In conversation with Social Samosa, Swati Nathani talks about the current state of gender sensitivity in the Indian A&M industry, Team Pumpkin's approach towards gender balance, and as a Jury Member of Social Samosa Superwomen 2023, shares a message for the participants. She also sheds light on IPL marketing and the impact of mounting inflationary pressure on AdSpends.
With a decade long experience in Retail Marketing, Branding, Operations, Research, Analytics, and Social Media, Swati Nathani, Co-founder, Team Pumpkin, shares that ‘women are tend to be judged before even getting a chance to prove themselves’. She sheds light on the challenges faced by working women in this day and age, while sharing her thoughts on the impact of rising inflation fears on marketing spends.
Can you tell me about your journey in the industry?
My journey with Team Pumpkin has been one of the most enriching in every sense. From the initial tribulations of my co-founder, Ranjeet Kumar, battling terminal illness just as the company was being set up, to eventually onboarding some of the biggest clients in the country, the experience has been highly rewarding, to say the least.
Today, Team Pumpkin boasts a presence across India, with branches in the bustling metropolis of Bengaluru, Mumbai, and New Delhi. As the co-founder and Chief Business Officer, my major responsibilities have been building the business from the ground up and roping in clients whom we would go on to foster long-term relationships with.
As a strong believer in individual growth, I’m also very happy to have blossomed among the vast ocean of the digital marketing world. I’m grateful to have been the recipient of many accolades.
What are some of the challenges faced by women leaders, in your opinion?
One of the first challenges in a male-dominated industry is the glass ceiling that persists above the heads of women. While society as a whole has gradually made strides in becoming progressive, much of the age-old mentality hasn’t completely subsided yet. This prevents women from being seen as highly capable soldiers in the regiment of various industry workforces because they tend to be judged before even getting a chance to prove themselves.
Another significant challenge is the lack of many female role models to look up to within the industry. Every individual should be a part of a workplace where everyone can strive to emulate each other's success. This makes for an environment that is highly conducive to growth, both professionally and personally.
Finally, empathizing with the struggles that women face which are exclusive to them as gender is very important in helping them perform to the best of their abilities while being able to take care of themselves.
How do you think the advertising industry needs to change?
While the advertising industry boasts many good qualities that many other industries cannot mirror themselves, more improvements can be made within. When thinking of such positive changes, two come to mind.
The first is inclusivity. While this may seem like a trending word that is thrown around very frequently and casually, there’s no getting around the weight that the term has. Given the influence the advertising industry has, it needs to be one that truly practices what it preaches when it comes to promoting diversity. After all, if people are not made to feel welcome in an industry, the very foundation of the industry would be faced with the threat of collapsing.
The second is acceptance. The advertising industry is one where people from many different kinds of professional backgrounds converge. Not everyone may have prior experience or education in this field. In acknowledging these privileges, we as an industry should continue opening our arms to people who are looking to start fresh and learn the ropes of this industry. This will give them a chance to excel and prove their metal in their careers here, which directly contributes to growing companies within the industry and the industry as a whole itself.
What is the gender ratio at Team Pumpkin? Do you have any policies in place to build a safe and flexible workplace for women?
We pride ourselves on being a company that is tightly knit with the fabric of equality - equality of opportunity, treatment, and expression. Our gender ratio of 45:55 (female:male) is a reflection of this commitment in practice. However, we do not want to stop here and want to work till we represent the national gender ratio at our workplace.
What is your vision for the company moving forward?
I wish for our company to continue being a happy place where people from different backgrounds can find their calling and give it their best in their day to day work. Team Pumpkin should always be a people-first place that recognizes and draws from the different strengths of people and use it to deliver stellar work for our clients who trust us with long-term relationships.
How are you using your organization as a platform to empower women?
To us, the gender of a person is irrelevant in the face of what they bring to the table in terms of raw skills, problem-solving abilities, and a positive attitude towards their peers. Cultivating a work environment based on meritocracy pushes women to push themselves beyond 100% in pursuit of their goals and ambitions within the company. This enables them to empower themselves in seeing their dreams turn into reality.
Team Pumpkin gives women a solid foundation to learn, grow, and teach others, thereby creating a spiral of positive self-improvement. This results in creating a system of empowerment that is almost self-sustaining in nature where more and more women are able to establish themselves in the field.
With IPL around the corner, how should brands decide between TV and digital advertising?
I believe that digital and television act as yin and yang, where each one compliments the other to thrive together. While social media takes precedence over more traditional forms of marketing, given the sheer scope of the internet and its users today, there’s simply no overlooking the impact that televisions have in advertising.
Television has always been relevant for brands that have more mass market appeal while Digital is used for sharper targeting and easier tracking of spends along with the convenience of optimizing even during the campaign.
Have inflationary pressures affected clients’ plans for IPL? If yes, how can they make the most out of their small budgets?
A great idea should never be defined by the resources allocated to it. Rather, it should be so good that it makes people wonder how it could be pulled off with such limited resources. IPL as an occasion presents many opportunities for brands to put themselves out there in front of millions of people. And if done right, it can reap many fruits for the brand. A small budget should never hold your brand back from making use of such an occasion to create something special. As the famous saying goes, “where there is a will, there is a way”.
With startups pulling purse strings and FMCG brands decreasing their investments in advertising, how in your opinion does the mounting inflation pressure impact small and medium size agency businesses? If yes, how can agencies deal with it?
The recent wave of inflation has had very direct and significant impacts on the advertising industry, with many companies trimming down their marketing budgets as their most initial step. In such times, digital marketers from small and medium-sized agency businesses do get impacted due to limited spends by brands on marketing.
However, in our previous experiences, while the direct spends go down in many cases, many more opportunities pop up like focusing on newer service lines, optimizing processes and even thinking of newer revenue streams. This period, which we partially faced at the onset of COVID, proved to be healthy for us in the long run.
How would you define a Superwoman in today’s day and age? Any other woman in the industry who you think is a superwoman and has inspired you in your journey?
To me, a superwoman is any woman who exudes confidence - confidence in herself and those around her. This gives her the natural instinct to lead others and manage people around her with patience and empathy. After all, a superwoman must be one who is kind above all else, being able to take full accountability for her actions with the intent of driving others to greatness along with herself.
You have implemented the POSH policy. What other policies do you have in place or are thinking of implementing to make the workplace better for women?
Each of our existing policies keeps the comfort of women in mind so that they are always in an environment that is conducive to their needs in the context of their daily work. The policies being drafted at present as well as the ones that will take shape in the future will all converge towards the singular purpose of making Team Pumpkin a place where women can feel safe, feel heard, feel appreciated, and most importantly - feel free in demonstrating their abilities.
What is one superpower you wish you had?
The superpower I desire the most right now is the ability to give both my career and my baby 100% in everything that I do for them.
What is one tip to all the women out there who are just starting their career in advertising?
One thing I find myself repeatedly stressing upon for women is the importance of self-belief. The ability to trust yourself and have faith in every decision you take towards your dreams is what will bring it closer to reality. To every woman out there, I urge you to listen to the voice inside of you that keeps the fire of belief burning amidst every raging storm of doubt that threatens to extinguish it for good.