‘Passion is a strong emotion and an enthusiasm to do something’, imbibing these motivational words into her life, Aahuti Mistry, the CEO and Founder of Media Vantage put her best foot forward as an entrepreneur and built her own management company.
Having a Bachelors degree in Journalism as her educational background, gave Aahuti the right path to further specialise in the field of Global Media and Communications from Coventry University, England. Her journey began as a creative director for an entertainment company. While she was working there, she routed her interests to digital marketing and started her own firm Media Vantage, derived from an edge or a vantage point over the rest.
Her idea behind coming up with this creative set up was to create a story, an asset for the artists. From the very beginning, right from conceptualizing to planning strategies, Aahuti has managed to build this foundation brick by brick. Media Vantage has been an achievement, with no godfather, no investor but sheer belief and hard work.
“Bite the bullet and keep focusing on your own goals” was her prime motto from the start. She also strongly believed that competition isn’t a bad thing and that if you have got successful competitors, it means that there is a larger market for your business than you thought. From a mere 1 artist to 12, the agency started spreading wings in different genres of talent.
Check out the exclusive conversation that we at Apeksha News Network had with Aahuti Mistry.
Tell us something about your journey so far in the field of talent management.
Talent management happened to me when I moved back from England after working there in the digital marketing field. I could relate to the Indian Media industry and hence I wanted to move back and work here in India. I was exploring when I moved back. After my first job as an Assistant Creative Director, I started working on my strengths in digital marketing that I had built when I was in England. Whilst I was working for campaigns, for celebrities; representing them across digital social media apps, few of them asked me to handle their business for negotiations, contracts and day-to-day management. But I had no experience in that, which is why I was contemplating my path and they thought I should train myself with a reputed celebrity management firm. But I had already started with Media Vantage by then, so there was absolutely no way that I could join another company. I was very sure that I didn't want to work for anybody given the work and the organization culture. So, I continued to pursue Media Vantage. And that is when a couple of artist partners began to guide me, they would mentor me, so I just followed their footsteps.
I would give 50 per cent credit to them for giving me this opportunity, and 50 per cent credit to myself for picking it up on the job. I gradually realised that it was not rocket science for me; it came to me very naturally. Even though I was learning, I had an instinct that I can do all of these things - I could mentor, I could learn, I can strategize, I can execute. It’s now been 9 years of bittersweet experience for me. I have had the pleasure to work with some great talents, with confident personalities and also with some not so confident artists, facing their darkness and insecurities. I have seen people camouflaging all their darkness and flaws so beautifully and have learnt a lot. So overall it has been a crazy ride, and I am grateful for that.
In your opinion, what challenges will impact the marketing industry in the next five years?
Keeping up with digital marketing trends and strategies is the biggest challenge. After a long period when it was considered the future, the digital platform now rules the mind of marketers as well as consumers and it is challenging for marketers to figure out the eclectic mix of available digital platforms. Also, there is pressure to lead generation process with optimal results. Though there are lot of least-cost choices, getting a quantifiable lead needs good resources, tools and best practices.
With the dynamism in the lead identification markets, this process is complex if the resources don't adapt to the changes in the market instantaneously. And we do have to get real about the economic climate. We are going to see an economic contraction in the coming years that will impact the marketing industry in a particularly damaging way. Agencies need to prepare by operating with lean overhead and responding quickly to changes in market conditions. And then we also have demand for high quality and low budget video.
A potential solution will be to bring all video production services in-house versus hiring outside production companies. Alternately, agencies could get creative and staff brands with a full-time production team that remains on the agency payroll.
What do you see as some of the challenges facing women in media space in today’s times?
There are multiple things even though they are strong, smart, technically competent and emotionally valiant in comparison to their male counterparts. Though they are rightly called the new age corporate women, despite achieving such huge laurels, women still face many obstacles in their workplace. Gender bias and sexual harassment are not just what we are talking about, but few more issues are big hurdles for women to grow high up in the corporate scene such as work-life imbalance. Differentiating personal life and professional career becomes a little hard for women in general. They tend to mix up work commitments with personal priorities and that’s when all the issues begin. The family feels neglected, friends feel lost and unfortunately, she has to face the wrath of her entire support system just because she has forgotten to draw the line between work and life. This challenge is mostly self-imposed and to get out of this mess, the woman has to help herself.
Moreover, women have time and again proved their capabilities in the work front but still, the top cream layer is mostly occupied by men. The challenge here is that female leaders are many, but role models are few. Hence, when women try and look for leaders whom they can emulate, they are left behind. While male leaders are many and they train their successor with full vigour a women leader learns everything the hard way. When women look up to men for guidance and mentorship, they feel they are disconnected and disoriented, as there is a great difference in their objectivity and style of communication. But this challenge is slowly minimizing as more and more women are entering as managers, politicians, presidents, CEO’s and in the next few years to come, there will be more leaders who will turn role models for generations to follow.
I would also like to point out that a woman is another woman's biggest enemy. There are rarely any women who are motivating and inspiring others. It is more of an act of being motivating but they don't really mean it. And they constantly try to pull each other down.
So all of these things, given the hormonal imbalance they go through, the kind of life circle they go through, the personal stress they go through, the EQ of every woman which is so high as compared to men – pose as a huge challenge.
What is the key to success when positioning a talent/celebrity in media/public?
The first and foremost thing that one should remember is to be incredibly talented. Without talent, you cannot survive or sustain either the grind, neither the high nor the success. Secondly, what do you do with your talent is the next part, where you need the right team, to guide you through it, so alongside your talent, packaging your talent which is strategy, approach, placement and positioning are extremely important, because major opportunities don't knock twice, so how to make the most of what is served on the table or what is it that you can go on and achieve for yourself.
