Global Indian Women: Top 20 India-born & globally successful women from business and arts

MavenMagnet study in association with The Economic Times. 

They were born in India, and achieved fame, glory and success in other parts of the world. Which is why we decided to call them the Global Indian Women (GIW) — their influence measured by big data research firm MavenMagnet, which began with a long list of 60 women, all born in India and making waves outside it.

These women earned their spurs across countries — from the United Arab Emirates to, inevitably, the US — but one thing’s for sure: you can’t take India and their Indianness out of them. After all, many of them are what and where they are because of their cultural roots, and their ability to adapt them to a new milieu.

Consider, for instance, the story of Falu Shah, who has introduced the West to a mint-new genre of ‘Hindi-Indie’ music. Part of the credit for the success of Falu — or Falguni as she was known in her childhood days in Mumbai – would have to go to her mother Kishori Reshamdalal who ensured that her daughter was trained in Hindustani classical music.

Then, the success saga of Zulekha Daud, founder of an eponymous UAE-based hospital chain, is incomplete without a significant mention of the struggles of her mother Bilkis Vali in getting Zulekha trained as a doctor in Nagpur, fighting orthodoxy on the one hand and her own lack of formal education on the other. In fact, Zulekha recalls how her mother successfully sat for her own class 10 exams while Zulekha studied medicine.

The MavenMagnet long list also had names like Leena Nair, till recently head of human resources at Hindustan Unilever before being called up to the Unilever Headquarters in London. The likes of Nair have been left out purely because much of their achievements were back home — at least so far. The study focused primarily on two areas: business; and the arts. That helped to short list 20 names for an in-depth research to bring out the granular details of their sphere of influence.

How we did it

MavenMagnet, a research company, uses big data to uncover consumer and market insights across a broad cross-section of demographic and psychographic segments. The key advantage of its research methodology is that it does not involve moderation of discussions or questions. Instead it uses the conversations that the consumers are having on various online platforms with their friends and family to gather insights. Maven-Magnet analysed 4,172 conversations among 1,642 individuals around the 20 women to evaluate their footprint in their domain of expertise and beyond.

A key functionality of the approach in this study is its impact normalisation technique. This was essential because of two reasons. Firstly, the social sphere of influence for individuals working in different fields is considerably different. For instance, authors writing in a particular genre have a great influence on their readership, but generally their sphere of influence is considerably smaller as compared to actors working on projects with mass appeal. In order to cover women in different fields, Maven Magnet normalised the influence analysis based on the field of focus. Secondly, some business leaders (Indra Nooyi and Padmasree Warrior) and show-business personalities (Mira Nair and Freida Pinto) are outliers who have a considerably high overall impact due to their stature and work. This approach ensured that these outliers didn’t set the benchmarks.

MavenMagnet’s Conversational Research doesn’t involve any discussion guides or questionnaires that can steer the outcome in a certain direction. This considerably increases the scope of discovery. One surprising insight in this study was that the imagery spectrum (sphere of influence) of artists is narrower as compared to business leaders. While the perception of artists was generally driven by factors such as domain expertise and sensory appeal that were directly linked to their profession, peripheral attributes such as social appeal and trust were relatively more dominant in case of business leaders.

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