17 May 2017
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Nisa Godrej Takes Over

38-year-old executive appointed to run consumer products division of her family’s $4.6 billion conglomerate

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Photo via The Hindu

After a decade of work at her family’s Mumbai-based conglomerate, Nisa Godrej (MBA 2006) has been appointed to head up the consumer products division—taking over for her father, Adi Godrej.

Godrej made her mark on the business by turning around Godrej Agrovet, an agribusiness division of the conglomerate. A 2014 profile in the HBS Alumni Bulletin outlines her approach:

Her first board placement upon returning [from HBS] was with Agrovet. She noticed gaping wounds in the balance sheet … and her ultimate recommendations were a challenge to leadership. But she met considerable resistance from the parent company chiefs, including her father. "Godrej has been one of those lifetime employers, and you don't change management," Nisa explains. "Within that year, I probably said I was quitting two or three times."

She didn't. Eventually, [her father] Adi relented and gave his daughter free rein.

Friends and colleagues describe the Agrovet episode as the opening act in Nisa's journey at Godrej, her almost missionary zeal to bring a "performance-oriented culture" to the 117-year-old firm. "No one," she says, "wants to take on people who've worked [at the company] for 25 years."

A recent piece in Quartz suggests that Godrej’s appointment is part of a larger cultural movement in India, with more and more women taking on visible executive roles.

Last July, Coca-Cola India appointed its first-ever female CFO, Sarvita Sethi. At beverage maker PepsiCo India, Deepika Warrier is the vice-president for the company’s nutrition category. Hindustan Unilever, the country’s largest consumer goods maker, has two women in its executive team. Geetu Verma heads its foods division and Priya Nair is executive director of its home care business. Marico India’s chief marketing officer is Anuradha Aggarwal. Nestle India has a woman in its management committee and two on its board of directors. Godrej Group itself recently appointed former Starbucks India CEO Avani Davda to head its gourmet retail business.

For women managers of India, the day has just begun it seems.

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Class of MBA 2006, Section F

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