Saundarya Rajesh

💼 Founder & President of AVTAR Group

🎓 Women in Leadership, University of Bradford (2005 Chevening Fellowship)

Dr Saundarya Rajesh is one of India’s most respected thought leaders on issues of diversity and inclusion. An award-winning social entrepreneur, she is best known as an advocate of gender balance in corporate India. She has been recognised as a ‘#100Women Achiever’ by India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development and is also listed in the United Nation’s list of ‘Women Transforming India’.

A relentless advocate for the potential of women in the workplace, Saundarya has advised an impressive list of organisations, including Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, Mahindra Group and Tata Group, as well as small and medium businesses, on the benefits of diversity and inclusion.

Widely quoted on issues relating to women’s careers, entrepreneurship, and inclusive leadership, Saundarya is a highly sought-after speaker at conferences—both national and international—and a firm believer in integrating work and life. She is also the author of best-selling book ‘The 99 Day Diversity Challenge’.

The critical turning point in my career was the Chevening experience, when I had the chance to see how other women around the world balanced work and learning.

What is the most important thing you learned during your Chevening experience?

The most important thing I learned during my Chevening experience was how to emerge out of my comfort zone. At that time I was running a very successful business, which provided recruitment services to a variety of organisations. It was a leap of faith for me to set up and create India’s first ever career service for women, which I did immediately after returning to India. I completed my programme in August 2005 and, by December that same year, we set up AVTAR I-WIN.

I was inspired by other women leaders who have taken big risks, who have done something thought to be completely outside their area of expertise. This gave me confidence and courage to step out of my comfort zone and dare to think differently.

What advice would you share with the next generation of Chevening Scholars?

My advice for anyone who is lucky enough to be a Chevening Scholar is to always expect the unexpected. Learn to enjoy the culture, the cuisine, the dry British humour. Learn to enjoy every moment of it because it is short in duration. Completely immerse yourself in the learning experience because it is a once in a lifetime, life-altering opportunity.

What does Chevening mean to you?

Chevening means personal transformation. Chevening is the space to re-think your goals and pursue them with full intentionality.

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