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Meet the women who shaped the M&E industry over the years

This International Women’s Day, BestMediaInfo.com writes about the pioneering women in the media and entertainment world who have left their indelible mark on the industry

The media and entertainment industry is notorious for not being women friendly. Ungodly hours, tight deadlines, work pressure and absolutely no work-life balance. Despite many women joining the industry, very few make it to leadership positions owing to various issues such as marriage, child rearing and societal pressure.

When we talk about pioneering leaders in the advertising, media and marketing industry, the names that come to mind, often times, belong to men. Does that mean women have had no impact on the M&E industry? Absolutely no! Despite the many challenges that plague a woman’s path to success, there have been names that have risen above the obstacles and shaped the industry, inspired many and left their mark in history.


This International Women’s Day, we speak about women who have impacted the M&E industry in a way only they could have.

Roda Mehta

Roda Mehta:

No list about pioneering women in the media and entertainment industry will be complete without the name Roda Mehta in it. Mehta played a legendary and pioneering role in establishing scientific media planning and buying in India. Mehta joined Hindustan Thompson Associates in 1971 and became the first MBA and first woman in the media function of an advertising agency in India.

Mehta moved to Ogilvy Benson & Mather in 1975 where she rose from Media Group Head to Media Controller for its Bombay office in 1976. She represented media for the first time on the Managing Committee of the Bombay office in 1978. She was sent to London for three months to introduce account planning and research in the Indian operation in 1980 and came on the Board as Director, Media & Research in 1982. She was made President, South, in 1992, became Director, International Client Service in 1994 and Managing Consultant of the network in 1996.

She was Founder Member of the Market Research Society of India (MRSI) and Founder Member and Chairperson, Technical Committee, of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC). She chaired MRUC from 1994-96. Mehta was also on the Board of several other committees, including Advisory Board, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (Govt of India) and AAAI’s Media Disputes Committee and Economic Times Advisory Panel.

Mehta, who has many awards under her belt, was awarded the Advertising Agencies Association of India’s (AAAI) Lifetime Achievement Award in the year 2017. Currently, she is associated with several non-profit organisations.

Helen Anchan

Helen Anchan:

Helen Anchan’s name holds immense respect and she is a role model for many young media professionals today. Anchan has 50 media years to her credit. She has seen the industry transform and change, much of it from Lintas, the agency to which she gave many of her years. Anchan left the industry on December 31, 2003 and was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2004 Emvies for her contribution to the media industry.

Ketaki Gupte

Ketaki Gupte:

Ketaki Gupte, a name that commands immense respect and stands for integrity and commitment in the industry. Gupte has 30 years of work experience, 19 of which she spent working for HTA (now JWT). In her capacity as Senior Vice-President and Executive Media Director at the agency, Gupte was responsible for advertising billings of over $250 million. As head of the largest media business, she is credited with the setting up of Fulcrum, one of the first Agency-of-Records for Unilever in India, and other initiatives like Media Vision and Portland Outdoor Services. She earned the reputation of being one of the best media professionals and leaders in India.

Gupte quit her position at HTA to join Korn/Ferry International’s Mumbai office. For eight years, she was a Senior Client Partner and Managing Director of Korn/Ferry International’s Mumbai office, and Leader, Consumer Markets, India. Gupte then, in partnership with her husband, Shreekant Gupte, started Reflexion Inc., a firm that offers services in the area of senior level recruiting, leadership development and coaching. Gupte is currently a Director at Transearch India.

Tara Sinha

Tara Sinha:

The first woman to set up an advertising agency, Tara Sinha is a legend. Sinha started her career with D J Keymer, Calcutta, the Indian subsidiary of S H Benson. When Benson shut down the Calcutta Branch in 1955 all the staff gathered together to form Clarion and Sinha found herself a Director of an ad agency at 23 years of age. Sinha relocated to Bombay and headed Clarion’s Bombay office. Things changed when Sinha joined Coca Cola. She moved to the company’s corporate headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia. She came back to head Clarion in 1984. But just 18 months after Sinha was appointed as President and Chief Executive of Clarion Advertising Services, she left and founded Tara Sinha Associates. Later, when McCann Erickson joined hands with Tara Sinha Associates, she continued as its head. These days she is out of active advertising, having sold her business. She lives in Gurgaon and spends her time in developmental work.

