Leading the Charge: Asha Subramanian – Subex’s CHRO: A Rising Star in HR Leadership

Asha Subramanian
Asha Subramanian

Life unfolds on a spectrum, with two distinct paths before us. On one hand, we can passively accept the currents that carry us, letting circumstances dictate our fate. This path requires a degree of resignation, an acceptance of whatever destiny throws our way.

The other path, the one chosen by Asha Subramanian, is an active one. It’s a conscious decision to take the reins and become the architect of your own life. This path demands proactiveness, a willingness to shape your destiny and fight for the life you envision.

Asha embodies this active approach. She’s fueled by a powerful motivator – the belief that unwavering desire can bend the universe to your will. This philosophy, captured in the famous quote, “When you want something, the whole universe conspires for you to achieve it,” from “The Alchemist,” serves as her guiding principle. It’s a testament to her unwavering belief that we each have the power to create the life we desire.

By choosing the path less travelled, the path of active creation, Asha isn’t just shaping her destiny; she’s setting an example. She’s a beacon for those who yearn to take control, break free from the constraints of circumstance, and forge their path to success and fulfilment.

The Startup Mindset: From Action to Achievement

Asha, Subex‘s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), is making a name for herself in HR. Her focus on people and commitment to building a thriving work environment position her as a leader to watch.

Asha is strongly inclined towards positivity, finding comfort in maintaining an optimistic outlook even during challenging times. She firmly believes in the power of manifestation, where thoughtful action can turn dreams into reality. While setbacks are inevitable, she views them as stepping stones, each offering valuable lessons for growth and propelling her forward.

Asha’s work approach prioritizes execution over extended planning, a mindset honed through experience in various startup environments. This pragmatic approach has proven effective in navigating such settings’ dynamic and fast-paced nature.

Building a Culture of Excellence 

A passion marks Asha’s career for fostering a positive work experience. She prioritizes trust, open communication, and creating a space where employees can flourish.

As an iconic CHRO in the entrepreneurial world, before taking us back to the beginning of her journey, Asha says, “I would like to convey my Gratitude to the entire WWIM (WomenWorld India Media) Team first. Working with people and making a difference has always been a central focus of my career. I began my journey in HR at a small consultancy specializing in tech hiring and marketing. I recall the days of approaching corporates to sign us as vendors. This experience provided invaluable insights into the types of individuals needed at various organizational levels and propelled me forward in my career.”

Asha’s professional odyssey commenced under the guiding wing of her life partner, Subramanian, a seasoned entrepreneur and TED speaker. Recognizing her innate talent for connecting with people and navigating challenging situations with empathy, he spurred her confidence. Asha gradually forged her path, leaving her mark in esteemed organizations like LG Soft, Ness Technologies, and Goibibo. Presently, she thrives at Subex Limited.

Throughout her journey, Asha cultivated a specialization in startups, often assuming the pivotal role of the inaugural HR professional in numerous ventures. Her expertise not only facilitated the assembly of effective teams but also played a pivotal role in propelling these companies towards growth and success.

Asha’s diverse roles within different organizations have allowed her to adapt and excel according to varying needs and requirements. This journey has reinforced Asha’s belief that HR is her ideal field, aligning perfectly with her personality and interests. She says, “I have never regretted this career choice, as it has provided me with ample room for growth, allowing me to continually learn, solve complex problems, comprehend organizational dynamics, and remain true to myself.”

If given the chance to start my career anew, I would unquestionably choose Human Resources once more, as it has been a source of immense professional fulfilment and personal satisfaction,” adds Asha.

Empowering People into Their Best Version

Her experience spans all aspects of HR, including talent acquisition, development, and employee engagement. This well-rounded expertise allows her to craft holistic people strategies that benefit the company and its workforce.

Recounting her major achievements in personal and professional realms, Asha says she encountered several milestones that have significantly influenced her journey. One that stands out is her role in building the tech team at Goibibo, which she considers to be the best team in India, achieving remarkable feats. Additionally, she takes pride in being the sole HR contributor to Arogya Setu, where she assisted in translating content into various languages.

One of my greatest joys comes from witnessing individuals hired by me or my team thrive and make meaningful contributions to their personal and organizational success,” recalls Asha.

It’s incredibly fulfilling to witness her daughter’s growth into a confident, empathetic young woman poised to take on the world, says Asha. As a mother, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing her develop into such a strong and compassionate individual.

She derives great fulfilment from acquiring new skills, like wheel yoga, wave boarding, and biking, which reflect her passion for adventure and continuous personal growth. Asha states her motto, “I firmly believe that our aspirations shape our reality, which is why I embrace a ‘day zero’ mindset, allowing me to approach each day with renewed enthusiasm and a fresh outlook.”

