'Capability, Contribution and Leadership determine value of an individual'
Lavang Khare, Senior Vice President, Adfactors PR, believes that women take increased responsibility and are better-placed to cope with distressing situations as compared to men
The relevance of public relations has been growing exponentially, especially in the pandemic. The industry has not enjoyed greater stardom as it does in the present. Amidst all this, Lavang Khare, Senior Vice President at Adfactors PR, featuring in e4m's ‘Women Achievers Series’ is no surprise.
Lavang brings with her over 20 years of hands-on experience and understanding of communications from both client's and the communications agency's end. She has worked across categories including FMCG, technology, telecom, power, infrastructure, transport, financial, healthcare, hospitality, retail and public affairs. She has been part of organisations like LINOPINION Golin Harris, Bharti Walmart, IPAN Hill & Knowlton and others. With an in-depth understanding of corporate communication, brand building, advertising and public relations, Lavang has proven her mettle in business development, media counselling, media and crisis training and providing strategic direction and customized solutions to business operations.
exchange4media speaks to Lavang about her journey in the industry, her views on inclusivity of the PR industry, paradigm shifts, pay gaps and more in the latest edition of ‘Women Achievers Series’.
How did you enter the communications industry? How has been your journey ever since?
I have always been fascinated by advertisements and during my graduation, I would run to the common room during a program called “Chitrahaar” just because during the break there were so many ads. At that time, almost 30 years ago, there was no clarity on many things but I was very clear that I wanted to be in communication. I did some research and sat for the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and got through.
During my interview, I was told by the panel that they found my analysis of the “Monte Carlo, Winter wear” ad intriguing and impressive. The tagline was Glenn Medeiros’s “Nothings gonna change my love ”. But I was unable to join IIMC as there was no hostel that year. So, I completed my Masters in English Literature and my father got posted to Bombay and I sat for Xavier Institute of Communication (XIC) and got through. Life changed since then and the rest is history.
When I started in PR, my first internship was with a small consultancy that was actually just about press releases and press conferences. From then on, PR has come a long way from just being a publicity tool. Today, it is a respected corporate communication function. Personally, for me, it has been a high impact learning experience. I have not only grown as a professional but also as an individual. My mantra is, “Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn”.I have learnt to be innovative, transform myself to become more agile and open to challenges.
I consider myself lucky that I had an opportunity to work with some of the best minds and brands, have been a client and counsellor. Every organisation that I have been associated with has provided me with great opportunities and truly valuable learnings.
What have been key learnings for you in the entire journey to work for the communications industry?
I have worked in the communications industry for over two decades in different avatars. I have witnessed PR evolve from being a press release function to an integral part of a company’s business strategy. The role of the Chief Communication Officer(CCO) is constantly evolving. The CCO plays a vital role in strategic business decision making, predominantly in recognising their impact on corporate reputation. Communication is being seen as a driver for business and CCOs are being considered for CEO and top positions.
The learning never stops and every day I can promise you I learn something new. For me, my current firm believes in Learning & Development as the biggest priority, and having worked across agencies and corporates the learnings over the last few years are incomparable.
The key is to embrace learning and adaptation. Constant change has become the norm with the ever-evolving media landscape and the plethora of channels, digital tools, influencer marketing, client and consumer expectations. Communication professionals need to have ongoing professional development else become irrelevant and antiquated.
Become familiar and fluent with mobile and social media and use analytics and get comfortable with data. Analytics has developed more than one could have imagined in the last few years. Communication professionals are expected to present/ demonstrate ROI metrics.
2020 was a different year. How did 2020 change the perspective for women leaders across industries? What major changes did it bring into your life both professionally and personally?
It has been a tumultuous year of disruptions galore and many unlearnings and new learnings, leading to more adaptability and acclimatising to change. An unprecedented year that sent us into panic mode and yet taught us to be positive and survive and thrive. While most of us stayed home and worked from home, we found ways to connect, support and understand each other.
