Indra Nooyi,, Sonia Gandhi, Lalita Gupte and Kalpana Morparia, Vidya Chhabria among Indians on list

NEW YORK: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has overtaken U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the world's most powerful woman, according to a Forbes magazine list published on Thursday.

This time last year, Germany's first woman chancellor was riding high in opinion polls as leader of the then-Opposition conservative Christian Union but did not even feature in the ranks of Forbes's top 100 most powerful women.

And besides Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi, who slid one place this year to number three, the rest of the top 10 are business executives, topped by chief executive-designate of PepsiCo, Indian-born and educated Indra Nooyi.

The magazine's third annual list sees talkshow host Oprah Winfrey dropping to 14th place and New York Senator Hillary Clinton rising from 26 to 18 as her expected campaign for the U.S. presidency in 2008 gathers pace.

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, jumped to 16 in a year in which the organisation doubled in size.

Ms. Merkel aside, the list includes three other women who emerged within the past year to become the first women to hold such high political office in their countries: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (17), Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (51) and South Korean Prime Minister Han Myung-sook (68).

Among women working in the entertainment industry, Disney co-chairman Anne Sweeney came in at 15 ahead of MTV's chief executive Judy McGrath (52), Amy Pascal, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment (60), and CBS Paramount TV's president Nancy Tellem (75).

Katie Couric, a CBS television network anchor, is the highest placed journalist at 54, ahead of globetrotting CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour (79).

Among other notables are: U.S. First Lady Laura Bush (43), Queen Elizabeth II (46), Myanmar's Opposition leader democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (47), Playboy chairman Christie Hefner (80) and Jordan's Queen Rania (81).

Sonia in 13th position

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Ms. Nooyi and ICICI Bank's Lalita Gupte and Kalpana Morparia are among the Indians on the Forbes list.

Ms. Gandhi occupies the 13th position on the list, while Ms. Nooyi finds herself as the fourth most powerful woman. Joint Chairpersons of ICICI Bank Ms. Gupte and Ms. Morparia are on the 93rd position, while Vidya Chhabria, chairperson of Jumbo Group, Dubai, is at the 95th spot.

The magazine stresses that Ms. Gandhi heads the most powerful political party and has travelled far since she tentatively entered India's maelstrom in 1990s. "She won the general election in May 2004 but then took a pass on the Prime Minister's job, giving it to [Manmohan] Singh." Though critics used the move to call into question her power, "[Ms.] Gandhi is still widely revered especially among the country's poor millions."

Power ranking

The listing is based on a power ranking that, the magazine says, is composite of visibility (measured by press citation) and economic impact.

In its citation for Ms. Nooyi, Forbes says few people could handle either the presidential or the chief financial officer job at a company worth $100 billion. But not only has Ms. Nooyi held both offices since 2001, she was recently hand-picked to become Pepsi's new chief executive, effective October 1.

Previously, Ms. Nooyi was an executive at Asea Brown Boveri, Motorola and Boston Consulting Group. Before emigrating to the U.S. from India in 1978, she was a product manager at Johnson & Johnson and Mettur Beardsell, a textile outfit, in India.

Ms. Gupte has held a variety of positions in the ICCI Bank since 1971 and is now in charge of its international business arm, Forbes says. Ms. Gupte is the Joint Managing Director, along with Ms. Morparia, of India's second-largest bank, which boasts total assets of about $38.5 billion. The bank now has subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, Canada and Russia.

Ms. Morparia joined the bank in 1975 and now heads the corporate centre that is responsible for strategy for the bank's different units. Ms. Morparia, who has a law degree from Bombay University, is responsible for risk management, audits and compliance, the magazine says. AFP, PTI

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