Meena Punjwani

40-under-40

Inspiring Success through Unconventional Leadership

Meena Punjwani

Tax Senior Manager/ Director, India Operations,

Eide Bailly

Meena Punjwani’s professional journey stands as a testament to resilience, breaking societal norms, and carving a unique career path. Raised in a traditional Indian household, Meena found herself at a crossroads, torn between conforming to societal expectations and pursuing a career. Her education instilled a mindset of independence, challenging conventional norms of marriage and motherhood at a young age. With a supportive family, especially her progressive father, she navigated this challenge, paving the way for her journey as a self-sufficient career woman.
Her path to success took diverse turns, marked by personal reflection and unconventional training, including integrative personal counselling. These experiences enriched her interpersonal skills, shaping her into a relatable and adaptable leader. Progressing through various roles across multiple jobs, Meena acquired a wealth of knowledge, evolving from a staff member to a seasoned manager and leader. At Eide Bailly, she wears dual hats, serving as the Director of India Operations, where she played a pivotal role in setting up the Head Office in Mumbai and establishing crucial departments. Simultaneously, as a Tax Senior Manager, Meena laid the foundation for the Tax Department of the company from scratch, spearheading the Indian team’s collaboration with US-based partners and market leaders.
TradeFlock interviewed this leader, who is an amalgamation of people management, process optimisation, and tax expertise, to reflect on her journey. 

What key qualities or strategies do you credit for your success as a leader?

I credit my professional success as a leader to a few key qualities and strategies. Firstly, empathy plays a crucial role; understanding others’ perspectives and needs strengthens team relationships while maintaining focus on tasks. Vulnerability is another contributor; sharing experiences with my diverse team fosters approachability and an environment conducive to mutual learning. Lastly, achieving balance between personal and professional life has been instrumental; overlapping these aspects allows for shared experiences and investments in both realms.

How vital is innovative thinking in your field, and how do you cultivate creativity at work? Additionally, what's your approach to leading younger professionals?

In accounting, innovation isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a necessity. While the core principles remain constant, the industry’s landscape constantly evolves with legislative updates, client shifts, and technological advancements. Within tax realm, adapting to these changes requires creative approaches, from innovative training methods to fostering cognitive thinking among my team for career progression. Navigating this dynamic environment also involves understanding and integrating the new generation’s work approach. I blend traditional wisdom with contemporary insights, leading with empathy, genuine interest, and an understanding that perspectives may differ. Creating a workplace where beliefs are respected, roles are defined, and clear communication prevails, especially during demanding periods like our busy season, is crucial. Offering flexibility and adapting to the team’s needs forms the cornerstone of effective leadership, facilitating a balanced and adaptable work environment.

How do you gather and utilise feedback from your team to improve your leadership style?

Encouraging an open feedback culture is vital to my leadership approach. I regularly prompt my team to share diverse feedback, whether positive, constructive, or critical. It’s crucial for our professional growth. Embracing feedback allows us to recalibrate our personal goals, ensuring they align with our collective objectives and allowing for necessary adjustments when needed.

Could you share any social or community initiatives you're involved in and explain their significance to you?

I’ve been dedicatedly involved with Science of the Soul (RSSB), a spiritual organisation, for over two decades. This commitment has not only grounded me but also instilled humility, kindness, patience, and discipline in me. Volunteering here has been instrumental in my personal growth, honing organisational and managerial skills while fostering a robust work ethic. The teachings from this spiritual space significantly contribute to my inner journey and equip me to navigate life’s challenges with clarity and composure. It’s become my anchor, providing a holistic perspective and aiding in managing situations that might otherwise seem overwhelming. This spiritual foundation serves as an essential guiding force in my life.

Could you share a project or initiative you're proud of? Describe its impact and the challenges you faced during its execution.

My earlier roles shaped me for greater responsibilities ahead. Managing teams, training, and streamlining tax systems—an invaluable preparation for what lay ahead. Establishing our India office was a defining challenge. I orchestrated the setup of support departments, facilitating cultural integration for a US-based expansion. This journey culminated in our transition to a larger, fully functional office space. Concurrently, initiating a tax department from scratch demanded meticulous planning, from recruitment strategies to aligning staff strengths with our evolving business setup. Being an integral part of the company’s growth has been immensely gratifying. However, juggling multiple roles without prior expertise presented hurdles. Embracing a fervour for learning and resilience propelled my ability to adapt and make substantial contributions amidst continual change.

What are your aspirations, and where do you envision yourself in five years from now?

In the long-term, I foresee myself continuing my journey within the firm, assuming greater responsibilities, and being an essential part of the larger leadership team. I aim to lead the tax department in India and foster its growth, potentially expanding our presence to multiple locations across the country. With more years of experience under my belt, I anticipate having a deeper understanding of the strategies required to steer the firm towards future success. Contributing to India’s economic growth through such initiatives remains a point of pride for me.







     







       







         







           







             







               







                 







                   







                     







                       







                         







                           







                             







                               







                                 

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