'Every woman is an inspiration for others'

'Every woman is an inspiration for others'

'Every woman is an inspiration for others'
She was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School. A chartered accountant and a banker, Naina Lal Kidwai’s book 30 Women in Power: Their Voices, Their Stories, brings together inimitable voices of 30 powerful Indian women.

The HSBC India group general manager and country head tells Deccan Herald’sUma Kannan about the book, and what made her put the personal experiences of all women and their challenges together in one.

What made you write this book and why only 30 women?

The purpose of this book is to provide insights into challenges of women, how they overcame, and what are their influences and so on.

What did move me to do this was the Nirbhaya incident in 2012. It was a very dark period in India’s history. Two weeks after this incident, I was appointed the president of FICCI, and wherever I went people asked me about the status of women in India. The first question they asked was ‘Are you an anomaly’? There is also another India that has more number of women CEOs running successful organisations. So, I began thinking of writing a book. But being a banking person, data was the one thing that came into my mind, and it would be boring.

Here in this book, these women write in their voices with anecdotes; their experiences; work-life balance; and their influences.

Did you face any challenges while writing this book?  Please elaborate.

The challenge for me was that most of these women have never written before. If I ask them to write, it would be more about their companies than about them. Some women said it was too personal and a few said they do not have time to write. So a lot of pushing and cajoling took place. 

I also wanted to cover women from across different sectors. There are women from government (1 IAS officer, 2 IFS officers), not-for-profit sector, banking, FMCG, IT/ITeS, law, stock exchange and credit rating, manufacturing, media and hospitality and healthcare. These women have written in their own voices.

 Also, when I thought to write this book, I asked people whether they knew these women who are CEOs. But they could not answer. I felt these stories have to be told. We don’t celebrate success. There are many women CEOs heading organisations, and we need to tell about them. After deciding about this book, I chose those women whom I knew so that I could nudge them to write.

What kind of challenges did they face? Or what were common among them?

In the introduction part, I have mentioned about six keys to success like passion, ambition, integrity, among others. I have taken examples of these women. When you read the book, you would know about the challenges they had faced.

Every woman is an inspiration for others. It is not just for young women, it is for husbands too. Interestingly, women have mentioned about their influences — fathers and husbands — and how they supported them. One of the 30 women is chairman and MD of Biocon Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. She has written about her challenges and how she overcame them to start a biotechnology company.

How have been your journey so far?

A woman as the head of investment bank was something unheard of previously. There were many challenges and when you get your first customer, convince him/her to invest and do the deal, that person comes back to you again and again.

Each woman would have faced many challenges, but when somebody puts you down, it is when you feel the need to rise up. For instance, if there is a disbeliever boss at work, you try to fight back and show how capable and successful you are.

Do you have plans to write another book on another 30 women?

No. It is very difficult and also time-consuming.  I would like to write, but not on another 30 women, but on something else.