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Women Leadership in Companies

by Sudha Chandrasekaran
(Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India)

In late 2019 in the month of September, few months before COVID-19 struck India, and after a long stay of 19 years in Walldorf, Germany, Sindhu Gangadharan returned to Bengaluru to take over as the head of SAPS Labs India., as its MD. Bengaluru born Gangadharan has made strides in breaking the glass ceiling and took on the mantle of this prestigious leadership, leading a powerful team of 8000 plus persons. Gangadharan has been with SAP Labs, a German tech giant, from 1999. Sindhu, a mother of two daughters is a role model for many mothers, who dream about taking on independent careers in the highly competitive corporate world. She is the first woman accountable for innovation and product development at the Research and Development facilities based in Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Gurugram. Simultaneously she is also the Senior Vice President of SAP User Enablement with several of her team members working from Walldorf.

On her return to India Gangadharan to head SAP Labs in India, after a couple of decades, she was all set to take on an important learning curve. By then, she was more a German in her professional life and her outlook as well. Her two daughters and her husband were deeply into the German way of living. She is of the opinion that being flexible in work life is very important and equally important is that of stepping out of our comfort zone whenever situations demand. Challenges are part of work life and that is what makes it more enjoyable. She is now glad that she accepted this role, as it has provided her with several diverse learning opportunities

Sindhu’s parents wanted her to pursue medicine, but her inclination was towards technology. She recalls that she found technology to be her cup of tea as it provided her with an opportunity to help the world run better with technology and secondly, she also became an integral part of this distinguished organisation. When SAP set foot in India in late 90’s, she was offered the post of a software developer for SAP’s CRM Middleware. A couple of years in Bengaluru and, Sindhu was off to SAP’s Headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, where she held several strategic positions.

Being the MD of SAP Labs in India, Sindhu supervises the working of more than 10,000 SAPians, with SAP Labs panning across the major cities of Pune, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Gangadharan remembers the exhilarating moment when she was assigned the role of the head of SAP’s strategic and global Intelligent Enterprise Program, wherein she reported directly to SAP’s Executive Board. This put her in the lead position that invigorated SAP’s goal and vision. It also energized the strategy of Intelligent Enterprise by assembling the end-to-end process delivery roadmaps to swiftly modifying data, which in turn lead into beneficial insights for customers.

The past year of Pandemic proved to be one of Gangadharan’s
biggest learning phases. It was a period of reaction and adaptation while trying to maintain regularity and normalcy. “When the pandemic hit, our primary focus was our employee safety, while making sure business continuity was not impacted in any way. About 77 percent of the world's transactions touch SAP system, which means the business continuity aspect is something important, and therefore we are completely committed to making sure that the business systems of our customers are always operational,” she says.
The concept of Work from Home, which was introduced last year, was not anything new to SAP team. Majority of the employees were equipped with all essential infrastructures In order to keep the employees’ spirits high and feel connected during this period, SAP introduced Come Alive initiative, which offers a wide range of online wellness, motivational and fun programs. These include Yoga, Zumba and music concerts as well.

The second wave of COVID-19 has seen SAP’s Crisis Management Team working 24x7, offering emergency services as and when needed. Sindhu asserts that challenges make work-life more enjoyable. Also, heading the team during these continuing pandemic times and steering them through unprecedented circumstances; and providing constant support to them and their families, has given her an immense satisfaction.

Sindhu is of the view that gender imbalance is mainly due to the mistaken belief that women professionals generally are weak and cannot cope up with hard work that leadership demands. She further states that, “male leadership traditionally means being more decisive and aggressive, whereas women leaders are more empathetic, have more patience and emotional intelligence.” This generally held view leads people to believe that women are incapable of making tough decisions. But there are examples to prove this point. For the first time in NASSCOM’s history, there are two women tech leaders taking on the mantle of Chairperson and President.

Gangadharan, being an Indian tech icon, always encourages women to make the best use of opportunities that are available to them. This, in turn, she believes, will prepare women to enter and finally head male-dominated industries like the one she is heading now. On recalling her initial days of heading this company, she says, “There’s initial apprehension conveyed through their body language, but they soon realise she knows what she’s saying.”

Gangadharan emphasises that more women need to join the workforce and she strongly believes that companies should adopt more women-friendly policies. In an interview, she was quoted saying, “Women make up 40% of the world’s workforce, as it is a male dominated field across all levels, and this is also why we have been focused on looking at initiatives for girl students coming from weaker socio-economic backgrounds and giving them an opportunity to come into the corporate world.”

Equal Pay for Equal Work Policy, in SAP promotes transparency in pay, which further establishes trust between women colleagues and SAP, motivating them to put their best foot forward....

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