“India’s growth-oriented journey has been consistently disrupted by women entrepreneurs”
We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. W-SUITE is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in the M&E, Advertising, Marketing, PR and Communications industry. In the refurbished series, we seek to find out how women leaders have been managing their teams and work as well as how they have been navigating through the toughest and most challenging times brought about by the global pandemic.
The 4th edition of Women Disruptors is all set to return soon. This initiative from Adgully endeavours to highlight the trailbrazing women leaders in India. Entries are now open. Click here to send in your nominations.
In conversation with Adgully, Vasundhara Oswal, Executive Director, Pro Industries, speaks at length about how the proverbial glass ceiling is being progressively shattered by women globally, ways to encourage gender equality, and more.
How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the current market ecosystem?
India’s growth-oriented journey, especially the social and economic demographics, has been consistently disrupted by women entrepreneurs. The proverbial glass ceiling is being progressively shattered by women globally and it is this future-forward vision that fuels the estimation by the Boston Consulting Group when they say, “A women generated business cumulates 10% more revenue over a five year period.”
Traditionally dominated by men, industrial businesses are no different and as a young female entrepreneur, I had my own reservations. But, one thing that keeps driving me towards constantly scaling up is the fact that an entrepreneur, regardless of their gender, needs to be futuristic in their outlook, keep innovating and keep pushing the envelope. It is true that we face far greater challenges, both socially and economically, when it comes to being business leaders, however challenges are what ignite our passion to find solutions otherwise unheard of. Take any industry and we are at the helm of it. The unique differentiator being our inherent ability to be empathetic and transformational in our approach that brings people together to forge new paths and foster a culture of inclusivity through self-reliance.
What has been your major learning from the pandemic period?
The COVID-19 pandemic shook us all to the core. Uncertainty loomed large and we had no choice but to think differently. Technological innovations helped us all to stay connected when offline engagements were out of the question. The realisation dawned that we were far too dependent on traditional means of communicating. The pandemic sparked an understanding in me – geographical dispositions are not a hindrance when we harness a common vision of achieving success no matter the distance. From my base in Switzerland, I remotely connected with my engineers at the ethanol plant in Uganda for the latest developments by conducting meetings through zoom. As an entrepreneur who runs businesses across continents, I am open and thankful for the help I get from the technological advancements at my disposal to ensure that work can happen whenever, wherever.
What is your mantra for maintaining a successful work-life balance in the new normal?
Finding the ideal work-life balance is a challenge that everyone across the board has had to face. It is always a challenge considering our group leads multiple operations at a time. For me, I am involved in overseeing and managing the development of the new state-of the art plant from Pro Industries, mining finances and the finance team in Axis Minerals, which is our bauxite mining project in Guinea. While it may seem overwhelming, I make sure I spend time with my family in Switzerland and take every chance I get to travel the world. With work-life balance, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It feels good and right for you at that moment. Of course, everyone should keep in mind the opportunity cost whilst making a decision and be able to face whatever consequences may come from those decisions. There is a reason why we kept “In business as in life” as our slogan.
What are the five most effective leadership lessons that you have learned?
These are the five mantras which I learnt through my journey:
- Everyone can help you learn something and always take advice when offered. It goes without saying that each person has their own personal brand and leadership style. Observing how others handle themselves – peers, management, and other external leaders – is a great way to learn. In my case, my father is someone who I look up to and learn from his commitment to business.
- People have different strengths and skill-sets in business so make sure you recognise and utilise them in an effective manner. You don’t have to know everything but you definitely have to know how to make use of those skill sets.
- Stay committed to what you are doing. Slow progress is also still progress and as long as there is movement forward you should not give up.
- Leadership is a challenging role. A strong leader needs to build the capacity to overcome fear, evaluate risk, and act when it is necessary. At times, tough decisions happen to be the best decisions that we make.
- Self-awareness and introspect is crucial through a fair and honest assessment. The capacity to communicate openly and confidently with others is given by self-awareness and one should always have a realistic idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
Gender sensitivity and inclusion in the new normal – how can organisations effectively encourage and groom women leaders in challenging times?
Gender bias against women is not merely ingrained in the ‘normalised’ consciousness of individuals, families, and communities, but also in the DNA of traditional organisations. It starts at home and makes its way into broader society. This has a direct impact on women's voices, access to resources, opportunities, justice, and better lives. One way to encourage gender equality is to drive a systematic and long-term behavioural change, and this requires an approach that involves implementation of innovative strategies – not just in companies, but also social circles. Hearing women’s voices, helping them break stereotypes and navigate unconscious biases are extremely critical. These are ways that will provide a roadmap to making the world a more equitable and inclusive place.