She was Aditya Birla’s first woman employee, and now is its first woman CFO

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Pinky Mehta, who broke the glass ceiling 24 years ago when she became first woman officer to be hired by the Aditya Birla Group company, Indian Rayon, has once again set a benchmark.

She has been appointed as the Chief Financial Officer of Aditya Birla Nuvo, becoming the first woman in the 68-year-old group to attain the post. She will take charge in July this year.

Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, said Mehta has the versatile ability to handle multiple roles and willingly accept new challenges.
Mehta, 47, the class topper has long been used to competing vigorously with, and often besting, her male colleagues.

In an exclusive interview with Economic Times, Mehta said she owed her success mainly to her father Jagdish Dharia, who made sure that she does what she wanted because he could not fulfil his ambition of pursuing an MBA as he was forced to shoulder the responsibility of running the family after the untimely death of his father.

"My father cried the day he had to forego the MBA degree for starting a business to run the family. But this incident forced him to make sure that his children pursued their dreams. That is why I could turn to CA. My CA degree helped me break the glass ceiling early on," Mehta, who studied at South Mumbai's Fellowship School before opting for chartered accountancy, told ET.

During her first job, her first boss, the then CFO of Indian Rayon, DD Rathi, put Mehta's skills to test by making her handle complicated tax issues. As she mastered the intricacies of tax laws, a new wave of opportunity came about in the form of mergers and acquisitions in late 1990s.

As Kumar Mangalam was expanding the empire through acquisitions, Mehta was part of the team that structured the acquisition of Madura Garments, a transaction that transformed the group from a pure commodity player to a consumer-centric conglomerate.

"It gave me enough exposure to the art of settling shareholder agreements. And it also helped me understand the importance of doing due diligence in a deal of such magnitude," Mehta told the financial daily, who saw a string of assignments coming her way, including the acquisitions of Transworks, Minacs and Apollo Sindhoori.
ET also reported that at times Mehta spent hours waiting in jam-packed courtrooms. During the merger of Indo Gulf and Birla Global Finance, she made several trips to appear before the court in Ahmedabad, answering point-blank queries from the judges.

In 2009, she was appointed as the head of the management services division, and entrusted with executing many high-impact projects aimed at achieving commercial excellence.

"I am more of a mentor who gives directions. I also learn a lot from youngsters," said Mehta.

Over the years, more women have progressed in the group, which now has 16% women among its top management cadre.

"The recent appointment of Ruth Porat, the most powerful woman on Wall Street, as CFO of Google was an indication of women CFOs increasing their presence at the top," Satish Modh, director, VES Institute of management told ET.

(Image: Indiatimes)
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