enough. The market was not big enough to indulge in mass marketing and that the same funds could be used to invest in other businesses in the domain itself and in retrospection that was a good manner of operating and still forms the underlying principle of our marketing strategy,” she said.
The 25 Most Powerful Women in Indian Business include marketing queenpins like Britannia Industries’ Vanita Bali and Pepsi’s Punita Lal. Names from the media domain include HT Media’s Shobhana Bhartia, Balaji Telefilms’ Ekta Kapoor, NDTV’s Radhika Roy and VGC’s Preeti Vyas Gianetti. In the finance sector, from the ICICI family there are ICICI Bank’s Lalita Gupte, Chanda Kochhar, Madhabi Puri-Buch, ICICI’s Kalpana Morparia, and ICICI Venture’s Renuka Ramnath. Other names were HDFC’s Renu Karnad, Kotak Mahindra Capital’s Falguni Nayar and HSBC’s Naina Lal Kidwai.
Others honoured in the evening included J P Morgan’s Vedika Bhandarkar, SEWA’s Elaben Bhatt, Microsoft’s Neelam Dhawan, UBS Securities’ Manisha Girotra, Biocon’s Kiran Muzumdar-Shaw, AZB’s Zia Mody, Nicholas Piramal’s Swati Piramal, Apollo Hospital’s Preetha Reddy, and Tractors and Farm Equipment’s Mallika Srinivasan.