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Corporate Divas Book Review

Written By Franklin V on Friday, April 6, 2012 | 7:52 PM

Book: Corporate Divas
Author: Sonia Golani
Publisher: Penguin India
Pages: 227; Price: Rs 250


In the corridors of Indian politics and in the high-performance business sweat shops the gender order is slowly shifting in favour of power divas - the women achievers.Sample an alchemist. Sugar queen Rajshree Pathy turned a barren stretch of land in Andipatti and Theni district of Tamil Nadu to a lush sugarcane country more than two decades ago.

Growing sugar in the fallow stretch of Andipatti was tough. The sugar industry was deeply politicised and dominated by men. But Rajshree chose to stick to sugar despite the odds.Rajshree Sugars & Chemicals Limited was incorporated in 1985.

Recalls Rajshree: "I had no doubt that I will do it. It was as if there was a karmic reason for me to be in this business. And the force was so intense I could not ignore it."

Rajshree is one of the 18 corporate divas, whose stories of grit, hard work, uncompromising ethics and success, have been documented by writer Sonia Golani in her book Corporate Divas.The book of short biographical essays sends the hard-hitting message that gender is of no consequence in male bastions.


Rajshree vies for attention in the book with illustrious industry captains like Vinita Bali, managing director of Britannia Industries Limited, Vedika Bhandarkar, managing director of Credit Suisse India, Tanya Dubash, executive director of Godrej Group, Manisha Girotra, country head of UBS India, Dipali Goenka, executive director of Welspun Retail Limited, and Sminu Jindal, managing director of Jindal Saw Limited.

Their stories differ, each reading like a gripping novella. But the connectors do not vary - the divas carry on filial legacies, fight set structures and break new grounds.

The language is crisp. Golani's prose is almost journalistic reportage punctuated with personal recalls and hard facts, which virtually speak to readers from the pages. Writer Golani believes in karma, natural destiny and a power beyond the realm of mortals that propels her muses to the pinnacles they scale.

Banker Chanda Kochhar is an inheritor of fortitude. A campus interview opened the door to her 'karmabhoomi'- the ICICI Bank. She joined the bank as a management trainee and rose through the ranks to become its managing director and chief executive officer.

"Every business that we were in was growing substantially and at the same time we were entering into new businesses ... The experience, the learning and the perspective that I acquired in the process were quite varied. It was always about the next change," Kochhar recounts.

An open-minded liberalism and a fierce sense of competition set these women apart from the rest of their faceless soul-sisters - who spend their lives toiling at home, at killers of work places or play chambermaids to male whims.

The history of Indian gender empowerment is replete with examples of men propping women as shields and guns at the frontlines.

But Golani insists that her divas are living demi-gods reaping the bounty of their corporate strategies. "They are either professionals with outstanding achievements or entrepreneurs who have made substantial contribution to their field of work," Golani says."I believe that each story in this book has the potential to impact and inspire many; different individuals will find different experiences to take away from it depending on what they are seeking," Golani adds.
Sminu Jindal is strength personified.

She literally wars against herself to overcome paraplegia - and her rivals in business - to turn around sick units. Jindal is one of the few woman CEOs in India's unforgiving steel sector, where performance is the passport to survival.

The book, as the writer likes to sum up, is an instant resource.

Ambitious Indian women - either rookies or in their mid-careers - can always learn a few tricks from it on their paths to the top.
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