The responsibility of navigating the new normal is stronger than ever: Lakshmi D Rebecca

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Last year, we launched our unique and distinct program, called WOMEN DISRUPTORS, which drew a lot of attention and was highly appreciated by the industry. W-SUITE is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising & Marketing, PR & Communication industry. In the refurbished series, we will find out how women leaders have been managing their teams and work as well as how they have been navigating through the toughest and most challenging times brought about by the global pandemic.

In conversation with Adgully, Lakshmi D Rebecca, Co-Founder, Red Bangle, speaks about the changing face of women leadership in pandemic times, how COVID-19 has widened the role and scope of women entrepreneurs, achieving work-life balance in times of crisis, and much more. 

How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the post-pandemic world?

At times of crisis, we are programmed to turn to our leaders for inspiration and direction. It’s been inspiring to see countries led by women—such as Germany, Taiwan, Norway, and New Zealand—garner global recognition with their response to the pandemic by calling for early and bold changes resulting in a controlled response to the spread of COVID-19. At the global stage, it’s safe to say the bar is set quite high.

As leaders in the post-pandemic business world, the responsibility of navigating the ‘new normal’ – creatively and strategically controlling and pivoting business direction, managing remote teams, and boosting team morale to name a few, has been stronger than ever. Seeing that CEO positions with women leaders grew to 7.4% this year from 2018’s 4.8% within Fortune 500 companies, we could say the scope of responsibilities for women leaders has widened globally, but I believe it is safe to say we have a long way to go.

Incidentally, we are probably one of the few businesses in the creative industry that have more women than men in our team – some of whom lead critical business verticals such as design, talent acquisition, and operations. Our women are bold with their ideas and meticulous with their execution. The 2X year-on-year growth we’ve achieved as a business since inception, stands testament to our hiring strategy. 

The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home with no modes of the usual contacts. How have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? What were the challenges that you faced and how did you tackle them?

While on the one hand video production is becoming easier, on the other hand, video production is getting more dynamic and is required at scale. Companies that once spent a crore a year on production, are now spending 10 and getting twice as many videos for their money’s worth. So, our approach to curate, collaborate and run everything on the cloud is the answer to growing enterprise needs and is in-line with how we are all working today.

Before the pandemic, companies used to meet agencies in-person to vet and brief. Today, it’s all happening online. In fact, we have a recent instance where we met the client for the first time on the sets of their ad film, on the day of the shoot.

The fact that we are a digital-native business and that our business model is built around cloud-based processes, gives us a unique advantage in running productions at scale and across locations and formats, even without meeting many of the key people involved. Even reviews are done interactively, on our platform. While we have seen 2x growth in the number of ads and videos produced this year, demand for TVCs has grown 5x.

One such project that we worked on was with Metro Cash & Carry. We produced 5 TVCs and their adaptations in regional languages during the pandemic. For the first time since inception, we met the client for the first time on the sets of their ad film. The entire process – research, benchmarking, pitch, pre-production schedule, and all the back and forth leading to the production – happened digitally, and remotely. The positive reception from the client’s end was equally rewarding. 

How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between managing the team & office work on the one hand and family responsibilities on the other as boundaries blurred while working from home? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?

Ironically, there was some synergy between the timing of the lockdown and my personal and entrepreneurial journey. It came at a time when I needed a break. I had been solely focusing on the business for the last three years. Growing the business, hiring talent, and expanding our global footprint with an extremely lean team – I hadn’t found the time to catch a breather. Working from home, I noticed I was cutting down on work-time by at least an hour on average in a day and I did some therapeutic gardening on the weekends.

Adding to that, when you are a business owner and your life partner is an entrepreneur as well, the uncertainty and implications about whether or not you are going to survive the lean period is strong on both ends. Both my partner and I had to slow down a bit, eat dinners together and be there emotionally for each other. 

Multiple studies have shown how women leaders performed better during the COVID-19 crisis. According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?

Fortunately, I have always had a partnership of equals, whether it is at work with my co-founder (Sunil Patrapati) or at home with my partner (Kunch). I feel every individual has different ways of dealing with a crisis – be it COVID-19 or something else altogether. Personally for me, when the pandemic first hit, I had a certain calmness to my train of thought. I remember thinking to myself – “what is the worst that could happen? We might shut shop and all of us will hopefully find new focus areas and jobs a few months down the line or we will sail through the crisis.” With a bit of planning, foresight, and immense faith and hard work from the Red Bangle team, I’m happy to see that we’re closing in on hitting our post-pandemic projections for the year. 

What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?

  • Pause and breathe through really stressful moments
  • You definitely need a plan for the year, no matter how many influencing factors change: and then you probably need to keep revising that plan every second month to help stay on top of everything
  • Share your difficult moments with your team and support them in what they are going through
  • Celebrate the people that are in it with you
  • When one door closes, another door definitely opens – you just need to keep your eyes and mind open

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