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Women of substance


In this male dominated industry, certain women have created a distinct mark through their work. As the world celebrated the Women’s Day this month, Construction Week salutes the spirit of some of these special women. Pics & coordination by Mexy Xavier

She is: Brinda Chinnappa Somaya

Her role: managing director & principal architect, Somaya & Kalappa Consultants Pvt Ltd

Her journey:  Completed her MA from Smith College, USA after graduating from Sir JJ College of Architecture, Mumbai. Her work spans corporate, industrial and institutional clients and extends to public spaces which she has rebuilt and sometimes reinvented as pavements, parks and plazas. These include the Colaba Woods, Ganeshpuri Temple and pavements in South Mumbai.

Her thoughts: “Development and progress must proceed without straining the cultural and historic environment. The architect’s role is that of guardian – his/hers is the conscience of the built and un-built environment.”

She is: Dr Archana Hingorani

Her role: CEO & executive director, IL&FS Investment Managers Ltd

Her journey: BA (Economics) with post-graduate qualifications in management (MBA) as well as a PhD in corporate finance from the University of Pittsburgh, USA. Over 22 years experience in the financial services business, teaching and research. Has been instrumental in IL&FS’s foray into the private equity business and has made investments with an aggregate capitalisation value in excess of $8.2 billion.

Her thoughts: “Maybe 2009 is a very rough year and in India we are going to feel it more since we won’t be growing at the pace we are used to. These are challenging times and they call for focus on core skill sets.”

She is: Abha Narain Lambah

Her role: conservation architect & historical building consultant

Her journey: Masters degree in architectural conservation from the School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi. Received various fellowships. Only architect to win 5 UNESCO Asia Pacific Awards. Projects include restoration of the BMC HQ, Elphinstone College, Tata Palace (Deutsche Bank), Mani Bhavan, Sir JJ School of Art and the now famous Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Road precincts.

Her thoughts: “After making numerous presentations to several officials for two years, I directly enlisted locals for Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Road restoration. This group now meets every Monday to take stock of the effort, encouraging other stakeholders to take charge of their own areas and contribute positively in the protection and upgradation of their neighbourhoods.”

She is: Sonal Patel

Her role: managing director, Patel Engineering Ltd

Her journey: Started earlier than most people, helping her father run an engineering company. Left for the US to pursue an executive programme in business management at Babson College. Was instrumental in taking over two companies in the US including a Utah based micro tunnelling company. During a visit to India in 2006, Patel Engineering was going for an IPO. Her father roped her in and within three weeks along with her brother she rushed all over the world garnering support to wrest control of Patel Engineering.

Her thoughts: “I broke rules and challenged the barriers I faced being non-conventional. What urges me on is getting a high when trying and winning in new unchartered territories.”

She is: Aditi Watve

Her role: COO, Flagship Infrastructure (P) Ltd

Her journey: Started as an architect and then went on to do her MBA at ISB, Hyderabad. Joined Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj Pvt Ltd in August 2007 as a consultant and closed one of the biggest deals worth Rs 8000 crore. Subsequently took up her current job in December 2008.

Her thoughts: “One of my best experiences has been to be a part of the Blue Ridge project right from its inception as part of the fundraising and to have an active role in conceptualising and providing architectural inputs.”

She is: Swapnali Bhonsale

Her role: managing director, Swapnali Bhonsale Constructions

Her journey: BCom from Symbiosis & Masters in Finance from Cardiff Business School. After graduation, she worked with B&P Paribas and ICICI before starting her venture, Swapnali Bhonsale Constructions. Though apprehensive at the onset, she subsequently grew in confidence spending every single day at the site, right from the day the first brick was laid.

Her thoughts: “Creation is something I am very passionate about. I believe in what my father says – ‘It’s the creation that’s going to stand’. Opportunity is life’s gift. Success is destiny’s gift. And manifestation of success is God’s gift.”

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October 2020
03 Oct 2020