Leading Human Resources Strategist
‘If you have come into this world leave some mark behind, otherwise what is the difference between you and the trees and the stone – they also come into existence and die’ – Swami Vivekananda.
Saswati Sinha, follower of Swami Vivekananda and award winning human resources strategist, has left many a mark in the corporate world. In recent times, she was acknowledged as one of the Top 100 and Top 101 HR Minds in India by World HRD Congress in 2018 and 2019 consecutively. In 2020, she was the winner of the Top 101 Fabulous HR Leaders. The year also saw her being honoured with the Heroes award for top women HR leaders by Observe Now, and presented by Ms Maneka Gandhi.
A Human Resource leader with more than 21 years of experience in people, processes and strategy, Saswati’s story began in the small town of Guwahati in Assam, India. After completing her MBA in HR and additional graduation in Law, she relocated to Delhi with her first job.
Coming from a protected environment to a metro city and staying in a women’s hostel was an eye opener and not easy. “Fortunately I didn’t face any professional obstacle because of my gender. The challenges were many, mainly because of my circumstances. But every challenge was an opportunity to learn and grow. The biggest personal challenge was to manage my time between work and home while also taking out time for self care. The biggest mistake women make is not prioritising self care and always putting themselves last,” says Saswati in hindsight.
Saswati started her career in Delhi with a small manufacturing firm. From there she moved on to IT, Media, KPO, Media and Advertising, and across the gamut of service industry.
In between she got married and had a baby. Along with a new city, career and personal milestones, it was a roller coaster ride, recalls Saswati, adding, “Any balancing requires a strong partnership. I was fortunate to find a strong partner in my husband and my parents have been pillars on which I lean even today. I took a break in my career from full time job to prioritise my son but was lucky enough to work all through the break in long term assignments with flexible timings.”
Saswati has worked with Media, Advertising, IT and ITeS Industry to set benchmarks and develop HR as a ‘solution provider’ and ‘enabler’ rather than ‘support’. She has worked on global mandates and delivered best practices across geographies beyond India like Chile, China and Europe.
In present times when diversity is driving hiring, does she think corporates across the world are doing enough for their female employees? “Flexible hours, extended maternity leaves, a safe environment to work in, are all not something special. Over and above these there is conscious effort to bring in more women by supporting gender diversity and removal of ‘unconscious bias’ inside the organisation,” she says.
Currently, Saswati is the Senior Vice President and Head of Human Resources in Cheil India. She has been in top leadership/decision making roles since the last nine years and developed talent, culture and integration strategies across leadership levels.
Being an accomplished women’s leader in the corporate world, what strategies according to her can help women achieve a more prominent role? “They have to start with themselves and believe they can do justice to their professional and personal commitments at the same time. Most women leave their profession at mid level leading to what we refer to as ‘leaking pipeline’. The first strategy is to build a personal infrastructure which can help when they are at work. The second strategy is to be vocal at the workplace with their ideas, thoughts and career progression.”
For Saswati, there have been many learnings along the way. But she says what kept her inspired was ‘home’. “I belong to a state (Assam) where women are respected and valued. They work in partnership with men. All of them have been my role models because of their resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, strong will and never say die attitude.”
Home for Saswati is also harmony. In her time off, you can always find her at home with her family either reading or sleeping. “I love travelling and reading. I have travelled across India and many parts of the world. I have more than 5000 books (hard copies) and uncountable electronic books.”
Ask Saswati her biggest achievement, and she says without a blink, “My biggest personal achievement will always be my son who is in standard 12 right now.”
And mantra for success? ‘Arise awake and stop not till the goal is reached’, she says quoting Swami Vivekananda again.