In the male-dominated communications industry of the United Kingdom, it needs iron will for a woman, that too of an Indian origin, to make a mark. And Natasha Mudhar has done just that. At a young age of 33, she is heading the globally renowned, multi-award-winning business and communications consultancy, Sterling Media, as its Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. In an interaction with Bureaucracy Today, Mudhar shares her life’s mantra, the projects she is handling, her most challenging assignments as well as how she has coped with gender issues.
Even though London is a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city, it was not a smooth ride for Natasha Mudhar to attain success. The CEO and MD of Sterling Media had to cope with gender issues to be treated on a par with her male contemporaries.
“Even though London is a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city, when I started my career it was not very common to see highly successful Indian females in the communications sector. Also the media sector was and still is quite male-dominated. So I guess it was a case of double discrimination. These factors may seem intimidating for a starter but they were also my drivers,” Natasha tells Bureaucracy Today.
Like her mother Teji Singh who founded the company in London in 1995, Natasha went ahead to convert the challenges into opportunities.
“These factors may seem intimidating for a starter but they were also my drivers. The same went for my mother – she always converted challenges into opportunities,” she says.
For Natasha, who joined the family business in 2004 soon after completing her graduation from City University with a BSc degree in Sociology and Media Studies, her mother is her greatest inspiration.
She shares, “I admire my mother. She started the business 25 years ago. I would say it is to do with the struggles my mother as a single lady of Ethnic origin had to face. I know I am now highlighting the single, the lady and the ethnicity part of her, but my mother is one person in this world who will not let any form of discrimination impact her ability to do well. And that is a value I continue to imbibe in my daily life.”
CURRENT FOCUS OF WORK
Sharing the current focus of her work and the projects she is handling, the young entrepreneur says, “My team and I are delighted that we have had the opportunity to be instrumental in conceptualising and bringing to life creative, effective and strategic campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands. I am currently spearheading the India strategy for the United Nations’ Global Goals campaign which aims to raise awareness of the new sustainable development goals agreed by 193 world leaders in September 2015 for every single citizen in India and also for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation to promote healthy eating, especially amongst India's youth.”
She further elucidates, “We have a number of Indian film and A List talent-related campaigns we are working on internationally, including in India. As part of our mission to promote India inc, we are working on promoting an India tech fund internationally as well as the broader invest in India narrative for a leading wealth management firm in London. We are also soon launching an innovative entertainment app which is set to disrupt the social media landscape.”
Interestingly, Natasha has faced the most amount of discrimination from Indian peers and clients.
She shares, “Ironically, I faced the most amount of discrimination from Indian peers and clients who, because of my Indian heritage, had the perception that I only worked with clients of Indian origin or that my work only extended to the Indian Diaspora! But again I have used this as an opportunity. As an Indian at heart, born and brought up in London, I have experienced and communicated India’s success story through both international and national lens.”
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS FOR WOMEN AT WORKPLACE
Over the past few decades, there has been a period of awakening in India, where women no longer accept or perceive themselves as second citizens. Girls have been growing up in a society that is not conditioning them with a stagnated thought process, at least in the metros. And even if they are, women no longer are accepting this gender inequality, and instead challenging the stereotypes. This is the reason why there are many women, who are competing in each and every sphere and space of life, to pursue a career or life choice they strive for themselves
“However,” Natasha says, “that being said, misogyny is still prevalent, not only in India but also across developed and developing countries, under circumstances that threaten to undo decades’ worth of efforts aimed at bring societal change and acceptance of women’s rights. In such a period, it is important that our moral efforts do not lose ground...Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.”
In terms of gender equality at the workplace, though strides have been made, even in the Western world inequalities still exist. Still today, a limited number of women are holding top tier positions within companies. Also there is the ongoing issue of gender pay gaps.
Natasha feels gender equality can only be achieved when everyone, irrespective of being a woman or a man, has access and enjoys the same rewards, opportunities and resources. “It is not about special rights but having equal rights. The aim of gender equality should be to achieve the same outcomes for both genders for the same level of work. We need to redefine leadership qualities so that these qualities don’t look gendered any more. And hopefully this will ensure that we have a more diverse pool of talents across all levels of work,” she says.
Her life’s mantra, Natasha says is, “Never forget that you can be a change maker!”
WORDS OF WISDOM TO YOUNG FEMALE PROFESSIONALS
The dynamic young entrepreneur who started her entrepreneurial journey at an early age in 2004 and sculpted her company into a strategic business and communications consultancy with an international footprint advises young women professionals to convert challenges into opportunities.
“My advice to women is that they should not be afraid to challenge the tired and outdated hierarchy. They should know their strengths and always surround themselves with a team that brings out the best in you,” Natasha says.
Advising women professionals to never underestimate the power of initiative and innovation, the CEO says, “Embrace fully the role of change agents, focus more on the ‘can’ and the ‘why not’. A positive outlook goes a long way always. Networking is also a key factor to give women that edge in communications. Make sure you set yourself goals towards what you want to accomplish in your career so that you don’t lose focus and can see where you are making progress.”
As a saying goes, “Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back!” This holds true for Natasha as well. She says, “I am continuously grateful to the women before me who laid a brilliant path and gave us power to do more and be more.”