Nita Ambani. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Nita Ambani. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

Nita Ambani most powerful businesswoman in Asia: Forbes

SBI chairman and managing director Arundhati Bhattacharya has been ranked second on the 2016 'Asia's 50 Power Businesswomen' list

New York: Reliance Foundation chairperson Nita Ambani has been named the most powerful businesswoman in Asia by Forbes, leading a list of 50 women leaders from the region that includes eight from India.

State Bank of India (SBI) chairman and managing director Arundhati Bhattacharya has been ranked second on the 2016 ‘Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen’ list that features trailblazing women from China, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines and New Zealand.

Apart from Ambani and Bhattacharya, six women from India have made to the list, including Mu Sigma CEO Ambiga Dhiraj (14), Welspun India CEO Dipali Goenka (16), Lupin CEO Vinita Gupta (18), ICICI Bank managing director and CEO Chanda Kochhar (22), VLCC Health Care founder and vice chairman Vandana Luthra (26) and Biocon founder, chairman and managing director Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (28).

The list acknowledges the “inroads women are making in the business world but gender inequality persists. Women are best positioned to know what it will take to get more of them into commanding roles in the workforce and keep them there," Forbes said.

Describing her as the “first lady of Indian business", Forbes said Ambani, 52, is a “power near the throne" and makes her debut on the list because of her rising profile in Reliance Industries, led by her husband and India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani.

“In a country where billionaire wives tend to remain in the shadow of their husbands, Nita’s rising profile in the Reliance empire is unusual and earns her a debut spot," on the power businesswomen ranking this year, Forbes said of Ambani, who is also director of Reliance Industries.

On Bhattacharya, 60, Forbes said she is facing her “most challenging test" yet with the State Bank of India as it grapples with mounting bad loans, which stood at $11 billion in December and caused net profit to plunge more than 60% to $190 million in a recent quarter. Dhiraj, 40, became the first female boss of an Indian-owned tech unicorn when she took over as CEO of Mu Sigma, a provider of data-analytics services, from husband Dhiraj Rajaram, who founded the firm in 2004.

Goenka, 46, took charge of home textiles maker Welspun India (part of her family’s $3 billion in revenue Welspun Group) five years ago. Goenka said when she assumed her role, the buzz in the male-dominated industry was: “Welspun has lost its mind." “Goenka has doubled down to disprove that. Revenue and earnings are up severalfold, with net profit of $81 million on revenue of $790 million in the year ended March 2015," Forbes said.

Gupta, 48, runs India’s third-largest pharmaceutical company, with $2 billion in revenue. In the past year she has spearheaded $1.2 billion in acquisitions, the biggest of which was the $880 million purchase of Gavis Pharma, giving Lupin its first manufacturing facility in the US, a market that contributes nearly half its total revenue, Forbes said.

Kochhar, 54, a regular on power lists, launched the ‘iWork@home’ programme that allows employees to work from home for a year, part of her plan to retain female staff. However “as boss of the country’s largest private-sector lender, Kochhar has to contend with the current bane of India’s banking system: bad loans," Forbes said. Luthra, 56 pioneered the concept of a beauty and wellness chain in India, the publication said. Mazumdar-Shaw, 63, a “self-made" leader, has positioned Biocon as a large player in insulin, it added. PTI