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“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” - Albert Einstein
Women today, more than ever before, have gone against the grain of male-dominated societies and cultures.
Year after year, confident, courageous, intelligent and determined women from all over the country make it big and roar ‘success’ in various fields. They make India proud with their sterling record of achievements.
Even though there are numerous women deserving of honour in their field of excellence, we name a few famous Indian women here who have made a lasting impression on the world.
Gita Gopinath is a Harvard economist who became the first Indian woman to assume the position of Chief Economist at IMF - the International Monetary Fund. She is originally from Kerala and is the daughter of a farmer-entrepreneur!
She is the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University. Ms. Gopinath is also the co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her exceptional skills and vast experience make her an excellent fit for the IMF.
According to IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, Gopinath is an exceptional economist and a great leader. After Amartya Sen, she is the second Indian to get a permanent membership at Harvard’s Economics Department.
Hima Das is the first Indian athlete (sprint runner) to win gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championship in 2018, held at Tampere, Finland. Later, she went on to win gold and silver medals at the Asian Games held in Jakarta. She currently holds the Indian national record in 400 meters, with a timing of 50.79s.
The daughter of a humble rice farmer near the town of Dhing in Assam, Hima Das became a national phenomenon at the young age of 18.
And in 2019, she won 5 gold medals in 20 days!
Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte is an Indian Olympic boxer from Manipur. She is the only woman to achieve the coveted No. 1 position in the International Boxing Association (AIBA) after becoming the World Amateur Boxing champion for a six times record. Kom is also the only woman boxer to have won a medal in all seven world championships, making it a world record.
Known as ‘Magnificent Mary,’ she has become India’s favourite sportsperson, shining at several International platforms.
Flight Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi, a young Indian Air Force officer, became the first Indian woman fighter pilot to fly the ‘MiG-21 Bison’ solo.
The MiG-21 Bison is known for its highest take-off and landing speed in the world at 340 kmph. Avani inspired many young women by making her mark in a field dominated by men.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw started her own venture- Biocon in 1978. Today she is ranked 60th on the Forbes’ list of most powerful women in the world and is the richest self-made woman billionaire of India.
She is currently the Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon Limited (one of the largest biotechnology/biopharmaceutical companies in India) and the Chairperson of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
She is also a member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad and has been given due recognition for her achievements from the Government of India, who conferred her with the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
Indra Nooyi is a business executive and former CEO of PepsiCo. She has consistently been ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful women. She also featured on the Fortune List in 2015 as the 2nd most powerful woman in the world.
In 2018, Nooyi was named as one of the ‘Best CEOs in the World’ and has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan and the CNN-IBM Indian of the year- Global Indian award 2019. She serves as a board member of Amazon currently and is the 2nd woman to be part of the board at Amazon.
Richa Kar is the founder of the well-known lingerie brand Zivame. As notable and acclaimed as the brand is now, Richa Kar’s journey was a difficult climb to success. Born in Jamshedpur from a conventional background, Kar completed her education from the renowned BITS Pilani and pursued her Master’s from Narsee Monji Institute of Management Studies, after which she worked in the IT sector.
Her idea of a lingerie brand was not welcomed by her parents who thought selling apparel, bras and panties online was embarrassing and people would make fun of their daughter’s profession. However, against all the odds, she launched Zivame in 2011 using all her savings and a borrowed fund of INR 35 lakhs from her friends.
Through her hard work and determination, she impressed investors who started funding her project first with $3 million in 2012, then $6 million in 2013, and $40 million in 2015.
Today Zivame is worth is more than $6.81 Billion (681 crores).
What started as a humble beginning in New Delhi, is now a well-established brand in 13 countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the GCC Region and more recently East Africa.
Vandana Luthra is the founder of VLCC which is a prominent health and wellness conglomerate and a leader in the Indian beauty and wellness industry. It also runs the VLCC Institute of Beauty & Nutrition that has become India’s largest chain of vocational education academies in the field of beauty and nutrition training.
Over the years, Vandana Luthra has received many awards, including the Padma Shri for her contribution to trade and industry. She has also been ranked among the 50 most powerful businesswomen in the Forbes and Fortune list.
A graduate of IIM, Ahmedabad, Falguni Nayar worked almost two decades as an investment banker and broker with the Kotak Mahindra Group.
In 2005, she became the Managing Director of the investment banking business where she successfully spearheaded the firm to be India’s leading IPO banker and was instrumental in closing several successful M&As (Mergers and Acquisitions).
However, her entrepreneurial spirit dominated, and the years of experience and successful interactions gave her the confidence to start her own health and beauty brand, now famously known as Nykaa.
Nykaa makes a wide catalogue of beauty products available at the doorsteps of millions of Indians. The store has been created with a lot of advice and concern-based selection for products.
It has also been a front-runner in bringing international luxury brands to India, giving Indian customers all-encompassing products and services to choose from. Today, Nykaa is evaluated at $750 million.
As an entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley for 22 years, Vani returned to India in 2006 and got involved in the start-up ecosystem, when the entrepreneurial landscape was still in its infancy.
She is currently the founder and Managing Director of Kalaari Capital. A mentor and enabler of startup companies in India, Vani has invested in various brands like Zivame, Urban Ladder, Myntra, VIA, and Bluestone.
She also won the NDTV Women of Worth award for leadership excellence in business and entrepreneurship. She is known to have the knack of finding the best young minds and nurturing them to build successful businesses. With 55 investments and around 2000 proposals a year, Kalaari Capital has now become India’s leading investor in start-ups.
All these women, and many more not named here, have broken stereotypes and have stood up for their rights. They are an inspiration to both men and women, having displayed exemplary dedication in their respective fields.
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