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Two trailblazing women attract wide attention

September 2006
Two trailblazing women attract wide attention

Their socioeconomic backgrounds are vastly different and the paths they travel on have nothing in common. Yet what Baby Halder and Indra Nooyi do share is a trailblazing ability to break down barriers and inspire other women, especially those who are Indian or of Indian origin. And recently, they did just that by reaching impressive milestones in their respective journeys. Halder, against great odds, overcame the harsh circumstances of her life to become the author of a best-selling book that chronicles her saga in India. Abandoned by her mother at a tender age, Halder was raised by an indifferent father, who then married her off while she was still a girl. But a resourceful Halder left her abusive husband and, along with her three children, escaped to Delhi, where she worked as a maid for a series of employers. Prabodh Kumar, her latest boss, is a retired professor of anthropology who also happens to be the grandson of Premchand, the great Hindi litterateur. Noticing her interest in his books, he encouraged Halder to write about her life. Which she began to do at night after her kids went to sleep. The resulting work, edited by Kumar, has already appeared in three Indian languages and become a sensation in India. Now an English version titled A Life Less Ordinary, translated by Urvashi Butalia, is also available. Other translations are being planned and, reportedly, Halder is writing another book even as continues to work for Kumar, who can now be seen as a benefactor rather than her boss. Indra Nooyi's achievement, on the other hand, is remarkable because as an India-born woman in corporate America, she has broken through a formidable glass ceiling to become the first woman CEO of PepsiCo, the world's fourth largest food-and-beverage company. No other woman leads a larger U.S. firm than PepsiCo, at least in terms of market capitalization, and even when it comes to the Fortune500 category, Nooyi is one of only eleven female CEOs. A graduate of Madras Christian College and the Indian Institute of Management, Nooyi also studied management at Yale. Named the CFO of PepsiCO in 2001, Nooyi's other accomplishments in a path-breaking career include stints at Motorola and the Boston Consulting Group. For the year 2005, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal picked Nooyi as one of the ‘50 Most Powerful Women in Business' and one of the ‘Top 50 Women to Watch.'

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