Vishakha Mota, a storyteller with a demonstrated history of working in the public relations and communications industry. While the Pandemic has been rather tough globally, Vishakha turned this into an opportunity to establish her own start-Up Brand Sentry with her partner Zohair Shaikh, a full-service Marketing and communications agency based out of Mumbai.
In an exclusive chat with MediaNews4U, Vishakha Mota shares her experience journey as a female Entrepreneur and Challenges faced when she started her own start-up:
Talking about your PR journey?
My PR journey so far has been a very exciting one. I had an immense love for storytelling and writing as a child and that’s what I wanted to do in my life but wasn’t very sure how to make a career out of it. I dabbled a couple of different things like being an Assistant Director on the sets of AD Commercials and TV Shows only to realise that’s not my calling. I moved on to an internship in Corporate Communications with a leading MNC and that didn’t quench my thirst either. That’s when someone recommended I join an agency and see how that goes and that’s when this crazy relationship I am so much in love with began.
I started off in Dubai while pursuing my Masters in Communications, and the hustle of multiple brands and the crazy working hours got me so engrossed that two years just flew by doing some amazing campaigns and learning under some really compelling entrepreneurs. But My need to do more and learn more got me back to India and I am so glad I did because working with the agencies I did and being mentored by the people I met was potentially the best that happened to me. It was the exposure I cherish because every single client I was assigned taught so much. Whether it was LinkedIn and the in-depth research that came with it or the immense learning on the first ever integrated marketing campaign on Surf Excel, every campaign was a new chapter of learning in my book that I absolutely love.
The best part about my journey was that every job and every team was so different from the other whether it was in size, in culture, in quality or in outlook and that itself was an experience because that allowed to understand what are the best practices I want to bring to and make from scratch here at Brand Sentry.
What has been your biggest learnings on a job?
The industry that I belong to comes with this one big word that everyone fears and often use very casually – Crisis. Crisis is a huge part of managing Public Relations Mandate of any client big or small and it usually hits you on a Friday night when you are probably in a weekend mood out with your friends. The one thing that I learnt from all of my years in the industry is how to always be prepared for a crisis and how to never lose calm. No matter how big this problem that just happened on the biggest launch of the year scheduled for next morning can be fixed if you as a leader can maintain your calm and allow your team members to get theirs together. Because if you work together as a team you can navigate the biggest and the worst crisis overnight as a champ and make it the most successful launch of the year!
This btw is a true story!
Your journey as a female Entrepreneur?
My Entrepreneurial journey was definitely not something that happened by chance, it was a very planned and calculated decision I took early on in my career and worked up the ladder to come to it. When I moved back to India and started working with The PRactice, something about the working culture here drove me enough for me to know that before I was 30, I would have my own agency and after that every job I took was to get me the exposure I would need to be able to make this happen. I went to work with some fabulous agencies like Edelman and EveryMedia and was mentored and trained by some strong and talented women who moulded me into the person I am today and I am always going to be thankful to them for that.
Having said that, Storytelling has been ingrained in me since I was really young and that is exactly what pushed me towards this career choice. When I was conceptualising Brand Sentry with my partner, I had a very clear vision that this is going to be a place that allows for the art of storytelling to flourish like no other. And that’s exactly how with all the lessons I learnt and the experiences I was blessed with, was put together with the art of storytelling in modern day marketing tools to create wonders for brands under the name of Brand Sentry.
I always believed that no Dream is too big and no goal is too high if you really just put your heart, soul and hard work to it. And that’s it. That’s what my journey holds. From the day I walked the sets of my first Ad Commercial at 16 or the Day I walked into My own office at 28, one thing that has always stayed constant is work so hard that no one can question your effort, be so genuine that your integrity is always your legacy and always dream big because one day they always come true!
Challenges faced when you started your own start-up/venture/ Setbacks and Challenges faced when pitching to new clients
Hahaha, this is a really interesting question and I have no clue where and how to begin on this one. We chose this thick of the lockdown to launch our start up and the challenges we faced came in all shapes and sizes and as often as every day. But like they say pick your battles wisely, we made sure we didn’t lose sight of what was more important and that was what we were set out to achieve, so we took on one challenge at a time and dealt with it skillfully.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was to get potential clients to believe that two absolutely new entrepreneurs and a brand new agency could do justice with their brand mandate especially during a global financial crunch where every penny they pay is accounted for to the last cent. So, we took this challenge up, wore it as our crown and turned it around into our biggest advantage. We worked double hard for each pitch we walked into and with our unique storytelling approach managed to convert all the 10 pitches in the first 4 months of our operations. This did not only give us the confidence boost but it also helped us give employment opportunities to really talented marketeers who lost their jobs to Covid and move into a really cool space we call our Office.
How do you look at being a female entrepreneur in the male-dominant industry?
Honestly, I take a lot of pride in being an entrepreneur and twice the pride in being a woman. I have worked with some really strong headed women and real achievers and organisations that were run by women so inspiration comes from all the places but real inspiration came from home. My father who is a C-suite executive in a leading Cement Giant today and a completely self-made man raised me to be a woman of substance. He told me to have a dream and he told me to do whatever it takes to chase it. There was complete support from home and he is my biggest cheerleader in that sense of the way, every time I thought I couldn’t do it because I was young or because I lacked experience he reminded me of all the reasons why I CAN absolutely make it.
And talking about the male domination, umm I mean really? We are in 2020. Women are taking over the world in every sector. The Vice President of The United States is a woman, The best journalist is our country is a woman, the chef to change the pastry industry in our country is a woman. We are everywhere, and we are killing it. And I am grateful to all the women who made this change possible and I am super proud to be a part of this change.
“An empowered woman can bring a change, but a determined one can make the change.”
Thoughts on gender equality at the workplace
I think it’s very important to have a balance at the workplace not for anything else but simply for the sake of sanity. A good balance allows a healthy culture, a healthy environment and that is very important for any organisation to be able to thrive. I personally have a bias towards hiring women, and more often than not I do end up hiring women over men and please don’t take me wrong that has nothing to do with gender bias it’s just when it comes to communications I think women are doing a fabulous job of driving campaigns and telling stories and that in my opinion is more important for me.
However, today Brand Sentry has almost an equal ratio of very talented marketing professionals.
How do you personally motivate other females to join the workforce?
When I started out, I was asked one question in my job interviews that really ticked me off, that was “are you planning to get married any time soon? What are your thoughts on having children?” And that I think is a huge demotivating factor because I want to be hired for my talent and skills and rejected for the lack of them and not because of a personal life choice.
So we at Brand Sentry, make sure that we keep it extremely professional and hire only on the basis of an individual’s professional skill. In order to motivate my team (The PR team is ALL girls, Of course) we have regular coffee sessions, we go out for dinners on a monthly basis to get to know each other better, we have a period leave policy which you can take in cases of extreme cramps on monthly basis because we know it can get really bad on certain days, we also allow them to continue their professional courses during work days with flexible hours to encourage and empower women to pursue as many professional courses as they’d like. We look at every member of our team from a holistic point of view and empower them with all the aids we can to help them grow in their professional capacity.