Born on 16th of September, 1944 to Sindhi parents from Hyderabad. One of 5 children, life was anything but mundane for Mrs. Lila Poonawalla. It was at the age of 3 Mrs. Poonawalla lost her father. It was then that she along with her family migrated to India. Her journey to India brought her to Pune, Maharashtra, where she would spend her formative years. After completing her schooling from the Mount Caramel Covent School, Mrs. Poonawalla was determined to walk down the unusual path and carve a niche for herself. She created history by becoming the first Woman Engineer graduating from the Mechanical stream of the College of Engineering, Pune.
After completing her graduation, Mrs. Poonawalla began her corporate career as an apprentice in Ruston & Hornsby, it was here that she would eventually meet and marry the love of her life Mr. Firoz Poonawalla. Since the company policy did not allow married couples to work together, Mrs. Poonawalla decided to move on, while Mr. Poonawalla stayed back. Thanks to her zeal and Mr. Poonawalla’s never ending support, Mrs. Poonawalla would eventually join Vulcan Laval as a trainee engineer.
It was at Vulcan Laval, that Mrs. Poonawalla would get the opportunity to truly unleash her potential. After working her way up the ranks, she went on to become one of the first Woman CEOs in India. Mrs. Poonawalla’s hard work never went unnoticed, as she went on to become the chairman of Alfa Laval, soon after she took over the responsibilities of a CEO at Tetra Pak. Holding both the positions till her retirement in 2001.
And A New Journey Begins
It was during her stint in Alfa Laval, that Mrs. Poonawalla would embark on a new journey. 1994, the year of Mrs. Poonawalla’s 50th Birthday. The Rausing family, owners of the Tetra Pak Worldwide group, knowing her and respecting her wish to empower women, decided to give her a special birthday and an even more special birthday gift -100,000 Swiss francs. As Gad Rausing put it he wants many more Lila Poonawallas to come from India. Wanting to support the cause of women’s education, so that no woman has to stay uneducated Mrs. Poonawalla came up with the idea of starting the Lila Poonawalla Foundation from the birthday gift she received. Starting in the year 1996, began the journey of Leading the Indian Ladies Ahead thus supporting academically outstanding and financially backward girls complete their graduation and post graduation in their desired fields.