Experts Column

Right from creating smartphones to developing software, flying in space to reaching the depths of the ocean, handcrafting intricate designs to running businesses; women have etched their excellence in diverse fields by fighting gender inequalities and many other challenges. Especially in an extensively male-dominated field like technology, women have been taking its growth to incredible heights by encouraging and empowering their peers with the right potential and skill set. A recent study by Open University in partnership with Indian IT trade association firm NASSCOM revealed that India tops the list in terms of women in IT with a higher percentage of women in tech (35 percent), far more than their female counterparts in the UK (17 percent) and the US (20 percent). The scorecard also states that India’s IT sector is recruiting and retaining more women and assigning them more leadership roles. Among this horde of prominent tech icons in the globe, we have articulated about five leading tech ladies of India whose stories stand as the perfect muse for the budding as well as established magnates today.

Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM

A doyen of the technology space, Debjani Ghosh has always been a firm believer in the might of technology in enhancing lives and livelihoods of people and deploying it for the upliftment of the society. Debjani currently stands at the vanguard of technological developments at National Association of Software & Services Companies (NASSCOM) since April 2018. She takes pride in being its fifth President as well as the first woman in its management board. At NASSCOM, she proactively focuses on accentuating innovation and skilling to empower individuals and companies to deploy the power of innovative technologies. She has always adhered to a three-point agenda entailing talent development and re-skilling, working on the innovation culture and collaborating with governments across the world to leverage the best of business opportunities in the IT industry.

Debjani’s roles and responsibilities include establishing new growth areas for the technology realm in India and working in tandem with governments and industry’s stakeholders to devise policies and initiatives that accelerate the growth of the sector both in India as well as across the globe. Prior to joining NASSCOM, she was the first woman to lead Intel India and the Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT) besides being a member of the executive council at NASSCOM. She also played a prominent role in developing ‘Think Digital, Think India’ strategy to support India’s digital transformation journey by being an enabler of inclusive growth and development.

Debjani’s biggest moment of pride was when she was felicitated by the President of India under the auspices of the ‘First Ladies’ program in January 2018, which honors exceptional women pioneers in their respective fields. She was also listed in the ‘100 Most Influential Woman in UK-India Relations: Celebrating women’ list. Debjani holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Osmania University in Hyderabad, and an MBA degree in Marketing from S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai.

Vanitha Narayanan, Managing Director, IBM

India’s most revered and successful business executive, Vanitha Narayan outclasses as the veteran of the IT industry with over 30 years of work experience. She has brought in a swarm of changes and developments in this field across multiple countries. Currently, she is the beloved Managing Director of IBM India and Regional General Manager for India and South Asia. She holds a history with IBM that continues till date, while she has spearheaded the company’s transformational initiatives and expansions in India.

Her journey with IBM began with her being inducted into the IBM Industry Academy in 2012 by a group of experts who oversee IBM’s thought leadership and brand. Vanitha boasts of being an advisory board member of the Industry Academy, member of IBM’s Global Women’s Council, the first Woman Chairperson of AMCHAM India (2015-16), and continues to serve as a member on the National Executive Board. She was appointed as the Chairperson of the Board of Governors for National Institutes of Technology (NIT) heading NIT-Suratkal, for a term of three years, by the President of India.

Vanitha’s wall of fame is adorned with a series of awards and recognition. She was named among the 12 Global Indian Super Women of 2016 by CXOToday, as one of the ‘Most Powerful Women’ in Business in India (2016) by Business Today, and conferred with the Degree of Doctor of Letters by the LNM Institute of Information Technology.

Her educational background involves pursuing MBA in Marketing from the University of Madras and MBA in Information System from the University of Houston.

Saloni Vijay, General Manager – Information Technology, Vodafone Idea

An adept IT maven with over 20 years of experience, Saloni stands at the forefront of the industry having worn diverse hats so far. She has held various roles and responsibilities in IT operations, Project Management/Delivery, Solution Architect, DevOps & Agile, Application design, Development & implementation, Service delivery, Vendor/Service Governance, IT Service & Infrastructure Management, Data Center Operations, IT Security & Audits, Digitization, and IoT & Big Data & core telecom business & technology i.e. VAS & Packet Core (2G/3G/4G data internet & charging).

Saloni currently oversees the circle IT operations and business delivery for the eight circles of West & East India. As the Head of IT operations, she outshines as a strong decision maker who provides support for efficient business processes. She has also been partnering with various business teams to maximize profits and ultimately drive financial goals and objectives.

With deep understanding of business and skills to design solutions, Saloni has exhibited solid expertise in handling dynamic business environments, supporting merger and acquisitions, and increasing bottom line revenue through strategic business modeling, thereby developing complex business models. She is well versed in comprehending revenue impacting business activities which enables her to provide integrated view while designing, and also agile strategy development and execution.

