12 Indian Women In Family Businesses Forging Their Own Path With Flair

Yes, these 12 women in family businesses have had a legacy handed down to them but they are restless to make a mark of their own as well.

Yes, these 12 women in family businesses have had a legacy handed down to them but they are restless to make a mark of their own as well.

Once upon a time, Indian family businesses were always handed down from father to son. Not any longer. The trend is changing, with many business magnates now very open to bringing in their daughters as the heirs to the business. Not only have these women assumed the mantle competently, they are also making a mark of their own by extending the business in new directions.

A list of 12 women in family businesses who are calling the shots!

Roshni Nadar Malhotra

At 35, Roshni Nadar Malhotra is the CEO and Executive Director of $7.5 billion corporation, HCL. But things were not handed to her on a silver platter. After graduating from NorthWestern University, USA with Media as her major, she completed her Master’s in Business Administration with a major in Social Enterprise Management from the Kellogg School of Management. After gaining professional experience with Sky News UK and CNN America, she decided that it was time to join her father’s empire.

A successful leader of  HCL’s IT services arm – HCL Technologies, Roshni is responsible for HCL’s healthcare business and launched HCL Talentcare. While Roshni seeks to grow the business, her real passion lies in the foundations –   ShivNadar – which seeks the future leaders of India and Vidyagyan- which supports education for the deserving underprivileged kids.

She was awarded as NDTV’s Indian of the Year in the Philanthropy category.

Sulajja Firodia Motwani

Sulajja always knew she would be joining her family business some day and she prepared herself well. After pursuing an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, she worked with an investment analytics company. Sulajja believes this work experience has given her the much needed insight of a company from the employee point of view.

This Joint Managing Director of Kinetic Motor Company Limited is in mainly in charge of business development. Since Sulajja took charge, not only has she managed to increase the company’s product range from just mopeds to now mopeds, scooters and motorcycles, Kinetic has invested in 2 international collaborations which enables them to launch 7 new models in the 2-wheeler segment. She has been awarded a number of titles like India Today’s ‘Face of the Millenium’ and The World Economic Forum has named her the ‘Young Global Leader’ and a ‘Global Leader of Tomorrow’.

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Vinita Gupta

Vinita Gupta is the CEO of Lupin Pharma, India’s 3rd largest and the world’s seventh largest pharmaceutical company. Lupin was founded by her father, Desh Bandhu Gupta. Vinita, at 49, handles the front end of the company which includes acquisitions that help Lupin grow organically. After her MBA from J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, she joined her family business in 1993 at the age of 25.

Her biggest achievement is widening the horizons for Lupin by acquiring a pharmacy company in Japan and since then, expanding to Germany, Australia, USA to name a few. Vinita aims to make Lupin a $5million revenue enterprise by 2018.


Ashni Biyani

This princess of the FMCG sector is the eldest daughter of Kishore Biyani – Founder and CEO, Big Bazaar. Ashni began training to be in the business at the age of 8 when she would tag along with her father for store launches and observe the way he worked. ‘The Indian consumer’ was a regular topic of discussion at home, as she recalls, and Ashni often hung out at the mall to count the number of bags with the company’s logos on them.

She formally graduated from Bengaluru’s Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology in 2006 and went on to do courses on scenario planning at Parsons School of Design in New York and a course in general management at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Ashni is keener on the consumer insight side of the business and even worked as a consultant to a retail brand in the UAE. She came up with the concept of Family centres in Big Bazaar which would make Big Bazaar an all under one roof destination.The family centres were planned to include snack counters for the hungry shoppers and electronics and furnishing segments were newly included.

Currently, as the Director of Future Consumer Enterprise Limited (FCEL), she is busy creating multiple in-house brands like Desi Atta Company.

Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Vinita Gupta and Ashni Biyani (Clockwise from top left)

Meher Pudumjee

A chemical engineer by profession, Meher is the Non-Executive Chairperson of Thermax Group – one of India’s leading energy and environmental engineering companies. Thermax Group was established in 1966 by her grandfather and Meher, a fresh graduate, joined the company as a trainee.

