Practitioners Perspectives // October 22,2021

Perspectives on Building a Strong Global Relationship

Featuring: Rajashree Iyer , Associate Director, Strategic Initiatives – The Sona Group


Rajashree Iyer Associate Director, Strategic Initiatives – The Sona Group

Rajashree Iyer has more 20 years of experience and is an expert in International Client Management, International Relations, Business Development, Trade and Technology Transfer between countries and working in the Development sector. She also conceives Corporate Social Responsibility projects for large companies and helps them deliver on their CSR vision.

As a woman leader was it easy or difficult in your career journey? 

Well obviously, it was not easy. My long career has been filled with several challenges, but I was prepared for it. When I saw it coming, I was parallelly getting ready to combat and convince.

In certain instances, I had to work harder to prove myself, I had to continuously upgrade myself, I kept preparing myself to face future business changes and needless to mention, ensure I had a work life balance. I worked hard at home as well to set things right every day despite a solid support system. Sometimes I would go to bed only in the early hours because of juggling both work and home.

At one point in my career, I was handling five organization portfolios simultaneously, but I strove to provide an atmosphere of ‘consistency and comfort’ both at work and home.  While I have not had any bad experiences because of my gender, it has certainly come in the way when some crucial decisions had to be taken regarding promotion, compensation et al. Working with my team and understanding things from their perspective has provided them with a safety net while working with me.

With so many international projects in your hands, have you faced any failures? 

Strangely not much. Planning has been my mantra. I have always meticulously planned and have identified who to go to for what. I go to the right set of experts for specific functions and enlist their help. In this way all my projects have been built with a core network of specialists. Accepting what you know and whom to reach out for what you don’t know is a key aspect for the success of several of my projects.

How did it all begin? How has your European association happened? 

It all began during my tenure with Anchorage where I started interacting with the BASQUE Government, the Northern part of Spain where I replicated one of their teleworking projects for creating employability for women and unemployed youth in rural areas without migration to cities in search of livelihood.

Subsequently I have been handling projects like EFQM, CSR Platform and GIS System. Toyota Kirloskar Motors Ltd., wanted to start a CSR program for the benefit of society keeping in mind the automotive sector in which they work with.

I was part of their Toyota Safety Education Program (TSEP) which was conceptualized and executed for the first year and then handed over to a nationwide NGO for the project to be replicated. I conceived and setup the CSR program for Welspun Renewable Energy in rural part of Tamilnadu after doing a KRA (Key Responsibility Areas) among the beneficiary villages on what program would be of assistance to the villagers in Empowerment, Education and Health. I was also part of many European Commission Framework Program projects that focussed on R&D and Innovation called FP. 

In this journey as a business leader, what are the unconscious biases you have experienced? 

In one instance I single headedly set up an NGO, but projects under this umbrella were not coming by because of lack of vision and the ego of a senior male executive. And funnily I have also been at the receiving end of biases from other women. It all boils down to the organization culture. Frankly when we invite senior leaders to be part of the team, we need to give them the space, time and respect for their ideas and thoughts which harnesses the organizational growth. 

Have you been afraid on the job at any time?

  1. I believe strongly that after ‘z’ there are infinite possibilities, I never allow fear to come in the way and focus my thinking on ways out of any situations. There are infinite solutions to every problem, if you care to look for them. 

How have mentors shaped your career?

Some of my previous bosses have been instrumental in instilling a solid set of values such as planning, looking at solutions, preparation before action and other key aspects and not just problems. And also, I look for every opportunity to teach myself by observing people and reading much. My observations of life around and reading has reframed my thinking to a large extent.

What are you proud of?

I am certainly proud of my long career which is filled with successful launch of a plethora of projects from scratch. Also, I have had the opportunity to work with diverse projects in multiple sectors, which accounts to holistic development.

I am filled with pride and emotion when I look back on the aspect of creation from nothing. All the international projects that I have championed have not existed before I came on board, and under my watchful eyes they have been born. So, pride is there yes, simply because my persistence and commitment has stood me in good stead.

Having such a wide exposure in International Sales and Business Development, what would like to share with Sales professionals?

  • Firstly, a thorough knowledge of what you are selling is key, next, what your customer wants will be equally important. To me these two things are of paramount importance.
  • Frankly the first four minutes you connect with your customer will make or break you, by then the customer would have made the first impression. So, make the most of it, and for this exercise your elevator pitch will be the cue card.
  • Importantly know when to stop talking and practice active listening as much as possible. Don’t run the risk of your customer blocking your number.
  • Speaking the language of the customer will give you a cutting edge. The more you resonate with the customer in terms of his/her business outlook the better your chances are.
  • Finally polish your communication skills, and learn to articulate professionally, speak fluently and build on your executive presence.


I believe strongly that after ‘z’ there are infinite possibilities. There are infinite solutions to every problem, if you care to look for them.


What would be your advice for business leaders who are working at a global level with different countries?

Patience is the key, especially international projects which require a gestation period. So, wait for results to come up, but that said, it all depends also on the quality of relationships that you have with your counterparts. Irrespective of the country and culture, if you can nurture a good quality of working relationship then things will get done smoothly. Patience and nurturing working relationships will be key for surviving not only international markets, but also in others.

Rajashree Iyer Rajashree Iyer

Associate Director, Strategic Initiatives – The Sona Group

Rajashree Iyer has more 20 years of experience and is an expert in International Client Management, International Relations, Business Development, Trade and Technology Transfer between countries and working in the Development sector. She also conceives Corporate Social Responsibility projects for large companies and helps them deliver on their CSR vision.

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