Mamta Sundara – General Counsel, Diageo India was working with British Telecom in Singapore when she got a head hunter’s call asking if she would be interested in a role at Diageo. She went for the interview as ‘it sounded like a fun industry’.
“The then Diageo Asia Pacific General Counsel felt I would be great fit within Diageo,” Mamta says. “But she also wanted me to get some experience in the alcobev industry, learn more about Diageo and build a network – so she hired me for a role in London! I spent a couple of years in London after which I took up the role of Diageo India’s legal head in Mumbai,” she informs. Mamta’s father is a retired Air Force officer. Her mother taught school kids for a few years but bowed out when her responsibilities as a senior IAF officer’s wife increased. Her older sister is an audiologist and speech pathologist and is currently a Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Since her parents relocated every few years, she grew up with the idea of change being a constant and through all these, her sister was, and remains, one of the foundation stones of her life. She did most of her schooling in Kendriya Vidyalayas, and completed her BA LLB (Hons.) from National Law School of India, University in Bangalore. Her first job was with a sole proprietorship legal firm in Bengaluru and it taught her how to do the basic bread and butter work every lawyer needs to know. She also learnt there that the first step to professional and personal development is a desire and willingness to learn. Her father, a Johnnie Walker fan, was pleased when he learnt that Mamta was joining Diageo.“I think my mother was pretty Ok about the industry as long as it helped me grow professionally,” she observes.
After joining Diageo group in 2009, Mamta has been through four roles, across two geographies. “In my current role as the General Counsel for Diageo India, I have the privilege of leading a team of very competent legal, anti-counterfeit, corporate security and real estate professionals who balance and mitigate the company’s risks, own the company’s objectives and partner with the business to help deliver them,” she says. Her empowering moments were “probably the day when I earned my first salary and felt the very real freedom of being able to make my own decisions. That feeling of freedom and gratitude has never faded”. In the beginning, she thought working hard, taking real ownership to deliver excellent quality and being true to her principles, were the magic formula for success. But as time passed, “I have learnt that every step forward has been possible in part because of the belief that others have in me, in part because of the support of many around me, particularly my family, and in part because of me,” she conveys.
Enjoying the journey
Talking about her achievements and how she balances her work and life in the same breath, she says: “Juggling multiple responsibilities is one of the life’s realities. I think the only way to make my life work is to make peace with the fact that sometimes I will be less than perfect, by being kind when I disappoint myself because often it is I who demands the most from myself, and by embracing the struggle and enjoying the journey. I am not fully there yet but I do try and remember this always.” On being asked what does a woman need to succeed in this industry, she affirms, “It is no different from what a man needs. Courage, excellence and integrity are the prerequisites. One must stand for fairness and for doing the right thing, even in the face of opposition and at personal cost.”