Ranjana Deopa, COO, Biz Divas Foundation in conversation with Ms Hiroo Mirchandani, Independent Director at Corporate Boards.

Ms. Mirchandani is an independent director on seven diverse boards .She has  over 30 years of corporate experience in Healthcare and Consumer Goods industries having worked with organisations like Pfizer, Dabur and Asian Paints.

She is a great advocate for ” Gender Diversity in the Workplace”. She has been a part of various cross-industry think-tanks & research projects and participated in global conferences promoting gender diversity . Ms. Mirchandani is a graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce and an MBA graduate from Faculty of Management Studies ,Delhi.

1.You are a role model and inspiration for many career women. We would like to know more about journey as a Career woman as well as your personal journey.

I serve as an independent director on diverse corporate boards. Prior to this, my career of over thirty years has been in business roles primarily in consumer goods and healthcare. My operational experience combined with an  MBA in Marketing and Finance have shaped my career.I grew from being a Branch Manager at Asian Paints to Business Unit Director  at Pfizer with top-line and bottom-line responsibilities leading a large national team.

I was the first woman front-line manager in the paint industry in the 80s based in Rajkot as a Branch Manager at Asian Paints. In addition, my Leadership roles at Pfizer, World Gold Council and Dabur have developed my financial acumen, consumer and trade understanding  and team management.I was mentored as part of the ‘Women on Corporate Boards’ program of the FICCI Centre for Corporate Governance.

2.You are working as an Independent Director on 7 Boards, how has the board experience been so far and what is your advice to aspiring Board members especially on the preparation required for getting on Corporate Boards in the future.

I am fortunate to serve on 7 diverse corporate boards including Punjab National Bank, Tata Teleservices(Maharashtra )Ltd, Nilkamal Ltd and Religare Health Insurance Ltd. I also serve on board committees including their Audit, Nomination and Remuneration committees, Customer Service Committees etc. The companies whose boards I serve on vary by ownership, market capitalization, industry. This  provides me with a unique opportunity to cross-pollinate ideas and  best practices in corporate governance. It has been an enriching phase in terms of learning , growing and contributing. Have invested atleast 1000 person hours in learning about Board Effectiveness though reading, workshops, interactions with  board members and shareholders. I have been a retailer investor for over 30 years and that has helped too in better understanding of the various stakeholders.

My advice to aspiring board members would be to:

  1. Upgrade your skills for Board Effectiveness
  2. Hone your Financial Acumen
  3. Pass the word around. Network at appropriate forums
  4. Be confident about sharing your independent views

3.What has been the key challenges faced by you during your career and how did you overcome them.

I have been fortunate to have supportive employers and great bosses. But society still has to accept women in business roles. It was difficult when I started my career in Sales in the 80s as a Branch Manager based in traditional Rajkot. I would travel over 10-15 days a month in a self-driven, non-airconditioned company Fiat engaging with painters, distributors and customers  in the interiors of Gujarat . Initially, they were shy & apprehensive. The moment I started talking business   , doing calculations of promotional offers, profit margins, rotation of stocks, return on investment etc-they began to see value. They began to open up and treat me with respect. Instead of asking me out for a drink, they would invite me home for a meal with their families. They would ask me to speak  to the elders in the family to send their girls to go to school. I learnt a lot from my team and channel partners and  feel  connected with them in  unique ways. Infact, I met a few of them during a recent personal trip to Rajkot. They made a huge difference to my life-my first lessons in commercial acumen,results orientation  and team management were learnt there.

4.Who have been your role models/ mentors/ supporters in your journey and what roles have they played in your success.

I have had great mentors and supporters who have nudged my career in the right direction. At Asian Paints, I had bosses who were willing to ‘risk’ sending me to the field. At Dabur, the promoters were supportive of the transformational work done to grow Dabur and its lead brands like Chyawanprash, Dabur Honey and Hajmola. At Pfizer, I was the only woman Business Unit Director in the India Leadership team . I was fortunate to be a part of the Global Women’s Council and be mentored by senior leaders at Pfizer Inc. I have been mentored by Mr Harsh Mariwala under the ‘Women On Corporate Boards ‘program of the FICCI Centre for Corporate Governance. I am learning everyday through my interactions  with board directors inside and outside board rooms.