Women today have become the drivers of economic recovery: Heeru Dingra

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, Heeru Dingra, CEO, WATConsult, speaks about adapting to the rapid transition to digital during the pandemic times, maintaining work-life balance while working from home, lessons in effective leadership and more.

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

Most women have inherently been engaged in dual responsibilities, and these attributes were essential to sail through the pandemic, to achieve post pandemic ambitions for inclusive growth and sustainable development goals. I believe, women today officially have a seat at the table labelled ‘drivers of economic recovery’.

Moreover, the COVID-19 impact has been unbiased towards gender with regards to job loss. As per my observation, a lot of women have stepped up to support their families and maintain their standard of living in the household because their spouses have been laid off or their income has diminished. The need to keep the ball rolling and the desire to achieve their respective family ambitions has led to a rise in the women workforce.

Secondly, the accessibility to the Internet has revolutionised the job market. Several women are donning the entrepreneur hat simply by converting a hobby/ interest into a small business. Digital, especially during the pandemic, has been a redeemer by offering women the opportunity to reassess their initial life choices and instead become drivers of economic recovery.

And finally, those women that took a break in their career are leveraging the flexibility that work from home offers. No daily commute, availability of jobs that pay by the hour and the control over work hours – the choice is completely yours. Additionally, with the growing understanding of how successful women leaders can be, the future for us looks more promising.

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?

The year gone by has been full of unforeseen challenges due to the pandemic. However, we had anticipated the disruption early on and started adapting to the new normal very quickly. Strategically we tapped into three pillars – ‘work, people and culture’, the crucial facets of any organisation.

With an in-depth assessment of the situation and careful re-arrangement of our offerings, we managed to stay on top of our game. We shifted our focus according to the changes in the brands’ needs and delivered desired business outcomes through creative solutions. We offered services like e-commerce, data analytics, technology-led solutions to further tap and track the changing consumer behaviour.

We further recognised the opportunities COVID-19 had opened up with the digital penetration in the Tier 2 and 3 cities. To tap this opportunity, we launched Bharat by WATConsult – a one-stop solution for all multilingual digital marketing needs, to help brands reach out the next billion users. Also, considering the many digital touchpoints available to the brands, it only seemed viable to provide them with a single-view tool, hence we introduced DASH – it is a one-view real-time dashboard which helps with data collation, connection, and storage, giving the right construct and framework to take an informed marketing and business decision.

It would be an understatement to say that the COVID-19 situation was stressful for people, hence protecting our people and caring for their overall wellness was one of our top priorities. WATConsult initiated a lockdown a week before the first national lockdown was announced and started working from home after equipping everyone with required infrastructure.

Recognising the impact of the lockdown on our mental wellbeing, we partnered up with MindPeers (https://mindpeers.co/). This initiative provided everyone an outlet of expression and started the much-needed mental health conversation. Also, with no salary cuts, no job losses throughout the year, we strengthened mental wellbeing and ensured financial wellness at the same time.

Additionally, social wellness was taken care of by a daily Zoom meeting, where we initiated something different and engaging every day of the week. We have conducted the highest number of training in 2020 as compared to any other year and happily celebrated all the occasions we would have usually, in the new normal style of digital. By doing this, we successfully maintained our company culture even during these tough times.

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?

Recently I heard a quote that resonated with me: “Success at the speed of balance.” That we should go only as fast as we can handle, without neglecting a full and balanced life. Fostering a balance between work and well-being has always been non-negotiable for me and for the people at WATConsult. Having said that, the only solution to achieving this balance is through prioritisation and time management. I have played several roles over the course of my professional life and I know the importance of this first hand. A hectic and unpredictable work schedule is inevitable sometimes, but it cannot be a way of life.

As clichéd as it may sound, work life balance is directly connected to productivity, so if the employee is feeling constrained, they would be unable to demonstrate WATConsult’s philosophy – Impact what matters. Create what lasts.

Hence, during the lockdown and through the months that followed, we ensured that we kept our morale high and were in virtual proximity through trainings (in a diverse range of topics like using improvised comedy techniques for creative thinking, mindfulness, healthy living, coffee brewing techniques, etc.) and through fun sessions that included Zoom Bingo, Yoga, Dance and Music Jamming. We organised interesting sessions with several renowned names like Dr Maral Yazarloo, Anaida Parvaneh, Dr Aditi Govitrikar, Richard Shotton, Mark Pollard and many more.

Apart from the above, we announced an interesting initiative called, ‘Do not work from home’. As the name suggests, WATizens have the opportunity to completely disconnect from work one day every month. The purpose is to encourage a digital detox and to promote the need to rejuvenate.

WATConsult has a dedicated team of 350+ people and more than 22% of us have been with the agency for over 5 years. I believe the above figure is a ‘work life balance’ testimonial in itself.

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?

Apart from being effective communicators and great decision makers, our resilience, empathy and multitasking skills make us well suited for crisis management.

About 60% of our senior leadership comprises of women and each of them step up to the challenge, embrace the circumstance, work out a solution and if need be, rework on it all over again with the same enthusiasm. There is a good reason why a female singer created the song, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Women also possess a strong sense of empathy to understand the wants and problems of their team members, thus winning their trust and loyalty. In an empathetic environment, job satisfaction and productivity are guaranteed.

And like we all know; women are natural multitaskers and this ability is a critical component when it comes to crisis management.

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

Here’s my humble share of five golden rules that women in the business need to know –

Rule 1: Master your Fears: Because gender stereotypes exist even today, ambitious women are often perceived as dominant and controlling. But if you want to rise to your full potential, you have to overcome the fear of being judged. Go all out in seeking opportunities that will help you grow and confidently take a seat at the table where opinions are being shared. Women viewed as successful leaders consider misguided perceptions as noise, while they efficiently use their time to revel in their exceptional strengths.

Rule 2: Ditch self-limiting beliefs: As women, we play multiple roles and struggle to live up to the expectations set for ourselves. After all that we do, we still tend to believe that we aren’t doing justice towards our responsibilities. These self-limiting beliefs and self-criticism is more destructive than the ones that come from others. At such times, realise that you are being tough on yourself. There’s nothing wrong in acknowledging that you can’t do everything on your own and a little help could ease your workload. Moreover, the goal is to be present in whatever place you find yourself.

Rule 3: Pat your own back: Humility being one of our core values, crediting ourselves is our biggest struggle. I constantly hear women either minimising their accomplishments or not talking about it all. I’ve experienced the same in the past, but as I understood more about self-love, I made a conscious choice to make the shift and today I flaunt my achievements gracefully. Be your own cheerleader for once and you won’t go back to your old ways.

Rule 4: Be YOU: While Oscar Wilde says, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’ – on the other hand, the world we live in is constantly demanding a different version. At such times, it’s important to realign with your values and beliefs. Easier said than done, but once you put this into practice, you stay true to yourself and establish your identity.

Rule 5: Together WE climb higher: A lot of women have been brought up to believe that we’re in competition with each other. We must think bigger, beyond our personal agendas and recognise that we grow stronger when we choose to uplift another. Helping others won’t diminish your position or power, in fact it will earn you meaningful relationships. Women supporting other women is key to more women succeeding in business, particularly in leadership roles.

Lastly, know that you are precious and invaluable – from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. Celebrate yourself because the resilience you bring in your professional and personal life every day deserves nothing less.


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