Apart from this, Saloni holds great proficiency in developing IT infrastructure roadmap and budgets aligned with overall business plan, managing a team of 150+ individuals from Application, Infrastructure, Network & Security and Data Center along with 10,000+ assets across circles, defining robust demand management framework, and leading team of project managers to ensure successful project delivery. She is also an efficient communicator with strong leadership, people management and analytical problem resolving skills.

For her excellent contributions in the IT industry, Saloni was bestowed with Tech-Leader/Innovator/Disruptor of the year-Runner award as a part of Woman Leadership Influencer Award from Kamikaze in Women in Tech Show 2020, CIO of the year award from Enterprise IT world in Dec 2019, ET CIO Award in Enterprise Technology from The Economics Times in March 2019, Women in Redaward from Vodafone in March 2018 that recognized the Top 30 most inspiring women of India, and many other awards.

Roshni Nadar Malhotra, CEO & Executive Director, HCL Corporation

Roshni Nadar Malhotra is the CEO and Executive Director of the $9.9 billion HCL Corporation, responsible for providing strategic guidance to the organization. She is also the Chairperson on the Board of HCL Technologies, a leading global technology organization with a market capitalization of $20.5 billion, and the Chairperson of its CSR Committee.

Roshni is a Trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, which is committed to the process of nation building by driving transformational leadership through education. As the Chairperson and driving force behind VidyaGyan, a leadership academy for the economically underprivileged, meritorious rural students of Uttar Pradesh, Roshni has been working toward nurturing future leaders from rural India who can act as catalysts of change for their communities, villages, and the nation at large  

Passionate about wildlife and conservation, Roshni established The Habitats Trust in 2018. The Foundation aims to work toward protecting India’s natural habitats and its indigenous species with the core mission of creating and conserving sustainable ecosystems through strategic partnerships and collaborations with all stakeholders, at every level.

In recognition of her outstanding work in business and philanthropy, Roshni has received several honors and accolades. Some of these include being featured in ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list compiled and released by Forbes in 2017, 2018, and 2019, consecutively. She was conferred with the Lewis Institute Community Changemaker Award by Babson College in 2017, and was recognized by Horasis, an internationally renowned think tank, as the Indian Business Leader of the Year 2019. Roshni is also an alumnus of the Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGL, 2014-19), a unique and diverse community of the world’s most outstanding, next-generation leaders, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.

Puneet Kaur Kohli, Group CTO, Manappuram Finance

Puneet, an IT Leader brings on board her 25 years of global experience having extensive knowledge on developing and implementing strategic plans and end user services by addressing company needs and promotion of growth. She has lived and worked in different parts of the world with leading companies like Motorola, Reliance, Duncans, Carrier Aircon, UK Land Investments, Bharti Airtel Limited, Soma Networks and Motoricity (AT&T) across the globe in countries namely, Dubai, US, UK, Canada & across APAC.

Puneet is responsible for creation of strategic IT annual and long-term roadmap with focus towards generating new revenue streams through innovation and intelligence, thereby having experience in Information systems such as IS Procedure and Budgeting , IT Strategy, Systems Architecture, Project and Program Management, Network and System Security, Disaster Recovery Planning, Risk Assessment, Regulatory Adherence and Governance, Contingency Planning, Executive Leadership and supervision, C-level presentations and negotiations, and Cost takeout strategies.

Puneet has also lead high priority projects which aim to digitize, including e-KYC, transitioning the ERP on cloud, adoption of analytics for customer centricity, mobility initiatives and creating a single view of the customer. Her expertise lies in IT Strategy – IS Procedure and Budgeting, Systems Architecture, Project and Program Management, Network and System Security, Disaster Recovery Planning, Risk Assessment, Regulatory Adherence and Governance, Contingency Planning, Executive Leadership and supervision, C-level presentations and negotiations and Cost takeout strategies.

Puneet is proud to have received awards such as TOP 100 CISO award – 2011/2012/2013/2014/2015, the TOP Innovation award from IDC in BFSI vertical, Dynamic CIO 100 Awards – 2011/2013/2014/Innovator CIO of the year for 2015, Business World Award for IT Acceleration for Innovation in Storage in March 2014, and many more!

Conclusion

Besides these five tech ladies that we have featured, there are many other women who have contributed significantly to the growth and development of IT sector in India through their phenomenal works. Despite the fascinating progress of India in empowering women in IT, there is still a great amount of work that is yet to be done in this field. On the bright side, most of the initiatives towards women empowerment in this sector have shown incredible results, thereby upscaling its growth substantially.