Here's a look at the women leaders of the AEC industry
ECONOMY & POLICY

Here's a look at the women leaders of the AEC industry

The construction sector has traditionally been a predominantly male-driven industry. But in recent times, the segment has seen a definitive rise in the number of female leaders making huge strides in the field.

Over the years, CONSTRUCTION WORLD has been interviewing these exemplary leaders in the construction space, featuring their stories in the magazine and recognising and awarding their contributions to the industry.

This Women’s Day we bring to you the stories of some of the leading women in the building, infrastructure and construction space (in no particular order), who have successfully made a place for themselves.

Amanda Puravankara, Executive Director, Provident Housing

Amanda Puravankara’s success story is one that she claims she is still working towards. She currently represents Provident Housing, a company that truly aims to democratise homeownership. Puravankara’s journey as a leader is closely associated with the company’s journey. Every business decision that she makes has been rooted in people analytics right from customer innovation to employee success. She believes that she learns a lot from the people she works with. Puravankara aims to be optimistic about the future and encourages her teams to do the same. This has pushed her in continuing to move forward, especially during the last few years.

Your journey in this industry: I would define my journey as dynamic and punctuated by learnings and growth opportunities at every turn.
What do you attribute the success of your journey to: I believe that every day is an opportunity to do better and success is not a one-stop destination. I draw inspiration from multiple sources – my father, who gave my first lessons in business, my colleagues, who are a powerhouse of ideas, and of course, my experiences in the field.

A challenge you have faced in this journey: Real estate is a dynamic industry that evolves according to market forces. The onset of the pandemic was a universally challenging period for all businesses. At that point, my priority was the safety of all the stakeholders involved, especially my teams and customers. Thankfully, we had built an agile operating model that could quickly adapt to the changing realities; we could digitise most of our processes. This helped us fulfil our customer promises seamlessly while ensuring the safety of everyone involved.

Your message to emerging women leaders: The last few years have been especially encouraging in terms of equal representation in real estate. With more women entering a traditionally male-dominated industry, I am happy to note that the sector is heading towards a brand new direction. A piece of advice that keeps me going is to believe in my abilities and not judge my potential based on external factors.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: I would say that my leadership encompasses people-centricity, transparency and accountability.

How do women leaders think differently: Every individual brings a unique set of strengths to the table. In my interaction with women leaders, I have observed that a stronger emphasis is placed on people development and greater diversity in the company’s voice. Considering the challenges women face, especially in a predominantly male industry, they understand the importance of passing the mic and enabling someone to speak their mind. Hence, they are also more compassionate in their approach.

Anaïs Meon, Design Director, Urban Living Studios

Anaïs Meon presently operates as the Design Director for Urban Living Studios at Hyderabad and Vienna. She has pursued her bachelor’s degree in architecture from L’Ecole Speciale d’Architecture, Paris and her master’s degree from Angewandte, Vienna. During her studies, she got the opportunity to learn from some of the brilliant minds in the architecture field namely Zaha Hadid, Wolf Prix, and Carl Prusha. She has worked on a variety of projects at an international level and accomplished various development-led projects across China, Hong Kong, New York, and India alongside many professionals passionate about architecture. Meon constantly looks for opportunities to learn new techniques and implement them in her work. She strives to expand artistry and design with comforting and elegant projects by incorporating neoteric and contemporary designs in her work.

Your journey in the industry: My journey has taught me that the building/construction industry demands unique and well-executed designs to create landmarks that can be recognized and appreciated by everyone. The diverse international projects in various countries have introduced me to new techniques and materials which turned out to be fruitful in the completion of my projects.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: My passion for my work has always motivated me in my career and has led me to success. I always try to design my projects uniquely and sustainably which requires a lot of effort and time. My dedication and hard work resulted in a successful architectural journey.

A challenge that you have faced in this journey: The short deadlines for high demanding projects are a major challenge in the industry because we have limited time to deliver an exclusive and masterful project. To date, I have never faced any challenge in particular. Though the architecture career is a challenge in itself, that is why it's exciting to practice.

Your message to emerging women leaders: The emerging women leaders in architecture should maintain a strong knowledge base. They should constantly learn and integrate the latest techniques and materials in their project as the profession always evolves. They should build a good team of professionals as well as stand for their own values.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: The qualities that would best define my leadership style are reliability, work ethics, and professionalism. I rely upon and trust my team of experts in the execution of a project. I always try to maintain a proper work-life balance and stay professional with my clients so that I can deliver top-notch and excellent work to them.

How do women leaders think differently: Not sure if women think differently because good thinkers are aligned regardless of their gender. A good leader should have diverse qualities and, most important among them, should be driven by self-motivation and out-of-the-box thinking ability, which will make them a good problem solver and innovator.

Anaisha Cooper, Director, Spenta Corporation

Upon completing her Bachelor's degree, Anaisha Cooper began her career in interior design, which had always been her passion. She attributes her sense of aesthetics, colour, spatial recognition, finish, and form to the work phase of her life which she honed, shaped, and refined throughout her career. While serving as a Director at Spenta, Cooper also led the Marketing, Design and Planning departments. She believes it is important for clients to have quality and design aspects blend well in the area of luxury residency and living. That’s what her very talented team strives to keep in mind as they aim to deliver to the best of their capacity and build a loyal client base doing the same.

Your journey in the industry: My journey has been one of joy, responsibility, learning and growth. I hope to focus on mentorship (especially women) and acquiring more knowledge in the years to come.
What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I owe my success to my family, my mentors, my team and our loyal clients who believe in our vision, philosophy and ideas as much as we do.
A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Real estate continues to be a male-dominated industry. Even today, women in the industry are usually employed in functions such as sales, marketing, customer relations and to some extent finance. Positions in areas of construction, purchase, billing, engineering, liaisoning etc. continue to be held by men. As a promoter, I have often found myself questioning this imbalance and hope that in time, qualified women take up roles in these areas. I personally, to the extent possible, encourage women within my organisation and outside to pursue education as well as consider work-related roles in the construction industry. While there is still a long way to go, I feel like significant positive developments have taken place.

Your message to emerging women leaders: Two decades ago, interior design and real estate were not as demanding and interesting as they are today. Having access to high-end technology and an increased sense of belonging has helped customers better understand their needs. To be successful in the field, women aspiring to leadership positions should familiarize themselves with different backgrounds of related industries and the ever-changing market, so that they can effectively communicate client requirements to internal teams and vice versa, hence creating lasting partnerships leading to success and growth.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: Integrity, resilience and positivity are the values I live by, both professionally and personally. Over the years, I've learned that one can get through even the most challenging times if they are being their truest selves and instil the same in their team members so that they can work together towards collective success.

How do women leaders think differently: In my opinion, women leaders bring in a unique zeal to the workforce which is more nurturing towards the team rather than dictatorial. Women leaders are generally more empathetic, open and considerate, qualities which I believe, ultimately benefit the growth of individuals and organizations. Women leaders are often reported to be better coaches and mentors, candid yet respectful with feedback and support, which in turn makes for a close working relationship with their employees.

Archana Sarda, Director, Interior Design Services, Residential, Colliers India

When one looks at a design and assume it should be a certain way, Archana Sarda likes to challenge that by asking ‘why?’ Sarda has conversations with her designers daily and throws out crazy ideas. She believes, “one way that we breathe our mission is mixing design backgrounds on different projects. The typical rules of each market tend to disappear when you see what other markets are doing.” Sarda has completed over 75 projects and loves to conduct bone-deep research before spearheading most complex projects for smooth and timely execution. She has been featured in various publications of India and adorned with laurels of appreciation.

Your journey in the industry: As a residential interior designer, innovation is one of my passions and when passion meets work… (hopefully) magic happens.

With over two decades of experience, I'm one of the most well-known names in the field of interior design for high-end residential projects, an award-winning professional and successful entrepreneur who has delivered some of the most unique and luxurious residential projects in India and abroad. Additionally, I have conceptualized innovative designs for players across asset classes like hospitality, retail, corporate offices, banks, etc.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: The growth of the industry leads to my personal growth too. Honesty, purpose and intuition are what has worked for me. The best part of my job is growing with people and seeing someone you’ve worked with succeeding in their career feels like success for me too. Additionally, it’s my family that supports me in and out.

