The evening of Monday, November 26, 2018 will be remembered and spoken about for some time to come as the who’s who of India Inc. gathered to raise a toast to India’s finest women business leaders.

The Astor ballroom on level nine of the St. Regis in central Mumbai came alive on Monday evening for the Fortune India Most Powerful Women (MPW) in Business Summit 2018. Now in its fourth year, the Summit has become a must-attend for India’s most influential and powerful women business leaders and this year was no different.

Those who were present included Zia Mody, co-founder, AZB Partners; Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO, Nykaa; Ekta Kapoor, joint managing director, Balaji Telefilms; Gauri Khan, founder and CEO, Gauri Khan Designs; Alice G. Vaidyan, chairman and MD, General Insurance Corporation of India, Anupriya Acharya, CEO, Publicis Media and many others.

These inspirational women leaders who are a part of Fortune India’s elite list of The 50 Most Powerful Women in business were felicitated in front of a packed audience by Aveek Sarkar, vice chairman and editor emeritus, ABP Group and chief editor, Fortune India, D.D. Purkayastha, MD and CEO, ABP Pvt Ltd, and Sourav Majumdar, editor, Fortune India.

But before that, the evening began with guests informally catching up with each other. R.M. Vishakha, MD and CEO, IndiaFirst Life Insurance and Chetna Gala Sinha, founder and president, Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank huddled together to chalk out their strategy for an engaging and thought stimulating debate that followed later that evening, as did Zia Mody and Zarin Daruwala, CEO, Standard Chartered Bank.

The debate, where members of the MPW list face off against each other, has become a key attraction of the Fortune India MPW Summit over the years. The motion for the debate this year was: India needs reservation for women in the workforce. Speaking for the motion were R.M. Vishakha, Anupriya Acharya and Chetna Gala Sinha. And those opposing the motion were Zia Mody, Zarin Daruwala and Ameera Shah, MD, Metropolis Healthcare.

Aveek Sarkar, vice chairman and editor emeritus, ABP Group and chief editor, Fortune India with Harshbeena Zaveri, vice chairman and managing director, NRB Bearings (from left to right), Priya Paul, chairperson, Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels.
Aveek Sarkar, vice chairman and editor emeritus, ABP Group and chief editor, Fortune India with Harshbeena Zaveri, vice chairman and managing director, NRB Bearings (from left to right), Priya Paul, chairperson, Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels.
Aveek Sarkar,  vice chairman and editor emeritus, ABP Group and chief editor, Fortune India and Ekta Kapoor, joint managing director, Balaji Telefilms.
Aveek Sarkar, vice chairman and editor emeritus, ABP Group and chief editor, Fortune India and Ekta Kapoor, joint managing director, Balaji Telefilms.
Gauri Khan, founder and chief executive, Gauri Khan Designs
Gauri Khan, founder and chief executive, Gauri Khan Designs
The who’s who of India Inc. gathered to raise a toast to India’s finest women business leaders.
The who’s who of India Inc. gathered to raise a toast to India’s finest women business leaders.
Aveek Sarkar, vice chairman and editor emeritus, ABP Group and chief editor, Fortune India with Harshbeena Zaveri, vice chairman and managing director, NRB Bearings (from left to right), Priya Paul, chairperson, Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels.
Aveek Sarkar,  vice chairman and editor emeritus, ABP Group and chief editor, Fortune India and Ekta Kapoor, joint managing director, Balaji Telefilms.
Gauri Khan, founder and chief executive, Gauri Khan Designs
The who’s who of India Inc. gathered to raise a toast to India’s finest women business leaders.

The team speaking against the motion won the debate, which was moderated by Manish Sabharwal, chairman and co-founder TeamLease Services and central board director, Reserve Bank of India. The jury that chose the winning side included Ashu Suyash, MD and CEO, Crisil, Padmaja Ruparel, co-founder and president, Indian Angel Network, and Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical.

Mody pointed out that 48% of the women joining the workforce drop out and that was something that needed to be addressed. “You hire us (women) because you want to. Not because you have to,” Mody said.

On the flipside, Acharya was of the view that not all women are born equal. While some are born into liberal families, which believe in educating the girl child and giving her opportunities to grow, there are others whose families still feel that woman’s primary responsibility is to stay at home and look after the family. It is the women from these second kind of families that could perhaps advance professionally had there been reservation for women in the workforce, Acharya said.

The jury members and Manish Sabharwal also sat down for a panel discussion on stage to further discuss the state of women empowerment in India. Sabharwal pointed out that India needed to fix the infrastructure that would allow for a larger number of women, especially from the informal sector, to step out and join the workforce. Such enablers could be in the form of access to finance to start a business or provisions like a crèche to look after children while the mother is at work.

The debate was followed by a fireside chat, titled ‘Breaking Barriers’, between Falguni Nayar, Alice G. Vaidyan and Sourav Majumdar. Nayar opened up about her entrepreneurial journey that led to the creation of India’s largest online beauty retailer, Nykaa. During the chat, Vaidyan pointed out that a leader needed to be accessible to her people and gender has no role to play if a leader is inspirational.

One of the main attractions of the evening was an interaction between Gauri Khan and Sourav Majumdar on stage, during which she spoke of her entrepreneurial venture, Gauri Khan Designs, and how she manages to juggle her multiple roles that include playing mother to three children and running a business. Khan let on that she would like to move beyond the luxury space and reach out to reach out to a larger cross-section of people with her home and office design solutions. She also said that her husband and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan supported her by looking after their five-and-a-half-year-old son AbRam Khan, which allowed her to focus on her career.

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