NASSCOM finally has a female President, after three decades of bringing together India’s IT sector, which contributes to 8% of the GDP of India. Debjani Ghosh, a known champion for equality and diversity, will be taking over from R. Chandrashekhar in April this year.
Ms. Ghosh, has worked in Intel for 21 years in several prestigious leadership positions. She was the Vice President, Sales & Marketing Group (SMG), Intel, and Managing Director, Intel South Asia. She showed determination from the beginning as a young employee with Intel, when she aspired to become the country head one day, which she did become, and she was the first woman to reach there.
Ms. Ghosh has also been the Non-Executive Independent Director at Yes Bank Ltd., as well as, the first woman president of MAIT (the Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology). In MAIT and FICCI (the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry), she has worked to promote the growth of India’s digital market .
She has held the rank amongst Fortune India’s 20 Most Powerful Women in Business in India from 2012 to 2017. Naina Lal Kidwai’s book 30 Women in Power names her among the top 30 Women Leaders in India.
In three decades, NASSCOM has seen several heads, starting with Debang Mehta, who founded it in the 90s with the opening up of the Indian economy, to Kiran Karnik, who took over during the 2001 IT bubble burst, paving the way for small and medium enterprises to be included in the share, to Som Mittal in 2008, who brought Indian IT onto the global platform. In spite of having home grown female leaders like Sangeeta Gupta in the Senior VP position, and Sandhya Chintala handling the IT-ITES sector, it has still taken the association three decades to choose a female President.
India has seen a very meagre number of women in power in the IT sector, which includes greats like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the Chairperson and MD of Biocon, and Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first female Chairperson of SBI. According to GSM-IT, out of the 3.9 million people who are employed by the Indian IT-BPM sector, 34% (1.3 million) are women. Within this, 51% hold entry-level posts and 25% rise to managerial positions. But the percentage that rises to the C-suite are less than 1%.
According to an interview Ms. Ghosh gave to Yourstory, she was born into a large family with 12 elder brothers, in which she was always encouraged by her father to consider herself equal to men. She said,
“We have to do what is the best to develop talent whether it is men or women or different races. My number one focus is creating equal opportunity for all. You should not be held back by factors like gender, colour, race etc. Whether you get the next opportunity or not should entirely depend on meritocracy. Another thing I am focused on internally as well as externally is, how can we imbibe confidence in women that they can do anything they want.”
“My advice to all young women is, ‘Do not worry about what others think, but what do I think. What do I believe?’ That is the starting point of change. You have to stop feeling guilty about dreaming, whether it is climbing the corporate ladder, or whether it is becoming an entrepreneur, you have to own it.”
Chandrashekhar, during his tenure as President of the 2400-member NASSCOM, has helped bring the focus on the Indian startup scene, of which Debjani Ghosh too is an avid supporter. The Indian IT sector’s promising startup market has been bulging in the past two years, registering a steady growth, as has been shown by the latest NASSCOM/Zimnov report. Expectations from Ms. Ghosh will also be to not just maintain but accelerate the growth in the Indian startup ecosphere, which should not be a formidable task for her since her enthusiasm for seeing India as a digital nation has seen her planning Intel programs with a focus on digital literacy and innovative technology.