As we celebrate Women’s Day on Saturday, 8 March, Indiantelevision.com pays tribute to women who’ve broken the glass ceiling in Indian media even as they’ve managed to strike the right work-life balance.
We recognise the achievements of these amazing, inspiring women from the world of media and entertainment in celebration of their invaluable contribution to the businesses they are in.
Anita Kaul Basu, Director, Big Synergy
Anita Kaul Basu, the backbone of Big Synergy, has had a fairly different story compared to most of her contemporaries. She didn’t set her foot straight in the TV industry. She explored other areas like journalism before joining her quiz master husband’s TV production venture.
However, she gave the company her own spin. As a director at Big Synergy, she is at the helm of taking all decisions along with hubby Siddhartha Basu. Her creative thought process helps her in coming up with great ideas. Combine that with her humble persona, wittiness, gutsy approach and you get a powerful woman who has been a gamechanger of sorts for the TV industry. Under her leadership, Big Synergy has scaled newer heights.
Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group, India and South Asia
The woman under whose leadership Havas Media Group (India) has grown six-fold in five years is Anita Nayyar. Armed with over 25 years of experience, she took charge of the agency in 2006 as CEO and made expanding the agency’s footprint in competitive emerging markets of the world her sole mandate. Since then, she has helped expand the agency’s offerings as an integrated communications hub. Arena was launched in India in 2013 under her guidance.
She has a B.Sc in Microbiology (Honours), a post-graduate degree in Advertising and Marketing and a Masters in Management. She learnt the nuances of scientific media planning, management and marketing from none other than the first lady of advertising, Roda Mehta, at Ogilvy. That training during her formative years has helped her a great deal even as she scaled greater heights over the years.
Nayyar is a seasoned player in the Indian media, having grown with it and become an integral part of its evolution. She has been voted and awarded numerous times and has remained among the top influential media persons. An inspiring, able, knowledgeable, supportive and responsive leader; she is viewed as dynamic, passionate, forthright and accessible by all in the fraternity.
Annurradha Prasad, BAG films MD and CEO
In 1993 when Ravi Shankar Prasad’s sister decided to venture into TV production, no one would have believed that a woman could achieve so much. But she was undaunted by the challenges when she started BAG (Bhagwaan Allah God).
Balancing her personal and professional life, she has made sure that BAG Films & Media becomes has become a tour de force in TV content production, TV broadcasting as well as film production.
Nearly 15 years in the industry, she has received several awards including an Indian Telly Award and the FICCI Women’s Excellence Award.
Her zeal and enthusiasm to make a difference and make a mark for herself is what established her rock solid career.
Anupama Mandloi, Head of Content, FremantleMedia India
Her career spans a score years. And today Anumpama Mandloi is a name to reckon with even as the company - Fremantle Media India - she heads creatively churns out one successful reality show after another. But the short haired Mandloi's first tryst with TV was as a director and editorial coordinator with the Amit Khanna, Dilip Piramal, Mahesh Bhatt promoted Plus Channel in 1994. And it has traversed channels such as Sony Entertainment Television, Sab TV, and even the current entertainment space leader Star Plus.
A large part of the success of Fremantle in India can be credited to her. The global production major had attempted to set up shop at least once in the previous decade but had to fold up when it could not get a buy-in from Indian broadcasters. However, under her leadership, FremantleMedia India has grown leaps and bounds in a little more than four years, when it made another effort to break-in to India. Industry veterans swear by Mandloi’s attributes as a professional, her keen eye for detail, and the innovation that she brings to the table.
Arpita Menon – Executive Vice President & Head Media Planning & Buying at Star TV
Arpita has more than 20 years of experience in the media and advertising world. She has worked across planning, media buying, research and client management.
Arpita started her career with FCB Ulka as media supervisor. After spending four years with the agency, she joined Starcom in 1997 as media director. She also worked with 9:9 Media as VP and with ABP as head, business intelligence cell and strategic (group) sales for about a year.
