Executive Director, Emcure Pharma, and India Head, YEA!, Namita Thapar talks about her journey to the top of the rung on the business-ladder, the stereotypes she (and most other women) often have to face in this neck of the woods, and the *three* mental obstacles women need to overcome to be able to realise their true potential, among other insightful learnings from her stint so far.
Cosmo: Tell us a little about your journey to becoming the ED of Emcure Pharmaceuticals,
Namita Thapar: “I began my career by working in a CA firm, actually. That was followed by working at a pharma company in the US for six years, in various finance and marketing roles. This work experience outside Emcure really helped shape my work ethic. At Emcure, I spent the first 10 years as the CFO. Since the last 4 years, I handle the India business, where we engage with over 2 lakh doctors through our 3,000 medical representatives across the country, to educate and create awareness around 17 therapeutic areas. I am also helping Emcure navigate the digital era by driving several unique initiatives.”
C:What do you think are some qualities that make one a good entrepreneur?
NT: “I think an entrepreneur is driven, more than anything else, by purpose and a deep-seated desire to solve the most complex problems with speed and quality. Drive, resilience, and comfort with failure are the most important qualities that allow you to stay the course in the ups and downs that follow.”
C: You have also spoken extensively about the need to allow ‘dissent’ at work. Tell us a little bit about that, and why do you think it is important?
NT: “People must understand that dissent is not disrespect. It is competition for ideas and letting the best ones prevail. For the best decisions to emerge, candour is important, and so dissent must be encouraged, too. Dissent also ensures that everyone feels valued, respected, and part of a larger purpose as they all have a voice and they all are heard. This is a winner culture for any company, as it nurtures creativity and innovation. A bunch of yes-men and yes-women will only lead to herd-mentality and hurt the company in the long run.”
C:As a woman leader, what are your views on women supporting and mentoring other women. How critical to do you think it is for any social progress?
NT: “Women’s labour-participation was already declining pre-COVID-19, and the pandemic has only made matters worse for women, due to the increased burden of home care in addition to unpredictable work schedules. That’s why, it is important for women in positions of power to make a difference, by having policies and culture conducive to working women. At Emcure, for instance, we have Prerna—an initiative to encourage more women to return to workforce post marriage and motherhood.”
C: What are some important lessons that you have learnt on the way, that you think other women can benefit from?
NT: “I’ve realised that, very often, women keep themselves from dreaming big (by getting caught up in guilt), not speaking up enough, and not asking for help. If they can overcome these three mental barriers, they can truly make the difference to the world while realising their own full potential.”
C:Have there been any instances when you've had to face gender-based discriminations or stereotypes?
NT: “We, women, face biases all the time—we are judged unfairly if we speak up a lot, or if we are loud. Often, men have a problem taking critical feedback from a woman boss/ colleague. In addition, we may be subjected to regressive questions like, ‘Will you come back post-pregnancy?’, or ‘Will you be able to work late hours?’, etc. All this demonstrates what a long way we have to go to achieve gender equality at work.”
C:How did you tackle and overcome those?
NT: “By letting my work speak for itself—unshakeable facts, strong evidence, and successful outcomes are the best ways to earn respect. Also, as someone in a position of control, giving equal opportunity to my team members ensures that such a culture does not prevail, at least at Emcure. Finally, I can’t emphasise the importance of having/creating the right support system around you, that lets you navigate through your many roles with ease.”
C: What are some changes the world needs, to become a better, fairer place for women?
NT: “We need to get rid of societal biases, and work harder to have more women join the workforce. This can happen only through education and proper conditioning right from childhood.”
C: Finally, Who are some women you look up to for inspiration?
NT: “I admire my mother, for her compassion and style. She is my rock and my biggest support system. My friend, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, inspires me by being bold and outspoken, and carving out a unique, self-made niche through the dint of her hardwork, innovation, and persistence.”