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Dr. Saundarya Rajesh
|Born||26 August 1968|
|Occupation||Social Entrepreneur in Women’s Workforce Participation|
|Children||Akshey Rajesh, Shivangi Rajesh|
Saundarya Rajesh (born 26 August 1968) is an entrepreneur from Pondicherry, India. She is the founder-president of AVTAR Career Creators, FLEXI Careers India, and is the managing-trustee of AVTAR Human Capital Trust. She is best known for her work in the area of flexible working, second careers for women, and increasing women’s workforce participation in India. She has a PhD in human resources and is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
- 1 Early Life & Education
- 2 Career
- 3 AVTAR Career Creators
- 4 FLEXI Careers India
- 5 AVTAR Human Capital Trust
- 6 Project PUTHRI
- 7 Working Mother and AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India project
- 8 Intentional Career Pathing
- 9 Personal life
- 10 Awards and recognition
- 11 #100 Women initiative by Government of India
- 12 Niti Aayog and UN's Women Transforming India
- 13 Research Reports
- 14 Articles
- 15 References
- 16 External links
Early Life & Education
Saundarya was born in Bangalore to homemaker Shantha Chandrasekar and pharmaceutical entrepreneur M.S. Chandrasekar. The family later moved to Pondicherry where Saundarya completed her schooling at St. Joseph of Cluny. She was a gold medalist in English literature at the University of Madras, having done her BA at Bharathidasan Govt College for Women in 1988. She got her MBA from School of Management, Pondicherry University in 1990. She finished her Masters in English literature from University of Madras in 1994 and completed a PhD in human resources management focusing on women’s workforce participation at SRM University in 2014.
Saundarya joined Citibank in 1990 and then quit her job after the birth of her first child. She worked as a producer and compere for All India Radio and Doordarshan between the year 1992–95. She worked as a part-time lecturer at MOP Vaishnav College for women between 1996–2003.She started AVTAR Career Creators in 2000, AVTAR Human Capital Trust in 2008 and FLEXI Careers India in 2011.
AVTAR Career Creators
Saundarya started AVTAR Career Creators with an initial investment of Rs. 60,000 which was given by her mother-in-law. AVTAR served as the incubating organization for both AVTAR Human Capital Trust and FLEXI Careers India. It is a recruitment consulting firm with operations across India and a multi-disciplinary approach to human resources consulting. In December 2005, Saundarya set up the service called AVTAR I-WIN (AVTAR India Women professionals Interface Network), as an exclusive service to manage the careers of women who had taken a break due to work-life reasons. This network which originally launched with 200 women is now 2,50,000 strong and has obtained career opportunities for many thousands of women.
FLEXI Careers India
Saundarya started FLEXI Careers India in 2011 as an organization to focus on women’s workforce participation. AVTAR I-WIN (40,000 women strong) is part of FLEXI Careers India. Via research projects conducted by FLEXI, it has been found that women face challenges when they choose to make a transition to a career whether full-time / flexi-time / part-time. As a result of this research, the SEGUE SESSIONS, India’s first large-format skill building initiative for women seeking transition in their careers, was created. It was launched on 22 December 2011, following which SEGUE SESSIONS were held in cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Pune. Over 10,000 women have obtained career opportunities and over 25000 women were trained in attitudinal skills relevant to starting a second career.
AVTAR Human Capital Trust
Saundarya founded AVTAR Human Capital Trust in 2008 as a not-for-profit aimed at creating employability for women. The initiative for the Right to Flexible Working was launched by the AVTAR Human Capital Trust in 2013. The AVTAR Human Capital Trust (AHCT) is a charitable, public and social trust with the objective of providing services to people belonging to diverse segments of the society. Amongst the many initiatives the trust has undertaken are the funding of education of women belonging to BPL families, that of deserving, meritorious students from economically backward families, organizing social drives and championing the cause of women careers by promoting the cause of institutionalizing Flexible Working.
The primary objective of AHCT is to bring significant and impactful differences to the society with special focus on education and employment. To this end, the trust provides financial assistance to needy and meritorious students from underprivileged backgrounds to empower and enable their aspirations. Apart from funding education, the trust also aims to provide financial support to underprivileged youngsters who are embarking upon a career to help improve their living conditions and / or enable them to equip themselves with relevant tools/infrastructure towards performing better in their career. Through this initiative AHCT intends to improve the preparedness of these students of high calibre but modest backgrounds, to face the greater challenges of career and life.
Counselling women and students to prepare them for career achievement is another key initiative of the trust. This is a voluntary service intended at improving the employability of today’s youth. Under the aegis of the trust, community drives and initiatives to clean and care for the environment are also periodically undertaken. This is also a voluntary service aimed at raising environmental consciousness and encouraging today’s youth to contribute to the same. AHCT also actively engages in research oriented activities which have a social impact. Publishing reports of such research with the aim of providing assistance to discerning institutions and organisations that may benefit from it, is also undertaken by the trust. The trust also works for the cause of women careers. It promotes an ongoing social media campaign to institutionalize flexible working, which as per global research can generously improve the workforce participation rate of women. With more women in formal employment and greater economic participation of women, the country’s GDP will be boosted as also significant improvements in the overall living conditions of the society. Through the multifarious activities that the trust undertakes, it aims to deliver greater social impact and garner and utilize support for social and environmental imperatives.
