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India’s largest liquor firm gets its first woman CEO

Source | | Anshul Dhamija

Hina Nagarajan has been named as the new managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO) of India’s largest liquor company, United Spirits Limited (USL), which is owned by British drinks giant Diageo, from July next year. With her elevation, she becomes the first woman to head the ₹28,500 crore-alcobev (alcoholic beverage) behemoth. And the industry is elated.

“The first woman to lead India’s largest liquor company is indeed symbolic and may bring a more positive narrative to the industry,” says Sanjay Jain, a financial adviser in the Indian spirits industry. “Calls for the bubbly only to see yet another capable, multifaceted leader take the challenge at the helm of a very visible company. And I like it,” adds Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, managing partner, Multiversal Advisory, a CXO search and advisory firm. Chetty-Rajagopal expressed hope that Nagarajan’s elevation was done because she has a history of successful stints behind her. “I’m guessing the focus will be on a spirited, effective leader, [and] not a pink checkbox,” she adds.

But Hina Nagarajan isn’t the first one in the industry. The alcobev sector in India is usually seen as primarily being male-dominated, with the erstwhile head of USL, Vijay Mallya and Kishore Chhabria of Allied Blenders and Distillers, seen as the industry’s poster boys. Puncturing this myth are also other women who have broken the glass-ceiling for a C-suite role in this sector.

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