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Women on Top in Tech – Navneet Nayyar, Associate Vice President and Regional Business Head SEA at Sterlite Technologies Limited.



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is my interview with Navneet Nayyar, Associate Vice President and Regional Business Head for South East Asia and SAARC at Sterlite Technologies Limited. An avid speaker and technology enthusiast who believes in participating and contribution at various thought leadership events to keep pace with the fast changing environment. This has led to product innovation and new solutions in areas like Digital Partner Settlement, IOT, API-led models, SDN, Digital Customer Journeys etc.

What makes you do what you do?

I think the primary reason I am doing this is because I aspired to carve a niche for myself in the world of Telecommunications and Technology. It helps me connect with the marketplace as well as the tech that enables the marketplace. Telco is a dynamic space, which is not only consistently evolving and changing itself but also significantly impacts each & every industry and is a driver for transformation in them. Hence it keeps me going by learning each day and looking forward to new developments around me.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

To be honest, I started my career as a solutions architect, I was not a business leader to
start with. I started my role in tech, slowly and gradually I did my MBA in Marketing and
from there I flipped the coin. I always felt there is a bridge from the tech that would drive business, which is today a reality. And I guess my persistence and conviction paid off. Today with the eruption of digital, technology and business are used interchangeably.

Further, my inherent inquisitive nature to learn new stuff and explore unknown space made me stick with this industry and as a result, I just like what I do. I guess that’s why I have done well for myself and my organization.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

Firstly, the leadership demographic itself has changed from what is used to be 20 years back and how it is today and how it will be in future. The image of a leader in early 80s was a grey-haired person with a suit and tie. Today that’s not the case.

Today’s world is fast changing, e.g. – If I had to look at the recent phenomenon. Mobile data has changed over 4000 folds in the last 10yr and 80% of that growth has come in the last 2 years. You see the pace at which it is changing. If I expect a person who started with Mainframes to innovate on what can be done on a digital SIM or bitcoin, it cannot happen. For this either he must be a genius who has constantly evolved himself faster than the pace at which the world is evolving. Or get some young blood who is hungry, impatient and can run with the pace to match the disruption.

When I joined my organization around 6 years back, I have given a challenge, We had zero presence in Southeast Asia and the task was to make an impact starting as a Sales director. Making this greenfield region into a multi-million dollar region was a challenge and today looking back makes it feel like a roller coaster ride. South East Asia is one of the growth levers for our organization and has not just given us revenue growth but also some of the best in class transformation stories in the Telco space.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

I will say I have multiple mentors. I try to learn and get inspiration from every inspiring individual I come across, whether they are renowned names like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Indra Nooyi, Narendra Modi or even my family and friends There is plenty to learn from them and I do learn from each one of them. A simple idea of a growing start up coming up with something interesting can also influence you. So I don’t have one particular mentor I look up to, I tend to pick up all whatever I think is inspiring and bring about a positive influence on me.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

We all know these are uncertain and hence exciting times because everyone and everything around us is changing at such rapid pace. So how can we keep up with this change? And probably that’s the answer to this question. For myself as well as for growing talent. Continuous reading, you have to continuously read and you need to specifically give yourself time outside the mundane work that you are doing. I will have my goals, targets, KRA but 2 hours in a day I need to step out of that space and see what I need to do to survive myself in this fast changing world. A better way to put it, ‘To grow myself’. I read and follow editions/ webinars on how technologies are changing right, what are the recent upcoming trends, there are so many journals, so many startups who are innovating and you need to follow their innovation. Put yourself out of the box and challenge yourself each day. I look for the similar traits before hiring people. I believe in hiring people who are better than me and I can look up to them and learn from them. I strongly believe that hierarchies in organizations have
been destroyed and any growing organization will have to be flat. Essentially all it means is to have an equal right to opinion and opportunities for each and every individual. Hence I follow these basic principles to spots, develop and grow key talents in my team and we all work as one team with a common goal in mind.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Diversity is a key element in today fast changing environment, while the technology is a common thread connecting people but at the same time, every country and its culture is unique. We need a diverse set of people in a team who can bring a flavor of new ideas and different aspects. Our workplace, like the nation and wider world, is made up of men and women of diverse racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, with varied lifestyles and approaches to life. Instead of trying to make everyone fit one mold, diversity acknowledges people’s differences and works with those differences to create a strong team.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Ability to lead is directly tied to one’s ability to inspire confidence in people. And to earn the confidence of your people in a world of the technology-driven world, you need to learn how to identify the driving forces that are shaping the future.I guess that holds true in terms of leadership traits for people as well as for organizations.