A challenge that you have faced in this journey: In the residential interior design field, I’ve never faced such trouble, although there were times when I had to face some challenges when it came to project management, being brought up in a tough dominated profession, culture and society. But I knew it takes time for doors to open and one has to be at it consistently to build trust and be finally allowed to explore and make mistakes. Luckily for me, I overcame all the challenges that came my way and have become an expert in handling the same. However, as an entrepreneur, I feel I have the pressure to prove myself against all odds and sometimes that takes a toll on the entire project or purpose. In most scenarios, I try to take inputs, put my best and then work consistently.

Your message to emerging women leaders: We can be the change we wish to see in the world. I hope to see a more equitable society. Our industry can be tough, particularly on parents and women of colour. It’s the role of all women to lift each other up and do everything in our power to help each other grow and thrive. We put others first, which is a strength. This allows us to take into consideration the whole person or team experience as it relates to the end-user as well as for relationship and team building.

Ashwini Walawalkar, Country Head, Technique Control Facility Management (TCFM)

Ashwini Walawalkar’s journey started quite early as she began working while pursuing her undergraduate education. It was then that she realised that being able to work with people was one of her greatest assets and hence, Walawalkar decided to work in the hospitality industry. This was a turning point as she got the opportunity to work with the Taj Group of Hotels, and learnt the value of hard work and determination. After having worked in the industry for eight years, she joined the facility management industry, which at the point was called ‘contract housekeeping.’ From there, she has gone on to have worked across varying roles and capabilities while being exposed to many global accounts, multiple leaders across domains and to the evolutionary nature of this field. While Walawalkar is considered an all-rounder in the industry, she believes that she has more to work towards and add to her journey.

Your journey in the industry: My journey in the real-estate industry began about three decades ago, and I have witnessed the shifts and the growth across this industry from a close vantage point. I began my career in hospitality with the Taj Hotels and from there, I moved to the facility management (FM) industry. That was when the industry was still at a nascent stage. Today, the FM industry has significantly evolved, encompassing a wide array of services that are at the crux of building and maintaining spaces.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I take immense pride in my own endeavours and pat my back when I know that I have achieved something. I believe that success is a path and this is one that we need to strive towards and pursue with conviction. I invest time in consistently learning and upskilling myself to meet the ever-changing demands of the industry and life in general. While I do consider being entrusted to lead a firm with over 8,000 people as a significant milestone, I know that my success in this endeavour will be evident once I scale our firm to newer frontiers. There are several individuals that I have met at various junctures through my journey, and these individuals have mentored and helped me become the person that I am today. I am truly grateful to them and I also attribute my success to my hard work, perseverance and tireless efforts and attitude.

A challenge that you have faced in this journey: I believe that the challenges that I have faced through my career are not unlike ones faced by countless women across industries and roles. These pertain to the traditional stereotypes surrounding women who choose to pursue their careers. Being a woman and having to prove one’s mettle and prowess is challenging enough, and this increases further while working in a male-dominated industry. I had to consistently work towards making my presence felt and being heard. Looking back to the initial days of my career, I believe that I was able to overcome these challenges by facing my fears, being confident and open to opportunities and being assertive and communicative.

Your message to emerging women leaders: My message to all the female leaders would be to stop at nothing and continue keeping the boat afloat despite all the waves that may try to curtail us. Being a parent, wife, daughter and employee myself, I am cognizant of the challenges that we face as women today, but these must never stop us from relentlessly pursuing our dreams. Embrace the challenges that come your way because they will make your journey all the more fulfilling and present you with opportunities to push boundaries. To all my female colleagues, my advice would be to take challenges head-on and remind yourself that you are greater than the problem lying in front of you. Continue excelling in your domains and working hard towards achieving your goals.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: My leadership style prioritises on collaboration, leading from the forefront and empowering individuals to perform while building strong teams.
How do women leaders think differently: Women leaders possess certain personality traits that govern their thinking and behaviour in the workplace. They are driven to collaborate and build teams that focus on engagement, skill development and growth. Being nurturing and caring in principle, women leaders have a predisposition to go above and beyond for the needs of every employee and for the larger organisation.

Devi Shankar, President – Industrial, Logistics & Data Centre, ANAROCK Capital Advisors

Devi Shankar’s journey from losing a parent at 13 till today has been nothing but unconventional. She has enjoyed every bit of her professional life which has been crucial in shaping her personality. Throughout her career, she hasn’t shied from taking leaps of faith and changed careers twice. First from advisory to investment banking in 2011, and second, from core to alternative real estate (industrial, logistics and data centre) in 2019. Challenges haven’t deterred her, which is also one of the reasons Shankar took up a mid-career MBA from one of the world’s top schools at age 34.

Most recently, at ANAROCK, she took up the role of heading its new data centres vertical. In less than a year, they were able to close India’s foremost DC investment platform, and also establish themselves as one of India’s leading investment bankers in this industry. Devi Shankar’s accomplishments hold her in good stead to continue serving the industry with the same dedication and passion.

Your journey in the industry: My journey in the real estate industry has taken me through alleys that have made me re-discover my professional self, leading me on a never-ending path of challenge and satisfaction. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: For me, knowledge is success. Striving to know my clients and transactions inside out and being able to think beyond two dimensions to identify solutions that add value to the client, has been my mantra for success.

A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The only challenge I have faced is being the only woman in the room at most times and probably being judged to higher standards than normal. Like I mentioned about my mantra above, the only way to overcome this challenge for me has been to be relentlessly thorough in my understanding of my domain and work. I believe it is a long journey ahead until we achieve broad-based inclusivity and change mindsets - but until then, we need to meet this challenge even as we accept the realities of it.

Your message to emerging women leaders: Mastering your subject is the only key to confidence and a path to assertiveness. If you are aiming for excellence at what you do, no one can stop you from growing and becoming your own. And each of us can master our career and grow at our work.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: Integrity, accountability and empathy

How do women leaders think differently: In my experience, there have been a couple of apparent differentiators in women leadership. Firstly, women leaders generally pay more attention to detail and, therefore, are able to form perspectives that factor a wide range of criteria, than just the obvious. Secondly, women are more sensitive to emotions that may be felt by different stakeholders and are better enabled to pre-empt any responses or reactions to be better prepared for handling them.

Giulia Baima Bollone, Business Head, Embassy Interiors

Giulia Bollone states that she is happy where she is and with how far she’s come and that is definitely a success. She feels she’s been blessed with parents and family, who have excelled in their work-life and also taught her how to positively balance it with life. Bollone has a propensity to observe the people around her and be inquisitive, which has helped her learn from each and every human she has had the liberty of meeting throughout her life. She never compromises and works to fulfil any challenge, however, there are times when some things just do not pan out the way they were planned. But she does not lose heart at that and keeps going, using the opportunity to improve, be it in work or life in general.

Your journey in this industry: It’s been over 25 years in this expeditious industry, that is so kaleidoscopic that I wake up every day and learn something new. I am grateful to say that my journey so far has been astoundingly exhilarating.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I must say that I am surrounded by people who are positively collaborative and professional, who make sure to walk on an austere and crystal clear guideline that brings in the utmost decorum. My team has been extremely supportive in trying times and through challenging deadlines. I would also, however, like to extend my thanks to my multifarious company, The Embassy Group for their trust and support that bolsters me to give a hundred per cent in everything I do.

A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The challenge that I undoubtedly face on an everyday basis is the language barrier that occludes me from communicating easily with the people around me. In my profession, it is of utmost importance to be able to connect with the localities to be able to understand their requirements and be able to design for them. The way I overcome this challenge is by taking some time out of my schedule to learn the language and culture. I’m also blessed to acquire some help from my team, colleagues and people around me to translate the same.

Your message to emerging women leaders: When you are professional and invest a hundred per cent in your work, there is no room for misinterpretation and stereotypes. Thankfully, the world is evolving into a more open and inclusive one and women need to trust in its capability and theirs.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: I follow a strict professional etiquette with pellucid boundaries and expect the same out of the talented executives that I work with. I am unapologetic about the decisions I take, which is the essence of leadership. I am inclusive and open to learning from everyone I meet and have an opportunity to communicate with, no matter the walk of life. How do women leaders think differently: Women are not only working professionals but also daughters, wives, and mothers and as mettlesome as they are, they also have a delicate and empathetic side that goes a long way when it comes to leadership.

