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Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s words at the start of the No Ceiling Summit rang true throughout the conference, as women entrepreneurs, business pioneers, thought leaders, and more came together to celebrate the efforts made so far to move towards an inclusive world for women in business — while acknowledging that a lot more needed to be done to create a truly equitable society.
Organised by Kalaari Capital’s CXXO initiative and YourStory, the first-ever edition of the No Ceiling Summit on September 22, 2022 in Bengaluru, was an inspiring day as hundreds of women leaders in attendance networked, shared their journeys and the challenges they’ve had to endure, and their vision for a future with more women at the top.
Mirroring Kiran’s sentiments, Vani Kola, Founder and Managing Director, Kalaari Capital spoke about the importance of being responsible for other women in the industry in her welcome address. “Being at a table with leverage, encouraging others, and embracing their voice – that’s where I want to make the most impact. We need to enable more women to have their voice heard,” she said.
What followed was a day filled with panel discussions, fireside chats, and masterclasses that engaged attendees with the theme of women not just breaking the glass ceiling, but not envisioning one in the first place.
Speaking to YourStory’s Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma in a fireside chat, Akriti Chopra, Co-founder, Zomato spoke about her struggle with coping with success and how she overcame her self doubt by building a circle of people she trusted and could rely on for positive reinforcement whenever she was down. “Experiment a lot, try different things, challenge the status quo. I would encourage people to figure out what gives them happiness. Invest in an ecosystem — the relationships I have give me the strength to continue doing what I want to,” Akriti said. Three things that also helped her, she added, were focussing on physical fitness, going to a therapist, and finding something to be passionate about outside the workplace.
Following that up was Vinita Bali, Board of Directors, Cognizant who shared that being a successful businesswoman is a matter of shaping your business to fit the needs of society and not isolate business from the community around. Nurturing a healthy environment around you, whether at home or at the workplace, would help create a world that doesn’t look at gender as a defining trait for success. “We’ve got to take gender out of discussions. I have got to where I am because my work spoke for itself. Not because I was a woman or privileged. We have to make the whole gender debate irrelevant,” Vinita said.
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Upasana Kamineni, Vice Chairperson – Apollo Foundation and Co-founder, URLife delivered the day’s keynote address. She spoke about the importance of defining oneself and the challenges that she had to overcome to do that, coming from a family of successful business people. “Being egoless at the workplace and knowing that I have to work much harder and be ready to learn from people who report to me, and be vulnerable — that was a huge learning,” she said, adding that women need to focus on skilling and reskilling themselves to be relevant in any industry they work in.
Taking cue from that note, Byju’s Co-founder Divya Gokulnath, in a fireside chat with Vani, added that taking care of yourself should be just as important as your professional and personal lives. “People believe you need to put family first or work first, but put yourself somewhere in that list too. If you can spend time taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to take care of everyone else around you,” Divya said.
Other engaging sessions at the conference were panel discussions on fundraising with Rashie Jain, Co-founder and CEO, Onco and Aamna Khan, Co-founder and CEO, Binks; and women in tech with Geetha Manjunath, Founder, Niramai; Goda Ramkumar, AVP – Data Science, Swiggy; and Pallavi Shrivastava, Co-founder, Progcap, as well as a fireside chat with Kanika Tekriwal, CEO, JetSetGo Aviation Services who doubled down on the need for women to believe in themselves and remaining steadfast in the pursuit of their passions.
The day’s sessions were rounded off through an inspiring conversation with Manjari Jaruhar, Advisor – Private Security Industry Committee, FICCI, Bihar’s first woman IPS officer and one of the first five women police officers in India. As the audience listened with rapt attention to the challenges she overcame throughout her career, Manjari advised the crowd to take control of their lives and never give up in the face of adversity. “Women should never lose hope. If something goes, take it up as a challenge and move ahead in life. Things will surely improve if you keep at it,” Manjari said, stressing on the importance of discipline to achieve goals.
Other speakers at the summit included Kirthiga Reddy, Co-founder and CEO, Stealth; Swati Bhargava, Co-founder, CashKaro and EarnKaro; Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Chairperson, HCL Technologies; Mugdha Pradhan, CEO and Founder, iThrive Healing and Beyond; Dr. Chytra Anand, Founder President, Kosmoderma Clinics; and Raj Sheshadri, President – Data and Services, Mastercard.
Several masterclasses and workshops were organised on themes such as building a successful team, negotiation skills, makeup and power dressing, managing stakeholder relationships, and more, led by a number of women in leading roles in their fields, including Mallika Sadani, Founder and CEO, The Moms Co; Priyanka Gill, Co-founder, The Good Glamm Group; Pranoti Israni, Founder and Inventor, Rotimatic; and Shwetambri Shetty, Fitness Expert, Cult.Fit.
The No Ceiling Summit also hosted the CXXO Spirit Awards that recognised exceptional business ideas, with hundreds of entries coming in from student entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts from around the country. The winners of this year’s awards were Pallavi Bhatia from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Suramya Asthana from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru; and Ritu Rawat from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
After a day’s worth of learning and knowledge sharing, attendees were treated to an exclusive celebratory Gala Dinner and dance to network and engage with each other on a personal level — the perfect way to end a summit designed to bring more women in decision-making and leadership roles to the table.