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The SHEROES Contributor

Deep Kalra

Deep Kalra is the Founder of India's leading online travel company, MakeMyTrip.com. Launched in India in 2005, MakeMyTrip offered the convenience of online transactions coupled with great value prices, revolutionizing the way Indians research and purchase travel services. MakeMyTrip is today the largest e-commerce business in the country. Having steered the MakeMyTrip business as CEO since its inception in 2000, Deep took on the role of Group CEO in August 2013, to focus on Strategy, M&A and international businesses. Deep continues to lead the Group's strategic developments and overall execution excellence.
Deep has been associated with TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Delhi Board since 2007 and took over as the President in January 2013. He served on the NASSCOM Executive Council from 2010-2013. He is also an active Angel Investor in the Internet space.
Keenly interested in contributing to society, Deep is a founding member of "I am Gurgaon" - an NGO focused on improving the quality of life in Gurgaon. He is also closely involved with Udayan Care and GiveIndia.

Diversity in the Boardroom


Women have been hard at work, breaking the proverbial glass ceiling since the early 80s. Nearly thirty-odd years on, we see them holding less than 5% of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 CEO positions. This, despite the fact that more women than men have graduated from American Universities with bachelor's degrees in every year since 1982 - in 2012,women earned close to 60% of all bachelor's degrees in America. In India, 11% of nearly 250 mid and large domestic companies and MNCs have women CEOs. The issue goes beyond the CEO position to less titular but critical decision-making roles. Out of the top Fortune 500 companies, 135 still have no female executive officers. These all-male companies include big-name brands such as Apple, Delta Air Lines, Exxon Mobile and Google.

Evidently there is great disparity in women seeking and being accepted in high-level decision-making roles which is not easily explained by their educational and professional achievements or the seriousness with which employers pursue a diverse work-place. There are a variety of factors at play but what stands out very clearly is that while we have traversed a long path in creating an equal-opportunity work-place the same cannot be said about the level of diversity in our Board rooms.

I have personally experienced working in industries as varied such as Banking, Sports & Entertainment and Services. Each of these stints was with equal-opportunity employers who had a reputation for healthy representation of women in the work-place. Having imbibed some of their workplace best-practices helped create a distinct employer-brand for MakeMyTrip. Flexibility@work and a Fun environment rank high on the list of our promise to employees, and we have a good diversity-ratio at the entry and mid-level tier. However, we are woefully short of an ideal gender ratio at senior levels. This is a challenge facing most employers in India - one we need to find a way to remedy on priority.

As a professional, I have deep respect and appreciation for what women bring to the workplace. They invest in their work personally, are generally more conscientious workers, better team-players and great collaborators. But there is more to fostering an equal-opportunity workplace at senior levels than just an employer's interests and the unique perspectives that women leaders bring to the table. More and more marketers are recognizing women as the driving force of purchase decisions for a wide variety of products and services — from Healthcare to Home Furnishings to Clothing & Apparel as well as White Goods and FMCG products. Travel is no different. While men may form a majority of buyers of travel-products, most holiday decisions — whether for couples, or small and large family holidays — are influenced by women. And while we have seen more and more women step up to Leadership roles in shop-floors, Automotive industry, BFSI, Manufacturing and FMCG sectors, the Travel sector is sorely lacking in a diverse representation of women at decision-making levels.

At MakeMyTrip we have tried to leverage the strengths women bring to the Travel business with a work-from-home model. Our Holiday Expert program has been designed specifically for stay-at-home women between the age group of 20-45, who have a knack for travel. By being a Holiday Expert these women enjoy the privilege of working from home and helping customers choose holiday packages best suited to their needs. The program empowers homemakers to fulfil their professional ambitions while managing their household responsibilities by offering them the freedom and flexibility to choose the pace of their career. The program has showcased remarkable results within a relatively short time, and we have scaled it up to nearly a third of our total work-force.

It is clear then that for reasons not entirely related to their work-performance, most women tend to drop off the organizational-growth curve at a very sensitive point in their career-timeline. This often adversely impacts their fitment for CXO-level roles at a later stage. It requires deeper investigation to identify whether and how this ties in to their job-functions and area of operations and the industries they work in. There are perplexing trends. Among Indian women CEOs, 54% are from the Banking & Financial Services sector. In Global Fortune 500 Companies, BFSI sector accounts for 7% of women CEOs while FMCG and Consumer Durables has the lion's share at 48%. Indian FMCG companies on the other hand account for 20% of women CEOs in India. The Technology-ITeS industry has the maximum representation among 23 Fortune 500 CEOs with 4 women CEOs, followed by Media and F&B businesses with 2 each.

To make real progress in solving this conundrum there is a very strong need to start an industry-wide dialogue on the challenges that decelerate the momentum of senior women executives' careers, thereby impacting their future growth. There is a very real deficit of senior women talent and all businesses will feel the pinch sooner than later. The presence of women leaders on our Boards is vital to shape a global, diverse work-place that is rich in perspectives and varied opinions. We will all serve our business and our society better in expediting this.

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