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Sonia, Indra among 10 powerful women

Gandhi has been placed sixth, a notch behind PepsiCo chief Nooyi, in Forbes list of 100 most powerful women. Read on.

world Updated: Aug 31, 2007 15:50 IST
Arun Kumar

Congress party president Sonia Gandhi has been placed sixth, a notch behind Indra Nooyi, the Indian American chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo, in the Forbes list of the world's 100 most powerful women.

Ranking Angela Merkel, the first woman to become chancellor of Germany, No 1 for the second year in a row, the US business magazine said, "She continued to impress the world with her cool leadership at two back-to-back summits."

Placed above Nooyi and Sonia Gandhi were Chinese Vice premier Wu Yi at No 2, Ho Ching, chief executive of Temasek Holdings, Singapore's largest business conglomerate, at No 3 and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at No 4.

<b1>Gandhi, "the Italian-born leader of India's most powerful political party, the Indian National Congress Party, has come far since entering politics in the 1990s", Forbes said, noting Indian lawmakers recently elected her choice for president, Pratibha Patil.

Describing it as "a historic vote seen as a step forward for India's women and girls who endure daily discrimination", the magazine said, "The vote, however, saw angry allegations levelled against Patil, over purported corruption and criminal activity in her family. Though the position is largely ceremonial, Patil is now India's first female president, and her victory is a sign that the role of women in the country's often male-dominated political scene may improve," Forbes said.

"This is a special moment for women across the country," the magazine quoted Gandhi as saying. "It shows India is committed to women."

Gandhi, it said, is "widely revered by her fellow countrymen, especially among India's poor as well as its vast agricultural population" and is continuously concerned that India's rapid economic growth is leaving the poor behind, and that her country is not doing enough to help its farmers.

"She has opposed a government plan to introduce special economic zones to encourage foreign investment in the country. Recently Gandhi stood up to politically powerful opponents in blocking their attempt to nullify an anti-corruption law meant to curb corruption among the country's massive bureaucracy."

Forbes said Nooyi has been steadily consolidating her power at PepsiCo, one of the largest companies in the world with $35 billion in annual revenue and a $105 billion market capitalisation.

Last February, Nooyi added the title of chairman to her chief executive position at the food-and-beverage giant, maker of Frito-Lay snacks, Pepsi beverages, Gatorade sports drinks, Tropicana juices and Quaker foods; a whopping 17 PepsiCo brands each generate $1 billion or more in annual sales.

Nooyi has pushed PepsiCo to move beyond soda, first by helping to start the company's fast-food chains in 1997, and later by spearheading the purchase of Tropicana in 1998. In an effort to offset slowing business in the Gatorade division, Nooyi advocates vitamin and energy-infused water drinks.

"Being a woman, being foreign-born, you've got to be smarter than anyone else," Forbes said citing Indian-born Nooyi who came to the US from India in 1978. Prior to joining PepsiCo in 1994, Nooyi did stints at the Boston Consulting Group and Motorola.

Another person of Indian origin on the list is Vidya Chhabria, chairperson Jumbo Group, UAE, at No. 97.

Chhabria became chairperson of the $2 billion conglomerate, the Jumbo Group, when her husband, takeover titan Manu Chhabria, died in 2002, Forbes noted. Headquartered in Dubai, the company oversees 28 companies operating in as many as 50 countries, with interests in durables, chemicals, machinery, liquor products and agriculture.

The company is best known for its ownership of Jumbo Electronics, one of the world's largest distributors of consumer electronics, information technology, telecom products and home appliances. Two years after divesting most of its businesses in India, the Jumbo Group is considering re-entering India this year.

Forbes said while there have been plenty of hand-wringing studies arguing that the corporate glass ceiling for women has turned into concrete, it had no difficulty turning up 66 business executives worthy of inclusion on the list.

The remaining 34 are mostly in government.

"If women aren't being stopped by any ceiling, it still can be argued that they have a tough go on the way to the top," it said.

First Published: Aug 31, 2007 10:32 IST