Photo of Sonam Donkar, PepsiCo India and Sophie Jackson.
Sonam has treasury in her DNA says the banker who nominated her for this award. Having read Sonam’s CV and several references from people who have worked with her it is not difficult to see why she is such a worthy Woman of the Year 2016. From humble beginnings in India where she was born, she is now a respected senior treasury professional at one of the world’s leading FMCG companies and is a true inspiration to other women.
Associate Director – Treasury Head, PepsiCo India
Sonam Donkar was in the top 10% of students who graduated from the University of Delhi with a Bachelor of Business Studies and Masters in Finance and Control. She completed a Post Graduate programme at the Institute of Management in Bangalore in 2007. Her career in the world of finance has seen her employed in positions varying from a summer intern at Toyota Tsusho and BNP Paribas, to the M&A team at Deloitte Inc., across Ballarpur Industries Ltd., Unilever and Standard Chartered Bank, Global Markets. More recently Sonam was employed at Dell as India Treasury Controller prior to moving to PepsiCo India in May 2013.
Sonam is living proof of how perseverance, drive and passion can break down barriers and remove glass ceilings. Her journey has been a roller-coaster ride from growing up in difficult conditions to becoming a teacher at the tender age of 14 and graduating from the University of Delhi, despite facing real financial difficulties. She joined PepsiCo in May 2013 and in less than 18 months was promoted to Associate Director – Treasury Head where she has led numerous regional treasury initiatives and cross-functional projects to enhance efficiencies and improve visibility.
As Abhimanyu Lodha, Vice President – Solutions Sales Manager at Citi, India, who nominated Sonam for this award, attested; “Treasury has always been in her DNA and despite her successes, her humility and tenacity to learn and grow serve as an inspiration to younger minds.”
Sonam has demonstrated strong leadership, result orientation, innovative and risk management traits across her career spanning 14 years, which began at Ballarpur Industries (BI) to her current position at PepsiCo. At the nascent stage of her career at Ballarpur, she was instrumental during a Foreign Currency Convertible Bond (FCCB) issuance of US$45m which was listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. At Standard Chartered Bank she doubled the allocated client base, improved e-dealings by 97% and overall dealings by 80% from new accounts. At Dell, she pioneered the market’s first EMI-based payment schemes for Dell products by signing up with private sector banks and thus enabling instalment payment schemes for retail sales. She worked on a number of re-engineering projects at PepsiCo which facilitated end-to-end seamless automation in a scalable and sustainable manner. The solutions she worked on were instrumental in supporting the sales growth of PepsiCo, South East Asia during a period of rapid expansion, while reducing costs. At PepsiCo, she played a much larger role which exposed her to multiple areas such as corporate treasury, operations management, CSR, risk management and supply chain management to name just a few.
Here are just a few examples of the projects Sonam has delivered:
Lead contributor in establishing a one-of-a-kind asset light entity in Bangladesh by evaluating the funding options, routing the funds in a record six months and engaging local authorities to ensure regulatory compliance. This entire activity was managed round the clock with supreme efficiency, as this was the first of its kind in the FMCG sector. For this PepsiCo recognised her with the CFO award for Strategic Excellence.
Led the evaluation and executed the transition of 15+ local insurance policies to two global policies under the global programme. This not only helped release man-hours in claims management, but also helped to synergise the individual efforts. Huge claims were recovered post J&K Floods, Chennai Floods and Greenfield project related – totalling ~$3m in a record one and a half years.
Council head for Simplification, Standardisation, Automation, Elimination and Outsourcing (SSAEO) agenda of the organisation. Sonam single-handedly anchored and facilitated the streamlining of processes which was recognised by PepsiCo’s Global CFO award.
Led the Supplier Finance project, first for Asia, Middle East and Africa region at PepsiCo. Targeted top vendors, end-to-end automated solution which has improved efficiency in the end-to-end supply chain and unlocked potential savings in supplier chain, leading to an increase in DPO by over 30%.
Lead Project Manager for automating payments in 2013, which completely changed the way PepsiCo was managing payments (reducing the number of bank accounts from 37 to three (one for each legal entity). It brought in huge efficiencies in their systems, since the entire reconciliation of collection and payments became automated, releasing 5,000 man-hours annually and also resulted in a working capital productivity of approximately US$2m.
Championed the cause of automating the direct debit collection set-up for PepsiCo wherein Sonam managed the cross-functional team (sales, finance, IT, treasury, accounting) and delivered a class-leading collection solution on NACH platform. This has helped to completely revamp the collection process which is now automated and real-time.
With a knack for unlocking potential productivity gains, Sonam has been very successful in identifying potential export incentives that were applicable to FMCG exports business, conceptualising and executing the plan to ensure a sustainable stream of tax/duty benefits back into the business. This contribution has led to recoveries of US$2-5m annually and was also rewarded by PepsiCo senior management.
Professionally, Sonam has mentored trainees, management and summer interns and trained her young managers into well-rounded treasury professionals, nurturing potential candidates and ensuring they consistently exceed in their performance. Over two years, her team has been recognised with at least eight awards for their performance excellence.
“She is an outstanding leader and I am sure in the near future will reach greater heights. I have known Sonam for over three and a half years now and I am still in touch with her even after I moved on from PepsiCo around two years ago. Sonam possesses excellent communication skills both written and oral. Sonam is always passionate about developing capabilities and skills to improve her and her team’s learning curve by organising learning sessions for the entire function. On a personal front, Sonam has actively driven the CSR agenda at PepsiCo and is a CSR champion in the corporation. She devoted a week of volunteer teaching hours to Salaam Balak Trust NGO as a PepsiCo representative. I remember her being actively involved in collecting donations for the Nepal flood victims, participating in village cleaning activity in Bengaluru and always being eager to lead initiatives that helped the needy, eg Christmas gifting to an orphanage. She also extends support as a voluntary teacher at various vocational training institutes and has been actively involved in community work. She is a true go-getter and is always willing to take up additional responsibilities, though she is always running from pillar to post to complete her assignments.” – Deepak Kini – previous line manager
“Sonam is a rock-solid treasury manager who challenges the traditional boundaries of treasury roles. She believes that treasury should be an enabler and collaborator function while keeping the baseline in good shape. In her tenure at PepsiCo India, I have seen her lead pure treasury projects in the areas of funding, insurance, cash management and interest rates. She has also done some stellar work in improving our working capital management by over US$20m through her analytics. She has recently led one of our biggest productivity and people agendas called “Streamline”. This project intends to save millions of dollars and at the same time improve our work environment. She is a passionate people person and has played the role of “buddy” to many new women managers who join us. Sonam’s enthusiasm is infectious and her happy disposition lightens the air in an otherwise stressful work environment. Sonam is also a keen photographer and loves to work with underprivileged children.” – Chetan Kumar Mathur – Senior Director, Controller India Region, PepsiCo India Holdings