Nirmala Sitharaman – From Sales Girl To The Finance Minister Of World’s Largest Democracy


“Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life; it’s about what you inspire others to do.” Who knew that the only meeting with Sushma Swaraj will change Nirmala Sitharaman’s entire life and will make an entry into the world of bureaucracy and politics? After meeting with Sushma Swaraj at a school in Hyderabad she started climbing the stairs of politics, which marked the beginning of her successful journey.

She is the only woman after Indira Gandhi to hold the position of the Defence Minister of India. She’s also known for being the first full-time female Finance Minister of India. However, not many know that she belonged to a non-political family in Chennai. She graduated from Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Tiruchirapalli, and went on to pursue a Masters’s degree in Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. Her father Narayanan Sitharaman was employed in the Indian Railways and her mother, K. Savitri, was a housewife.

During one of  her interviews, she revealed that she was “always inclined to the subject of globalization and its impact on the developing countries.” Further, she also stated that “for a student who studies at JNU, there’s no escape from politics” and perhaps that’s when her interest in politics grew.

While studying at JNU she met her life partner Parakala Prabhakar. Notably, after meeting with Prabhakar her journey took a life-changing turn. After their marriage, when both of them shifted to London for Prabhakar’s PhD at the London School of Economics, Sitharaman took up a job as a salesgirl at Habitat, a store that specializes in home decor.

During her time as a salesgirl, she proved to be so efficient that she was even awarded a bottle of champagne for her exceptional performance in the Christmas season. Sales were one of the fields that she ventured into. In the meantime, she also contributed her work as an Assistant Economist in the Agricultural Engineers Association in the United Kingdom. In addition to this, she also had a brief stint at BBC World Service, and she also had her share of experience as a Senior Manager (R&D) at Price Waterhouse in the UK. If we go through her career graph we have evidence to say that she was very much ambitious about her aim and also was extremely serious about her career. She was unstoppable. 

Starting her career as a salesgirl who thought that her success would touch the sky. Further with dedication and devotion, she achieved what she wanted in her life. On the other hand, she also set an example for people and also motivated and inspired others too.


After returning to India in 1991, Sitaraman established a school in Hyderabad. This was the period when she got in touch with BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. Swaraj was so impressed with her outspoken views, stoic and graceful personality, and knowledge, that she was soon appointed as a member of the National Women’s Commission. She completed her three-year tenure in the NWC (2003-2005), after which she joined BJP. Although her husband is the son of a renowned Congress politician, she chose to join hands with BJP.

In 2010 she became the spokesperson of the BJP and this was the political milestone that marked the beginning of many such endeavours. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the election in 2014 she was appointed to a ministerial position in the cabinet. She took charge as the Minister of State for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Today, Nirmala Sitharaman is the first (full-time) woman Finance Minister of India.

She says, “Always choose the middle path and try to maintain equanimity. In other words, never go to any extreme – don’t be too suppliant because you will lose your dignity nor be too overconfident and aggressive or you will eventually lose your ground. Remain balanced. That way you can never fall too far.” Like most of us, the woman who started her career from scratch never gave up and ultimately reached the heights of success. 

by Shyma

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