W'day Spl'13 | Passion & Desire to excel has brought Meenakshi Menon (Madhvani) so far!

It is always the negativity that catches our eye. Maybe, because looking at the positive has never been the norm. Positivity always brings in inspiration and a determination to work ahead in the appropriate direction. And so, women of today have learnt to shun the negativity around them and move ahead in life with a positive approach to carve out a niche for themselves in their field of work. One such positive example who is an inspiration for many is MeenakshiMenon(Madhvani) of Spatial Access.

MeenakshiMenon (Madhavani)has three decades of experience in Advertising, Media & Marketing and has a track record for building successful businesses in new niches. She began her career with Account Management &Media in Lintas (now Lowe) and moved on to become MD of Zee until 1997. She has been the CEO of India's first media specialist: Carat Media Services India, and has also been the regional director of Asia Pacific. She is currently the Chairperson of Spatial Access which she launched with her Technology Partner—Prof Claudio Conti.

Meenakshi has numerous awards to her credit. In November 2003 she was selected as one of India's 25 Most Powerful Women in Business in a listing done by Business Today and has also been hailed as the “Most Influential people in Media”. We got a chance to have a conversation with this “Iron Lady” of media and below are the excerpts of our conversation with her.

On the occasion of Women’s Day, Adgully caught up with MeenakshiMenon (Madhavani)to understand her view point on the empowerment of women in media space.

Adgully (AG):  How would you describe your journey?

MeenakshiMenon (Madhavani) (MM): Work in progress. It’s not yet over but the ground I have covered has been very good.

AG: What kind of problems or challenges did you face in the initial years? How difficult was it to get a breakthrough in the industry?

MM: I got my first break, because my then boss saw that I had passion and a desire to excel. That’s what is important, that we are able to tap into the passion that youngsters have. They ensure that the Industry stays vibrant. To be honest the 80’s, the period when I started my career, were the early years for women in advertising, but it was a sector that was welcoming to women and so I and a bunch of other people all got in fairly easily, but what is sad is that many dropped off along the way.

AG: How has the industry evolved in its outlook towards women in today's time?

MM: Advertising & Media has been one of the most gender neutral sectors of business, even more so than Marketing. This freedom has helped many women establish careers. However there is no room at the top for women. This Industry is managed by the old boys club. You will find the token CD but not the CEO. There are more women in Media but I think that has more to do with the fact that women like Helen Anchan and Roda Mehta had established their hold on the turf, much before the current crop of Media Agency CEOs

AG: There must have been many milestones in your career, one specific achievement that made you take pride in yourself as a woman.

MM: I have always seen myself asa professional first and last. The fact that I am a woman is of less consequence. It just makes me more sensitive in handling the personal problems of the people who work with me.

AG: Did you ever encounter a biased attitude or perspective as compared to your male colleagues?

MM: I came across the glass ceiling that women have to face a number of times in their career. I found that individuals were biased but organizations were not. I made it a point to stay away from the male bonding sessions because I knew that those were but an excuse to exclude the women in the work place. 

AG: Was there any moment that you felt dejected by the challenges that lay in front you because of being a woman?

MM: I feel dejected at the challenges facing us as Indians. I feel dejected at the challenges facing us Bombayites! But I never feel dejected because of my gender. In fact it gives me insights, attitudes and strengths that many men do not have. I am a better manager because I am a mom.

AG: Do tell us about your current role and what’s that one thing which gives you a maximum happiness in a day’s work?

MM: When I look around me and see that more and more women are joining the workforce on their terms, it makes me happy. When I see older women mentor younger women it makes me happy. When I see gender distinctions blur it makes me happy. That is what I enjoy about my current role and team. It does not matter what Gender you are, but just how good you are.

AG: Is there anything specific you would want to do to bring about a change in people's perspective towards women?

MM: I think our media is to blame for a very warped perspective of women. She is either the Goddess or the whore and nothing in between. Fact is that women are neither Goddess nor whore but a little bit of both.  Unless we understand that we will continue to have men objectify women.

AG: What is your advice to the young professionals who want to make it big in the corporate world?

MM: Be principled in what you do. Unless you have a value system that stands the test of time you cannot build a foundation for your career. Be courageous and stand up for your rights and for those who need your support. Be passionate and honest with yourself and with your organization. | Rabab Rupawala [rabab(at)adgully.com]


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