Jyothi Krishna, Head Civil & Infrastructure, Vedanta Aluminium

Hailing from the land of sun and sand, Goa, Jyothi Krishna often wondered about the engineering marvels we see in our daily life. This wonderment developed into a passion and later, into her drive to graduate as a Civil Engineer ranking third in her batch from the University of Goa. Right after engineering, Krishna dove into civil maintenance at a copper smelter in Tamil Nadu. Post that, she joined the Vedanta Group, starting with the copper business and then moving to aluminium, where she now serves as Head of Civil & Infrastructure (Growth Projects) at Vedanta’s largest aluminium smelter, which is also among the world’s largest. Vedanta has also recognised and rewarded Krishna’s accomplishments with accolades like Technical Leader – Chairman Workshop (2018), Technical Star of Business (2017-18) award, CEO Kitty for project completion, and Recognition for Safety. She has always revered and practised self-motivation and confidence, perseverance, and trailblazing attitude. Krishna believes success comes with motivation, dedication and the confidence to be unbridled in the face of challenges.

Your journey in the industry: My journey in the construction industry has been one full of learnings and experiences, giving me the opportunity to work with some incredible people, break gender stereotypes in a predominantly male workforce-based industry, traverse a steep learning curve, build priceless relationships of a lifetime and gather and hone a wide range of skills.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I believe success is a never-ending process but in all humility, I would like to attribute the success of my 14-year-long journey to my very supportive family, friends, colleagues, and my second home, Vedanta Aluminium. I feel, right from the beginning of my career in the construction industry to becoming the Deputy Manager, and then the Manager in different plants of Vedanta Aluminium, I have been privileged to learn from the best, have the opportunity to hone my skills and learn several new ones, and continuously better myself as a person and a professional. My mentors in Vedanta Aluminium have always given me the platform to apply my knowledge in a collaborative and welcoming environment while also giving my career the proper impetus through constructive feedback and fair recognition.

A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Although I have faced several challenges in this journey, coping with the tasks of being a working mother and handling unexpected situations on the professional and personal fronts, the one challenge that actually helped me in becoming the best version of myself yet was overcoming industry-specific gender biases. I was able to deal with this challenge by developing a confident, fearless and relentless attitude for becoming an accomplished professional in an industry that has long been the forte of men. In this, I worked on myself and also had immense help from the open, constructive and meritocratic organisational framework and working of Vedanta Aluminium. The organisation is impeccable in identifying, refining, respecting and rewarding skills in an unprejudiced manner.

Your message to emerging women leaders: I would say to the women leaders in this sector that they are capable of accomplishing anything. All they have to do is be fearless. Women professionals have excelled spectacularly and made their mark across a diverse gamut of functions, from smelter operations to security and even fire-fighting. The roles offered are gender agnostic and empowered. A woman can accomplish any task that a man can. This self-assurance can go a long way. Don't be concerned about juggling between a large endeavour and your family. Set the ball going by having faith and confidence in your abilities.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: I believe a true and worthy leader should be accountable, self-motivated and people-oriented. These are the three qualities I have developed in my leadership style. With accountability comes a strong sense of responsibility and ownership, with self-motivation comes the will and the dedication to perform without inhibitions, and with people orientation comes the ability to actually connect with your colleagues. A leader should be not only honest but also encouraging and highly driven and this can only be realised by developing these three qualities.

How do women leaders think differently: Women have the unique ability to blend empathy with economy, compassion with career, and ingenuity with ideation. As a result, they're more inclined to approach their employment in a self-reflective manner and value qualities such as meaning, purpose, co-worker connection, and work-life integration.

Manju Yagnik, Vice-Chairperson, Nahar Group and Sr. Vice President, NAREDCO - Maharashtra

After completing her education, Manju Yagnik sought to use her skills and knowledge in a profession that would be challenging and that matched her passion. Yagnik stepped into the real estate industry by joining the Nahar Group over two decades ago. Even though her decision was driven by passion, entering into the real estate sector was a well-thought-out decision as the sector promised great potential. In the initial days, she got the opportunity to hone certain abilities like how to spot unique landscapes, coming up with unique initiatives for consumers, decision-making skills, networking, and managing the people associated with Nahar. All this has helped her in enhancing Nahar’s brand value at large and expanding the horizons of their business.

Your journey in the industry: I started my journey in the real estate sector with Nahar Group around 30 years ago and have worked together with our CMD, Mr Sukhraj B. Nahar and my wonderful team, here to successfully deliver over 20 million sq ft of prime real estate projects, making it one of the names to reckon with in Mumbai.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: Today, Nahar Group is synonymous as a real estate brand which is being trusted and respected by our customers and all the key stakeholders of the industry. This well-deserved success has been achieved over years of hard work and dedication of the entire team. Together, we believe in bringing innovative solutions to the real estate market with a mission of delivering premium value to all stakeholders.

Your message to emerging women leaders: Real estate as a sector has evolved dramatically in the past decade. It is no longer about just creating a project and selling it to customers. There are interesting facets like liaisoning, designing, customer relations, team management and also branding and marketing. With the advent and constant adoption of technology, developers are also focussing on data analytics which could help them make informed decisions as far as future business planning is concerned. It would be ideal for women to take on any of these interesting facets, while simultaneously, investing time in skill development techniques as well. The more they learn and evolve, the better are their chances of getting successful in this industry.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: Innovation, dedication and consistency

How do women leaders think differently: I think women are born multi-taskers who also exercise absolute clarity in their thinking. We believe in looking at all the problems with a sense of practicality and applying logical solutions that are pretty straightforward. What also works for us is understanding our mistakes and learning from them to make ourselves better professionals.

Neha Gupta, Founder & Interior Designer, Beyond Designs

After marriage, Neha Gupta’s professional journey has been with her husband Sachin Gupta with Beyond Designs, so she considers it more or less as smooth.

Talking about success and achievement, what has helped Gupta is narrowing her focus down to exactly what she enjoys the most. She was good at many creative things, but she didn’t pursue everything, instead choosing architecture and interior design. Even within Beyond Designs where there are many verticals, Gupta focuses on what she’s good at – bringing creativity to think up new business ideas. Success is all about being in control of things at all times and making the right decisions at the right time.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: Choosing to study architecture and interior designing, working in this field, and also marrying Sachin changed the course of my life. So these events have made my life. My mother has been the greatest influence in my life. She taught me to be strong and independent; she made me understand the importance of setting goals in life. From her, I learnt how to make strong family connections, how to deal with the ups and downs of life and to see the positive side to every situation.

A challenge you have faced in this journey: Just before my marriage, I turned down an important assignment offered by the company I was working with then, and there was a suggestion made by my boss that I should not marry at that stage, as that would come in the way of my success. For me, that too was a kind of discrimination, since it came up because of my gender. As a woman, I should be able to make decisions for myself freely. It was my decision to marry and change the path of my work life, as well as my personal life, but some people wanted me to change that.

Your message to emerging women leaders: Follow your dream, and don’t be deterred by obstacles. They teach you resilience and prepare you for the long journey.
Three qualities that define your leadership style: Self-motivation, commitment and work ethics. I believe in self-motivation and being inspired by other hardworking successful people. I learn by watching others’ growth stories. As an entrepreneur, my complete commitment is to the customers, offering the highest quality and experience. So, even as I take up one project after another, I have to do a lot of self-evaluation all along the way. Because it is important to be in full control of what one is doing to offer the very best to the customer. My work ethics must ensure that all concerned in my business feel valued and pursue the same goal of excellence.

How do women leaders think differently: Women may be more intuitive and may bring some fresh perspective to design, but I believe creativity does care for gender. Young women designers must follow their dreams and work hard with patience and perseverance, never thinking they are weak in any way. Today the transport infrastructure and work atmosphere are much more conducive than before for women to step out and work.

Nikita Bansal, Executive Director, CenturyPly

Success does not stop at a benchmark. With their work at CenturyPly, Nikita Bansal leads her team in trying to push boundaries of success every day and trying to break their own records. Stepping into the business at a very young age has given her a huge advantage of bringing in a different outlook and perspective that has helped her organisation grow 360-degrees, ushering in new technology and coming of age product innovations. She believes their path to success is ongoing and this is just the beginning.