She had a successful stint with Lodestar Universal as VP for six years. Before joining Star, Arpita was managing partner at Quantemplate, a media analytics company.
She is passionate about training and has conducted programs for various media organisations. She taught at MICA, NMIMS and XIC and has also authored a book ‘Media Planning & Buying’, which was published by Tata McGraw. She is a statistics graduate and has an MBA from IIM Bangalore.
Barkha Dutt, NDTV group editor
She is what most young, aspiring journalists aspire to be. Indeed, Barkha Dutt’s coverage of the Kargil war shot her to prominence and kept her high among the names of not just women but the entire journalist fraternity.
Born to parents who were journalists, Dutt studied at Delhi’s Jamia Milia University and later, at Columbia University. A recipient of the Padma Shri Award, Dutt has also been a prominent name involved in the Nira Radia case that got her much criticism from the media as well as citizens.
However, she continues to be one of the leading journalists of the country and a vociferous personality on TV. Her association with NDTV since the beginning of her career has made her a prominent face of the channel and one of the leading anchors as well.
Deepika Warrier, Vice President (Po1 Marketing), PepsiCo India
‘Quieter than most marketing heads but very focused,’ is how the industry knows Deepika Warrier. An honours graduate from Lady Shri Ram College and a MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, Warrier has been with PepsiCo for 14 years.
She joined the company in 2000 as marketing GM working on their brand ‘Lays’, after stints in Britannia, Gillette, and Ogilvy and Mather. In her years with the cola giant, she worked across divisions, which includes a stint in Mexico from 2005 to 2007 and as category marketing director for the youth/fun and snacks portfolio on brands like Doritos and Cheetos.
With the maximum number of brands – 22 to be precise – under her leadership, Warrier's task is a challenging one. Yet, the PepsiCo vice-president, beverages and foods, is always in control. She has driven successful equity, activation and innovation programmes to make PepsiCo’s beverage brands even stronger. For instance, the iconic ‘Change the Game’ campaign for brand Pepsi, acquiring sponsorship rights, and powerfully activating the ‘Pepsi IPL’ among others.
Ekta Kapoor, Joint Managing Director and Creative Director, Balaji Telefilms
She is legend for the TV industry.
In the mid-90s, a dreamy 17-year-old embarked on a journey to make it big in the world of television which was still evolving. Though she came from a film family, Ekta Kapoor fought her own battles and charted her own success path. Her first stake: a comedy series titled Hum Paanch which was a humorous take on middle class life of the 90s.
Ever since, there has been no looking back for the then teenager for whom the title “queen of soap operas” was coined within a few years as the famous ‘K-serials’ started becoming household names. With her banner, Balaji Telefilms, Kapoor made shows that kept the Indian women glued to their TV screens. The successful run of her serials year-after-year (Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kasauti Zindagi Kay...) took Kapoor to newer heights. Her story is the stuff of dreams for many in the industry.
Gayatri Yadav - EVP Marketing & Communications, Star India
With more than 21 years of experience in marketing across consumer products and media, Yadav has proved to be a leader in her space. Yadav leads the channel marketing, media planning and buying, presentation, network brand strategy, consumer insights, affiliate marketing and events for Star.
Gayatri joined the Star network in April 2011 and is responsible for steering the marketing and communication agenda for India's most widespread media network touching 600 million viewers every week. She began her career as a brand manager with Procter and Gamble India for four years. Thereafter, she worked as a Marketing Director at General Mills for 14 long years where she was responsible for launching Pillsbury Atta and building and developing a portfolio of brands.
She has a strong marketing functional experience across brand building, communication development, strategy planning, market research/consumer insight, new product development and launch support, and trade marketing/sales support.
Jagi Mangat Panda, co-founder and managing director, Ortel Communications
The adage ‘Beauty with brains’ fits Jagi Mangat Panda, co-founder and managing director of Ortel Communications. Panda, with her more than 15 years of experience in the media and broadcasting industry, was awarded and recognised as ‘Young Global Leader’ at the World Economic Forum in 2008.
