Sumeet Singh, Group CMO of InfoEdge, has had a career trajectory like no other. Since the early 2000s, she has been part of major initiatives that shaped India’s path in Information Technology (IT). Today at the helm of one of the largest Internet-based companies in the country, she spoke to MAKERS India on her journey and shared her views on women empowerment at the workplace. She also shared tips for businesses and employers to get through these tough times and how the Coronavirus crisis is changing media consumption patterns.
“When I started out my career, I didn't have clarity on what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. All I knew was that I wanted to do very well and reach the top,” she recounts. “It's only with years of experience and maturity that clarity came in. I have been very fortunate to do different kinds of roles in my life.”
Sumeet says that she has “luckily” never felt discrimination because of her gender. “I’ve not faced bias as a woman, in my growing up years or in my career. I've been lucky to be born to parents who actually wanted daughters. When my mother was expecting, my father and my mother actually went to a Gurudwara and prayed for a girl child,” she tells MAKERS India.
Step by step
Growing up in an Army family, Sumeet had great exposure and discipline. Armed with an MBA degree, Sumeet was about 25 when she joined CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) in the northern region, headquartered out of Chandigarh. She was on the IT task force for 10 states in northern India, in charge of introducing IT initiatives in the northern part of the country.
“That was a very big challenge,” Sumeet recollects, “I was young, and there were not too many women in the government committees at that time. The way to be on government committees was if you were a bureaucrat or a government servant.”
But it turned out to be a wonderful experience for her. “I handled Chief Ministers; I worked with people like Bill Gates (Microsoft founder), FC Kohli (TCS founder), and Narayan Murthy (Infosys founder) to shape IT policy for India and get more investment into India. It was challenging, but when you successfully handled things, your role could actually make a difference.”
This stint also led Sumeet to the next big steps in her career. She was the founding executive director of Delhi chapter of TiE, the Silicon Valley-based non-profit organisation which supports startups globally. Sumeet is credited with laying a solid foundation for the organisation by building its team, generating revenues, and establishing the brand - all this while she was still in her 20s.
And in 2005, she was given an opportunity that changed her life.
“My boss recognised my talent early on, and said that I should take over the marketing of Info Edge even though I did not have a formal marketing background,” she says. At that time, Info Edge had only two or three brands. Over the next 15 years, Sumeet was instrumental in growing the company to the online classifieds titan it is today.
“I’m still here, and I'm at the helm of affairs. We've built very good businesses and very good brands; that gives me a great sense of achievement,” she smiles.
Advocate for Meritocracy
Adding that the boss who referred her to Info Edge was male, Sumeet says, “I've been very lucky; I've had mostly male managers, but I’ve never faced discrimination. They've actually shown very deep respect for women. They've truly believed in meritocracy and performance, rather than gender.”
Maybe this is why she is a vocal proponent of meritocracy at workplaces. When asked about how women often face discrimination in workplaces, she says, “There are government department jobs which are very male-dominated. It is important to have diversity there, and the government is doing a lot for that. But I'm against the private sector having special reservations. I don't feel that women want special reservations. They want a culture of meritocracy and not a culture where you will get something because of gender. It's important to measure both men and women with the same metrics, for the role she or he is in.”
Sumeet also has an appreciation for working mothers and their children. Mother to a 16-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy, Sumeet agrees that being a working mom is challenging. But she adds that her children have inculcated certain values because of her being a working mom.
According to Sumeet, children with working mothers are far more independent because they don't have their mother around for everything that they require. “I feel that children of working mothers grew up far more independently, and they are far more responsible because they have to take more responsibility. They grow up more adaptable, confident, and with a strong sense of work ethic, because they're seeing their parents work hard at home as well as go to their offices. Hopefully, they will also work hard when they grow up.”