Your journey in this industry: Entering a man's world as a woman has been an enriching and empowering experience.
What would you attribute the success of your journey to: The success of my journey is because of 3 things; faith by my father in letting me independently handle things, my husband and his family who always support my work life, and my determination to earn respect from my peers and customers.

A challenge you faced in this journey: It was tough to earn respect and acceptance of people because I was a woman and belonged from the family of the management as well. I overcame it by starting at the bottom, learning along the way and with patience and determination I have been able to reach where I am. But a long journey still lies ahead.
Your message to emerging women leaders: Have faith in yourself. Be on a continuous learning curve. Solve problems in your own unique way.
Three qualities that define your leadership style: Good listening, empathy and analytical approach.
How do women leaders think differently: Our ability to blend soft skills in the right proportion makes us more enduring. This helps in driving a consensus among a set of people with diverse cultures and geography.

Parveen Mahtani, Chief Legal Officer, Mahindra Lifespaces

Parveen Mahtani is a gold medallist in law with over 20 years of experience. She is also a qualified designer. Mahtani has received the Women in Law Award for Exceptional Legal Service in Law by Legal Era in 2020. She has also received the Excellence Award for Exemplary Service – Legal by the International Leadership Development Council and the Academy of Management Professionals at the Women Excellence Awards in 2020 and has been honoured as "Woman Leader in a Male-Dominated Industry 2019". She was featured by the Indian Corporate Counsel Association in their book titled “India’s Finest In-House Counsels” published in 2016. She has been acknowledged as one of “Asia’s Top 25 In-House Counsels” by the Asian Legal Business and has been featured as top in-house legal teams by Legal 500 UK: GC Powerlist: India (2017 and 2019).

Your journey in this industry: The construction industry is unique, vastly different in nature and type from each other and my journey has been one of absolute work contentment as it involves understanding complex laws that vary from state to state, negotiations with multiple stakeholders and interactions with several regulatory authorities.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: There is no single measure of success. I attribute my success firstly to my family. Without their guidance and support, it would not have been possible to singularly scale any heights. I also attribute my success to my passion for consistent learning, having a solution-oriented approach and my attitude towards mistakes. It is also equally important to have a growth mindset and work with humility. Own your failures. Keep going. Those who don’t give in, eventually succeed.

A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The biggest challenge in my work journey has been time management. As a working mother, you have to find the balance between children, home and a career. What really worked is being clear on my non-negotiables and not looking for external endorsement. It is also important to be within a work culture that is focused on productivity.

Your message to emerging women leaders: Women are the better half that can build a better planet. Lead by example and become the one that people come to with questions.
Three qualities that define your leadership style: I measure my own success as a leader by how well the people who work with or for me succeed. I am deeply passionate about inspiring people to achieve things they never thought they could have done. I believe that we must demonstrate integrity, accountability, empathy and positivity in the work that we do and our conduct each day. A lot of meaningful work gets done when I have actively listened with empathy and facilitated open communication.

How do women leaders think differently: The construction industry involves large-scale complex projects with multiple stakeholders. Therefore, women leaders bring in a unique perspective as they are solution-oriented and make great crisis managers. Women leaders have the ability to be fair and persuasive at the same time, which acts as a catalyst for business.

Pavitra Shankar, Executive Director, Brigade Enterprises

Pavitra Shankar holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Virginia, USA and a Master's in Business Administration in Real Estate and Finance from Columbia Business School, USA. She is a relative of the Promoter Group and has over a decade of rich experience in overseeing residential sales and marketing, and IT departments at Brigade.

Your journey in the industry: I have 14 years of experience in the sector, starting with real estate private equity investing in the US, setting up a marketing office in the US for NRIs to buy real estate, and finally returning to India where, as a second-generation promoter, I am responsible for the growth of our residential business as well as strategic initiatives to take the organization to the next level. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: To my parents for giving me guidance, purpose, and a platform to continually learn and improve. To my sister, for being my partner and most trusted advisor. To Amar and Pradyumna, my colleagues in the Chairman’s Office, for their rock-solid support. To all Brigadiers, for having the faith and willingness to adopt new approaches and challenging the status quo. And finally to myself, for working hard and putting the organization first without any ego at play.

A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Being seen as a newcomer/outsider. Since I started my journey working in other companies, I have established my own work ethic of owning my outcomes and constantly seeking out ways to improve. When I joined Brigade, I had no sales and marketing experience, but I dove in and got comfortable with every aspect of the business. When I returned to India, I made sure that my role was not just strategic but also execution-oriented, so I understand how things work from the frontlines to top management. I was not afraid to admit mistakes when they happened, and I am comfortable asking how things work if I don’t know. I feel all this helped build trust and respect among my colleagues, to accept my leadership based on merit.

Your message to emerging women leaders: Find a mentor who will help you navigate the system and advocate for you. Be clear about your tradeoffs at work and on the personal front. Put in the hard work and own your outcomes. Speak up for yourself, make sure your achievements are known without bragging. Never shy away from a seat at the table. You’re not learning if you’re in your comfort zone. Take care of your team. Think for the organization.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: Unbiased, approachable and pushing the envelope
How do women leaders think differently: Good leaders, men or women, have the same qualities. However, I think the biggest variance is as an individual rather than gender-based. Women leaders may place more focus on putting the organization before the individual, building consensus, giving time toward culture-building, empathy for team members. As leaders, it is important to know all perspectives – women leaders may be more aware of different perspectives, which is the basis of the push for diversity and inclusion in every organization.

Santha Gaur, Co-Founder, Planet 3 Studios Architecture

Santha Gaur will tell you it's been a fantastic journey. She strongly feels that design evolves through constant interactions. When Gaur started work, there were very few platforms that bought designers together or even reached out to them to introduce their products. She and her team worked with the limitations. However, over a period of years, she has seen leading brands like Godrej Locks & Architectural Fittings and Systems (GLAFS) create so many platforms that bring together designers for a constructive exchange. Ideas like the GeeVees awards also encourage designers to put their best forward, at the same time creating awareness for the value of good design in our everyday lives, Gaur believes.

Your journey in this industry: Challenging and enriching. I also love to see the evolution of the construction industry from the days that I joined till date.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: My father was a civil engineer who spoke passionately about buildings and the engineering behind it. I guess those were the first seeds that made me aware of the built world around us.

A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Other than gender bias, nothing really. But over a period of time, if you are good at your work, that too does not matter.

Your message to emerging women leaders: This profession is no different from any other. Challenges for women remain the same, may vary in degree. However, if you have chosen this as your career choice, then give it your best. Gather strong support around you to help in case of those crazy days at work. Stay put and forge ahead; all things eventually work out.

Shaily Garg, Co-Founder, GlobalFair

Shaily Garg co-founded GlobalFair alongside Ashish Chandra, with the mission to supply construction materials easier, faster and better. Garg is an IIT Bombay alumnus who used to work with P&G and Stanza Living. She has garnered deep expertise in manufacturing, logistics, and trade financing. At GlobalFair, her team uses the latest innovations in production to offer a vast variety of high-quality granite, natural stones and tiles. Enabled by technology, their products are sent seamlessly and efficiently, with door to door delivery, real-time tracking and 24-hour support.

What would you attribute the success of your journey to: The success is attributed to the team.

A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The construction materials market is a very fragmented and conventional industry, so a major challenge has been to create technology-first buyers and suppliers ecosystem, but once done, there was an onward growth from there on.

Your message to emerging women leaders in this sector: Women in today's world are breaking the glass ceiling. They are walking shoulder to shoulder with men in all occupations and are no longer excluded from any type of combat mission: They are pilots and vehicle drivers and mechanics and delivery officers too. Once they decide what they want, they go for it no matter what industry it is.

Three qualities that define your leadership style: Decentralised leadership, appreciation for ownership and accountability, getting inspiration from your own work to inspire the people around you, and the belief that the company and the individuals are inseparable.

How do women leaders think differently: Many women's success shows that a non-conventional leadership style is well suited to the conditions of some work environments and can help an organization to grow. It supports the belief that there is strength in the diversity of leadership styles. Valuing your employees and customers has always been important and inclusion is a major part of most women’s leadership skills.

