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COVER PAGE STORY

Mrs. Puneet Kaur Kohli has a rich IT experience behind her. And today, the same experience and expertise in the world of technology has helped her become the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of some of the most prestigious organisations in the world. A vibrant personality with a no-nonsense attitude, Mrs. Kohli is truly a woman of humility and substance.

In the year 2020, Mrs. Kohli has been nominated for one of the highest civilian honours of India, i.e. the Padma Shri award! Another feather that Mrs. Kohli has added to her hat is being ranked among the ‘Top 5 Leading Tech Ladies of India’ in the category of ‘Entrepreneur’.

She was recently featured on the cover page of Digital First Magazine, a magazine that recognizes brilliant leaders in the digital arena. In her interview, Mrs. Kohli has spoken about the importance of integrating technology with the Finance sector to help organisations achieve their financial targets more efficiently.


Early Life and Career Beginnings:

Mrs. Puneet Kaur Kohli grew up as an only daughter in three families. Growing up with 6 to 7 brothers resulted in Mrs. Kohli having a tomboyish upbringing which also led to her learning different skills right from driving to cooking. Her upbringing is what helped her become a person of many talents today. Her father’s dream was to become a flying pilot or pursue a technical field. And this is why Mrs. Kohli chose the field of IT and Computers instead of being a flying pilot as in those days, women pilots were not accepted with open arms by the airline industry.

Giving a brief overview of her work experience, Mrs. Kohli has experience of 25 years in the corporate world during which she had the opportunity to travel and work across the globe. She has represented global organisations in at least 4 to 5 continents and sub – continents. Moreover, she was also a noted speaker at various national and international IT conferences wherein she spoke about the new technologies trending in the IT sector.

And her rich experience of 25 years is not confined to just the IT industry. Her work portfolio showcases her experience ranging from the Telecom industry to industries like Power, Manufacturing and the Financial Services industries. Her first stint as a CIO started off with working for United Technologies Corporation and was also named the ‘CIO of the Year’ in 2006!


Handling a Diverse Profile and Inclination towards IT:

Now, one would always think or perceive a diverse profile as an aimless one. However, Mrs. Kohli thinks otherwise, While she has always spoken the “Tech-Tongue” she has always considered it important to first understand the business processes of any organization and then find ways to merges these business processes with IT to help business processes function in a better way. It is also imperative for her to resonate with the CXOs, CIOs and the stakeholders to deliver the expected results.

When asked about what inclined her towards taking up IT, given that the IT sector is male-dominated, she says that she grew up with 6 to 7 brothers under the same roof and her father always encouraged her to take up the toughest challenges in life and to be fearless in every decision that she makes.


Now, marriage usually brings its own set of challenges, especially for ambitious and career-oriented women. However, Mrs. Kohli’s married life was an absolute bliss not only because her husband was her biggest cheerleader but also he always kept her dreams before his own; something that is a rare sight to see nowadays.

Managing a Flourishing Marriage and Career:


Managing a Flourishing Marriage and Career:

Now, marriage usually brings its own set of challenges, especially for ambitious and career-oriented women. However, Mrs. Kohli’s married life was an absolute bliss not only because her husband was her biggest cheerleader but also he always kept her dreams before his own; something that is a rare sight to see nowadays.

He even envisioned that his wife would one day hold the topmost position in the corporate field and that encouragement and support is what has brought her to this stage in her career today. Mrs. Kohli’s husband was always at the forefront of helping her achieve the heights of her career and this is true even today.


Discipline is the Key to Success:

Discipline is something that is a deep-rooted trait in her and her family. And this has also spilled over her corporate life as Mrs. Kohli deeply believes in finishing different tasks within the given deadline. She also believes that discipline is the key to both personal and professional success because it is only when you practice discipline in your personal life can you be a true and disciplined professional in the corporate world. It is only with discipline that you can deliver beyond your company’s expectations as a leader and an employee. And hence as a leader she herself practices discipline as she believes in the age-old adage “Practice what you preach.”


Personal Philosophy and Message to Women Professionals:

As far as her personal philosophy and advice to young professionals is concerned, Mrs. Kohli is a firm believer of ‘being the change’. She advises women professionals especially that if they want to bring in a change, then they must start it themselves and not wait for someone else to do it for them. She says that the young women of India need to be the change agents as the corporate world, most of the times, is not a kind place for women especially when they are in prestigious positions.

However, she also has a word of caution she would like to give: we must be a catalyst for change to happen only when it is the absolute need of the hour. It is important to not have a herd mentality. She advocates for women to be in top positions as only that company which has put its women on top has truly prospered even in difficult times.


Maintaining a Work-Life Balance and Ideologies:

As far as her work-life balance is concerned, Mrs. Kohli likes taking small breaks and also does a lot of CSR activities like making 1 lakh women and children literate for which she is being recognized by the prestigious Forbes Magazine under the ‘Fortune 50’ category in the Asia-Pacific region. She also likes to detox by travelling across India and abroad. She also loves cooking different cuisines which she picks up during her travels.

Some ideologies and quotes that she follows are:• Be coachable • Do good and forget it • Be a good listener.


Achievements and Honours:

Mrs. Kohli was honoured with the Global Excellence Award by the House of Commons, UK. She had personally visited the Buckingham Palace to receive this honour. She has also been given the honorary title of the ‘Jewel of Punjab’ in the year 2019.

She will also be recognized and featured in the prestigious Forbes Magazine under the ‘Fortune 50’ category in the Asia-Pacific region for her CSR efforts to make 1 lakh women and children literate.


Early Life and Academics

The sole dream of making the experience of travelling very easy and comfortable for everyone led to the establishment of Kesari Tours by Mr. Kesari Bhau Patil in 1984. After 17 years of experience in the field of tourism, Mr. Patil decided to bring his dream to reality. Tons of hardships later, Mr. Kesari’s first tour was to Rajasthan with around 13 people. His daughter Mrs. Zelam Chaubal, a student just out of high school, joined her father in his business and learnt a lot about the tourism industry. She worked diligently as a youngster with her father till 1991, just before she got married.

Career Highlights

Mrs. Zelam, born in the village of Mathane, Thane district, lived with her parents, three siblings and grandparents most of her life. She was provided with the best education made available by her father. The respected family of Patils had moved to Borivali by the time their daughter was in the 10th grade. She finished her 12th grade from Dhanukar College in 1985, while working with her father. In 1991, after getting married to Mr. Amit Chaubal, she and her husband moved to the USA. But that didn’t stop her from getting a college degree. She graduated in 1998 in the field of Commerce and started working in a bank in America. But she knew that wasn’t her calling. Soon, she started her own travel agency called ‘A to Z Tours and Travels’. Within a few months, Mrs. Zelam got an amazing response which made her more confident. She is also pursuing MBA in Tourism now.

In 2000, when her husband got an opportunity to set up his business in India, the family moved back here. Kesari had, by then, become pretty successful and they were expanding in Pune. Mrs. Zelam saw this as an excellent opportunity and she took the challenge to develop the business in Pune city. With her knowledge about Indian tourism and the experience from her business in the USA, she succeeded in making Pune the second largest market in India over a period of barely 3 years. She then took up the Kolhapur office as well in 2007 and today she is the Director of Kesari Tours and Travels.