It is India’s first ever developmental project that seeks to create CAREER INTENTIONALITY among underprivileged girl students, via the following:
- Provide Career Intentionality training (based on the highly-researched Intentional Career Pathing concept) to underprivileged girls studying in government-aided/government-run/corporation/non-aided schools which cater to the disadvantaged sections of the society, for a period of 5 years, beginning from class 8th till class 12th
- This training (delivered through a combination of classroom sessions, games and corporate exposure) will help them understand their capabilities better, prevent drop-outs, build meaningful relationships and develop the necessary skills to be successful in their career. This will in turn give them an opportunity to reach tertiary education (Graduation) and get into white-collar jobs.
- This will enable them to rise out of poverty and also help their families and future generations.
- The training will continue till the girls are of 18 years of age and till they complete their graduation. This mentoring will ensure that the girls choose to marry late, give birth at a healthy age to healthy children, therefore bringing down infant mortality rates, domestic violence and sexual abuse.
- Entry into the knowledge economy and white collar jobs will mean that these girls will directly contribute to the increase in GDP of India, which is expected to grow by an additional 2.9 trillion USD, by 2025, if Gender Parity is achieved.
The end-goal of this project is three-fold: 1) to make 10,000 corporation school girls across Tamilnadu & Pondicherry every year, career intentional, 2) Ensure that they get into tertiary education, 3) Make certain they pursue white-collar jobs upon graduation.
Project PUTHRI was launched in Chennai on 15 June 2017 by PUTHRI scholars at MOP Vaishnav College for Women. The launch event had sessions by Bharathi Bhaskar, Dr. Prahalathan of Bhumi, Akhila Rajeshwar of TiE Chennai, Dr. Lalitha Balakrishnan of MOP Vaishnav College, Sarathbabu of Foodking and Shweta Jaishankar
Project PUTHRI’s first career visioning program for underprivileged girl students, Udyog Utsav 2018 event - a path breaking career conference event for the girl students of Govt schools, was conducted in a grand manner on 27th January 2018 at Dr.MGR Janaki Arts and Science College for Women, Chennai. It benefited 1000 PUTHRIs from corporation schools.
Working Mother and AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India project
In continuation of her work in increasing workforce participation rates of women in India, Saundarya was instrumental in the collaboration between AVTAR Group and the Working Mother Media Group (a celebrated gender parity Champion in the U.S.) in bringing the latter’s 31 year old "Best Companies for Women project" to India. Working Mother – a division of Bonnier Corporation (US) that works to advocate the cause of working women has joined hands with AVTAR to bring this first-of-its kind study to India to honour companies that successfully help women lead sustainable careers. This project was launched in the United States in 1986 by Working Mother. The inaugural Indian edition of the Best Companies for Women study was launched on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on 8 March 2016. Companies from across industries and geographies, of varying employee strengths participated in the study. The Top 10 and the 100 Best Companies for Women in India, 2016 were honoured on 10 November 2016 at an awards ceremony in Mumbai. The 2017 Working Mother & AVTAR edition was released on 16 November and the Top 10 Best Companies as well as the 2017 100 Best Companies were honoured at a glittering ceremony at Chennai. The 2018 Working Mother & AVTAR edition has been launched and the Top 10 Best Companies and 2018 100 Best Companies will be honoured at a glittering ceremony at Chennai.
Intentional Career Pathing
Saundarya is also credited as being the key promulgator of the concept of Intentional Career Pathing. Born as the result of extensive triangulated research begun in the year 2012 by Saundarya, the idea of Intentional Career Pathing or ICP as it is known, refers to the planned career pathing, especially by women, to counter unplanned attrition or off-ramping from the workplace. Several academic papers have been published on this concept. Saundarya identified key practices or "tenets" of ICP, which, if put in place by the women professional will allow her to lead a work-home integrated career, ensuring economic participation. This concept has now been implemented in several organizations for over 30000 mid-level high-performing women to ensure engagement and retention. Saundarya has delivered several sessions at various forums on this concept and is acknowledged as the creator and evangelist of the practice of Intentional Career Pathing.
Saundarya is based in Chennai and is married to V. Rajesh, a Retail marketing professional and her business school classmate. They have two children, a son and a daughter.
Awards and recognition
Saundarya Rajesh has won several awards and recognition for being a woman entrepreneur with a vision to not only increase women’s workforce participation rate in India, but also the first proponent of formalized flexible ways of working for women. Her awards include:
- The SCOPE Women Exemplar award in 2006,
- The Yuvashakthi Entrepreneur of the year award in 2007,
- The Swadeshi Jagran Manch woman business leader award in 2008
- CavinKare’s Chinnikrishnan Innovation award in 2011.
