When Sukhleen Aneja was a Sociology major at Lady Shri Ram College, she had no plans of joining the corporate world. But things changed when she became the student union leader. That’s when Sukhleen realised her untapped leadership potential. Soon, she was recruited on-campus by FMCG giant Unilever, and life was never the same. Today, she is a powerhouse in India’s FMCG industry and has led diverse teams at global conglomerates including Reckitt, L’Oreal and Unilever. She has several prestigious accolades to her name, including ‘ET 40 Under 40’ and ‘Asia-Pacific Power List 2021’, which are a testament to her success.
Sukhleen doesn’t have any philosophical gyaan to share when it comes to her mantra for success. Practical and grounded, she attributes her prolific career to her ability to always take a chance on herself. “As a person, I’m very open to taking chances. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of getting too comfortable. I’m not the most planned person in terms of making career bets, but if an interesting opportunity comes my way, I’m someone who’ll take a shot at it,” she says.
And that’s exactly what Sukhleen did. She recently joined our Good Glamm Group family as CEO of Beauty & Brands Business and we couldn’t be more thrilled! Sukhleen feels the D2C revolution in India has just started, that this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. She says, “Beauty and personal care remain highly underleveraged online. That’s where lies the opportunity for creating strong and powerful consumer-first brands, leveraging the unique digital and content ecosystem that the group has built.” Just like the rest of our Good Glamm Group fam, she cannot wait to create South Asia’s largest digital conglomerate.
Every successful leader knows that all work and no play is a recipe for burnout, and Sukhleen echoes that sentiment. She believes the future of work lies in flexibility, and the ability to cuddle her daughters between meetings makes all the difference for her. An avid traveller, she loves taking ‘bite-sized vacations’ every other month to switch off from her daily routine and relax. Sukhleen’s grand ambitions and infectious enthusiasm is truly inspiring, and we are thrilled to feature her in our #POPxoWomenWhoWin series. In a recent chat, she opened up to us about her typical workday, the turning point in her career and books that shaped her life. Lightly-edited excerpts below:
Ever since I’ve become a mum to twins nine months ago, I start my day with my girls. I start my day as early as I can, spend quality time with my daughters, and then get on to work. I enjoy having a structured day, and I try to squeeze in quality engagements during work. In the evening, I take a walk for half an hour to refresh myself. Later, I enjoy engaging with friends and spending quality time with my husband.
Typically, I have a few meetings with my operating teams—to see how we can de-bottleneck work. I block two hours of my workday as ‘me time’ where I sit, think and reflect, instead of jumping into ‘do’ mode.
The mantra that it takes a village to raise your children holds completely true! For me, it’s all about building a great team and having a solid support system in your family. I’ve been really blessed to have excellent support from my mother-in-law, who sometimes has to step in as a ‘second mom’ to my children. I also have amazing friends who are passionate about kids and provide great support. The biggest blessing is the flexibility companies (like the Good Glamm Group!) offer to their employees—this enables a lot of women to balance their personal and professional life.
When I was contemplating joining the Good Glamm family, the biggest positive was engaging with Darpan. It was super inspiring to hear not only about his amazing vision for the company, but also the importance that he placed on family. He gave me the flexibility to be comfortable, and that was the single biggest motivator for me. Nothing can replace the comfort of a team that empathises!
I’m actually from a liberal arts background—I majored in Sociology—and I never dreamt of entering the corporate arena. But then Uniliver offered me a job in campus placement, and I got my first job as a Management Trainee with Hindustan Lever. Honestly, I am so grateful to that company, because everything I know, I learnt there. The first decade of my career was with them, and it was the best time of my life.
As a person, I’m very open to taking chances. I’m not someone who’s linear. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of getting too comfortable. I’ve even left organisations at times when things were ‘going well’, simply because I wanted to try something new. I’m not the most planned person in terms of making career bets, but if an interesting opportunity comes my way, I’m someone who’ll take a shot at it. I believe in taking chances.
Nothing in your career goes to waste—there are many inflexion points that will shape what you become. But the biggest milestone for me was my stint at Lakme (at Unilever). It was a legacy brand and I got the opportunity to reinvent and premiumise it. It gave me a flavour of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and I learned so much! I still get a glint in my eye every time someone mentions that brand.
What I’m most excited about is to see how we leverage the digital ecosystem. I’m joining the company at a time when the D2C revolution in India has just started, there this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time! Just the idea of being able to create the largest digital conglomerate in South Asian REALLY excites me. The kind of integration that we have between media, community and content—it’s extremely unique to the Group and it really inspires me.
I think it’s important to be clear about the ‘why’ of what you’re doing. It’s about having a clear purpose.
If there’s one thing that anyone who’s ever won anything will tell you, it’s that it’s never about an individual. The magic lies in amazing teams. Everything I’ve built, the credit goes to the amazing teams I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. Great things happen when people come together to create something that’s bigger than themselves.
I hope it’s yet to come! (laughs) I’m gonna answer this question five years down the line.
I’d like to offer them three pieces of advice:
1. Every time that inner voice holds you back and tells you ‘you can’t’, remind yourself that you CAN! Take a chance on yourself.
2. There are no rules or formulas. Create your own rules.
3. Don’t forget to have a good time! Enjoy the journey.
I definitely see us taking the Good Glamm Group to the next level. Personally, I’d be delighted if I am able to do my part, enjoy the ride and minimise the guilt.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse By Charlie Mackesy
If I can be very honest, I need short vacations every month. Even if it’s switching off and disappearing for two or three days—I need those bite-sized breaks to escape from my routine and hide out at a place for a few days.