interview is a part of Startup Terminal interview series to mark the occasion
of ‘International Women’s Day’
journalism & politics to the gnarled galleries of Advertising, her career
is a journey that few in their right minds dare to take. An MBA, TV Reporter
for Zee News, Senior Correspondent & Deputy Editor for a magazine, – it was
a good seven years of thriving as a Journalist after which she took the plunge
brands saw quick-turnarounds & entrepreneurial brands have joined the big
league. She has been instrumental in transforming brands, impacting clients,
directing businesses and leading effectiveness. Over the last 4 years, Utopeia
has grown from scratch to a bustling mid-sized agency with 52 people across two
offices & 46 Crores of billing revenues. Some of my clients in Utopeia
include Reliance Fresh, Radius Developers, K Raheja Corp, Axis Bank, Times of
India, Recron, Ambuja Cement Foundation, etc.
agency, she is shaping a new environment for women, one that breaks age-old
locker-room culture and cultivates a new one that is conducive for women to
grow without compromises.
Associate Vice President, across verticals of DDB India, DDB Health &
Lifestyle, Rapp India & Tribal DDB. She has been instrumental in
establishing brands like Volkswagon & Neutrogena in India. She has also
worked at Ogilvy & Mather and TBWA India. An accomplished strategic
planner, digital expert, trainer and researcher, Mitali has undertaken in-depth
thought leadership on various consumer groups and is ready to launch her first
book. She also led the New Knowledge & Insights cell for Ogilvy. Her career
spans over brands like, J&J, Reliance, Cadbury, Big Bazaar, Asian Paints,
etc and awards include golds at Effies, AME, James Burke & Indian Marketing
Awards. She is also a guest faculty member at Xavier’s Institute of
Communication & St.Pauls Institute of Communication.
Mitali Srivastava, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Utopeia
is your biggest influence in life?
Srivastava: My biggest
influence in my life has been my parents. I have learnt a lot as a professional
and as a person by observing how my parents conducted themselves with each
other and with others. I have consciously imbibed their good qualities and I
have learnt from their mistakes.
autobiographies of many people, I think I never really felt the need to idolize
anyone. We live in interesting and also challenging times and I believe that
one’s heroes or influences must be people who live in similar times.
the best and worst out f us. So my context and influence was my parents while I
was growing up and it still remains my context as their old age is now shaping
up my future plans personally and professionally.
What challenges do you face in your day to day professional life, if any?
Srivastava: I think I face
various kinds of challenges as I don various hats in life. As an entrepreneur
my daily challenge is to manage my agency, clients and all the people around
me. As a strategic planner, my daily challenge is to offer the best to my
brands. As a woman, I face the challenge of balancing my work and home
commitments. As an individual my daily challenge is to inspire my own self on a
daily basis. I think challenges are integral to having an interesting life.
Where do you want to see yourself in next 5 years down the line?
Srivastava: My business
partners (Sudarshan Banerjee and Sean Colaco) and I founded Utopeia around 4
years ago. We had various dreams and plans as it seemed like a huge risk to me
to quit a MNC agency. We had fire in our bellies to prove a point to the
industry and to our own self. I think we managed to prove the naysayers wrong,
but my journey in the last four years have made me realize that my goal post
needs to change now.
want to feel happiness and contentment in my professional and personal life.
Happiness is a subjective concept. Should it be around a million dollar
account? Should it be around winning a Cannes? There is no end to where
ambition can take you. It never feels enough.
I want to be a happy manager. A happy home manager and a happy business
manager. I want people around me to be happy too. I want my agency to be the
happiest agency. I want my clients to feel happy when they interact with us. I
want to be surrounded by good and kind people. I am determined to chase this
happiness for the next few years. It might come at a cost as happiness is often
not the practical way to run an organization. But I think down the line, I
think it would be worth the cost. Even at a personal level, being happy will
require a behaviour change as priorities need to be realigned. I am ready for
What is your message to the readers on ‘International Women’s Day’?
Srivastava: Since its
International Women’s Day, I think I want to tell every woman who reads this
that I am a late bloomer in life, both professionally and personally.
Sometimes, life doesn’t take you on the right course or you face various
pitfalls. But, it’s alright. Life falls in the right place if we decide not to
run away from it.
success in life. This success doesn’t need to come at any kind of compromise.
Women in India are often under an extra pressure to get educated, get married,
get a job, have kids at a particular time or forced to stay at home. Our lives
and decisions are defined by our biological clock that is guarded by our
society. I want to tell all the women who face such pressures, that don’t give
in to it. Pursue your passion, do it at your own pace.
are ready whether it’s a love marriage or an arranged one. Get a job and stay
independent even if you and your family doesn’t really need the money. It’s
important to step out of the home so that your growth as a human being
continues. People around you might not appreciate your decisions when you take
such decisions. Wrong or right, let these decisions be yours only because a
life of regret is a big cross to carry.
form the bedrock of sane rational choices. And most importantly, don’t let your
age make decisions for you. To all the men, who might read this, I just want to
say, that support, recognize and celebrate these women as they will bring the
best out of you professionally and personally.