- Tie Stree Shakti Women Entrepreneur Award 2011
- FCCI FLO Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award Mar 2012
- Naturals Extraordinary Woman Award 2014
- Selected as achiever in the #100WomenInitiative – an effort by the Union Ministry of Ministry of Women and Child Development (spearheaded by Menaka Gandhi), and Facebook – to recognize the contribution of women in various fields.
- Jeppiaar Icon Award −2016
- Voted as one of the Top 25 Women Transforming India 2016 by a joint effort between the UN and the NITI Aayog
#100 Women initiative by Government of India
In August 2015, the Ministry of Women and Child Development launched the #100 Women initiative. This was a search to identify 100 Women Achievers from all across India who have contributed to the development of the society and community of women. Saundarya was nominated to the initiative and after clearing three levels of selection and public voting, was announced as one of the 100 Women Achievers in India on 31 December 2015. She met the Hon. President of India and the Minister for W & CD at Delhi on 22 January 2016. 
Niti Aayog and UN's Women Transforming India
Dr.Saundarya Rajesh's research work on various subjects related to Diversity & Inclusion, Alternate Talent Pools, Indian Demography, Gender and Generational Profiles and Employee Behavior.
- Flexible Careers in the Indian Workplace: The Moment of Truth
- The Impact of Career Enablers in Women’s Workforce Participation in India
- Economic Centeredness of Indian Women Professionals
- Tracking the Career Trajectories of Men and Women in India to assess Career Intentionality
- Roadmap to Gender Balance
- Women in Sales: Critical Success Factors
- Maternity Management in Corporate India
Dr.Saundarya Rajesh has authored many articles in leading newspapers and magazines on topics related to Women's career, Diversity and Inclusion, Maternity and likes, few of the latest ones are as following:
- Can ‘maternity coaching’ check attrition rate?
- Does going digital mean even fewer women in the workforce?
- Fixing the Leaky Pipe – Women in Leadership
- Empower women at work to improve creativity, diversity
- Humour is good at the workplace
- Internship : The art of designing smart career comebacks!
- Rajesh, Dr.Saundarya. "Enterprising Entrepreneurs". www.youtube.com. NDTV Hindu. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
- AVTAR Career Creators. "Saundarya Rajesh, Avtar Career Creators, A second start..." smestory.com. SME Story. Archived from the original on 2014-08-09. Retrieved 2015-07-19.
- "Women get a second chance at a career". gulfnews.com. tabloid. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
- Dr.Saundarya, Rajesh. "Bridging the gap for women to resume their career". www.dtNext.in. dtNext. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "St.Joseph of Cluny". St. Joseph of Cluny Higher Secondary School Lawspet, Pondicherry.
- Dr.Saundarya Rajesh. "Helping women manage different avatars". The Hindu Business Line. The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
- Dr.Saundarya Rajesh. "She helps women find a career after a break". www.rediff.com. rediff.com. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
- "Saundarya Rajesh: The Miracle Worker For Women". www.parentcircle.com. parentcircle.
- "Women Entrepreneurs". www,youtube.com. Google. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
- "Towards flexible working hours". www.hindu.com. The Hindu. Retrieved 2005-09-02.
- "For a takeoff, again". www.hindu.com. The Hindu. Retrieved 2005-12-12.
- "Segue Sessions". itsmyascent. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
- "Segueing into a second career". www.thehindu.com. The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
- "Plan to push for policy on flexitime for women". www.thehindu.com. The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- EENADU INDIA http://www.eenaduindia.com/states/tamil-nadu/2018/01/29110412/Right-support-amp-ecosystem-to-girls-will-make-them.vpf. Missing or empty
- "YOUNG MOTHERS HAPPIEST IN INDIA INC, REVEALS BEST COMPANIES FOR WOMEN IN INDIA 2016". Brandturks. Brandturks.
- "The 10 Best Companies For Women In India". http://www.cxotoday.com. CXOtoday.com. Retrieved Oct 17, 2017. External link in
- "Are Men more Intentional about their Careers than Women? An Exploration of the Career Trajectories of Indian Professionals". Indian Journal of Management. 8 (11). November 2015.
- "NON-FAMILY SUPPORT IS A MAJOR HURDLE FOR INDIAN WOMEN EMPLOYEES TO SUSTAIN STABLE CAREER FLEXI CAREERS INDIA'S AVTAR VIEWPORT 2015". mti News.
- "V.Rajesh, retail expert". The Hindu.
- Dr.Saundarya Rajesh (2013). "Second career of women professionals in India: A corporate perspective" (PDF). ASIAN JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT RESEARCH. 4 (1): 21.
- "Innovation Award". Cavinkare.
- "Extraordinary woman award". The Hindu.
- "Jeppiar Icon Award 2016".
- Dr.Saundarya Rajesh. "Meeting Saundarya Rajesh, a woman entrepreneur who works for other women". The news minute.
- Rajesh, Dr.Saundarya. "#100Women Initiative". Times of India.
- "Women Transforming India » United Nations in India". in.one.un.org. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
- "NITI Aayog launches 'Women Transforming India' campaign, in partnership with the UN in India and MyGov – #WomenTransform". pib.nic.in. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
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