#PowerWomen: Hope we Can Soon Leave Chromosomal Differences Out of the Conversation - Poonam Lal
by Mugdha Gaonkar Industry Watch | February 18, 2021 | Interview
Poonam Lal Marketing Solutions EVENTFAQS Media PowerWomen
Continuing the EVENTFAQS #PowerWomen series in the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8, we talk to Poonam Lal, MD, Marketing Solutions and Chair-CSR, We Care Initiatives for EEMA, about her journey in the events industry.
A visionary with strong business acumen and entrepreneurial skills, Poonam Lal built a company that is known for its consistent, creative and conceptual delivery and quality work. Her core strength lies in breaking down client briefs to bare basics and defining strategies for brands, that have been instrumental in taking the business to new heights.
Here, she shares insights on her entry into the events industry, challenges she faces, position of women in the industry, priorities at work, advice for young women entering the events sector and more.
HOW I CAME TO BE IN THE EVENTS INDUSTRY
It was a gradual transition, from working in PR, being asked to propose engagement ideas for clients, then being asked to execute them. The story started with a client who felt that since the idea was ours, we would be the best people to execute it for them. From that one client, we are proud to be working with some of the most aspirational brands today.
The challenge today, if we may call it that, is that the events industry isn’t known for an educated skilled workforce. Back when I started, there wasn’t a school I could attend to learn what was needed to become the best event planner, which is what I intended to be. If I had to do something, might as well go the whole hog! Like a lot of our peers, we learnt stuff on the job. And so, we began, armed with passion and sound commitment, to do the best job possible for our clients. Another hurdle is that there is a low entry threshold if one wants to become an event manager. Therefore, to create a distinct recognizable standard for what we did, we had to set our benchmarks, raise the bar with each job we accomplished, become our worst critique. Eventually, it paid off with recognition for our work.
We agreed early on amongst ourselves that we would do a certain quality of work. Since quality does come at a price, we at times lost business or even refused business. But the happier story is that we have a good track record in client retention, most of them nurtured with blood, sweat and good work to last. Often when people move, our work relationships continue. When we hear discerning clients like Apple, Benetton, Levi, JBL, Panasonic, Volvo tell us that it is our design, eye for detail, quality, involvement with projects that keep them coming back to us, these become success stories for us.
ON POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY
It is wonderful to see women starting to front events, plan, produce, lead, run events and even lead teams. They are proving to be great assets to the teams, for their ability to multi-task, handle crises, think on their feet, be team players and team leaders.
However, this industry comes pre-loaded with its own challenges and stereotypes for women. The behavioural approach, objectification, gender bias, unequal representation, safety and harassment issues, overtones of patriarchy continue to remain sore points as women try to break the ‘boys club’ mindsets and the invisible glass ceilings. These prejudices unfortunately have roots in our social fabric and largely shape our skewed thinking.
I also think we need to put in some serious thought into creating conducive and balanced working conditions that encourage women to stay and grow in events, while essaying the multiple roles that they do. Finally, harassment continues to be rampant, but girls hesitate to come forward to report it, worrying about repercussions.
ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THE EVENTS INDUSTRY
Women entering the events space should remember that they are a vital half of this industry. So, let’s make sure we use our influence to set a great example for our peers and the next generation to emulate. Hopefully one day soon, we should be able to leave chromosomal differences out of the conversation, and allow our body of work, our phenomenal skillsets to talk. Remember, anything is possible, as long as you’ve got focus, consistent hard work and enough nerve.
ON WE CARE CREATING AN EQUAL SPACE FOR EVERYONE
We have barely managed to scratch the surface at EEMA’s We Care. But the bigger achievement has been that the custodians of the events industry had the foresight to think about an initiative like We Care. Initiating a conversation about creating a gender-balanced and safe workplace for our workforce was initially met with suspicion, cynicism, ridicule. Regardless, we stay relentless in our efforts to educate and empower men and women about their rights and responsibilities. I look forward to the day when we don’t have to focus on the question of gender neutrality and can just focus on business challenges overall.
ON OFFERINGS BY MARKETING SOLUTIONS
In the post-pandemic scenario, while we are slowly inching our way to normalcy, and while that still looks like a blurry dream, we are honing our skills to deliver customized solutions to our clients to meet their objectives, create better virtual event experiences with quality content. We want to carry on our small legacy of excellent creative content from offline to online. Other than that, we are in talks with our clients to restart live events keeping the new norms in mind. You could say we are expanding our network and consolidating our teams.
WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO
Expansion, evolution, adaption - we are using every resource to ensure survival and growth. Other than what we are already doing, we are adding services that are extensions of our current business, learning skills to adapt to the transformation of live events to online, and exploring new business opportunities for the future. Talks are under way for collaborating and partnering on some exciting and innovative projects, be it content creation or state of the art immersive experiences, boutique wedding designs, meaningful IPs, etc.
A HISTORICAL EVENT I WOULD LIKE TO WITNESS LIVE
The wishlist is unbelievably long! But from the more recent events, I would like to witness the oath-taking ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. The entire vibe of one of the most watched events worldwide was of the beginning of a modern revolution of thought, of continuity and unity. Watching it still gives me goosebumps just as Obama’s refrain of ‘Yes, we can’ does. Being enveloped in that sense of belief and positivity - that is the true power of a live event.
We continue the EVENTFAQS #PowerWomen series of interviews in the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8, talking to Poonam Lal, MD, Marketing Solutions and Chair-CSR, We Care initiatives for