She mainly involves herself with providing strategic direction to the company and believes in allowing the professional management team under the Managing Direction, the leeway to run the company otherwise. Extremely comfortable with the reins of the family business in the hands of outside professionals, Meher believes trust is very important to make it work under such a setting.

Thermax has achieved tremendous growth, and registered sales growing from 600 cr in 2001 to 6000cr in 2011. Under her reign as a Chairperson, Thermax went global when it acquired a number of European manufacturers.

Apart from her work, Meher gets immense satisfaction in working for The Akanksha Foundation – a non-profit organization in the field of educating underprivileged children. Thermax provides the required funds to run Akanksha. She is also on the board of directors of Teach For India (TFI), another non-governmental organization that encourages people to teach underprivileged children.

Nandini Piramal

At 37, Nandini is an Executive Director of Piramal Enterprises and a mother of two. She graduated in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University in 2001, and joined McKinsey in 2003. After a year of work there, she completed her MBA from Stanford University in 2006. Nandini wasted no time in joining her family business and is currently responsible for the Over The Counter (OTC) business of the company. She also heads the HR at Piramal Group and Quality and Risk at Piramal Healthcare.

Nandini has always wanted to be respected due to her work and not just because of her surname. While finding new ways to recruit and retain fresh talent, she also ensures there is strict adherence to compliance and quality standards, resulting in flawless audit track records.

She has grown up seeing her mother maintain a work-life balance and is following her mother’s footsteps. A firm believer in strong work ethics, she also thinks giving quality time to your family is important.

Nisaba Godrej

Nisaba was recently made the Executive Chairperson of the 120 year old giant Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. And she is just 39 years old. Having graduated from University of Pennsylvania, Nisaba, fondly known as Nisa, did her Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

She has been attached with GCPL for over a decade now and has worked in various roles like Strategy, Human Resources, paying special attention to talent and innovation. A few of the innovations spearheaded by her include the GoodKnight fast card mosquito repellent priced at Rs.1 and Hit Anti roach gel. Nisaba, known for her active involvement in things and sharp insights has played a key role in GCPL’s growth in three continents – Africa, Asia and Latin –America. She has also entered the salon segment with BBlunt.

Tanya Dubash

Representing the Gen Next in the Godrej family; Tanya Dubash is described as ‘humility personified’ by her colleagues. Known to be a marketing whiz, she heads Marketing for the Godrej Group.

Tanya is the Chief Brand Officer and Executive Director of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. She holds an A.B. cum laude degree in economics and political science from Brown University and is also an alumna of The Cathedral & John Connon School and Harvard Business School.

She started working for her family business as a brand manager for Godrej soaps in 1993. One of the major tasks done by Tanya was reinventing Godrej’s image as a company with premium products as well, which was aspirational. This involved changing the brand’s identity from a traditional brand to making it more progressive and innovative. Her exercise of brand re-positioning helped the company not only in revenue growth but also in attracting the right talent.

Nandini Piramal, Meher Pudumjee, Tanya Dubash and Nisaba Godrej (Clockwise from top left)

The Reddy sisters – Preetha, Sangita, Sunita and Shobhana

Apollo is one of Asia’s largest hospital chains, established by Dr. Prathap Reddy in 1983. But the four pillars of the hospital are his four daughters who are truly running this mammoth of an establishment. They have been involved right from its inception days and carried out responsibilities without any designations. Today all of them have defined roles to play and each of them has found success in their own share of work. Preetha, the eldest of them, is the MD and manages the day-to-day work of the hospital; Suneeta is the joint MD and is in charge of the balance sheets, Shobhana looks after pharmacies and insurance while Sangita takes care of clinics, education and telemedicine.

It is believed that one of the most important reasons for Apollo’s success story is the unity in the family, clarity of goals, and frank and regular communication.

Preetha Reddy, Sunita Reddy, Shobhana Reddy and Sangita Reddy (Clockwise from top left)

These women of substance prove that women in family businesses are no longer a rare phenomenon – women are coming into their own and claiming what is rightfully theirs.


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