A bachelor's degree holder in Biology and Chemistry from Osmania University, Hyderabad, Panda also has a master's degree in business administration from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Panda, the first Gladrags supermodel, always wanted to be independent and it was this need which turned her into an entrepreneur. While she started Ortel Communications with three people in the company, it has now grown for over 15 years and has a professional team that runs the company that’s growing at more than 30 per cent. Despite her varied and vibrant career graph, Panda has not yet stopped exploring. After completing a filmmaking course from the New York Film Academy, Panda is now exploring the opportunity of even directing a movie.
Juhi Ravindranath, Turner International South Asia VP ad sales
Juhi Ravindranath is based in Mumbai and spearheads South Asia’s ad sales operations for Cartoon Network, Pogo, HBO and WB. In South Asia, she is responsible for driving ad revenues for existing brands and strategising and setting up ad sales for new launches in the market. This includes digital revenues from the channel sites as well. She has played a pivotal role in setting up Turner Media Solutions locally in 2011, a division responsible for delivering innovative ad sales solutions to Turner’s clients.
Prior to joining Turner in 2010, Juhi was responsible for setting up and heading the ad sales division at NDTV Imagine since its launch in 2008. She then also took over the ancillary revenue division, including national and international content syndication. Juhi began her broadcast career with Star India, where she spent a crucial 10 years. Her last role there was heading ad sales for Star Plus and Star One.
A post-graduate in Mass Communication, Juhi is married and has a 17-year-old son. She is a film buff and an avid consumer of English entertainment and music.
Kavery Maran, Sun TV Network executive director
In 2012, Fortune listed her as the country’s highest paid businesswoman. With Rs 57 crore as her annual pay package, Kavery Maran has handled the dominant Sun Empire’s business across TV, radio, publications, cable, airlines and mainly the Sun Foundation.
Married to Kalanidhi Maran, Kavery is known to have a liking for cricket and is always seen at the stands when the Sunrisers Hyderabad (owned by the Sun group) team is playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL), sporting the team jersey.
Although not much is known about her, sources in the industry who have worked with her say that she is dedicated to work and is known to give a lift to young talent. While Maran is a visionary, Kavery is quite an inspiration to the people in the Sun Group.
Meenakshi Menon, chairman, Spatial Access
“Accelerating change was part of my DNA,” says Meenakshi Menon. Don’t get fooled by the demure, sari-clad persona; she can give any man a run for his money. From being a pioneer in private broadcasting (she was with Zee at the time of its launch), to setting up Carat - the first media independent in India, to setting up Spatial Audits - the first media audits and analytics company, Menon has not only embraced change but served as a catalyst in all the areas she has been involved in ranging from communication to environmental conservation.
Her commitment goes beyond business to embrace the environment. She set up a NGO (www.vanashakti.in) in 2007 and in 2013, along with yet another powerful woman in media, Lynn De Souza, launched Social Access Communication, a full service agency that works with NGOs and corporate entities to drive social change.
It is her endeavour to get marketers to invest marketing dollars and not just spend them. The change from expenditure to investment will cut wastage dramatically while increasing accountability to stakeholders.
Besides being on the Board of Studies at St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai, and teaching at some premier post graduate colleges across the country, she is also a gourmet cook, an organic farmer and an experienced scuba diver. Her work may define her but her passion for scuba diving and the environment completes the picture.
Mona Jain – EVP - cluster head, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited
The soft-spoken Mona Jain is a leader in her field. After her stint as CEO of Vivaki Exchange for more than three years, it came as a pleasant surprise to many when she made her way out and joined Zee as EVP-cluster head. In total, Jain has spent over eight years at Vivaki.
Jain, who has more than two decades of experience in marketing communication, began her career as a media trainee with Hindustan Thompson Associates (now JWT) in Delhi. Jain proved her might when she took up her first big assignment – the launch of Pepsi in the country. Post that, she has been associated with Samsung and was also a part of the launch of Samsung in India in 1995.
