She is no stranger to corporate world either, courtesy her husband Vikram Singh Mehta, executive chairman at Brookings India and former chairman of Shell in India. She is also on the board of National Institute of Design.
Rekha Sethi is also determined to bring in the same sense of enthusiasm to her new role. The director general of the All India Management Association (AIMA) is yet another first-timer in India Inc’s boardrooms following the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (Sebi) directive that every company must have at least one woman director. Sethi had prior experience of being a board member of only non-profit organisations’ till she joined the boards of Sun Pharmaceutical and CESC.
“I had a lot of doubt initially whether I will be able to perform, so my strategy was to be quiet, sit and learn,” she says, highlighting the effort she is putting in on the homework before these meetings. “It has raised my level of learning – it is a step up for me,” she says.
She has identified areas such as currency hedging strategy for her contribution to the GE Shipping board. Since the Sebi directive, she has been approached by many companies to join their boards and she is currently considering to join board of two more large listed companies. She has also joined the board of unlisted telecom tower company Indus Towers.
Bhagwati is also pleased to find her former boss at the IFC, Farida Khambata joining an Indian company’s board for the first time. Khambata has spent many years in emerging markets with the IFC and is global strategist and partner at the US based Cartica Management. She has joined the board of Kotak Mahindra Bank.
She has also been on the board of an asset management company in Vietnam and advisory boards of different funds. “Emerging markets are not homogeneous and the issues faced vary from one country to another,” she says. Khambata has also joined the board of Tata Sons, the unlisted holding company for $ 104 billion turnover Tata Group.
The list of BSE 200 companies shows that 96 companies already had woman directors on their board before Sebi’s directive last year in February. Since then 80 companies made fresh appointments out of which 50 women have become director on a company’s board for the first time.
“Woman work as a team and have an eye for details, but how much difference can a single woman make on a company’s board is not really clear,” says Rawal who desires greater gender diversity.