“Conquering the fear of failure with a persistent focus on excellence and prioritization, where your job provides the utmost satisfaction by creating smiles and memories for your clients and your team, thereof are the true indicators of a decently successful entrepreneurial journey” says Poonam Lal.
The role of women in socio-economic development of society has undergone dramatic transformation in last fifty years. There has been a remarkable increase in the proportion of women receiving higher or professional education; and pursuing their career to make a name for themselves. Not to mention, their capabilities in the field of education as well as in the leadership space in all sectors and at all levels are incontestable. However, the percentage of women at the top of the Fortune 500 going steady at a meagre 4.8% is a clear indication that women are still facing several external barriers towards attaining authoritative and influential positions.
Poonam Lal, Founder & Managing Director of Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd., a leading experiential marketing and design agency, expresses her views on the biggest challenge to female leadership saying, “Starting your own business can be risky and often a stressful endeavor, the fear of failure can be particularly strong in a male dominated corporate world. Conquering this fear, as also, closing the leadership gap between men and women are a few of the major challenges as I see it. This society and industry is still patriarchal in its mindset and breaking those chains by making people believe otherwise is the biggest challenge.” An experiential marketing industry veteran with twenty-five years of exultingly rich experience, Poonam, is regarded as a successful leader for her unique abilities as an influential person and for establishing Marketing Solutions as one of the fastest growing agencies in the industry.
Poonam started her career as a writer and served some publications in the North-East for a few years. Later, she stepped into the world of corporate jobs and assumed succeeding management positions as the time passed by. Her stint with International Amusement Limited as a Marketing Manager added a lot of value to her deep domain knowledge in the industry. Poonam shares, “From an international trade fair management company, an advertising agency, to revamping India’s first and largest amusement park, Appu Ghar- changed the dynamics for me, and taught me everything I know about creating impactful experiences.”
A visionary with strong business acumen and entrepreneurial skills, Poonam decided to quit the job to build her own company in the event marketing space. Speaking about what motivated her to start her own venture, Poonam shares, “I wanted to challenge myself beyond what I was already doing, because I knew I had it in me to change the paradigm of creating meaningful experiences and creating impacting outcomes. I loved putting together from scratch, the marketing department with a sustainable revenue model for India’s oldest and largest amusement park, in India. I realized that we needed to create experiences that would drive-in repeat footfalls. I enjoyed the challenge of designing those experiences and luckily met with phenomenal success. Thriving for success always inspired me to do things bigger and better! That’s how I dreamed of starting my work, where experiences would become the USP…”
Poonam wished to build a company that would be known for its ‘consistent, creative and conceptual delivery; and quality work’. She envisioned that her company would get to serve the best brands in the industry following a clear roadmap fostering a culture of creativity and a healthy work environment. Strong ambition rooted deep in Poonam’s powerful leadership fueled an aspiration for success, fame and recognition. However, she realized soon that “if I focused my energies on excellence in work, all those would follow.”
Throwing light on her entrepreneurial journey, Poonam tells us that Marketing Solutions initially operated as a generic brand solutions firm. She adds, “Two years of crazy hard work, persistence and belief, and countless small jobs sustained us while we waited for the dream assignment. Then came our first break and the rest as they say, is history! From there on, there were many milestones that shaped our growth.”As she was endowed with an ingrained flair for understanding clients and their specific needs, Poonam took care of overall business planning and servicing key accounts. Her core strength in breaking down client briefs to bare basics and defining strategies for brands has been instrumental in unlocking multiple avenues to success and taking the business to new heights.
Poonam’s optimism filled response on being asked about the number of hours she works a day clearly exhibits her satisfaction that roots in her love for what she does. She explains, “I worked very hard to create a job I don’t think I ever need a vacation from!” She asserts that starting her own company was the best decision she ever made! It is noteworthy that she has been successful in striking a perfect balance between her professional and personal life. However, she faced hardships initially as her professional commitments affected her personal life. It didn’t take her much time to realize that all she needs is an absolute work-life balance; which she can achieve by setting her priorities right.
“I am an unconventional mom of 3 (including twin boys) and a pug; forever optimist and a positively effervescent person. Reading is a big relaxant for me, I am a closet poet, a keen traveler and a travel blogger apart from being a dreamer”, she says with a smile spread across her face. A goal-oriented free spirited woman with a strong craving for success, Poonam hails from Imphal, Manipur; a place which was left untouched by industrial, economic as well as social development. Her adventurous and inquisitive spirit could never find the enthusiasm it needed. She explains, “Imphal back in the 70’s and 80’s, existed in a time lapse. There were never any huge career aspirations, no cut-throat competition, unless your temperament had ‘rebel’ written on it!”But things changed as she moved to Delhi after her marriage. The cultural differences she experienced initially had hit her bold spirit; but, ultimately gave her the boost to fight and make a place for herself.
“My father has been my greatest inspiration. He has been the wind beneath my wings”, Poonam says. Her father always motivated her to be self-reliant and to utilize her strengths for building self-worth. Moreover, her kids’ deep-seated belief in her abilities keeps her going. She adds, “Their innocent yet innate faith that ‘Mumma will always make things right’ inspires me to push the envelope and try and do the undoable!”
On being asked about whom she attributes her success to, Poonam says, “I share my success with everyone who’s been part of our amazing journey; specially my children who understood me and gave me the time I needed to establish myself and the company. And equally so with Vishal Sethi, my business partner of 17 years, who made my dreams his. He stood and supported me like an astute pillar, having worked so hard with me to make Marketing Solutions what it is today. Furthermore, I owe our success to our entire team– each one who has worked with me in different capacities, at different times during this journey and above all my clients who have reposed their trust in us and our work during this journey”
Her never-dying entrepreneurial spirit enkindles a true sense of responsibility towards the industry of which she is a part. And, striving for the betterment of the working women community has given her the reason. She is now investing her efforts towards making this industry more women friendly. Speaking about her dreams as a successful woman leader, she says, “As a woman who has worked in this space for so many years, I know the kind of issues girls and women face in this 24*7*365 industry. I know the pain points and the difficulties. When entrusted by the Event & Entertainment Management Association, the apex body of the event industry in the country, to lead the Gender Equality Portfolio, I took it as my chance to give something back to the industry, the outcome was the ‘We Care’ initiative that works towards making the work place safe and secure for the women in the industry, with a set of mandatory compliances that agencies must follow.”
In the end, she wraps up the conversation with “There is no short cut to success. We have to put in consistent work, create focused goals and evolve with time and situations to achieve success. Mediocrity should be unacceptable; and we should always strive for excellence in whatever we choose to do.”