The HR Powerhouse of D&I

At the core of her approach is a belief in empowering individuals. She champions diversity and inclusion, ensuring everyone has a voice and feels valued.

Emerging as one of India’s most iconic CHRO to watch, Asha’s guiding philosophy emphasizes the importance of adaptability, execution, and empathy.

*People first: Asha firmly believes that people are an organization’s most valuable asset. By prioritizing their well-being, development, and engagement, she aims to create a thriving workplace culture where individuals can grow and contribute their best.

*Execution Mindset: Asha’s philosophy is deeply rooted in being execution-oriented. “While planning and strategizing are crucial, I believe that execution is where the real impact is made.” She prioritizes action and results, ensuring that plans are translated into tangible outcomes. This approach has been instrumental in driving success and achieving goals effectively in her role as a CHRO.

*“What can I do to support you:” Balancing empathy with organizational goals can lead to more holistic and sustainable HR practices, says Asha. According to her, hearing a person’s problem can solve half of the issues. Bringing in a well-balanced physical and mental well-being is the game changer in any organization.

*Resilience: It is a cornerstone of Asha’s role as a CHRO. Over the course of her career, she’s encountered numerous challenging situations that have tested her resolve. From navigating complex organizational changes to addressing sensitive HR issues, she’s learned to bounce back from setbacks and maintain composure under pressure. This resilience helps her overcome obstacles and sets an example for others, fostering a culture of perseverance and adaptability within the organization.

A Visionary Leader of Subex

Asha’s leadership style is characterized by a dedication to employee development, fostering a culture of empathy and innovation.  She is a role model for the next generation of HR leaders.

As the Chief Human Resources Officer of Subex, Asha is proud to spearhead her organization’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Asha says, “We recognize that a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential for driving innovation and creativity and creating a culture where every individual feels valued and empowered to contribute their best.” She highlights some of the inclusive initiatives they have introduced at Subex to champion DEI and create a workplace where everyone thrives.

~Creating a Diverse Talent Pipeline

At Subex they believe that building a diverse workforce starts with recruiting and retaining talent from all backgrounds, says Asha. “To achieve this, we have implemented strategies to attract candidates from diverse communities through targeted recruitment efforts, partnerships with diversity-focused organizations, and inclusive job descriptions that emphasize our commitment to DEI.” Additionally, they have established practices to mitigate unconscious bias in the hiring process, ensuring that all candidates are evaluated based on their skills, experience, and potential.

~Fostering Equity and Fairness

Equity is a core value at Subex, says Asha and they are committed to ensuring that every employee has equal opportunities for growth and advancement. “To promote equity in the workplace, we have implemented policies and practices that address systemic barriers and promote fairness.” This includes initiatives such as pay equity audits to identify and address disparities, transparent promotion processes based on merit and performance, and providing training and development opportunities for employees from underrepresented groups.

~Cultivating an Inclusive Culture

Inclusion is at the heart of everything they do at Subex. Asha says, “We believe that creating a culture where every individual feels included, respected, and valued is essential for driving employee engagement and fostering innovation.” To cultivate an inclusive culture, they have introduced a range of initiatives, including employee resource groups (ERGs) where employees can connect and support one another, diversity training programs to raise awareness and build cultural competence, and mentorship programs to support and guide employees from underrepresented backgrounds.

Our gender inclusion flagship initiatives, SubexSHEan, Tech Firebrand, and the Maternity Mentorship program, deserve special mention,” says Asha.

*Measuring Progress and Accountability:

As a CHRO, Asha says she understands the importance of accountability in driving meaningful change. That’s why they have established key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure their progress on DEI initiatives and hold themselves accountable for driving results. These KPIs include metrics such as diversity representation at all levels of the organization, employee satisfaction scores related to DEI, and the effectiveness of their diversity programs in attracting and retaining talent. “By tracking our progress against these metrics, we can identify areas for improvement and continue to drive positive change.”

Subex is committed to creating a workplace where diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just buzzwords but lived values. Through its inclusive initiatives and unwavering commitment to DEI, Subex is building a culture where every individual has the opportunity to thrive and succeed. As the CHRO, she is dedicated to continuing this journey and ensuring that Subex remains a leader in driving DEI in the workplace. “Together, we can build a future where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential.”

An Endowing Advice

As a woman CHRO, Asha says the best advice she can give as a leader is to empower those around you, teaching people how not to need you by cultivating and nurturing their best qualities. “I find that the best leaders are those who develop other leaders.”

Build a Support Network: A strong support network of mentors, sponsors, and allies can provide women with the guidance, advice, and advocacy they need to advance in their careers. Networking with other women in their field can also provide valuable support and encouragement.