A leader of today focuses on agility — being able to change quickly based on external circumstances as a change from the outside in has been coming at an ever-increasing speed, and it’s only getting faster. To be a leader both today and in the future (again I am referring to people and organizations) you need to become adept not only at reacting to events but also anticipating a change. I believe that’s a general rule of thumb for me to identify someone as a leader. Look at any modern organization today from Google to any unicorn startups which is leading a change, you will realize they are all working towards controlling data and building models around predictions.

Advice for others?

Just follow yourself, live it and follow yourself. Make it as crazy as possible because the best of innovation comes from the craziest of things we do. Just follow your instincts and don’t let anyone run you down. Look for advice but do what you feel is right even it sounds crazy to others. Till the time, it is not crazy enough chances are someone else will also be thinking of the same idea. That’s how Google, Facebook, twitter have emerged and more of such examples are emerging in today’s world.

To learn more about Sterlite Technologies Limited, please see

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
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Is International Women’s Day just another Tokenism?



Yearly on 8th March around the world, we celebrate a day for women. This year that was 2 weeks ago, before this article was published.

A Question for You:

Did we change for the better after that day? or

Did we just all go back just to Business as Usual?

And if so, why?

As a psychologist and conscious leadership coach, I work to change mindsets to do more good in the world. We all know bad habits are hard to change. Ignoring Women talent and needs is a bad habit. Calling attention to it once in a while is simply not just not enough, it also assuages leadership guilt. The guilt alone does not lead to sustainable efforts to transformation.

We all know one International Women’s Day yearly is simply not enough.

One women’s group in your company is not enough.

One women’s breakfast in the technology conference is not enough.

One Women’s March is not enough.

But it is the start.

It’s the start. We need to join forces.

Join forces with leaders who read #MeToo and ask themselves what we must do today to reduce and end such harassment. Tech Leaders who are aware of the power of money and resources lying in the hands of a few heightens potential bullying and unwanted sexual advances. Leaders who actively act to counter or stop abuses and want to create new workplace cultures. Leaders who promote women on merit, but who also look to sponsor, mentor, and support more women to the senior leadership tracks.

We need a critical mass to tip Gender Parity to become the new norm. We need to dialogue and language new ways of being and leading in the world. We need daily, weekly, monthly habits to make gender parity the daily actionable. What is your daily actionable to not just gender parity, but inclusion and diversity in all aspects of our work and life? Let’s build the momentum by increasing connections across companies, countries, and communities. This article brings insight to what we can do next and communities you can support.

On March 8th, at 1880 , a private club where one of the focuses in women’s leadership, the Salon discussion was on “Undressing Feminism”. Participants spoke frankly about unwanted sexual advances and what both men and women can do to stop work and national or religious cultures where such actions are deemed normal. One husband joked about how he told his wife he was attending the event and she told him to shut up and listen carefully. We were all listening carefully and we spoke as a group with a transparency that is rarely found in conservative Asian culture and even in rather Westernized Singapore.

Who we heard from:

Matthew Spacie at Magic Bus

He spoke of his work in the non-profit and called out the terrifying statistics that should not be hidden or ignored.

This is an average Indian girl’s gender based obstacles throughout her lifetime

There are about 600 million women in India. They have the highest rate of infanticide of girls. Women are 56 times more likely to die before the age of 5 years as compared to boys.  If a girl does get to go to school; up to 53 percent drop out and only 1 percent graduate. 40 % of the women are married off as children.  If she gets to have a job, 40% are in unregulated work which means they can be bullied, paid less, and anything else without any external regulatory bodies to assist.

Aware’s Executive Director, Corinna Lim:

If the vision is – a society where there is true gender equality – where women and men are valued as individuals free to make informed and responsible choices about their lives. Then we look towards Aware, Singapore  as a resource – for their mission is to remove all gender-based barriers so as to allow individuals in Singapore to develop their potential to the fullest and realise their personal visions and hopes.

In fact, after the #MeToo movement came out, there were 80% more calls to sexual harassment center in Singapore. And Corrina shared how one in ten women in Singapore has been physically abused by a man. Do know that AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre, the only centre that supports victims of sexual assault and harassment  can be reached at  6779 0282.

Survivor of War, Human Trafficking, and Sexual Assault, Lurata Lyon:

Forgiveness is what is needed to heal and also to take the lessons and give ourselves strength. She shared how she was molested in Singapore by a British expat and she immediately grabbed his phone to keep him there while she called the police. Her two children were with her and thankfully a local pregnant woman came and stood by her as the man tried to force her hand to let go of his phone. She reminded the audience that this could not have been the first time this man acted in this unacceptable manner, yet how many others had let his behavior slip through our silence.

