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March 27, 2013

Journey of Naina Lal Kidwai

A brief introduction

Naina Lal Kidwai is no unknown name today. She is presently the President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry or FICCI – the first woman to reach this position. She is also the Group General Manager and Country Head of  Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in India and Director in all over Asia – Pacific region.She has held many prestigious positions in her career and outshone all the men who think finance is essentially a domain exclusive to males.

The Padma Shri Award in 2007 for her contribution to trade, commerce and industrial sector; repeated rankings in the top 50 businesswomen all over the globe by various rating agencies such as Fortune Global and Wall Street Journal talks of her achievements and capabilities.

Early life and career

Naina’s father was a top notch professional with an Insurance company. Business ran in her blood from her mother’s lineage too, who was closely related to Lalit Mohan Thapar, the famous industrialist. Both Naina and her sister were inspired by their parents and walked on paths of success in their chosen career paths. Naina's sister is a famous golf player.

Leadership was a way of life for Naina. She was the Head Girl in her final year at school, which was in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. Her youth was mostly spent in Delhi and Mumbai. She was selected for Economics Honours from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University – a premiere institute in the capital of India. She wished to pursue Management, but was turned down on grounds of being under age. She took up Chartered Accountancy instead and was among the first three women to join Price Water House Coopers in 1977.

Her “never say die” attitude urged her to pursue Strategy and Finance from Harvard Business School in 1982. This feat made Naina the first Indian woman to be an alumnus of the university.

Naina was offered a position with ANZ Grindlays Bank while she was still abroad. Within a space of few years, she rose to the position of Head, Western Region. She was only 32 then. Soon in 1989, Naina had become the Country Head for Foreign Investment Banking, being the youngest to hold this position ever. Under her leadership, the NRI investments with ANZ Grindlays tripled. In 1991, she moved on to Retail Banking to explore new avenues.

Naina joined Morgan Stanley India and JM Morgan Stanley as Head of Investment Banking. There was no looking back for her as she rapidly climbed the corporate ladder. She held prestigious positions with institutions such as Wipro, Nestle South Asia (Non executive Director on Board), City of London’s Advisory Council for India (Chairwoman), Harvard Business School (Global Advisor), National Council of Applied Economic Research or NCAER (Governing member of Board), Comptroller and Auditor General of India (Member of Audit Advisory Board), Confederation of Indian Industry or CII (Member of National Executive Committee), etc. She also has success stories of various strategic deals and moves associated with her career, such as acquisition of VSNL by the Tata Group.

Strategies at Work

Naina feels that transparency in the Indian Capital Market is extremely crucial. She also “expects the unexpected” – she anticipates the problems that may arise and plan for all sorts of risks beforehand. She encourages investments in research sector and new technologies.

Naina and her team work in close conjunction with IAS and other Government officials to work out mechanisms to encourage further participation from the private sector in various projects to script a bright future for India. She also realizes the importance of getting foreign investments in the country, and formulates strategies to facilitate the same.

Challenges faced

In spite of many awards and accolades, Naina is a down to earth person. She loves her family above all else.Being a working woman is not easy for anyone, even for an individual of Naina Lal Kidwai’s callibre. After having her first child, Naina had even contemplated giving up her professional career to look after family commitments. However, her father encouraged her to continue. Her entire family stood behind her and let her rise the steep career path she had created for herself. Her responsibilities at such high profile jobs had made her travel across the globe,  causing her to be away during various family occasions. With support from everyone around, Naina has been able to gather more and more experience by interacting with new people from new backgrounds and ethnicity.

Needless to say, such a talented professional would get multiple offers from various countries and different employers. Being a devoted Indian at heart, Naina had resolved to work in India only. She made her choices in her career with care so that her personal and family life is not disturbed. 

Other Interests

It would be wrong to think that with so many responsibilities on her shoulders, Naina would hardly have any time to pursue any other interests. She is a nature lover and adores pets, and has keen interest in wildlife. She used to be a capable horse rider, which she gave up due to an injury. Naina also loves going on trekking trips to the mountains.  

On the softer side, she is extremely fond of Indian Classical music, Western music and theater as well.

She is a firm believer in gender equality. In fact, Naina’s vision is centered around the empowerment of women, especially in the rural areas. She works in the areas of microfinance and opportunities for livelihood of the weaker sections of the society. Working closely with social work and non governmental organizations, Naina wishes to improve the literacy levels of India and strengthen the quality of life led by the common man. In fact, her husband, Rashid K. Kidwai, also runs a NGO named Grassroot Trading Network for Women – the name itself indicates that even her husband joins Naina in her endeavor to make women self sufficient.

Today, Naina Lal Kidwai is a name that inspires all finance professionals and key decision makers.

Tags : Naina Lal Kidwai, FICCI, HSBC, Leadership, Global business

About Anupama

A Transport Planner and Architect, Anupama has been blogging for about six years now. She has taken up professional content writing for the last two years, and can always be contacted for any assignments or queries. Her strength is original presentation of any topic.

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