AHEAD OF THE PACK
From modelling to being a part of an airline crew to a successful business woman. You have dabbled in all professions. How has the journey been?
In one word, long. As a child, I always wanted to be on the side of glamour and had never thought of taking business as a choice for my career. As time passed, I realized how short lived that path is. In a few years, one starts to age and the profession needs you to look young, always. I figured out that this couldn’t be my long term career and I ought to do something. In the meantime, I got married to Jay and moved to Odisha. That’s when I decided that it’s a great place to start a business venture since there were so many opportunities.
You were new to Odisha and to quickly gain acceptance in a new place is quite a thing for a woman. To add to it, you ventured into an industry dominated by men. How have you tackled such situations?
Fortunately or unfortunately, I got drawn into my work so much that I didn’t get a chance or had the time to think about it. But thinking of it now, I do feel there was a bias & people looked at me not just as a woman but also as someone who comes from a completely different background.
At that time Odisha happened to be in the headlines for the wrong reasons & was perceived by many to be a backward state. Creating a media house in such an environment, wouldn’t have been a cakewalk?
Nothing was easy. It’s just about the amount of time and effort one wants to devote for it. While trying to build something concrete, a leader definitely faces numerous hurdles.
You have been exemplary in balancing your personal & professional duties. What would you like to share with all the ladies out there?
For a woman, it becomes much more difficult. Other than doing your job well, you also have to overcome stereotypes in the society. If your problems at work are larger than overcoming the stereotypes, the balance happens naturally. But not vice-versa.
Managing a home & family has always been a woman’s responsibility. Having a successful career and taking care of a home, isn’t really everyone’s cup of tea! Your take on it?
There were issues during the initial days of work, but family was definitely not one of them. Whatever pressure there was, at the family front was only because both Jay and I were working very hard to realize our dreams.
Your husband being in politics, how do you associate or disassociate yourself? Are you
keen on being a part of it?
There goes a saying, ‘the more you say no, the more you get dragged into it’. I am not keen on being a part of the politics. I haven’t been to any of Jay’s campaigns. I love and enjoy what I am doing.
You shuffle quite a bit between your work in Bhubaneswar and at Delhi. What’s your take on long distance marriages?
Even if we don’t spend all 30 days of a month together, we spend about 10 days. But in those 10 days, we make sure that we spend quality time with each other. It all depends on the two people involved. The communication between them & the understanding can make even 10 days of togetherness, absolutely fabulous.
Sometimes work can be so stressful that even the presence of another person can have a compounding effect. You don’t have to be around a person everyday, to make marriages work. You just need to balance it in the right and compatible way.
How do you de-stress yourself? What keeps you so radiant & gorgeous?
Thank you for the compliment !
Work, yes it does stress me out. I do many things for myself. I am a movie buff and can watch anything and everything. On weekends, I just like to chill out and spend some quality time with myself. One needs to detach from work completely for a while to come back feeling fresh and energized.
Your father inlaw, Mr. Bansidhar Panda is the first industrialist of the state. What facets of his pioneering personality have you imbibed?
Top-most is patience. That is something that I wish to imbibe in myself. Patience is probably one of the big reasons behind his success in the steel industry, which can often be cyclical.
Persistence. The ‘never say die’ attitude and staying focussed.
You have enjoyed the first mover advantage in satellite television in Odisha for sometime. How has Ortel Communications braced up to the challenge of national players coming into the fray?
Change is the only thing that is constant and it is also one of the most crucial requirements. There happen to be a lot of ideas, but there should be a continuity to change them into newer ones. If you think you can push people to think new and evolve constantly, that’s the only way to sustenance.
Taking risks, making mistakes and learning from them. Do you think this is one of the basic principles to follow?
Absolutely! But learning from other’s mistakes is a wiser thing to do.
Digitalization seems to be the next renaissancé. What are your future plans to adapt to this rapid change?
We have invested a lot. Both in terms of manpower and in terms of software and hardware. We believe, that it is the future. The only hurdle that we have been facing is to convince people to sway along with the digital world. It is one of the biggest challenges for us and perhaps, it will continue to be a challenge, especially in smaller towns and cities.
You are so well travelled. If you have to put your finger on one place where your soul lies, which would that be?
Italy. I feel I am drawn to things which have a historical importance and Italy takes me back to that era. ❏
“I have always been asked about the advice that I would like to give, to all women out there. The big discussion that we have in today’s times is the reason for the dearth of women entrepreneurs. Traditionally the qualities of a leader involve most of the masculine features of being aggressive, authoritative, and so on. Nobody is looking at what women bring to the table. They are compassionate, collaborative and very good at maintaining long term relationships. These are the qualities which are essential for an entrepreneur in the modern world. I have always championed this cause by saying that all of us have to start nurturing the differences in the gender rather than force each other to comply”