Seek Out Leadership Opportunities: Actively seeking out leadership opportunities, such as taking on leadership roles in projects or volunteering for leadership positions in professional organizations, can help women develop their leadership skills and visibility within their organizations.

Lead by Example: By being a role model for other women and demonstrating that it is possible to break through traditional gender stereotypes and barriers, women can inspire and empower others to do the same.

Develop Skills and Expertise: Building skills and expertise in their field can help women gain the confidence and credibility they need to advance in their careers. Additional education, certifications, or training can demonstrate a commitment to professional growth and development.

Challenge Stereotypes: Women can challenge traditional gender stereotypes by defying expectations and pursuing roles and opportunities that may not be traditionally seen as “feminine.” This can help break down barriers and pave the way for other women to follow

Be Kind to Yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, especially during challenging times. Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Speak up for your beliefs and advocate for your needs and rights. Always be open to learning new things and improving yourself.

A Fearless Wisdom

Further, Asha advises young women starting their careers to be fearless in pursuing their goals. She says, “Don’t underestimate your abilities. Be proactive in seeking new opportunities for growth and development through mentorship and sponsorship. Don’t hesitate to speak up, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone. Build a strong support network of mentors, sponsors, and allies who can provide guidance, advice, and support. Having a mentor or sponsor who believes in you and advocates for your advancement can significantly impact your career trajectory.”

Beyond work, Asha enjoys engaging with young people through university leadership programs, sharing her HR expertise within communities, and discovering new and exciting places to unwind. A particular interest lies in thriller and horror movies, with at least one finding its way onto her weekend relaxation schedule. Spending quality time with family over the weekend is a source of rejuvenation, instilling a sense of vigour and enthusiasm for the coming week.

As a physical fitness enthusiast, Asha prioritizes regular exercise as a key lifestyle component. She has dabbled in cycling, weight training, yoga, and walking, finding enjoyment in any activity that increases energy levels, improves mood, relieves stress, and promotes overall well-being.

Shaping the Tomorrow 

Before Subex, Subramanian’s work at Goibibo helped drive growth through innovative HR initiatives. She’s known for her ability to translate strategy into action, leading organizations beyond traditional HR practices.

According to Asha, in an era of rapid technological advancements and evolving business landscapes, the role of Human Resources (HR) has transcended boundaries. They are moving towards becoming cultural cultivators and strategic partners in driving business success.

HR space has been the most dynamic and evolving, especially post-COVID-19; HR has become a strong strategic partner, and what started as an HR agenda has now become an organisational need and a must-have.

Technology and automation are slowly becoming the foundation of the HR process. HR technology tools, data analytics, and artificial intelligence are improving decision-making and HR practices.

HR is increasingly relying on data analytics to make informed decisions. Being proficient in data analysis can help identify trends, predict future needs, and measure the impact of HR initiatives.

DEI has become an agenda across organizations. It has also been included in the Annual operating plan of HR and senior management to ensure that the workforce is representative and inclusive of all individuals.

A strong culture also helps attract and retain talent, creating better products and services for clients. Achieving this requires HR professionals to be critical in establishing a strong workplace culture.

HR will focus on retention through building employees’ skills rather than just filling roles.  People will pursue portfolio careers, accumulating diverse talents and experiences. If everyone in an organization has the same mindset about learning, it will be easier for them to take advantage of the available resources to grow their skills.

Finally, HR can ensure a learning environment where people feel comfortable sharing what they know with others, thereby increasing everyone’s knowledge base over time.

Fostering the Future of HR 

With her expertise and commitment to people, Asha is poised to redefine the future of HR. As the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), Asha divulges that her vision encompasses a future where her role transcends traditional HR functions, evolving into a strategic partnership that shapes our organization’s culture, drives innovation, and cultivates a diverse and inclusive workplace. She aspires to lead her company in creating an environment that deeply values and nurtures talent, “Empowering our employees to realize their fullest potential and embracing change as a pivotal driver of growth.”

As a CHRO, Asha is eager to leverage her experience to mentor college and university students, providing them with valuable guidance on navigating their careers and maintaining mental health.

Asha says, “In terms of significantly impacting India’s HR landscape, I am committed to continuing to champion initiatives that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our workplace. I firmly believe that a diverse workforce fosters heightened creativity, innovation, and overall success for our organization.” Furthermore, she intends to harness the power of technology and data analytics to elevate their HR practices, enhance employee engagement, and propel their business outcomes.

In short, her overarching goal is to catalyze positive transformation in the HR domain, both within her organization and throughout India. “I am dedicated to fostering a culture characterized by continual learning, innovation, and inclusivity, thereby driving enduring impact and progress in our industry and beyond,” concludes Asha, who inspires others to embrace the potential within their workforce and drive positive change.