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The construction sector has traditionally been a predominantly male-driven industry. But in recent times, the segment has seen a definitive rise in the number of female leaders making huge strides in the field. Over the years, CONSTRUCTION WORLD has been interviewing these exemplary leaders in the construction space, featuring their stories in the magazine and recognising and awarding their contributions to the industry. This Women’s Day we bring to you the stories of some of the leading women in the building, infrastructure and construction space (in no particular order), who have successfully made a place for themselves. Amanda Puravankara, Executive Director, Provident HousingAmanda Puravankara’s success story is one that she claims she is still working towards. She currently represents Provident Housing, a company that truly aims to democratise homeownership. Puravankara’s journey as a leader is closely associated with the company’s journey. Every business decision that she makes has been rooted in people analytics right from customer innovation to employee success. She believes that she learns a lot from the people she works with. Puravankara aims to be optimistic about the future and encourages her teams to do the same. This has pushed her in continuing to move forward, especially during the last few years. Your journey in this industry: I would define my journey as dynamic and punctuated by learnings and growth opportunities at every turn. What do you attribute the success of your journey to: I believe that every day is an opportunity to do better and success is not a one-stop destination. I draw inspiration from multiple sources – my father, who gave my first lessons in business, my colleagues, who are a powerhouse of ideas, and of course, my experiences in the field. A challenge you have faced in this journey: Real estate is a dynamic industry that evolves according to market forces. The onset of the pandemic was a universally challenging period for all businesses. At that point, my priority was the safety of all the stakeholders involved, especially my teams and customers. Thankfully, we had built an agile operating model that could quickly adapt to the changing realities; we could digitise most of our processes. This helped us fulfil our customer promises seamlessly while ensuring the safety of everyone involved. Your message to emerging women leaders: The last few years have been especially encouraging in terms of equal representation in real estate. With more women entering a traditionally male-dominated industry, I am happy to note that the sector is heading towards a brand new direction. A piece of advice that keeps me going is to believe in my abilities and not judge my potential based on external factors. Three qualities that define your leadership style: I would say that my leadership encompasses people-centricity, transparency and accountability. How do women leaders think differently: Every individual brings a unique set of strengths to the table. In my interaction with women leaders, I have observed that a stronger emphasis is placed on people development and greater diversity in the company’s voice. Considering the challenges women face, especially in a predominantly male industry, they understand the importance of passing the mic and enabling someone to speak their mind. Hence, they are also more compassionate in their approach. Anaïs Meon, Design Director, Urban Living StudiosAnaïs Meon presently operates as the Design Director for Urban Living Studios at Hyderabad and Vienna. She has pursued her bachelor’s degree in architecture from L’Ecole Speciale d’Architecture, Paris and her master’s degree from Angewandte, Vienna. During her studies, she got the opportunity to learn from some of the brilliant minds in the architecture field namely Zaha Hadid, Wolf Prix, and Carl Prusha. She has worked on a variety of projects at an international level and accomplished various development-led projects across China, Hong Kong, New York, and India alongside many professionals passionate about architecture. Meon constantly looks for opportunities to learn new techniques and implement them in her work. She strives to expand artistry and design with comforting and elegant projects by incorporating neoteric and contemporary designs in her work. Your journey in the industry: My journey has taught me that the building/construction industry demands unique and well-executed designs to create landmarks that can be recognized and appreciated by everyone. The diverse international projects in various countries have introduced me to new techniques and materials which turned out to be fruitful in the completion of my projects. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: My passion for my work has always motivated me in my career and has led me to success. I always try to design my projects uniquely and sustainably which requires a lot of effort and time. My dedication and hard work resulted in a successful architectural journey. A challenge that you have faced in this journey: The short deadlines for high demanding projects are a major challenge in the industry because we have limited time to deliver an exclusive and masterful project. To date, I have never faced any challenge in particular. Though the architecture career is a challenge in itself, that is why it's exciting to practice. Your message to emerging women leaders: The emerging women leaders in architecture should maintain a strong knowledge base. They should constantly learn and integrate the latest techniques and materials in their project as the profession always evolves. They should build a good team of professionals as well as stand for their own values. Three qualities that define your leadership style: The qualities that would best define my leadership style are reliability, work ethics, and professionalism. I rely upon and trust my team of experts in the execution of a project. I always try to maintain a proper work-life balance and stay professional with my clients so that I can deliver top-notch and excellent work to them. How do women leaders think differently: Not sure if women think differently because good thinkers are aligned regardless of their gender. A good leader should have diverse qualities and, most important among them, should be driven by self-motivation and out-of-the-box thinking ability, which will make them a good problem solver and innovator. Anaisha Cooper, Director, Spenta CorporationUpon completing her Bachelor's degree, Anaisha Cooper began her career in interior design, which had always been her passion. She attributes her sense of aesthetics, colour, spatial recognition, finish, and form to the work phase of her life which she honed, shaped, and refined throughout her career. While serving as a Director at Spenta, Cooper also led the Marketing, Design and Planning departments. She believes it is important for clients to have quality and design aspects blend well in the area of luxury residency and living. That’s what her very talented team strives to keep in mind as they aim to deliver to the best of their capacity and build a loyal client base doing the same. Your journey in the industry: My journey has been one of joy, responsibility, learning and growth. I hope to focus on mentorship (especially women) and acquiring more knowledge in the years to come. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I owe my success to my family, my mentors, my team and our loyal clients who believe in our vision, philosophy and ideas as much as we do. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Real estate continues to be a male-dominated industry. Even today, women in the industry are usually employed in functions such as sales, marketing, customer relations and to some extent finance. Positions in areas of construction, purchase, billing, engineering, liaisoning etc. continue to be held by men. As a promoter, I have often found myself questioning this imbalance and hope that in time, qualified women take up roles in these areas. I personally, to the extent possible, encourage women within my organisation and outside to pursue education as well as consider work-related roles in the construction industry. While there is still a long way to go, I feel like significant positive developments have taken place. Your message to emerging women leaders: Two decades ago, interior design and real estate were not as demanding and interesting as they are today. Having access to high-end technology and an increased sense of belonging has helped customers better understand their needs. To be successful in the field, women aspiring to leadership positions should familiarize themselves with different backgrounds of related industries and the ever-changing market, so that they can effectively communicate client requirements to internal teams and vice versa, hence creating lasting partnerships leading to success and growth. Three qualities that define your leadership style: Integrity, resilience and positivity are the values I live by, both professionally and personally. Over the years, I've learned that one can get through even the most challenging times if they are being their truest selves and instil the same in their team members so that they can work together towards collective success. How do women leaders think differently: In my opinion, women leaders bring in a unique zeal to the workforce which is more nurturing towards the team rather than dictatorial. Women leaders are generally more empathetic, open and considerate, qualities which I believe, ultimately benefit the growth of individuals and organizations. Women leaders are often reported to be better coaches and mentors, candid yet respectful with feedback and support, which in turn makes for a close working relationship with their employees. Archana Sarda, Director, Interior Design Services, Residential, Colliers IndiaWhen one looks at a design and assume it should be a certain way, Archana Sarda likes to challenge that by asking ‘why?’ Sarda has conversations with her designers daily and throws out crazy ideas. She believes, “one way that we breathe our mission is mixing design backgrounds on different projects. The typical rules of each market tend to disappear when you see what other markets are doing.” Sarda has completed over 75 projects and loves to conduct bone-deep research before spearheading most complex projects for smooth and timely execution. She has been featured in various publications of India and adorned with laurels of appreciation. Your journey in the industry: As a residential interior designer, innovation is one of my passions and when passion meets work… (hopefully) magic happens. With over two decades of experience, I'm one of the most well-known names in the field of interior design for high-end residential projects, an award-winning professional and successful entrepreneur who has delivered some of the most unique and luxurious residential projects in India and abroad. Additionally, I have conceptualized innovative designs for players across asset classes like hospitality, retail, corporate offices, banks, etc. