Mother’s Day special: From Indra Nooyi to Chanda Kochhar, work-life lessons from five inspiring women


Mothers rule our homes and our entire world. There are mothers who don’t only ensure their family is taken care of and looked after, but also dedicate a significant part of their lives to nourish an entire organisation.
These women break the image of ‘stereotypical mothers’ by being the faces of large conglomerates.
A day ahead of Mother’s Day, here are six influential mothers of Indian-origin who have the power to roll the dice not only at home but at their workplaces as well —

1. Indra Nooyi, 60
Indra Nooyi is the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. She’s one of the highest paid CEOs in the world and was named as one of the 100 most powerful women in 2016 by Forbes magazine.
Nooyi has two daughters — Preetha and Tara Nooyi.
She recently spoke about balancing her work and personal life at the 7th Annual Women In The World Summit, saying that, it’s “not easy”.
While Nooyi maintains that she doesn’t regret pursuing her career, she said she carries “heartaches” for not spending as much time with her daughters when they were growing up.
“I’d love you more if you came home. Please come home Mom.” Nooyi recalls a letter from her daughter, said she has preserved it to “remind myself of what I lost.”
However, Nooyi, who is among the 4% women who are currently CEOs of S&P 500 companies, said she doesn’t regret working but would have, if she had only stayed home.
“Regret is too serious a word. Heartaches many times. It is not regret. I love what I’m doing. I may have regretted not doing it had I stayed at home and spent all the time there.”
All the while though, Nooyi said, she would tell her younger self to be “careful” of the choices she would make since missing out on her children growing up will eventually “hurt”.
Batting for women in the workplace, at the same summit, Nooyi said that the biggest problem today is that women don’t help women enough in the workplace.

2. Chanda Kochhar, 54
The current chief executive of ICICI Bank has been around in the company since before the bank existed. Chanda Kochhar, now the CEO and managing director of the Bank, started her career with ICICI Ltd in 1984 and helped establish the bank from the 1990s, forayed it into infrastructure-led and then retail banking.
Today, she is one of the most revered bankers not only in the country, but in the world, and stands at rank 35 on Forbes’ list of World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2015.
And all this, Kochhar has managed while being a mother to two children — her daughter Aarti, and son Arjun.
Recently, in a letter to her daughter, which is a part of a book titled ‘Legacy: Letters from eminent parents to their daughters’, Kochhar recalls an email from her daughter soon after she was made the chief of the Bank.

As a parent with a full time job, one must not let work affect the way you relate to your family. Remember the time you were studying in the US and the announcement of my becoming MD and CEO of ICICI was splashed across all newspapers? I remember the mail you wrote to me a couple of days later. ‘You never made us realise that you had such a demanding, successful and stressful career. At home, you were just our mother,’ you wrote in your email. Live your life in the same way, my darling.
An avid advocate for women in the workspace, ICICI Bank recently launched the [email protected] initiative to help working mothers balance their work and personal lives better. The initiative includes work from home for one year; this is over and above the maternity leave and paid child care leave.
3. Arundhati Bhattacharya, 60
Arundhati Bhattacharya heads the largest public sector bank in the country — the State Bank of India. With the Reserve Bank of India Governor’s term coming to an end in September this year, Bhattacharya is also being touted as being an able candidate for the post, according to experts.
Forbes has ranked her number 30 on the most powerful women list. She is also one of the youngest to take the chair in SBI and the first woman too, after working at the bank for 40 years.
Bhattacharya has a daughter — Sukrita. In an interview with Mid-Day back in 2014, Bhattacharya said she’s had to give up a lot of things, but if she had to do it all over again, she wouldn’t do a single thing differently.
She says, despite everything, prioritising responsibilities is the most important thing. “I believe one should have their own standards to live up to; not those that society thrusts upon them,” she told Mid-Day.
4. Zia Mody, 59
Managing Partner at AZB & Partners, Zia Mody is a corporate lawyer who pursued her passion. In male-dominated courtrooms, Mody has managed to carve a special place for herself.
It definitely wasn’t easy, but Mody says, things have changed for the better for women. “Women were regarded as a mysterious exception, especially in litigation,” she told dna in 2015, “but its changing.”
A mother to three daughters — Aditi, Anjali and Aarti — Mody is a mascot for career women who pursue their passions despite familial responsibilities. She believes nothing should come in the way of your ability to work and you should give it your best shot.
On her mantra to success, Zia Mody believes that keeping one’s dream alive is the key.
5. Shikha Sharma, 57

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Axis Bank, Shikha Sharma was earlier associated with ICICI Bank. She helped establish ICICI Prudential, and then moved to Axis Bank in 2009.
The head of the the third largest private lender, Sharma has a son, Tilak, and daughter Tvisha. In an interview to Business Today in 2014, Sharma had said that her children like her the way she is and she constantly strives to lead by example.
Sharma told dna in 2015, that technology is making it easier for women to juggle work and family. “From a workplace perspective, it’s giving women the opportunity to continue to participate in their careers without giving up the other roles as mother or a daughter or daughter-in-law or whatever.”
“For all of us as women, you don’t want to be a loser in your family role. And therefore, it’s a constant question in your mind by becoming a career woman — are you going to compromise on your family?”
The new workplace is far more flexible, she said. Attitudes have changed in the new entrepreneur-led organisations and the rise of digital businesses that have a startup-like culture, allowing freedom of ideas, place of work and more. “When we started, there were few role models as women who were able to balance work and home.”