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Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit – Congress of Innovation

There are very few forums where you get to talk about being a woman, an entrepreneur, innovation, being fired and sleeping – all in one place. This was what The Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit was all about!

Being one of the few to be invited to The Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit from India, there was no way I was going to miss this prestigious event. So after hours of flight and drive, I arrived in Los Angeles on October 2, 2011 and set-up my base for the next few days at the plush Ritz Carlton at Laguna Niguel.

The sumit was all set to be electrified by some of the most biggest faces like Warren Buffet, Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, Pattie Sellers from Fortune, Molly Ashby from Solera Capital, Arianna Huffington, Indra Nooyi, Susan Lynn from Gilt Group, Marissa Mayer from Google, Tyra Banks… the list is endless.

Fortune Most Powerful Women SummitThe hotel was constructed on a cliff facing the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the summit was organized in the ballroom of the hotel. The very first session, Billion Dollar Babies: Sparking Corporate Innovation, had Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Google and Christine Day, CEO, Lululemon Athletica speaking from the stage. The session was inspiring. Marissa Mayer advised that 20 per cent of time should be dedicated to new ideas and made it a point that Google focuses on creativity and cultivating an open information culture so employees can self-organize. “We believe it is fine to fail. You just have to fail fast,” she said. In Google brainstorm meetings, they focus 70 per cent of time on core ideas, 20 per cent on related and 10 per cent on far flung ideas to inspire creative thinking. Considering this edition of LuxuryFacts is focusing on Innovation, this is a good piece of advice for all luxury brands out there.

The evening was marked by a ‘Summit Newcomer Meet and Greet’ by the gazebo. Once the summit winded up, we all proceeded for a sit-down dinner and that is when I laid my eyes on Warren Buffet. The man we all want to meet once in a lifetime. And as luck was by my side, he was sitting on a table right next to me. Talking to him was the most memorable moment of the Summit. Amongst all the talks at the summit, music also entertained us as Rosanne Cash sang with passion. An amazing performance!

The second day was extremely eventful and made quite a mark on me. When Susan Lyne, Chairman, Gilt Groupe, who also happens to be on the cover of Fortune magazine, addressed the summit for the session ‘Your Health: Facing The Big Challenges’, everyone was in awe of her. “As a woman, we tend to wait until we’re actually invited to the party,” she said.

Gilt Group, as well all know, is an online luxury retailer, an e-commerce site that sells designer everything from tutus to truffles. Susan Lynn, after having worked with Rupert Murdoch, Martha Stewart, Jane Fonda and Michael Eisner, is now at Gilt Groupe, and she's making herself over once again. Gilt seems to have figured out how to sell designer clothes and other high-end items. It creates an illusion of exclusivity. Shoppers have to become members (though there's no charge to do so). It doesn’t make us feel too guilty since most items are discounted by about 60 per cent. Gilt plays to our impulsive, thrill-seeking selves by putting up new enticements every day, precisely at noon, and taking them down 36 hours later. Imagine buying a Valentino bag at 50 per cent off from the comfort of your office at exactly 12:01 pm.

“I always go toward the heat,” Lyne said onstage, explaining why she long ago created Premiere magazine for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. She.moved to Walt Disney where she co-headed primetime entertainment, and in 2004, stepped in as the CEO at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia while Martha was otherwise preoccupied during five months in prison. “I never had a game plan,” said Lynn. In most cases, it was her choice to move on – except when she got fired from Disney, right after developing the show Desperate Housewives. Of course, that programme, along with others created under her watch, helped lift ABC out of the ratings basement. “It’s not the worst thing in the world to get fired,” Lyne says. “And it forces you to look at what you do well and you don't do well.”

During our quick post-session chat, when I told her I am from India, she was very keen to know more about the luxury and fashion industry in India. She was very keen to add Indian designers to their impressive portfolio. When I spoke to her about what we are doing in India with some of our clients like DLF Emporio and Tarun Tahiliani in the social media space, she was clearly impressed. 

Another interesting session was conducted by Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief, AOL Huffington Post Media Group and her interviewer – Chelsea Handler, bestselling author, talk show host, comedian, actor. Huffington said, “I love crying almost as much as I love sleeping.” And to justify this statement, she says that she has installed two nap rooms in her office.

A Gourmet BBQ was organized with guest chefs to always keep up stuffed and buoyed up. Nothing was missed as even fitness was taken care of by Tracy Anderson, Celebrity Trainer and Founder, The Tracy Anderson Method.

The third day ended with a session with Barbara Bush, CEO and Co-founder, Global Health Corps on ‘Women, Power, Humor and Making It Big’ by Chelsea Handler and Pattie Sellers, Editor at Large and Co-chair, Most Powerful Women Summit, Fortune. “It’s about being really savvy, about making smart decisions, and about making original decisions,” said Chelsea.

Wrapping up, the only thing I can say is it was an amazing experience which inspired and motivated me. The summit made me realize the importance of new, innovative thinking, creative ideas and risk-taking. And as a woman entrepreneur, creating a place in this largely male-dominated world is not easy. It taught me how to be strong and how to take the current challenging working scenario head-on.

Stuti Jalan is the Managing Director and founder of Crosshairs Communication – a Public Relations, Brand Consultancy and Social Media agency. Stuti began her entrepreneurial journey in April 2002, at the age of 22, with the inception of Crosshairs Communication. The list of Crosshairs clientele ranges from luxury, lifestyle, fashion, government and corporate houses. Stuti has recently been selected for The Fortune/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership Program which connects Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in the United States with emerging women leaders around the world.