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: The growth of the industry leads to my personal growth too. Honesty, purpose and intuition are what has worked for me. The best part of my job is growing with people and seeing someone you’ve worked with succeeding in their career feels like success for me too. Additionally, it’s my family that supports me in and out. A challenge that you have faced in this journey: In the residential interior design field, I’ve never faced such trouble, although there were times when I had to face some challenges when it came to project management, being brought up in a tough dominated profession, culture and society. But I knew it takes time for doors to open and one has to be at it consistently to build trust and be finally allowed to explore and make mistakes. Luckily for me, I overcame all the challenges that came my way and have become an expert in handling the same. However, as an entrepreneur, I feel I have the pressure to prove myself against all odds and sometimes that takes a toll on the entire project or purpose. In most scenarios, I try to take inputs, put my best and then work consistently. Your message to emerging women leaders: We can be the change we wish to see in the world. I hope to see a more equitable society. Our industry can be tough, particularly on parents and women of colour. It’s the role of all women to lift each other up and do everything in our power to help each other grow and thrive. We put others first, which is a strength. This allows us to take into consideration the whole person or team experience as it relates to the end-user as well as for relationship and team building. Ashwini Walawalkar, Country Head, Technique Control Facility Management (TCFM)Ashwini Walawalkar’s journey started quite early as she began working while pursuing her undergraduate education. It was then that she realised that being able to work with people was one of her greatest assets and hence, Walawalkar decided to work in the hospitality industry. This was a turning point as she got the opportunity to work with the Taj Group of Hotels, and learnt the value of hard work and determination. After having worked in the industry for eight years, she joined the facility management industry, which at the point was called ‘contract housekeeping.’ From there, she has gone on to have worked across varying roles and capabilities while being exposed to many global accounts, multiple leaders across domains and to the evolutionary nature of this field. While Walawalkar is considered an all-rounder in the industry, she believes that she has more to work towards and add to her journey. Your journey in the industry: My journey in the real-estate industry began about three decades ago, and I have witnessed the shifts and the growth across this industry from a close vantage point. I began my career in hospitality with the Taj Hotels and from there, I moved to the facility management (FM) industry. That was when the industry was still at a nascent stage. Today, the FM industry has significantly evolved, encompassing a wide array of services that are at the crux of building and maintaining spaces. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I take immense pride in my own endeavours and pat my back when I know that I have achieved something. I believe that success is a path and this is one that we need to strive towards and pursue with conviction. I invest time in consistently learning and upskilling myself to meet the ever-changing demands of the industry and life in general. While I do consider being entrusted to lead a firm with over 8,000 people as a significant milestone, I know that my success in this endeavour will be evident once I scale our firm to newer frontiers. There are several individuals that I have met at various junctures through my journey, and these individuals have mentored and helped me become the person that I am today. I am truly grateful to them and I also attribute my success to my hard work, perseverance and tireless efforts and attitude. A challenge that you have faced in this journey: I believe that the challenges that I have faced through my career are not unlike ones faced by countless women across industries and roles. These pertain to the traditional stereotypes surrounding women who choose to pursue their careers. Being a woman and having to prove one’s mettle and prowess is challenging enough, and this increases further while working in a male-dominated industry. I had to consistently work towards making my presence felt and being heard. Looking back to the initial days of my career, I believe that I was able to overcome these challenges by facing my fears, being confident and open to opportunities and being assertive and communicative. Your message to emerging women leaders: My message to all the female leaders would be to stop at nothing and continue keeping the boat afloat despite all the waves that may try to curtail us. Being a parent, wife, daughter and employee myself, I am cognizant of the challenges that we face as women today, but these must never stop us from relentlessly pursuing our dreams. Embrace the challenges that come your way because they will make your journey all the more fulfilling and present you with opportunities to push boundaries. To all my female colleagues, my advice would be to take challenges head-on and remind yourself that you are greater than the problem lying in front of you. Continue excelling in your domains and working hard towards achieving your goals. Three qualities that define your leadership style: My leadership style prioritises on collaboration, leading from the forefront and empowering individuals to perform while building strong teams. How do women leaders think differently: Women leaders possess certain personality traits that govern their thinking and behaviour in the workplace. They are driven to collaborate and build teams that focus on engagement, skill development and growth. Being nurturing and caring in principle, women leaders have a predisposition to go above and beyond for the needs of every employee and for the larger organisation. Devi Shankar, President – Industrial, Logistics & Data Centre, ANAROCK Capital AdvisorsDevi Shankar’s journey from losing a parent at 13 till today has been nothing but unconventional. She has enjoyed every bit of her professional life which has been crucial in shaping her personality. Throughout her career, she hasn’t shied from taking leaps of faith and changed careers twice. First from advisory to investment banking in 2011, and second, from core to alternative real estate (industrial, logistics and data centre) in 2019. Challenges haven’t deterred her, which is also one of the reasons Shankar took up a mid-career MBA from one of the world’s top schools at age 34. Most recently, at ANAROCK, she took up the role of heading its new data centres vertical. In less than a year, they were able to close India’s foremost DC investment platform, and also establish themselves as one of India’s leading investment bankers in this industry. Devi Shankar’s accomplishments hold her in good stead to continue serving the industry with the same dedication and passion. Your journey in the industry: My journey in the real estate industry has taken me through alleys that have made me re-discover my professional self, leading me on a never-ending path of challenge and satisfaction. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: For me, knowledge is success. Striving to know my clients and transactions inside out and being able to think beyond two dimensions to identify solutions that add value to the client, has been my mantra for success. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The only challenge I have faced is being the only woman in the room at most times and probably being judged to higher standards than normal. Like I mentioned about my mantra above, the only way to overcome this challenge for me has been to be relentlessly thorough in my understanding of my domain and work. I believe it is a long journey ahead until we achieve broad-based inclusivity and change mindsets - but until then, we need to meet this challenge even as we accept the realities of it. Your message to emerging women leaders: Mastering your subject is the only key to confidence and a path to assertiveness. If you are aiming for excellence at what you do, no one can stop you from growing and becoming your own. And each of us can master our career and grow at our work. Three qualities that define your leadership style: Integrity, accountability and empathy How do women leaders think differently: In my experience, there have been a couple of apparent differentiators in women leadership. Firstly, women leaders generally pay more attention to detail and, therefore, are able to form perspectives that factor a wide range of criteria, than just the obvious. Secondly, women are more sensitive to emotions that may be felt by different stakeholders and are better enabled to pre-empt any responses or reactions to be better prepared for handling them. Giulia Baima Bollone, Business Head, Embassy InteriorsGiulia Bollone states that she is happy where she is and with how far she’s come and that is definitely a success. She feels she’s been blessed with parents and family, who have excelled in their work-life and also taught her how to positively balance it with life. Bollone has a propensity to observe the people around her and be inquisitive, which has helped her learn from each and every human she has had the liberty of meeting throughout her life. She never compromises and works to fulfil any challenge, however, there are times when some things just do not pan out the way they were planned. But she does not lose heart at that and keeps going, using the opportunity to improve, be it in work or life in general. Your journey in this industry: It’s been over 25 years in this expeditious industry, that is so kaleidoscopic that I wake up every day and learn something new. I am grateful to say that my journey so far has been astoundingly exhilarating. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I must say that I am surrounded by people who are positively collaborative and professional, who make sure to walk on an austere and crystal clear guideline that brings in the utmost decorum. My team has been extremely supportive in trying times and through challenging deadlines. I would also, however, like to extend my thanks to my multifarious company, The Embassy Group for their trust and support that bolsters me to give a hundred per cent in everything I do. