Morals & ethics are of utmost importance in everything I do: Manasa S Mantha

Mantha, the co-founder & CEO of Brand House Network, shares her views on being an entrepreneur in tough times, the millennial mindset and value gap in the industry

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Apr 8, 2020 5:44 PM
Manasa S Mantha

Laying the foundation of an agency in the cluttered marcomm market not only requires the guts but also experience and potential.  Manasa S Mantha co-founded the agency named Brand House Network (BH Network Pvt. Ltd.), last year. Having worked with both client and the agency side, she has been part of numerous successful brand campaigns.  

In today’s edition of Women Achievers Series, we speak to Manasa about her take on being an entrepreneur in tough times, the millennial mindset, value gap and more.

 Edited Excerpts: 

  • What inspired you to be an entrepreneur that too in tough times?  

I’m a fourth-generation post-graduate from a mildly-conservative, middle class, South Indian family that has, for generations, seen academicians, administrators, lawmakers, bankers and artists. I’m probably the first entrepreneur and definitely the first woman entrepreneur, across my extended family.

Despite the high importance placed on our typical South Indian values of education and degrees and the 9-5 job lifestyle, my parents have always been supportive of my need to do something different. So when I said I want to quit my very lucrative role at McDonald’s India as an Internal Communications specialist and do something on my own, it sure didn’t go down too well. I had to present to my parents a detailed business plan, addressing the knowledge gap and a backup plan should this fail. Well, a year and a half later, here I am!

Self-motivation has always driven my work. I know my skill sets, can map market requirements, have innovative ideas and can network well. Not all the time, but I do like to take calculated risks. Wanting to do something different and being different in a highly competitive world, I realised that a 9 to 5 job is not for me. Having worked with several different clients across industries and being from an IT + Marketing background, I decided to set up a marketing communications company that would be both challenging and helpful for other start-ups and the like to grow into formidable establishments. With Brand House Network, I bring to the table my experience across the board of working with technology companies – both consumer and enterprise technology – to venture capital/ private equity, to advertising – marketing, to education, retail, FMCG, hospitality and even steels and ship-breaking!

Above all, I am passionate about my work. 

  • What is the strength you bring to clients in the cluttered PR market? 

Being passionate about communications and my engineering degree in IT allowed me to pick up the tricks of the trade a lot faster. I am confident enough to say I have one big differentiating factor that very few of my peers possess. For that, I’m eternally grateful for my family’s rules for all kids – speak tongues or learn an art form. I picked tongues (I manage to speak about 10 languages – English, Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, French, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada, Kutchi, Punjabi and pursuing sign language currently) and art forms (painting, photography and digital art). It is the confidence with which I can switch languages to ease people into conversations that allows me to network efficiently.

But most importantly, I have always believed in the power of generating an article featuring a client, rather than paying for the client to be advertised next to some article. The aim of public relations is to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders, and ultimately persuade them to maintain a positive or favourable view about the organization, its leadership and products. The PR market may be cluttered, but there is always a place for those who can bring value based on ethics to work.  

  • What are your strengths in digital?

 My basic background is that I’m an IT engineer and a Marketing MBA. That automatically gives me the edge over a lot of others considering I understand the ins and outs of digital media, can experiment with digital marketing and can work well with analytics and content marketing. Having been trained in crisis communications, especially on the social media front, I have a better grip on how the industry is moving now.

Moreover, we’re a world with rapidly shrinking boundaries thanks to social media. It’s what I’ve been raised with – when you don’t know, you learn and then you practise. To keep up with the times I tend to pursue a lot of online courses and recently completed the Google Digital Fundamentals course and am pursuing the Google Ads course. That apart, because my primary education required it and I grew very interested, I’m pursuing game theory and AI as separate research courses as well.  

  • Millennials do not settle. They are leaving their 9-5 job to start up their own marcomm agencies. What are your views on the increased risk-taking abilities in millennials? 

I truly believe we millennials have been a very misunderstood bunch. The world is changing. Today, however, we also have to realise the market realities. A 9 to 5 job doesn’t leave time for either introspection or innovation because it just ends up being a 16-hour job. As marcomm professionals, we also realise how much hard work goes into a single article or campaign slogan alone. In hindsight, I believe if I hadn’t taken the risk of quitting my job and setting up my own practice, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to write to the UN team and present a marketing plan on how we could work on building awareness for their programs in India and South East Asia! My defining moment of 2019 was walking into the UN headquarters with an invitation letter and an ID made especially for me, as a guest of the UN team.

In the famous words, "No guts, no glory; no effort, same story!"

  • How important has communication become in the times of the pandemic and how has COVID-19 changed communication?  

If you look up the statistics, Zoom’s stock has more than doubled in 2020, reaching an all-time closing high in late March, owing to COVID-19 alone. Entrepreneurs are often asked what caused their particular disruptive growth – increased digital penetration, new market realities or new customer requirements. I say this year the answer has changed across all platforms, industries around the world – the only new disruptor is the pandemic. Pushed indoors, with limited outreach options like phones and the internet, most people have found newer ways to deal with the ‘cabin fever’.

It’s a huge wakeup call for everyone who didn’t believe in telecommuting – the future’s already here, and its staring right at our faces. Digital communication is the way to go for everyone now. The adage ‘perform or perish’ is not even a route anymore. That being said, we can overload the customers with information digitally and they can choose to unsubscribe from us at any point, thus laying waste to all our efforts. I think, as an industry, we’ve finally understood our strengths and weaknesses, and are thus taking our time to rework communication strategies to reach out to the right audience, at the right time with the right message. We do have a lot of time at hand, so it seems to be working too, thus far! 

  • We talk about pay gaps but do you think the value gap also needs to be talked about?

Has anyone realised the pay gap conversation only ever happens with women? Men are not asked about pay gaps or value gaps for that matter, because it’s just a normal day at work for them! So while the pay gap just keeps getting several different responses in forums and articles and books and blogs, no one is addressing a bigger concern – value gap.

There are two ways of looking at this.

One, instead of looking at the value a person brings to the table, the only aspect considered is whether the person is a fresher or experienced. Two is a classical generation gap argument that’s been around for eons. This comes from personal experience. A lot of times, I’ve had older clients and colleagues who did not take what I had to say into consideration because I was young. The whole point is shut down right there. Being a 30-year-old Director of Marketing Communications is often not seen too kindly, especially by older ladies and gentlemen who might have to report into me for certain projects.

It’s just a matter of time though.  With the way the times are changing, everyone understands the need to excel in whatever one does or one would be left behind. In everything I do though, morals and ethics are of utmost importance to me. Respect for the person’s age, experience and the chair is enough to make a good, successful person. 

  • Who are your role models in the industry? 

I don’t know about role models but I know I owe all my thanks to a lot of people from the industry – especially all my colleagues from across all the organisations I’ve worked with. But special thanks do go out to Shane Jacob (Head of Bengaluru – Edelman India), my boss at The PRactice; friend, mentor and guide; Dipali Goenka of Welspun India, my first ever PR client; Michelle & Karl Pereira, for helping me learn-unlearn-relearn every time with every new business we discuss; and Josy Paul, Ajai Jhala and Rajesh Sikroria of BBDO India.

I aspire to be like all these people. If I can make even 1% of the difference these people have made in my life, I’ll think I’ve lived a successful life.

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