Poonam Ahluwalia was named the 2013 INDIA New England Woman of the Year on June 7 at the 11th annual Woman of the Year Banquet & Awards Ceremony at the Marriott Newton in Newton, Mass. She was selected from 20 finalists, all of whom were honored at the event, which was attended by approximately 400 people. Ahluwalia is president and founder of Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainability. She led the Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainability campaign for over a decade and orchestrated an impact all over the globe. Following YES, she started YouthTrade, an organization supporting young entrepreneurs and helping them get access to premium markets. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Youth Unemployment.
Poonam Ahluwalia celebrates being named the 2013 INDIA New England Woman of the Year.
This past year, Ahluwalia’s YouthTrade really hit the ground running, securing massive deals for its entrepreneurs with companies such as Whole Foods Market.
Read about the success of YouthTrade here.
Also, read Ahluwalia’s Woman of the Year Finalist Q&A here.
Ahluwalia was chosen by an independent panel of judges, who deliberated for several hours prior to the start of the Woman of the Year Banquet & Awards Ceremony. The Woman of the Year and all the finalists were chosen based on their contributions to their community, culture, organizations, business and their personal achievements.
The seven judges this year were Barin Bando, Mukesh Chatter, Santhana Krishnan, Rajiv Lal, Ranjani Saigal, Jasmine Shah and Pradeep Shukla. Lal served as chairman of the judges panel. To read more on the judges see sidebar.
“It is truly a democratic process and genuine deliberations from participating judges,” said Bando. “There were so many deserving candidates this year and selecting one is a daunting task. I hope the community will celebrate all nominees and the winner will help our community at a larger scale.”
Ahluwalia accepted the award with humility and modesty and quickly reflected on how such an award really reflects the overall accomplishments of women. She said she was honored to just be counted among the 20 finalists in attendance at the awards ceremony.
After the event, she thanked India New England and all the events sponsors for organizing the banquet and awards ceremony, as well as making an effort to recognize the tremendous work being done by women of the community.
“When the judges declared that I had been chosen — my heart started pounding with an amazing mix of emotions and I was completely overwhelmed. It was very moving for me because it did not land on me as a personal recognition. It poured over me like the ultimate validation of the cause that I have dedicated myself to — by a jury of my peers. My goal for this year is to work with all the women who have been nominated so far, to construct something new that allows for our New England youth to aspire and reach for their dreams,” she said. “I am grateful for this award.”
The announcement of Ahluwalia as Woman of the Year came after an exciting and fun-filled evening, hosted by emcee Jyoti Nagia, with talks by INDIA New England Publisher Upendra Mishra, sponsors Subu Kota and Dr. Manju Sheth, as well as 2012 INDIA New England Woman of the Year Ranjani Saigal.
A real treat for the attendees was several musical numbers by singing stars Mohan Subramaniam and Anuradha Palakurthi. They each performed several songs on their own throughout the evening and then came together for a duet that thrilled the audience.
Attendees were also treated to the tasteful cuisines of Vinod Kapoor’s Masala Art.
“The 2013 INDIA New England Woman of the Year Banquet & Awards Ceremony is a pinnacle so far for this annual celebration, which we have been hosting for over a decade. The event was an exciting evening with hundreds of guests celebrating the tremendous accomplishments of the 20 finalists and the impressive efforts of the 2013 Woman of the Year Poonam Ahluwalia,” said Upendra Mishra, publisher of INDIA New England. “The task of choosing one Woman of the Year from 20 influential finalists is no easy task, but the judges came up with a worthy winner in Ahluwalia and one that the other finalists, the audience and the sponsors heartily congratulated. There is little doubt that Ahluwalia will be an influential figured at the reigning Woman of the Year.”
Platinum Sponsors of the Women of the Year are The Boston Group/Subu Kota and Dr. Manju Sheth. The Gold Sponsor is the Marriott Newton. Silver Sponsors are Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare, Masala Art, Alankar, Boston Sound & Light Co. and The Mishra Group Inc.
Meet the Judges
Barin Bando: Bando has been a key figure in the growth of the India Society of Worcester. In 1986, he became ISW’s president for two years, incorporated the society, gave it its first constitution, and stayed as its board of trustee chair for six more years. In 1998, Bando and six founding members from Worcester formed the Hindu Heritage Foundation and built a Hindu Temple in Oxford, Mass.
Mukesh Chatter: Chatter, an alumnus of BITS-Pilani, is the founder of Nexabit, which he sold to Lucent in 1999 for $900 million. A serial entrepreneur, he also co-founded and served as the CEO of Axiowave, a Boston-based company. Currently, he is founder and CEO of NeoSaej, running the Web site MoneyAisle.com. He is a charter member of TiE Boston.
Santhana Krishnan: Krishnan founded Inteq and raised over $65 million for the company and then sold it to CA Technologies, where he currently serves as vice president of strategy and business development. He is a charter member of TiE Boston and investor in several startups in the Boston area.
Rajiv Lal: Lal is the Stanley Roth, Sr. Professor of Retailing at Harvard Business School where he currently serves as the faculty chair for the General Management Program. He has also been responsible for the retailing curriculum and has served as the course head for marketing, required study in the first year of the MBA program. He also teaches in several Executive Education programs, and co-chairs the program on Building and Leading a Customer Centric Organization.
Ranjani Saigal: Saigal, a classical dancer trained in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, is a senior educational technologist at MIT and co-founder of Lokvani. Last year, she was selected as 2012 Woman of the Year. She is also the co-chair of the TIE-Social Entrepreneurship group and has been involved in numerous charitable, community and professional groups in the area. She is very committed to helping the Indian classical arts thrive in New England.
Jasmine Shah: Shah is a highly-recognized and accomplished dancer and professional stage artist. She has been trained in Bharatnatyam, Manipuri and folk dances. She has organized various programs, many of which have been fund raisers and charitable events for a cause. She has earned the designation of Roster Artist of New England Council of arts. She has also served as arts counselor for the state of N.H. She is a prior Woman of the Year finalist. All those who know her greatly appreciate her dedication to the art of dance.
Pradeep Shukla: Shukla is a professor of mathematics in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Suffolk University. Besides mathematics, he has a strong interest in music. He is the director and a co-founder of LearnQuest Academy of Music where he teaches Hindustani vocal music.