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The challenge that I undoubtedly face on an everyday basis is the language barrier that occludes me from communicating easily with the people around me. In my profession, it is of utmost importance to be able to connect with the localities to be able to understand their requirements and be able to design for them. The way I overcome this challenge is by taking some time out of my schedule to learn the language and culture. I’m also blessed to acquire some help from my team, colleagues and people around me to translate the same. Your message to emerging women leaders: When you are professional and invest a hundred per cent in your work, there is no room for misinterpretation and stereotypes. Thankfully, the world is evolving into a more open and inclusive one and women need to trust in its capability and theirs. Three qualities that define your leadership style: I follow a strict professional etiquette with pellucid boundaries and expect the same out of the talented executives that I work with. I am unapologetic about the decisions I take, which is the essence of leadership. I am inclusive and open to learning from everyone I meet and have an opportunity to communicate with, no matter the walk of life. How do women leaders think differently: Women are not only working professionals but also daughters, wives, and mothers and as mettlesome as they are, they also have a delicate and empathetic side that goes a long way when it comes to leadership. Jyothi Krishna, Head Civil & Infrastructure, Vedanta AluminiumHailing from the land of sun and sand, Goa, Jyothi Krishna often wondered about the engineering marvels we see in our daily life. This wonderment developed into a passion and later, into her drive to graduate as a Civil Engineer ranking third in her batch from the University of Goa. Right after engineering, Krishna dove into civil maintenance at a copper smelter in Tamil Nadu. Post that, she joined the Vedanta Group, starting with the copper business and then moving to aluminium, where she now serves as Head of Civil & Infrastructure (Growth Projects) at Vedanta’s largest aluminium smelter, which is also among the world’s largest. Vedanta has also recognised and rewarded Krishna’s accomplishments with accolades like Technical Leader – Chairman Workshop (2018), Technical Star of Business (2017-18) award, CEO Kitty for project completion, and Recognition for Safety. She has always revered and practised self-motivation and confidence, perseverance, and trailblazing attitude. Krishna believes success comes with motivation, dedication and the confidence to be unbridled in the face of challenges. Your journey in the industry: My journey in the construction industry has been one full of learnings and experiences, giving me the opportunity to work with some incredible people, break gender stereotypes in a predominantly male workforce-based industry, traverse a steep learning curve, build priceless relationships of a lifetime and gather and hone a wide range of skills. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: I believe success is a never-ending process but in all humility, I would like to attribute the success of my 14-year-long journey to my very supportive family, friends, colleagues, and my second home, Vedanta Aluminium. I feel, right from the beginning of my career in the construction industry to becoming the Deputy Manager, and then the Manager in different plants of Vedanta Aluminium, I have been privileged to learn from the best, have the opportunity to hone my skills and learn several new ones, and continuously better myself as a person and a professional. My mentors in Vedanta Aluminium have always given me the platform to apply my knowledge in a collaborative and welcoming environment while also giving my career the proper impetus through constructive feedback and fair recognition. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Although I have faced several challenges in this journey, coping with the tasks of being a working mother and handling unexpected situations on the professional and personal fronts, the one challenge that actually helped me in becoming the best version of myself yet was overcoming industry-specific gender biases. I was able to deal with this challenge by developing a confident, fearless and relentless attitude for becoming an accomplished professional in an industry that has long been the forte of men. In this, I worked on myself and also had immense help from the open, constructive and meritocratic organisational framework and working of Vedanta Aluminium. The organisation is impeccable in identifying, refining, respecting and rewarding skills in an unprejudiced manner. Your message to emerging women leaders: I would say to the women leaders in this sector that they are capable of accomplishing anything. All they have to do is be fearless. Women professionals have excelled spectacularly and made their mark across a diverse gamut of functions, from smelter operations to security and even fire-fighting. The roles offered are gender agnostic and empowered. A woman can accomplish any task that a man can. This self-assurance can go a long way. Don't be concerned about juggling between a large endeavour and your family. Set the ball going by having faith and confidence in your abilities. Three qualities that define your leadership style: I believe a true and worthy leader should be accountable, self-motivated and people-oriented. These are the three qualities I have developed in my leadership style. With accountability comes a strong sense of responsibility and ownership, with self-motivation comes the will and the dedication to perform without inhibitions, and with people orientation comes the ability to actually connect with your colleagues. A leader should be not only honest but also encouraging and highly driven and this can only be realised by developing these three qualities. How do women leaders think differently: Women have the unique ability to blend empathy with economy, compassion with career, and ingenuity with ideation. As a result, they're more inclined to approach their employment in a self-reflective manner and value qualities such as meaning, purpose, co-worker connection, and work-life integration. Manju Yagnik, Vice-Chairperson, Nahar Group and Sr. Vice President, NAREDCO - MaharashtraAfter completing her education, Manju Yagnik sought to use her skills and knowledge in a profession that would be challenging and that matched her passion. Yagnik stepped into the real estate industry by joining the Nahar Group over two decades ago. Even though her decision was driven by passion, entering into the real estate sector was a well-thought-out decision as the sector promised great potential. In the initial days, she got the opportunity to hone certain abilities like how to spot unique landscapes, coming up with unique initiatives for consumers, decision-making skills, networking, and managing the people associated with Nahar. All this has helped her in enhancing Nahar’s brand value at large and expanding the horizons of their business. Your journey in the industry: I started my journey in the real estate sector with Nahar Group around 30 years ago and have worked together with our CMD, Mr Sukhraj B. Nahar and my wonderful team, here to successfully deliver over 20 million sq ft of prime real estate projects, making it one of the names to reckon with in Mumbai. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: Today, Nahar Group is synonymous as a real estate brand which is being trusted and respected by our customers and all the key stakeholders of the industry. This well-deserved success has been achieved over years of hard work and dedication of the entire team. Together, we believe in bringing innovative solutions to the real estate market with a mission of delivering premium value to all stakeholders. Your message to emerging women leaders: Real estate as a sector has evolved dramatically in the past decade. It is no longer about just creating a project and selling it to customers. There are interesting facets like liaisoning, designing, customer relations, team management and also branding and marketing. With the advent and constant adoption of technology, developers are also focussing on data analytics which could help them make informed decisions as far as future business planning is concerned. It would be ideal for women to take on any of these interesting facets, while simultaneously, investing time in skill development techniques as well. The more they learn and evolve, the better are their chances of getting successful in this industry. Three qualities that define your leadership style: Innovation, dedication and consistency How do women leaders think differently: I think women are born multi-taskers who also exercise absolute clarity in their thinking. We believe in looking at all the problems with a sense of practicality and applying logical solutions that are pretty straightforward. What also works for us is understanding our mistakes and learning from them to make ourselves better professionals. Neha Gupta, Founder & Interior Designer, Beyond DesignsAfter marriage, Neha Gupta’s professional journey has been with her husband Sachin Gupta with Beyond Designs, so she considers it more or less as smooth. Talking about success and achievement, what has helped Gupta is narrowing her focus down to exactly what she enjoys the most. She was good at many creative things, but she didn’t pursue everything, instead choosing architecture and interior design. Even within Beyond Designs where there are many verticals, Gupta focuses on what she’s good at – bringing creativity to think up new business ideas. Success is all about being in control of things at all times and making the right decisions at the right time. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: Choosing to study architecture and interior designing, working in this field, and also marrying Sachin changed the course of my life. So these events have made my life. My mother has been the greatest influence in my life. She taught me to be strong and independent; she made me understand the importance of setting goals in life. From her, I learnt how to make strong family connections, how to deal with the ups and downs of life and to see the positive side to every situation. A challenge you have faced in this journey: Just before my marriage, I turned down an important assignment offered by the company I was working with then, and there was a suggestion made by my boss that I should not marry at that stage, as that would come in the way of my success. For me, that too was a kind of discrimination, since it came up because of my gender. As a woman, I should be able to make decisions for myself freely. It was my decision to marry and change the path of my work life, as well as my personal life, but some people wanted me to change that. Your message to emerging women leaders: Follow your dream, and don’t be deterred by obstacles. They teach you resilience and prepare you for the long journey. Three qualities that define your leadership style: Self-motivation, commitment and work ethics. I believe in self-motivation and being inspired by other hardworking successful people. I learn by watching others’ growth stories. As an entrepreneur, my complete commitment is to the customers, offering the highest quality and experience. So, even as I take up one project after another, I have to do a lot of self-evaluation all along the way. Because it is important to be in full control of what one is doing to offer the very best to the customer. My work ethics must ensure that all concerned in my business feel valued and pursue the same goal of excellence. How do women leaders think differently: Women may be more intuitive and may bring some fresh perspective to design, but I believe creativity does care for gender. Young women designers must follow their dreams and work hard with patience and perseverance, never thinking they are weak in any way. Today the transport infrastructure and work atmosphere are much more conducive than before for women to step out and work. Nikita Bansal, Executive Director, CenturyPlySuccess does not stop at a benchmark. With their work at CenturyPly, Nikita Bansal leads her team in trying to push boundaries of success every day and trying to break their own records. Stepping into the business at a very young age has given her a huge advantage of bringing in a different outlook and perspective that has helped her organisation grow 360-degrees, ushering in new technology and coming of age product innovations. She believes their path to success is ongoing and this is just the beginning. Your journey in this industry: Entering a man's world as a woman has been an enriching and empowering experience. