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Sugandha Mahajan INSEAD Hinrich Foundation

Sugandha Mahajan




“Becoming a Hinrich Global Trade Leader is not only a generous financial contribution to my education and future but also a validation for the numerous women entrepreneurs striving to make a mark in India.”

Scholar background

Based in Agra, India, Sugandha is Head of Business Development & Strategy at her family firm, Ashoka Internationals. Ashoka is a manufacturer and exporter of military, safety and professional footwear headquartered in Uttar Pradesh, India. She began working there in 2017 and took charge of developing new product lines as the company shifted focus from defense to safety footwear. Sugandha is leading a team of 25 and working on mapping out strategies for client onboarding and business expansion. Prior to working in the family business, she worked as a Senior Analyst for Nomura, Japan’s biggest investment bank.

Sugandha completed her Bachelor of Arts in Economics at Delhi University in 2013.

Personal statement

I started my career as an investment banker, working for Japan’s biggest investment bank for 4 years. This experience was my first window to international trade and how structured businesses can transform economies. Wishing to see a similar impact closer to home, I joined my family-owned business in 2017.

Since joining the firm, I have strategized our participation in multiple international trade fairs and built a team of eight global distribution agents which has added to our client network by 35%. I have also digitalized the traditional operations to allow greater transparency and ease of access, resulting in development of cost optimization strategies. One such strategy enabled us to restructure 90% of our raw material sourcing to primary producers, thus eliminating middlemen and reducing the cost by 25%.

Last year, while researching ways to sustainably dispose of leather scraps from our production process, I was inspired by the Hinrich Foundation’s impeccable research on Indian leather trade and on-going sustainable efforts. As a result, I ideated re-using the scraps to create new products, resulting in elimination of 80% of our waste. Additionally, by actively pursuing women to do higher-skilled jobs and providing facilities to make their work environment safer, I have been successful in increasing our female employees from two to 12.

The safety equipment industry is expected to grow to US$86 billion by 2026 with higher demand for environmentally conscious products. I hope to harness this growing market with Hinrich Foundation’s support and expertise coupled with an MBA from INSEAD. The prolific network of peers and leaders that I intend to build due to this award will be crucial in accelerating my progress as an Asian female entrepreneur.