Absolute Power 2014
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Nita Ambani: The first lady of corporate India
Navigating through a plethora of roles including that of humanitarian, teacher, Chairperson of the Dhirubhai Ambani International School and co-owner of the IPL team Mumbai Indians, Nita Ambani unfailingly lives up to the power attached to her famous last name. She has been actively involved in Project Drishti, which has carried out over 11,000 corneal transplants across India since its launch in 2003. Through this initiative, she has also launched Reliance Drishti – India’s first registered national Braille newspaper, in Hindi.
Barkha Dutt: Feisty Reporter
Bringing home stories of conflict and carnage from the vanguard of the Kargil War, Barkha Dutt immediately became the face of the liberated Indian woman. Since then, she has covered every single event of national significance and stood at the forefront of tough reporting. Currently the Group Editor at India’s leading current affairs network, NDTV, Dutt has won over 40 national and international awards throughout her career, including the Global Leader for Tomorrow award from the World Economic Forum.
Chanda Kochhar: Finance Whiz
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank, Chanda Kochhar, even at the peak of a worldwide economic emergency in 2008, rose to the top as the bank’s first female CEO, and has since effected several pioneering changes to our retail banking industry. Highly regarded for her leadership skills, she has been honoured with countless accolades — including the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian honours.
Shabana Azmi: Ardent Activist
Shabana Azmi is more than just a name synonymous with great cinema. The social activist has been a Member of Parliament and has participated in public demonstrations for numerous causes. She is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan award, the Martin Luther King Professorship Award, the Gandhi International Peace Award and the prestigious Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum, for using her art to bridge the gaps between different cultures. She now runs Mijwan Welfare Society, founded by her father, noted poet Kaifi Azmi which works for the empowerment of people in the village of Mijwan in Uttar Pradesh.
Indira Jaising: Incisive Lawyer
Indira Jaising has continually laid great emphasis on the protection of human rights, the rights of women and those of the downtrodden. She was the first woman to be selected as a Senior Advocate by the High Court of Bombay in 1986, following which she became the first woman to be employed as the Additional Solicitor General of India in 2009. The Padma Shri winner is currently a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Shobhaa De: Frank Commentator
India’s bestselling author, Shobhaa De has oen been dubbed as India’s Jackie Collins. From a degree in psychology and stints in modelling and fashion designing to a thriving journalism career – De has achieved plenty. Four of her books are course material at the University of London and her work features extensively in Comparative Literature courses internationally. She has received numerous awards for her journalistic work, is known for her candid opinions and is acknowledged as an authority on popular culture.
Aruna Roy: Fearless Mover
Aruna Roy is best known for championing the Right to Information (RTI) movement, which led to the enactment of the Right to Information Act in 2005. As a member of the central government’s National Advisory Council, she played a crucial role in integrating strong citizen’s entitlements in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Acts. She has been honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (2000) and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academia and Management (2010).
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: Biotech Empress
The richest self-made woman in the country, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw started Biocon India in the garage of her rented home, with a seed capital of Rs 10,000. Today, Biocon is India’s largest biotech company and Asia’s largest insulin manufacturer, producing affordable drugs for everything from cancer to diabetes. Her pioneering efforts in industrial biotechnology have earned her a Padmashri and Padma Bhushan, in addition to titles like Businesswoman of the Year and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Life Sciences & Healthcare.
Ekta Kapoor: Filmy Firebrand
Yes, she single-handedly changed the way India spent its evenings. Ekta Kapoor delivered hit soap after hit soap as director of Balaji Telefilms Limited, introducing audiences to daily serials at a time when weekly episodes were all they knew. Today, with Balaji Motion Pictures steadily gaining steam she has expanded her way into films like The Dirty Picture and Ragini MMS 2, which have proven that Kapoor is a real frontrunner in the Bollywood film industry as well.
Parmeshwar Godrej: Society High Priestess
The wife of business icon Adi Godrej is the face of glitterati glamour, the perfect hostess. But Parmeshwar Godrej has created a valuable reputation of her own, one that sets her apart from the one-dimensional ‘socialite’ status. She co-founded The Heroes Project with Hollywood actor Richard Gere to mobilise the influential to fight AIDS in India. It received great support from both the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Godrej is also often consulted by the Harvard School of Public Health, which plans to partner with her project in India.
Firuza Parikh: Medical Innovator
Ranked among India’s top 10 doctors, Dr Firuza Parikh is the Director of the Department of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai. After training at Yale for four years, she returned to India in 1989 to set up and head the first IVF centre in a private institution, at Jaslok. She is credited with the first laser-hatching pregnancy, South-East Asia’s first micromanipulation baby and, more recently, the introduction of Cumulus-Aided Embryo Transfer (CAT) for the first time in the world.
Naina Lal Kidwai: Path breaking banker
The first female president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Naina Lal Kidwai is recognised globally for her leadership and business success. In 1982, she became the first woman in the country to graduate from Harvard Business School, after which she was the first woman to be hired by PriceWaterhouse India (now PwC) and now, the first woman to channel the functioning of a foreign bank in India – as Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC.
Sonia Gandhi: Political Powerhouse
Born in a small town in Italy, she rose rapidly to become one of the most influential people in the world, rubbing shoulders with the Obamas and the Pope. For ages, Sonia Gandhi played a major role in safeguarding the power of the Congress, keeping alive a legacy that dates back to India’s very first Prime Minister. Now, in spite of an annihilating overthrow, her noble demeanour remains untarnished and, for many, she still stands as a unifying force.
Shobhana Bhartia: Media Magnate
Born to a family of successful businessmen, Shobhana Bhartia had innovative thinking and trade acumen in her blood. She inherited the group from her father, the legendary K K Birla, and became the first and youngest woman chief executive of a national newspaper. Today, HT Media is the publisher of India’s second most-read dailies and has ventured into radio, television, internet and education. The Rajya Sabha MP has also taken charge as the Pro Chancellor of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani.
Zia Mody: Steely Acquirer
After establishing herself in the ’80s, when people didn’t easily trust their legal affairs to a woman, Zia Mody went on to set up AZB & Partners — one of India’s top corporate law firms. Considered the queen of the merger and acquisition business, she is one of the most powerful women in the country and won the award for Businesswoman of the Year. Mody is among a handful of women to serve on advisory committees at top Indian industry bodies, has been a member of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal and is on several government committees on financial reforms and corporate governance.