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Minakshi Batra

Minakshi Batra

Director
IDA Ireland
 
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A Brief Introduction
Currently I head India operations of IDA Ireland, the Irish government agency responsible for attracting FDI into Ireland.

I completed my Masters degree in clinical psychology from Delhi University in the 1980s. Back then, getting a job in this field was a Herculean task. That’s when I decided to shift my attention to the corporate world. My professional career began in 1984 as a market analyst with the trade office of the Spanish embassy. There I was responsible for helping Spaniards understand the Indian market and the investment opportunities available here.  I was also closely involved in various joint ventures that were forged between companies of the two countries.  For instance, in the Boomer Chewing gum-Dabur joint venture, I was instrumental in all the concerned activities right from market analysis, research to finding right partners. This gave me a commendable exposure to the entire corporate world.
Post my job at the Spanish Embassy, I moved to Môn dragon Corporation in 1998, the 7th largest conglomerate in Spain with a turnover of close to 40bn USD and a presence in 134 companies. Being the country manager, my role was to develop business for the group companies in India. This group had companies from various industries ranging from ranging from electrical transformers, wind turbines to furniture and home appliances to banks and retail chain of super markets. 
However, within a few years of my joining, most of the companies were well aware of the investment opportunities in India and also the most profitable sectors for investments. At this time there were close to 11 companies from the group in some stages of entering India. This gradually made me feel I had achieved what I had set out to do. Subsequently, I was looking out for opportunities which were more challenging and beyond the role that I played at Môn dragon; a role that taught me more than what I already knew and also where I could best put my skills and knowledge for the organization’s benefit.
The opportunity with IDA Ireland came along in 2007. Here the role was challenging as my job profile was exactly the opposite of what I used to do. Instead of attracting FDI into India, I was now responsible for inward FDI into Ireland from India. As a custodian of brand Ireland, I would be responsible for educating Indian audiences about a relatively lesser known yet supremely compelling investment destination. 
About The Company & My Role within it
IDA Ireland was established in 1969 by the Irish government with the primary role of attracting inward investments from other countries into Ireland. IDA is focused on securing investment from new and existing clients in the areas of High End Manufacturing, Global Services (including Financial Services) and Research, Development and Innovation. Key sectors within these areas for investments are:
Information Communications Technology (ICT)
Life Sciences (Pharmaceutical, Biopharmaceutical and Medical Technologies)
Engineering
Professional Services
Digital Media
Consumer Brands and International Services

All of these sectors have been carefully selected by the Irish government, as they have the best chances of flourishing in a country like Ireland. The in-bred talent pool, multilingual capabilities, opportunities to scale up, and a flexible workforce all add up to providing the best-in-class infrastructure and opportunities for various companies to set-up base and expand aggressively in Ireland.
Additionally, IDA Ireland continues to work with investors and companies to encourage and assist in expanding and developing their businesses.
To elaborate on my role, I am primarily in charge of the business development side. I also lead and groom a team to market Ireland as best as possible and secure maximum number of projects of investment into Ireland.  Additionally, I play a key role in painting a realistic picture of India in terms of the kind of projects handled from here, the attitude, the work culture, the cultural differences etc to the Irish management. This helps them develop better value propositions for the Indian companies. I also oversee the HR aspects as well wherein I ensure that my team members are giving their best output.
Striking A Balance
As mentioned earlier, my previous job required a lot of travelling. To ensure that I gave enough time to my family as well, I made a conscious decision to cut down on travel such that I attended only those meetings where my presence was indispensable. This not only helped my team members grow, but also reduced my work load thereby helping me get more time for myself.

Important Career Choices Made
I have always been a drifter and a learner, taking opportunities as they came along. When clinical psychology wasn’t working for me, I made a conscious decision to look out in the corporate world.
With a non corporate/commercial/economic background, I came up the hard way, learning things which were completely new for me. However, I made sure I thoroughly understood every aspect of the job and industry I was working in. This translated into knowledge and better performance, which placed me on the path to success and has helped me reach where I am today.
Visions as a Leader
As a leader my vision is to get every member of my team realize their complete potential. It’s only then, I’ll be able to lead the organisation in the right direction and achieve the goals set.
Challenges Faced as a Woman
Back in the late 1980s, the corporate world was yet to completely accept a woman co-worker. Hence, women back then had to put in that extra effort to be heard and taken seriously by her male colleagues. I too faced this challenge in my initial days wherein I was not taken seriously and a deaf ear was turned to my suggestions/proposals. However, I changed this challenge into a skill enhancing tool. 

Before presenting any business proposal, I would prepare myself thoroughly which enabled me to proactively provide answers to anticipated questions. This made me learn more, pay attention to minute details, observe a lot, thereby adding value to the proposals. This indeed made people sit up and take notice. Once the ice was broken and an image was carved for me, it was no longer a challenge.

My job role requires me to interact with decision makers of various companies which are mostly men. While a man could break the ice faster with the CXO over a smoke or drink, I was unable to do so as I don’t indulge in either of them. While the foreigners were more open to seeing a woman undertake a profile that involved a lot of travelling, the Indian counterparts were different and did portray hesitation in accepting my role. Hence, I had to be extremely cautious in the way I presented myself. For instance, meeting over dinner may go down well with foreign men while the Indian men could misunderstand and take me in the wrong sense. I insist on wearing a sari as well, not only because I adore draping myself in one but also to portray the ‘Indianness’ in me.

Yet another challenge was that my previous job required extensive travelling and I hardly got time to spend with my family. Though this was never viewed as a challenge, thanks to the immense support I got from my husband, I did gradually cut down on my travel by consciously stepping back and delegating the work to my team.  
Doing it Differently
As far as performing my job role is concerned, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I have always been happy with what I have done and given my 100% to everything. However, had I known the future path, I would have done an MBA instead of doing a Masters degree in Psychology. But even then, psychology has helped me tackle a lot of situations in my career as it helped me deal with and understand the psyche of people from different backgrounds.
An Opinion: Women Leaders Act as a Driving Force for Powering Businesses.
The world is now beginning to recognize that women are better leaders and they indeed drive a business far better than what men can do. Closer home, Chanda Kochar and Shikha Sharma are classic examples of woman power driving the organizations while internationally we have Marissa Mayer. Women are able to compromise or be firm when required. Also, personally speaking, I feel women are more hard-working, diligent and honest to their jobs. There are exceptions, of course.

The multi-tasking ability is inherent in a woman as she manages her house as seamlessly as her job. This home-managing quality also makes a woman empathise with co-workers and also negotiate well. 

Lessons Learned from a Professional Life
I have understood that willingness to learn and the desire to understand the job well is what makes someone successful. However, it’s only your 100% effort that helps you grow in life. 

Dreams and Ambitions

Couple of years from now, I hope to fulfil my dream of contributing something to society by way of education. The quality of education in India, while at the higher level still continues to be very good, at a primary level I think has gone down. I wish to contribute to education in some meaningful manner.

An Achievement to Feel Proud About
I remember my husband being proud of me when I got the IDA job as there were a lot of people contending for this position. By that time he had seen the growth in my confidence. However, what make me proud is that every team I have led have always had people coming back to me saying that they love coming to work owing to the good working atmosphere. The very fact that my colleagues are appreciative of this trait makes me proud. 
A Message for the Women

I would like to advise the community of fellow women professionals, to never consider yourself as inferior to anyone. The whole world is now sitting up and taking notice of our capabilities outside the four walls of our homes.  There may be challenges when we women have to be better prepared than a man might be or put in that extra effort to gain success but we just have to be aware of the fact that there is absolutely nothing that a man can do which a woman can’t.

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