For Jain, it was a huge learning experience when she got an opportunity to set up the in-house media unit for Samsung under the umbrella of their creative agency, Cheil Communications. She also did a short stint ‘at the client's end' - as agency folk call it, with GSK, where she worked as general manager, media. Over the years, Jain has worked with agencies including Contract Advertising, Mudra Communications, ZenithOptimedia and Cheil. Brands that Jain has worked on through the course of her career include PepsiCo, Horlicks, McDonald's, Whirlpool, Frito-Lay, Hyundai, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Nokia, Nestle and Samsung, among others.
Monica Tata, HBO South Asia MD
With over 23 years of experience behind her, Monica brings expertise in management of television networks operations in the media and entertainment industry.
She has worked as part of the leadership team at Turner and has had a consistent record of increasing sales, effective negotiations, profit and loss analysis and strategic implementation of business operations. Her performance with Star India and Turner stand testimony to Monica’s path of excellence.
An ability to overcome obstacles and capture opportunities by closing exclusive deals and creating and implementing savvy marketing strategies has been her forte. Monica’s efforts have been validated in the past, when she was recognised as the ‘Next 30’ most powerful women to look out for in 2010; and adjudged as one of India’s hottest young executives of the media industry in 2009 by Business Today as also among the top 50 influential women in media, marketing and advertising by a leading industry magazine - IMPACT in 2012.
Myleeta Aga Williams, SVP and General Manager India and Content Head for Asia, BBC Worldwide
Myleeta Aga, BBC Worldwide’s SVP and General Manager India and Content Head for Asia, has a success story of her own. An international television executive with extensive experience in broadcasting, production and new media, the industry recognizes her as a highly creative and effective producer and a hardcore businesswoman. She is also known for being an excellent manager and mentor – creative and innovative at the same time.
In her career spanning more than 21 years, Myleeta has worked with different organizations in different capacities leaving an indelible mark with almost all of them. She started as a vice-president production in 1993 with UTV and moved on to become the VP of UTV International.
After a two-year stint, she joined Discovery Communications and later, Travel Channel, where she was the executive producer of Emmy Award winning series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Riding on her success, Myleeta also co-founded the channel What’s On India where she was involved with the start up of the channel and content side for India’s first EPG company.
Nina Elavia Jaipuria, EVP and Business Head, Kids Cluster, Viacom 18
Surviving in an industry where everyone is ready to bog down the other is not child’s play. But Nina Elavia Jaipuria makes it look like that.
As the EVP and business head kids cluster Viacom 18, Jaipuria has been at the helm of planning and executing the content of all channels in the kids cluster in the last eight years with Viacom 18. According to her, the kids’ segment has huge potential to grow and that is why she has taken up risks for the segment to grow. She has always believed that it’s important to feel the pulse of the kids to develop the segment and thus, she, along with her team, has always tried to get content that Indian kids connect with.
However, it is not just kids’ content that Jaipuria excels at. Prior to this, she had a three-year successful stint with Sony Entertainment Television, where she was involved in launching properties such as Indian Idol, Fame Gurukul and Fear Factor. Earlier, she has even worked with companies such as BPL Telecom, Colgate and Lintas.
Punitha Arumugan, Director - Agency Business, Google India
Punitha Arumugam is more than a known name in the industry.
She has received several accolades and recognitions, least of which is being ranked among the top influential media persons many times over. Currently, vice president of Agency and Advertiser Relations at Google, Arumugam joined the search engine giant in 2012. The news did come as a shock to many when Arumugam decided to move out of Madison Media Group after working with the agency for 13 years.
She joined Madison in January 1999 as media services director and then served as Chief Operating Officer from 2001, leaving it as Chief Executive Officer in 2012. Arumugam has close to 25 years of experience in all facets of media - strategy, planning, buying, research and operations and has seen Madison Media grow from a two-client agency, when she joined in 2000, to around 50 clients.
She began her career with O&M Media in Chennai in 1990. She has worked with agencies across markets like Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. Her experience spans a wide range of products including FMCGs, durables and financial services. She was voted the fourth most influential person in the Indian Media Industry in 2005.
