Vinita Bali, 56 is the MD of Britannia industries who transformed old biscuit company into a fast growing food brand in the face of tough competition. She has also developed a good record that has made her a role model for women executives.
Like all of my friends I was keen on joining the Foreign Service after graduating in Economics from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi. But I wanted to do a Master’s degree before I could write that exam so I experimented for a week each with both Delhi School of Economics and Jawaharlal Nehru University to do an MA in Economics as I had admission to both. But all of that changed, when, in parallel, I also made it to IIM-Kolkata and the Jamanalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai.
At that point, prompted by a cousin, I thought that living in Mumbai for two years would be fun and that led to JBIMS. The plan still was to write the Foreign Service exam after my MBA. However, as it happens in all management institutes, I got first job in Voltas even before I completed the course and the rest is history. Voltas gave me a wonderful break and I launched Rasna is the fruit drink concentrate that became an instant success and is still doing well.
After a work experience with Voltas, I moved to Cadbury where, as a young brand manager I had the privilege of presenting to the then global Chairman. That was a special moment and is forever engrave in my memory. While at Cadbury, I got a fully paid scholarship from the Rotary International in 1982 to study abroad, and jumped at the opportunity. It was a great experience to be a student all over again in the US and I loved the flexibility and eclectic nature of education there. I later experience an internship at the United Nations in New York and for the first time. I also made friends from around the world and talked to people about their experiences (in Vietnam, South Africa, Cambodia etc.) that I had only read about or seen in films. Soon after, Cadbury offered me a Senior Brand Manager role in the UK, and I launched the first aerated chocolate called “Wispa” which also was an instant success.
She is a global business leader with wide experience in leading large Companies both in India and overseas. She has worked with eminent multinationals like The Coca-Cola Company and Cadbury in a variety of marketing and general management roles in the UK, Nigeria, South Africa, Chile and the USA, in addition to Britannia Industries Ltd., in India.
From April 2014, Vinita is pursuing her interests in the corporate and development sectors, through a portfolio of roles and responsibilities. Vinita is among 27 global leaders appointed by the UN to help improve maternal and child health as part of its SUN (Scaling up Nutrition) initiative. She has been recognized in forums nationally and internationally and has won several awards for her various contributions to business.
After serving for eight years as the managing director of Britannia Industries, Vinita Bali is reportedly set to leave the company, and give her postion to Varun Berry, current chief operating officer. . Bali was the first woman to head a major consumer goods company in India. She joined the company in 2005, when there was no MD or chief executive officer (CEO). After two years after Sunil Alagh left as MD and CEO after a dispute with the Wadias, Britannia’s promoters. Bali increases the company’s sales growth, strengthened Britannia’s brand image, and launched fast-growing health food products.
The company is expected to announce the organisational changes and a new management structure by the month-end. As the company prepares for a new growth strategy focusing on high-margin products and innovations amid stiff competition from ITC, Parle and Danone, all eyes are on the new chief Berry.
Berry has already proved his capability earlier at PepsiCo. Will he able to reinvent the Britannia brand?