‘Nowhere to draw the line’
Shakuntala Divi, chairperson of YFLO
When you enter Shakuntala Divi’s home in Jubilee Hills, you find her in the little glass office that is surrounded by the greenery in her garden. Inside the office, she’s checking her mails, answering calls and planning her schedule for the day. And multitasking is something that comes easily to her. The Chairperson of YFLO and responsible for handling asset management for the family’s business, Divi Labs and properties, Shakuntala talks about how she juggles home affairs and business assignments and manages to find time for organising events for YFLO, which is her relaxation.
Shakuntala did her masters in physiotherapy from the US and soon, she was married into the illustrious Divi family today, listed as one of India’s 100 richest families. “I took a break for my kids and family but it was my husband, Kiran Divi, who encouraged me to join business. Since three years, I have been handling the assets of the company. We recently bought the Cyber Towers phase II, Hitec City, so I have been handling the office spaces there finalising the lease, taking care of the property and more,” she says.
Meeting so many clients and holding so many meetings every day, one does wonder how she manages to sneak in time to organise events for YFLO. “I plan my whole week in advance and I make sure it doesn’t spill over to the weekend. At YFLO, working with a group of about 450 women, surely takes up a lot of time but it actually works out as a relaxation exercise for me.”
A day in her life starts pretty early, with her getting her kids ready for school, then her yoga class, which she never fails to miss, and then work. She’s back home before her kids are and she shares a secret with us, “For the longest time, my kids didn’t even know I was working because I would always be home before them.”
Family outings are not the usual ones you’d expect. “Every Saturday or Sunday, I take my kids to the office where they get to see how their parents work,” she says.
The support that she got from her family has been her pillar of strength. “Be it my father-in-law, Murli Divi, the founder of Divi Labs, my husband or my sister-in-law, everyone has always been supportive. I think there is a certain respect that you get from your family when you are able to manage business and home. For me, I think the respect doubled after I became the chairperson of YFLO.”
Juggling so much work, never strains her for Shakuntala believes that at every step there is something to learn. “There is nowhere to draw the line,” she says.
Organising it all, efficiently
Vanitha Datla, Chairperson of Confederation of Indian Industry
While the others pack their bags as their 9 to 5 shift is done, Vanitha Datla still has a long day ahead of her as she transforms from her role as the Executive Director and CFO of Elico Ltd to her role as the chairperson of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Vanitha’s name will find mention in history as she is the first chairperson of the CII in Telangana, after the bifurcation of the state and the organisation, not to forget the first woman chairperson too.
And business had never been a difficult path for her, with her excellent academic background, which she decided to go back to after her marriage. Having settled in the US after her marriage, when she came back to Hyderabad she joined ICFAI business school and graduated with a silver medal. “Very few people did that back then, to go back to studies after marriage but I was lucky that my husband, Ramesh, was always very supportive,” she says adding, “We are also the only couple where both of us have been the chairpersons of CII.”
From working as a financial assistant to an insurance agent in the US to joining her family and associates in taking over a sick company to heading the business along with her husband, there’s no stopping her. With her role as the chairperson of CII, she got to see another side to business — politics. “Ever since I have taken up the job as the chairperson of CII, I have been in and out of the Secretariat, meeting bureaucrats, getting involved in the process of formulation of policies and making sure that the issues in the business industry are heard out by politicians,” she says.
With so much on her plate already, one would think that this is all that she has time for. However, she has surprises in store. “I am also a travel enthusiast, a cyclist and a runner. I take part in marathons and duathlon events that happen all around the country. Being an adventure buff, I go for trekking with my family. I have been to the base camp of Mount Everest, trekked to Mt Kailash near Mansarovar and also Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa,” she says with a laugh, “I have been to more than 50 countries around the world. The exotic trips are with my husband but the fun ones are with my girlfriends.”
Vanitha’s daughter, 21, recently got married and her son, 23, has now joined their business.
On her toes, always
Monika Agarwal, chairperson of Ficci Ladies Organisation
An MBA in finance from IIM Indore and rising from the ranks of an assistant manager to Vice-President of Kotak Mahindra bank, one would think Monika Agarwal had it all. But she wasn’t content. Her wish to become an entrepreneur brought her and her husband to Hyderabad, and since then their career graph has only risen.
Today, the chairperson of Ficci Ladies Organisation, Monika divides her time with four to five days a week devoted to business and the rest for Ficci. “I try to not mix the two. As the chairperson of Ficci I’m busy organising events for the members and on the business front, I handle the finance and development of our company Jai Durga Décor,” she says.
Talking about how it all started she says, “We shifted to Hyderabad from Delhi in 1999 as my husband, Jitender is from Hyderabad. We thought the start-up scenario is better here. I had always had the drive to start something of my own. Even though I was working with a bank and had achieved quite a lot there too, I wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
Her background in finance helped her gain a strong foothold in Ficci too. “I was the treasurer for the organisation in 2006 and with my MBA that was a cakewalk for me. I joined Ficci because I wanted to interact with people from the same background socially and economically. Working with like-minded people, actually helps you grow personally,” she says. We ask her how the transformation from a 9 to 5 job to being an entrepreneur has been for her. “As an entrepreneur, you have to be on your toes all the time. A downslide can happen very easily and that’s why you have to be very careful,” she says.
And she believes in never stopping for anything. “I think there is always that urge to work better and achieve more. It’s all about moving out of the comfort zone so that one day, people actually look up to you.”
Of course, the first ones to look up to her are her children. “It’s an overwhelming feeling to know that you can be the role model for your children. Right from a very young age, I have made them very independent,” she says.