Ritu Dhawan, India TV MD and CEO
She isn’t the most boisterous of media professionals but people who have worked with Ritu Dhawan surely attribute one quality to her- clarity of thought.
The ten years in which India TV has positioned itself as one of the front-runners in the Hindi news channels have Dhawan’s perfectionist attitude to thank. Even the recent change in India TV’s image was helmed by Dhawan along with husband and India TV editor-in-chief, Rajat Sharma. Her co-professionals know her as someone who is very respectful towards others and approachable.
In 2009, Dhawan assumed double responsibilities; that of being the CEO apart from the existing MD position. This only renewed her optimism at work. Although she had opined once that she would like to start an entertainment channel, going by her character, it would only be based on strong business logic. She has been awarded ‘Entrepreneur in the TV business’ by The Indian Television Academy Awards.
Sagarika Ghose, CNN IBN Deputy Editor
Think CNN-IBN and two names instantly come to mind - Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose. Having spent time in both print and broadcast journalism, Ghose has now made a mark as one of India’s staunch journalists on TV.
After graduating from St Stephen’s College in New Delhi, she left for UK, armed with a scholarship. Working her way up through the Times of India, Indian Express and Outlook, she was also one of the anchors of the BBC World show ‘Question Time India’.
Known for her colourful sarees as well as heated discussions, Ghose also made waves when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee walked out of her show on being questioned too much, making it a popular show in 2012. Ghose has also had her share of controversies and accusations of favouring the right wing. But it doesn’t stop her from being a name that will be remembered.
Shereen Bhan, CNBC TV18 managing editor
Business journalism is all about money and seriousness but when she appears on television screens she’s also beauty personified. Shereen Bhan started her career as a producer in UTV under Karan Thapar for shows such as the BBC’s ‘HardTalk India’ and ‘We the People for Star’.
After 15 years as a journalist, she is now the managing editor of CNBC TV18.
She’s interviewed some of the top personalities including Benazir Bhutto, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Narayana Murthy.
Bhan has spent long hours in office, sacrificing her social life to achieve what she wanted. The icing on the cake was when in 2008, Vogue featured her as one of the 50 beautiful women in the world and then in 2009, the World Economic Forum named her as one of the young global leaders.
Sneha Rajani, deputy president and head, Multi Screen Media Motion Pictures
From starting as an accountant in the late 80s to becoming the deputy president and head at MSM Motion Pictures, Sneha Rajani, has come a long way.
Having held senior management positions at various leading channels of the country, the lady has carved her own success path. Industry veterans praise her managerial and negotiation skills. Her in-depth knowledge about the TV business is another aspect that makes her a strong professional.
With the MSM Network for almost 15 years, Rajani has had a successful stint with Star India and Asia Television Network (ATN). Some of her smaller stints, earlier on in her career include Chief Executive – Programming with Sri Adhikari Brothers and head of programming with TV Asia London, U.K.
Sunita Uchil, Global Head, Syndication at Zee Entertainment Enterprises
Known for her chirpy and pleasing personality, Sunita Uchil has been associated with the Zee group for more than eight years. She is currently the global head of syndication always looking out for better content to create a better bond between viewers and the network.
Prior to joining Zee, she was National Sales Director at Adlabs Films Ltd - BIG FM for almost two years. Prior to joining Big FM, Sunita was with The Times of India. She has also worked with Hum FM, UAE, as director, sales.
In her long association with the industry, Sunita has dabbled in languages such as Arabic, Hindi and Malayalam.
Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
Whatever ministry of information and broadcasting joint secretay Supriya Sahu chooses to do, she does with oodles of commitment and passion. Whether it is spreading the gospel of community radio - which is her pet subject - or the government mandated cable TV digitisation rollout, she puts her heart and soul into it. The 1991 Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer has earned kudos for her efforts.
Prior to this she was director – broadcasting in the MIB, and was directly involved with drawing up of the Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill and the Content Code for TV channels.