Asian Feminist Role Model, Activist, and Burlesque Artist, Sukki Singapora:

“Someone has got to be brave. If it is not you, it’ll have to be someone else. So make it you.”

Sukki braved her family’s strict culture and Singapore’s public indecency laws to fully express herself in her choice of art and profession, burlesque. She left us wondering why should sensuality be repressed? What is the world so afraid of? Her choice of expression was initially considered a crime in the public decency act of Singapore. Now she is a champion and face of freedom of expression for women in socially restrictive countries.

These conversations can evoke small changes in public consensus which will bring about swift changes in the societal consensus, that’s why we have political debates during the elections.  We are part of that dialogue, debate, and actionable steps and accountability. It’s our call to not let International Women’s Day fall on deaf ears. Let’s not just have one token discussion on one day set aside, but make such discussions a daily act.

Thanking Matthew, Corinna, Lurata, Sukki, and Marc Nicholson panel moderator and co-founder, 1880 for allowing their stories to inspire and confront us all again with the unknowing discrimination and bullying we may be supporting under our own roofs.

Like this piece?

See my article on International Women’s Day

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Women on Top in Tech – Vidya Vellala, Founder and CEO of Faasthelp



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Vidya Vellala is the Founder and CEO of Faasthelp, a 24/7 (round the clock) customer support on any business application through Artificial intelligence powered products. It analyzes what the customer is asking using natural language processing, machine learning and processes that to give the accurate responses to the customers instantly. Vidya is an Entrepreneur with a passion for innovation and latest technologies, having 17 years of Technology Experience. She won the India’s Best Startup CTO by Dell EMC.

What makes you do what you do?
I believe technology can solve any problem. Innovations in technology can improve the quality of life and the quality of work people does.
I am grown with a mindset which says self-sympathy is the enemy of self and hard work consistently without expecting a result will open bigger pathways. What I am doing is the combination of all.
Being an entrepreneur is an eternal learning which I love and I enjoy playing with technology and challenges that is the reason why I am doing what I am doing today.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Updating myself with the latest technologies is a must. Having said that, that alone is not sufficient. Always thinking positively, fighting against the fears, perseverance, and working hard helps.
I am lucky to have a big support from my family. My sisters who are also into technology field, make my life more beautiful and meaningful, to share not only the personal but also technical matters with them.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
With the bigger goal of supporting the future generations, this is the beginning. It had to start somewhere. In the very long journey this is the first step that I took.
My current startup is Faasthelp. We build artificial intelligence products.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him?
There have been many mentors at all stages of my startup. A startup eco system has brought me too many friends and mentors who have been very helpful at every stage of my startup and I am thankful to all of them.
My primary mentors in my life are my parents. The spirit of entrepreneurship was ignited when I was a kid and my mother was managing her small industry. The strong value system, sense of service, and responsibility towards the society is instilled in me by my dad. The strong urge to do something by myself was driven by my parents. They are the role models and driving factors.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I take personal interest in grooming and nurturing talent. I have established processes that identify the potential talent and to groom. I play to the best of their strengths and encourage them to take risks. My business needs also drive me to develop new skills and grow them. I value emotional intelligence and so is the strength of my team.

Do you consciously or subconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and subconsciously support diversity, this again I can say got from my parents, my dad always wanted all women to be empowered and my mother had more women in her work force.
I have mentored women entrepreneurs, especially in their technical initiatives as I come with a vast technical expertise. I have extended my entrepreneurial connections to other women entrepreneurs. Our organization has more women representation.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
To be a great leader, you have to be a good leader, for that you must be a good human being, driven by high values, honesty, and ethics with great empathy for the people around.
Motivating the team, being a good listener with persistent hard work is a general thumb rule. Now there might be several ways to implement these and depending on the industry the implementation might differ but the ground principles remain same.
Entrepreneurship is continuous learning and I encourage others to do the same. Aim high and work towards the set goals is a way to go. I believe mindset to do service is also a way to become a good leader.

Advice for others?
Always be positive and create a positive impact on everyone. Have your values defined and do not compromise on them at any cost. Each small step taken towards the big thing is important, value them and go ahead, you will succeed surely. Success is something which we define our self and it can be achieved from any field and anywhere, on the way keep helping others.
The present focus is to develop the startup which I have taken up and my next idea is to continue to innovate and create technology products which will improvise human life.

If you’d like to get in touch with Vidya Vellala, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Faasthelp, please click here.

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