All organisations plan and observe various important days or events. Similarly the Ladies' Wing of the Indian Merchants Chamber Mumbai would do so, but this year to celebrate the International Women's Day 2007 they struck upon a novel idea. Apart from organising speeches and discussions on relevant subjects they thought of creating awareness in the country about the great work being done by women in different parts of India for socio-economic development by thousands of women unknown to us. The Ladies' Wing went about in an organised manner .to locate a small representative number.

    The result is this well written book: Grass-root Divas-Management Gurus of Rural India.

    Smt. Jankidevi Bajaj, the original source of inspiration, was an extraordinary person. She was no great beauty nor was she a tall imposing personality nor was she a literary person. She was a short person with little education, always simply dressed in a Khadi saree. BUT there was character, absolute sincerity, total honesty
and no guiles.

    Jankideviji's life provides an insight into management abilities that a woman like her could display even in the early 20th century. Circumstances and a strong will led a very conservative Marwari semi-literate woman to be transformed. She could inspire others
by her speeches. She could guide people, particularly women, into meaningful socio-economic activities. She had ideas of her own when she got involved with Vinoba Bhave's Bhoodan Movement. She could immediately see that land without water to irrigate would not give productive results. So she thought of Koop Daan - meaning asking people to dig wells in the donated land and donate those wells as well.This is conceptualization and implementation.

    Stories of thirteen rural women entrepreneurs are brought out in the book. There is an amazing diversity-some well-to-do, some extremely poor, some highly educated, some almost illiterate. One of them is in her nineties, but young in spirit and some others much younger. All of them had certain common qualities-a strong urge to do something for others-not charity, but provide empowerment; determination, strong will and sustained efforts despite obstacles, they all achieved success. They all showed great management qualities, clarity of thought, goal in mind, planning and enterprise. As described by one management expert, they had transformational leadership quality. Are these not qualities that Business Schools attempt to teach the MBAs? That is why these women are aptly described as Management Gurus of Rural India. Since independence, removing poverty and making rural India socio-economically strong has been a prime objective. These women have shown how it could be achieved.

    Another novel idea was requesting different top CEOs of the country to give their comments on each one of these cases.I salute the Indian Merchants' Chamber-Ladies' Wing for this thought provoking book which will inspire many others.

Viren J Shah
Ex-MP & Former Governor,
West Bengal