The lady has a strong eco and social conscience. In her earlier posting as the collector, Nilgiris district, she was the force behind the ‘Say no to plastics’ campaign to protect the ecosystem of the hill town of Ooty. And her efforts to implement Operation Blue Mountain in the Nilgiris helped cleanse the hilly area of the plastic menace. Before that, she was additional collector of Vellore district and project director, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS).
Tista Sen, NCD & senior vice president, JWT
Ranked the 20th most creative person in Asia, Tista Sen, has come a long way since she started her career with Whitelight, where she learnt a whole lot about shooting advertising commercials and why film people hate agency types. After assisting on over 60 commercials, she served as a writer in Lowe Lintas, where she worked on Johnson and Johnson, Unilever, and then at Ogilvy, followed by a second innings at Lintas. Same clients, same brands, but different advertising... then a move to JWT.
Currently, National Creative Director and senior VP, she has contributed to making the Mumbai office the most creative branch in the JWT network in Asia. For her, anything and everything that touches a human chord is insightful and relevant. From taking home numerous awards, she has been part of various juries at events across the globe.
Sen is a student of English Literature and life. Her split personality includes creative director and harrowed mom. She enjoys creative challenges as much as helping with her kids’ homework. “If I didn’t love what I do, I’d be miserable and it would show in my work,” she says.
Vandana Das, President, DDB Mudra Group Delhi
After more than 17 years with Ogilvy, Vandana Das joined the DDB Mudra Group (Delhi) as president in 2012. She will soon complete two years with the group that boasts a clientele like Wrigley, Bata, Marico, Yamaha and Dabur, among others.
Das now works closely with different units, but all was not well when she joined. The agency saw a lot of exits after it re-structured itself. However, the group’s and management’s faith in her capabilities helped the agency work like well-oiled machinery. For Das, the mantra is to follow the spirit of integration. She believes that the group offerings and its close functioning network of operations gives her a great opportunity to work jointly with so many bright people across units to fight challenges and work out solutions to problems.
Her key challenge is to keep Delhi buzzing with the name DDB Mudra Group. And in her free time, the mother of one teaches poor children living around her area. She also loves cooking, watching movies and travelling.
Vasudha Misra, sr. Creative Director, Draftfcb+Ulka Advertising
Vasudha Misra started her career in social communication as a proud Welham-ite, armed with a degree in Mass Communication.
However, realising that she was more suited to selling soap than starting a movement for popularising vasectomy as a population-control initiative, she switched over to the more capitalist branch of communication.
In over a decade, she has created a lot of well-received work, a few iconic campaigns, and even an occasional turkey. Over the years, some of the brands she has worked on include Naukri.com, jeevansathi.com, 99acres, John Players and KFC. She is currently responsible for creating one of the most maverick telecom brands in the country, Tata DoCoMo.
Vinita Bali, MD, Britannia
“There is no fun in doing the doable,” is Vinita Bali’s motto. The managing director of Britannia is an economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College and a MBA from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, who joined the company in 2005 as the CEO.
The petite executive opted to come back to India after an international stint with Coca Cola in Atlanta, USA.
Bali, like many of her friends, had always wanted to join the foreign services after graduating but destiny had other plans. And so, she started her career with Voltas, a Tata Group company, focusing on consumer products, where she launched the then extremely popular Rasna soft drink concentrate. In 1980, Bali joined Cadbury India, where she had a successful run with roles of increasing responsibility, not just in India, but also in the UK, Nigeria and South Africa. She served on the Cadbury boards in Nigeria and South Africa.
Under Bali’s nine-year watch, Britannia strived to live up to its corporate slogan, “Eat Healthy. Think Better” while the revenue tripled. In 2009, she founded the Britannia Nutrition Foundation, which combats malnutrition by distribution of fortified biscuits to kids in Indian schools. Bali was awarded ‘Business Woman of the Year’ at the 2009 Economic Times Awards. She won a Corporate Social Responsibility Award for her work with the foundation. In 2011, she was named on Forbes’ list of ‘Asia's 50 Power(ful) Businesswomen’.