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: The success of my journey is because of 3 things; faith by my father in letting me independently handle things, my husband and his family who always support my work life, and my determination to earn respect from my peers and customers. A challenge you faced in this journey: It was tough to earn respect and acceptance of people because I was a woman and belonged from the family of the management as well. I overcame it by starting at the bottom, learning along the way and with patience and determination I have been able to reach where I am. But a long journey still lies ahead. Your message to emerging women leaders: Have faith in yourself. Be on a continuous learning curve. Solve problems in your own unique way. Three qualities that define your leadership style: Good listening, empathy and analytical approach. How do women leaders think differently: Our ability to blend soft skills in the right proportion makes us more enduring. This helps in driving a consensus among a set of people with diverse cultures and geography. Parveen Mahtani, Chief Legal Officer, Mahindra LifespacesParveen Mahtani is a gold medallist in law with over 20 years of experience. She is also a qualified designer. Mahtani has received the Women in Law Award for Exceptional Legal Service in Law by Legal Era in 2020. She has also received the Excellence Award for Exemplary Service – Legal by the International Leadership Development Council and the Academy of Management Professionals at the Women Excellence Awards in 2020 and has been honoured as Woman Leader in a Male-Dominated Industry 2019. She was featured by the Indian Corporate Counsel Association in their book titled “India’s Finest In-House Counsels” published in 2016. She has been acknowledged as one of “Asia’s Top 25 In-House Counsels” by the Asian Legal Business and has been featured as top in-house legal teams by Legal 500 UK: GC Powerlist: India (2017 and 2019). Your journey in this industry: The construction industry is unique, vastly different in nature and type from each other and my journey has been one of absolute work contentment as it involves understanding complex laws that vary from state to state, negotiations with multiple stakeholders and interactions with several regulatory authorities. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: There is no single measure of success. I attribute my success firstly to my family. Without their guidance and support, it would not have been possible to singularly scale any heights. I also attribute my success to my passion for consistent learning, having a solution-oriented approach and my attitude towards mistakes. It is also equally important to have a growth mindset and work with humility. Own your failures. Keep going. Those who don’t give in, eventually succeed. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The biggest challenge in my work journey has been time management. As a working mother, you have to find the balance between children, home and a career. What really worked is being clear on my non-negotiables and not looking for external endorsement. It is also important to be within a work culture that is focused on productivity. Your message to emerging women leaders: Women are the better half that can build a better planet. Lead by example and become the one that people come to with questions. Three qualities that define your leadership style: I measure my own success as a leader by how well the people who work with or for me succeed. I am deeply passionate about inspiring people to achieve things they never thought they could have done. I believe that we must demonstrate integrity, accountability, empathy and positivity in the work that we do and our conduct each day. A lot of meaningful work gets done when I have actively listened with empathy and facilitated open communication. How do women leaders think differently: The construction industry involves large-scale complex projects with multiple stakeholders. Therefore, women leaders bring in a unique perspective as they are solution-oriented and make great crisis managers. Women leaders have the ability to be fair and persuasive at the same time, which acts as a catalyst for business. Pavitra Shankar, Executive Director, Brigade EnterprisesPavitra Shankar holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Virginia, USA and a Master's in Business Administration in Real Estate and Finance from Columbia Business School, USA. She is a relative of the Promoter Group and has over a decade of rich experience in overseeing residential sales and marketing, and IT departments at Brigade. Your journey in the industry: I have 14 years of experience in the sector, starting with real estate private equity investing in the US, setting up a marketing office in the US for NRIs to buy real estate, and finally returning to India where, as a second-generation promoter, I am responsible for the growth of our residential business as well as strategic initiatives to take the organization to the next level. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: To my parents for giving me guidance, purpose, and a platform to continually learn and improve. To my sister, for being my partner and most trusted advisor. To Amar and Pradyumna, my colleagues in the Chairman’s Office, for their rock-solid support. To all Brigadiers, for having the faith and willingness to adopt new approaches and challenging the status quo. And finally to myself, for working hard and putting the organization first without any ego at play. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Being seen as a newcomer/outsider. Since I started my journey working in other companies, I have established my own work ethic of owning my outcomes and constantly seeking out ways to improve. When I joined Brigade, I had no sales and marketing experience, but I dove in and got comfortable with every aspect of the business. When I returned to India, I made sure that my role was not just strategic but also execution-oriented, so I understand how things work from the frontlines to top management. I was not afraid to admit mistakes when they happened, and I am comfortable asking how things work if I don’t know. I feel all this helped build trust and respect among my colleagues, to accept my leadership based on merit. Your message to emerging women leaders: Find a mentor who will help you navigate the system and advocate for you. Be clear about your tradeoffs at work and on the personal front. Put in the hard work and own your outcomes. Speak up for yourself, make sure your achievements are known without bragging. Never shy away from a seat at the table. You’re not learning if you’re in your comfort zone. Take care of your team. Think for the organization. Three qualities that define your leadership style: Unbiased, approachable and pushing the envelope How do women leaders think differently: Good leaders, men or women, have the same qualities. However, I think the biggest variance is as an individual rather than gender-based. Women leaders may place more focus on putting the organization before the individual, building consensus, giving time toward culture-building, empathy for team members. As leaders, it is important to know all perspectives – women leaders may be more aware of different perspectives, which is the basis of the push for diversity and inclusion in every organization. Santha Gaur, Co-Founder, Planet 3 Studios ArchitectureSantha Gaur will tell you it's been a fantastic journey. She strongly feels that design evolves through constant interactions. When Gaur started work, there were very few platforms that bought designers together or even reached out to them to introduce their products. She and her team worked with the limitations. However, over a period of years, she has seen leading brands like Godrej Locks & Architectural Fittings and Systems (GLAFS) create so many platforms that bring together designers for a constructive exchange. Ideas like the GeeVees awards also encourage designers to put their best forward, at the same time creating awareness for the value of good design in our everyday lives, Gaur believes. Your journey in this industry: Challenging and enriching. I also love to see the evolution of the construction industry from the days that I joined till date. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: My father was a civil engineer who spoke passionately about buildings and the engineering behind it. I guess those were the first seeds that made me aware of the built world around us. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: Other than gender bias, nothing really. But over a period of time, if you are good at your work, that too does not matter. Your message to emerging women leaders: This profession is no different from any other. Challenges for women remain the same, may vary in degree. However, if you have chosen this as your career choice, then give it your best. Gather strong support around you to help in case of those crazy days at work. Stay put and forge ahead; all things eventually work out. Shaily Garg, Co-Founder, GlobalFairShaily Garg co-founded GlobalFair alongside Ashish Chandra, with the mission to supply construction materials easier, faster and better. Garg is an IIT Bombay alumnus who used to work with P&G and Stanza Living. She has garnered deep expertise in manufacturing, logistics, and trade financing. At GlobalFair, her team uses the latest innovations in production to offer a vast variety of high-quality granite, natural stones and tiles. Enabled by technology, their products are sent seamlessly and efficiently, with door to door delivery, real-time tracking and 24-hour support. What would you attribute the success of your journey to: The success is attributed to the team. A challenge which you have faced in this journey: The construction materials market is a very fragmented and conventional industry, so a major challenge has been to create technology-first buyers and suppliers ecosystem, but once done, there was an onward growth from there on. Your message to emerging women leaders in this sector: Women in today's world are breaking the glass ceiling. They are walking shoulder to shoulder with men in all occupations and are no longer excluded from any type of combat mission: They are pilots and vehicle drivers and mechanics and delivery officers too. Once they decide what they want, they go for it no matter what industry it is. Three qualities that define your leadership style: Decentralised leadership, appreciation for ownership and accountability, getting inspiration from your own work to inspire the people around you, and the belief that the company and the individuals are inseparable. How do women leaders think differently: Many women's success shows that a non-conventional leadership style is well suited to the conditions of some work environments and can help an organization to grow. It supports the belief that there is strength in the diversity of leadership styles. Valuing your employees and customers has always been important and inclusion is a major part of most women’s leadership skills.

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