#PowerWomen: Don’t Feel the Need to ‘Act Like a Man’ to Get Ahead, Says Aarti Manocha

Industry Watch | February 22, 2021 | Interview

PowerWomen Aarti Manocha Milestones to Memories

Continuing the EVENTFAQS #PowerWomen series in the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8, we talk to Aarti Manocha, Founder, Milestones to Memories (MtoM) about her journey in the events industry.

Aarti Manocha’s entrepreneurial journey is one that spans more than a decade of work in the hospitality, travel and tourism business. Milestones to Memories is a culmination of this journey, shaped by her experience in the leisure travel and social events segment, wherein she has been part of some of the most dynamic changes in the Indian travel industry and the social events space, specially high profile weddings.

Here, Manocha 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

My exciting entrepreneurial journey is one that began after a decade-and-a-half of work in the travel and tourism business. Milestones to Memories is a culmination of this journey, shaped by my experience in the leisure travel and social events sectors, wherein I was fortunate to be a part of some of the most dynamic changes in the Indian travel industry and the social events space.

My initial years in the travel industry were spent learning the ropes of the inbound business with a leading inbound travel company. I started as a front office executive, handling operations. I grew through the ranks and eventually stepped into sales. Initially, I worked within the Indian market and developed the company’s B2B segment. The company I worked with got acquired by travel major Kuoni, by which time I was already a key member of the company. The transition from a privately owned company to a major travel conglomerate gave me exposure to systems and processes and a new and evolved way of working.

Armed with my experience at Kuoni, I took the entrepreneurial plunge and was one of the founder members of Tamarind Global (TG) in 2006. In the decade that followed, I used what I had learnt in my journey so far and my industry goodwill, to shape and grow Tamarind in several areas. Leading a very capable team, we grew a small network of less than 50 sub-agents to an entire ecosystem with more than 600 sub-agents across India. Then I took on the portfolio of international business development with a focus on new markets such as the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Moving forward, when I identified the potential of the fast-growing space of social events, I decided to hand over the reins of the established tours division to my next-in-command. I then orchestrated my energies in building the new division of weddings in the company. In the early days of developing the vertical, I led and executed some challenging and exemplary destination weddings and social events with a small team that became huge milestones for TG and opened the floodgates for their new vertical.

After a decade with Tamarind Global, in 2016, I built on the most challenging and exciting move in my career. I solely founded, Milestones to Memories Pvt Ltd, a brand that would be a mirror of my experience, passion and vision.

ON POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY

I have seen the most amazing, inspiring and talented women in the events industry. Each one has a unique story of their journey and achievements. Unlike a few decades ago, today women in the events industry are in leadership roles, leading brands and agencies, shouldering as much responsibilities as men in large agencies and organisations. We see young women in the industry now opting for roles in production and technical operations too, and not just client -servicing and creatives. But, this could be better and should get better in the coming times. Certainly, there are problems such as inequality, gender bias, under-estimation, unfair approach that women face, but these aren’t just specific to the events industry – these are problems that women across industries, across the world face. Comparatively, the challenges in India are tougher, for sure. The most important change that we need across all segments is the safety and security for women. A well-defined policy that mentions strong disciplinary action and zero tolerance towards anyone not enacting this certainly is the need of the hour.

Talking of the wedding industry, in this space women have outnumbered men. There are immense opportunities for women to outshine and create a successful path for themselves. Fortunately, in the weddings space, we face lesser challenges than our peers, who are in corporate events and agencies.

ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THE EVENTS INDUSTRY

Whether it is a man or a woman, one’s career can be managed only by diligent and intelligent efforts. It is undeniable that women face several challenges in managing their careers. My advice to all the young women looking to join the industry would be, knowledge and content is powerful. If you know your stuff and you are hard working and resourceful, your wisdom will speak for itself.

Have the confidence to take risks early on, even if it means that you might fall a few times, because ultimately you will learn from those experiences. Most importantly, don’t feel the need to ‘act like a man’ to get ahead. Women are skilled; plus they are emotional beings. This isn’t a shortcoming or negative at all, this will only help you to be great leaders if you utilise it with the right balance. To stand out and excel, think of yourself as a leader first, and then a consultant, designer, salesperson, etc. This will be the foundation that steadies you through the challenges, which you will inevitably navigate. It will also be the springboard to new opportunities.

TALKING POINTS AT MILESTONES TO MEMORIES

The year gone by gave us the opportunity to brainstorm new processes, themes, destinations, clear our systems and organise them. We could improvise our templates, read, learn, unlearn…During the lockdown, I would tell the team that think of this year as a break we took from the crazy running around, to reflect, upgrade our skills and most importantly spend quality time with family.

Post lockdown, we got back to work in November, 2020 for a wedding in one of the most prominent industrialist families of India. As a team, we came back as renewed people rearing to go. In spite of the challenges of the pandemic and constantly changing Government regulations, we managed to create magic once again. It was a phenomenal wedding and our biggest achievement. We gave health and safety prime importance and the outcome was that we had zero cases. We are grateful that this beautiful opportunity came our way, to get back to work. 

At MtoM, we have handled a few celebrity weddings but that is not the only area we focus on; in fact, a lot of our peers in the industry have done more celebrity weddings. The pandemic has affected the celebrity weddings just as it has the other weddings – limited choice of destinations within India as international destinations other than Maldives haven’t really opened up and it’s all very uncertain. Hoping the vaccine proves to be the game-changer and we see many more weddings happening in 2021, including celebrity weddings.

WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO

My priorities continue to be doing some quality, customised and experiential work. We love what we do and while this year has started slow, work is beginning to pick up. We are certain that by mid-year, we will get busy working on some amazing weddings. Other than weddings, we have a division of milestone celebrations wherein we curate and execute special celebrations such as landmark birthdays, anniversaries or a milestone achievement in work life. We are expanding this division and seeing good traction; the opportunities to create experiences and concepts in this space are exciting.

Continuing the EVENTFAQS #PowerWomen series in the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8, we talk to Aarti Manocha, Founder, Milestones to Memories, about her journey in the industry.

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