Women leaders have been shining during the COVID year. There are many examples wherein one can see women leaders thrive in 2020. Look at female leaders in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, and Taiwan. Most significant is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, one of the best examples of how women have become a voice of reason and have managed the crisis better than their male counterparts.
Women have been praised for being empathetic, effective messaging and prompt action, quick decision making, resilience, benevolence, pragmatism, trust in collective common sense, mutual aid and humility are mentioned as common features of the success of these women leaders.
Initially, it was a collision of personal and professional and gradually became an amalgamation. In the early days, it was so difficult to manage the balance between the personal and the professional me.
There is work from home and there is work for home. Now I can clearly say that I have learnt to telecommute and the office can be anywhere. It is about making work fun, having a good work-life balance, as well as good synergy between work culture and productivity.
There is just so much more bonding and connect with colleagues, friends and families that never existed before.
How inclusive is the PR industry according to you?
The PR industry welcomes women to be a part of the workforce. It is heartening to see that there is a decent number of women leaders in corporate communications and agencies in leadership roles. A fairly large number of women across levels.
An organization is known by its people. I feel happy and proud to be part of an organization where we have a good female representation—starting from entry-level management, up to women directors at the senior-most level. There is a culture of inclusivity at Adfactors PR. Diversity and inclusion are part of our core values. Both men and women are treated as equals, there is training for young employees to think of themselves as leaders. An eco-system wherein the seniors are building an environment of mentoring and motivating young talent while also making them aware of their potential as future managers.
How has the industry treated its women in the new normal? What paradigm shift have you noticed?
The COVID -19 crisis transformed the work pattern and behaviour and coerced organisations to shift to the fastest gear and ensure the acceleration of the transformation process to reduce financial stress due to business loss. The industry has not been left untouched and is equally impacted by this crisis. COVID-19 has impacted the world of work across industries and had initially put everyone on edge.
For women particularly a work-life balance has been a challenge during this work from home. The industry in India has treated women with respect and dignity.
Women have become a force to be reckoned with as they take increased responsibility and are better placed to cope with distressing situations as compared to men.
Why do we witness attrition in women leadership as we go high above the ladder?
There is data to prove that the corporate ladder is a battle of attrition for women. Women still grapple with a “glass ceiling” at the highest levels of business. The working woman faces multiple challenges and barriers. She works double shift, her life can be a labyrinth – works at the office and is a caregiver to her children and family. The pandemic can be seen as an opportunity wherein because of the flexibility and WFH women may be able to come back to work. They can be seen in many more top-ranked positions which they were unable to earlier due to family commitments and responsibilities.
Has there been any instance of gender bias in your journey? Is the pay gap a major concern for the industry?
Gender bias exists, but, I have never really encountered it. I have always maintained a certain level of excellence in everything I do. Have always had supportive and progressive supervisors and colleagues. I need to emphasise that my parents have treated all of us siblings (have 2 brothers) as equals and I am privileged to have had my father and mother as my guiding force and inspiration who gave me wings to fly.
Today, my husband and my son make my trust in myself stronger and support me to dream bigger, be bolder and help me figure out what makes me feel alive and happy. They have always been there for me and stood by me in thick and thin.
Pay gap does exist but is not necessarily the biggest concern. I would say that the capability and contribution and leadership strengths determine the value of an individual
What are the steps that you would take to support other women in the industry and large?
I regularly guide young professionals through sessions at work and colleges. I am part of mentoring programmes for women and am helping build an ecosystem for women professionals to thrive. I am part of the Shadow a CEO Mentor program at Vedica Scholars for Women Programme since its inception. Besides, I am also an active member of Vedica Women’s Alliance (V-WA) that aims to aggregate, advocate, and amplify the voices of senior women leaders from across the country professionals to thrive. V-WA aims to create a credible platform for meaningful engagement between senior women leaders and relevant stakeholders from the government, industry, and academia to bring about lasting and broad-based change.
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