My Story - Babita Baruah
My work has shaped me and my thinking. I am passionate about diversity at work, about women empowerment leading to productivity, about creativity that shifts the needle for the brand and business.
It was a cold day. The corridors of the office overwhelmed me. December 2, 1996. I walked into HTA Calcutta as a Management Trainee. I could feel the dreams in my head as I looked at the office head, dreams of leading an agency one day.
My first account was Modi Telstra. It was the first time I had seen a cellphone. Priced well beyond my pay check. I soon settled down in my role as a young trainee. Collecting phones for a print ad shoot that had to be delivered to the media house by midnight, checking hand painted logos on hoardings, doing puja special communication, learning the ropes of media and production.
One of my most memorable projects was the Wills Year Book. The concept, the layouts, the images bought from an image bank, shoots, sitting with the production team in the studio till dawn on bromides, page layouts, mock ups.
The other was the Bata School shoes campaign, where my role was to get the product catalog out. The shoe names had to be pasted meticulously by the studio team under each image bromide. A task that seems simple but took painstaking hours, days.
I remember the first computers making their grand entrance into the agency. And the day Internet was activated. On one computer kept in a room with a register where we had to note down our in and out time, with details of what we were navigating.
I loved my days in Kolkata . The city had changed its name but retained the same magic. The metro ride to work and back, the taxis, weekends at Park Street, the gardens outside Victoria Memorial, New Market and Gariahat, Nizam rolls, SomePlace Else.
May 2000 was when I moved to Mumbai. A new office, new people, new clients. It was a grind. But one that grew on me. Mumbai fuelled my passion and dreams to make it big. The city does that to you. Makes you believe that you can.
I was part of the Unilever team. A training ground for me for managing large, network clients. I grew in this role and worked with regional and global teams on some of their power brands. Sunsilk, Lux, Rin and Knorr. I also had the privilege of working with the Kotak group, Aditya Birla, Godrej Industries, Kellogg's, De Beers, J&J, Big 92.7 FM.
The summer of 2004 was unforgettable. I was one of the 12 Indian women to be selected for the prestigious British Chevening scholarship in the U.K. It was a turning point in my life. I was a student for four months, and went back to classrooms and professors. The course was on Women and Leadership. We met prominent women in the U.K, talked about their experiences, went on study tours across the country. I also made friends with 11 other women achievers from India.
Life took another turn for me in 2005. I became a mother to a beautiful girl, Zoya. I worked till two days before she was born and came back to work in 90 days. I did that because work drives me and keeps me going. I realised that as a professional, we have to find a way out to manage life and work in a way that does not compromise either.
July 1, 2010 saw me in JWT Delhi. On Nokia. Gurgaon is a different kettle of fish. Different from Mumbai in many ways. I missed Mumbai terribly. Still do. But Gurgaon brings out the best in me. Every challenge makes me stronger and gives me a burning desire for more. I love Gurgaon for making me what I am today.
I now head PO1, a business unit that manages the PepsiCo business, as Senior Vice President. My work has shaped me and my thinking. I am passionate about diversity at work, about women empowerment leading to productivity, about creativity that shifts the needle for the brand and business. I feel the industry needs more women at the top. And we have to do everything to make this happen.
Earlier this year, I was invited to Harvard Business School as a speaker on Trends in India Marketing, in the India Conference 2016. It was a very special moment for me. I felt great about getting an opportunity of making my agency and industry proud.
Life and work for me are strongly intertwined. My besties are from office. My office room is done up like a room in my house. I walk in with a smile every day. When I look back at the last twenty years, there have been highs and not so highs. Times when I made mistakes I am even embarrassed to write about here. Days when I walked out teared up. But overall, it is one happy smiley emoji for me when it comes to my work and my agency. My seniors have and will always be my mentors. For me, once a team, always a team.
And wherever Life takes me in the future, I shall always look back on these years with pride and gratitude.