The third important point would be your approach to people. How do you maintain the rapport, what is the experience that people are talking about you to other people? Not being too approachable, not having everybody know you, but about what people talk about you, the kind of human being you come across; all these when put together, is the deciding factor of talent. And the last part of it, of course, I also feel is consistency, as in how consistent are you with the work you're doing, with your packaging, with your positioning. Instead of becoming one of the many because there are gazillion talents who are written about, spoken about every day, what is the niche and what is the personality that you are creating in the minds of peers and audience play a huge role, so I cannot pinpoint on one very important thing but it is definitely an amalgamation of these things.
How do you balance cooperation with others and independent thinking?
I believe in creating a good environment where people are well compensated, demonstrably valued, and achieving good things for themselves and the company goes a long way towards keeping a team on task and retaining strong performers. As a bonus, it makes work more fun for everyone.
I make sure my team understands the value of what they are doing, and of current objectives. I also foster agreement on the importance of team goals as to me ‘teamwork’ means listening and cooperating.
Are there any assumptions about women that you would like to change? Why?
A woman is whatever she makes of herself. It is her choice to live her life, the way she envisions it and no judgement should pull her back. The society should give her wings and empower her EG and ethics to support her goals.
What is your opinion about the women being represented in the media, films and pop culture?
The recent Nike ads are the best example to showcase how women are no longer restricted to objected to household chores. Women these days are excelling in every field. Be it sports, entertainment or cooking, there is nothing in the world that women cannot do. Brands have come forward to recognize this and put it in their ads. Advertisements and films have been built to be more women-centric, not only in household and beauty products but also in automobiles, sports and other areas. Portraying women as strong contenders in all fields have profited companies a lot. When brands are willing to recognize and show the world the real woman and her powers, they open their gates to more women and feminists. People view the brand as modern and not stereotypical junk. Thus, youngsters and more ‘modern’ people are attracted to the brand. Also, such brands proudly support the cause of women empowerment.
Have you ever been through an experience that made you realize that ‘woman’ and ‘powerful’ were two compatible ideas?
Having to even talk about this shows that we are still fighting for our equality but there are no equal opportunities out there, so we are trying to create a pedestal for women to be equally a part of every step, and trying to portray or make her or empower her to be powerful, but the idea has not sunk in, it hasn't become a second skin. I think every field has a lot of women who are influential in their respective work; stature and that should only empower more women to take up the challenge and rise above it. However, there are quite a few examples, the former CEO of Pepsico India - Indra Nooyi, former managing director of Facebook India - Kirthiga Reddy now also a venture partner at Soft Bank, actresses like Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone. I have incredibly adulation for Priyanka Chopra, considering her vision, endeavors; she's made our country so proud.
The fact is women are never given equal equities; they were just made to do what was asked to do or expected from us. So, this was not a phenomenon that came to us, in the same breathe, this is something we are making of it. I think the idea is to give equal opportunity irrespective of gender bias. Going back to even mythology there are goddesses who were so very powerful. Women have always been there, it is not like the opportunities were never given, it is just I think equal stature or the commercial standpoints were never validated, which needs to change with the new generations. The new generation should not be taught that women have to grow up to this but need to be taught equal ethics and manners that each individual should be what they are good at and aspire to be.
Uneducated mothers should not be teaching their sons that women are meant to be a domesticated person of the family and cook for the family, similarly girls should not be molded to think that men are the decision-makers and only made for earning the livelihood of the families. When we successfully break these molds, we stand a chance of equal equities that will lead to equal opportunities. Women from all strata of society should not be conditioned to take domestic violence, restrictions, sexual assault by men of the family as normal. We need to see through the bed of thorns and teach ourselves the threshold of normality.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing women your age today?
By this age, generally, everyone reaches a stage professionally or otherwise, where compatibility is the biggest issue, be it for men or women. Compatibility could be in terms of maturity, thought process, job or profession, economic position or social standing, family’s positioning, etc. And the constant comparison to men is a sham. While growing up we were always taught to be a timid girl to be home, suddenly thrown into the dynamics of having to be equal is a sham. The race to be equal will only be valid if there is equal equity given to women in every diaspora of life.
What would your advice be for women who are just starting out in your industry?
First, keep going! The job market can be incredibly random at times, so you just gotta keep playing to stay in the game. My advice is to get in front of the right people, asking very explicitly, whether they would consider you for a position. Too many folks are timid about it and just somewhat assume that they have had a good conversation, somehow their resume will land in the right pile. Once you feel comfortable doing this, then it is a matter of finding more people until you hit on the right opportunity. Networking is paramount. Blindly sending applications to large media corporations isn't helpful if you don't have a resume with evidence of significant experience. You will get lost in their system. Similarly, sending applications with the same level of preparation to smaller firms will prove to be equally fruitless.
What does gender equality mean to you?
To me, gender equality is men being treated like men and women being treated like women. Both have their advantages and disadvantages instead of trying to make everything exactly equal.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Is it important that we have one?
I am a feminist and celebrator of International Women’s Day but I am not pleased to see the ‘women are better’ and ‘why women are the best gender’ articles. This day should be about celebrating women’s achievements without putting down other achievements. Celebrate everyone. Stand up for others and we all win!
Aahuti aims to shape Media Vantage as a boutique agency working and representing best talents including actors, filmmakers and musicians. Venturing into web series is also one of the plans. Apeksha News Network congratulates Aahuti Mistry for her contribution and commitment towards the society with her works and wishes her all the best for her future endeavours!