Nandini Dias

Nandini Dias:

Counted among the top media professionals in the country right now, Nandini Dias serves as inspiration to many who set their eyes on making a career in the industry. Dias has been associated with Lodestar UM for over two decades now. She was appointed COO of the agency in the year 2007 and was promoted to CEO in 2013. One of the most influential women in the media and entertainment industry right now, Dias has rubbed shoulders with who’s who of the industry and has maintained her own throughout all these years.

Shivani Hegde

Shivani Hegde:

If you love your two-minute noodles then you must know this pioneering woman. Shivani Hegde and her acumen ensured that Nestle India’s Maggi noodles became a marketing success and one of the most loved brands in the country following its launch in the early 1980s. Now in her early 50s, Hegde joined Nestle as management trainee, took Maggi through brand extensions into new categories and variants, shifted the advertising angle from taste to health and widened distribution. This made Maggi available across the country, even its remote corners, leading to a 70% plus share of the noodle market. Over the years she has been through various departments, including sales and human resources in the company. She was elevated as managing director of Nestle’s Sri Lanka business in January 2015. But when Maggi entered troubled waters, Hedge was summoned back to help the brand out of the crisis and looks like her magic has worked again.

Swati Bhattacharya

Swati Bhattacharya:

Bhattacharya started her career as a copy trainee at JWT. A young woman driven by hunger and excitement to see her work on air, she made her mark very quickly. Bhattacharya, who completed her education in Mass Communication from The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), topped her batch in 1992 in media planning. While she contemplated joining the media planning industry, advertising was really her call.

While on a holiday in Mumbai, she appeared for a copy test at Trikaya. She passed the test. After three months at Trikaya, Bhattacharya returned to Delhi and joined JWT.  Today, she is Chief Creative Officer at JWT and has spent 22 years with the agency.

Not only is Bhattacharya a creative force to reckon with in the industry but also a champion for the cause of women. Her passion in helping women find their place in the sun is evident in her short films and blogs. Bhattacharya believes in the development of talent at every level and endorses the idea of building a culture that invests in bringing out the true potential in people. She strongly feels 'being good' is not enough but supporting people and pushing them to 'be brave and real' is where we really need to focus.

Divya Gupta

Divya Gupta:

Divya Gupta, Chief Executive Officer, Dentsu Media, brings on board over 25 years of experience in the media industry. This includes 19 years across agencies, four years as a marketer and two years as a media owner.

Gupta began her career in 1987 as a media supervisor with Trikaya Grey India where she was responsible for media planning and buying on brands such as Lakme Unilever, Holcim Ambuja Cement and H&R Johnson. In 1991, she joined O&M India as Media Controller where she was responsible for O&M Media, Bombay. She was also involved in the inception of ‘Media Research Users Council’ (MRUC). Following a brief stint as Media Controller on O&M’s Media Network in the UK on the Unilever brand, Divya joined Rediffusion DY&R as Media Director, leading all media planning and buying for Colgate Palmolive in 1995.

Next, Gupta joined Mediacom India as Vice-President in 1997 where she launched the business in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. After a two-year stint with Bates India where she was Vice-President, Gupta joined The Media Edge (TME) as President, South Asia in 1999. She launched TME in India with six offices in the country and one each in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. From TME, Gupta joined MEC, Singapore where she led supervised worldwide client services and solutions. In 2005, Gupta joined Reliance ADA Group where, as Media Advisor to the Chairman’s Office, she provided strategic advisory on media investments. In 2009, Gupta joined Hindustan Times Media as Business Head, West, with the mandate of building the business.

In a field characterised by numbers and charts, Gupta has epitomised creativity in consumer connectivity. Transcending mere data analysis, Gupta has always sought to go beyond demographics in defining and engaging consumers, always in a context that encapsulates the brand proposition.

Delna Sethna

Delna Sethna:

Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis Communications’ full-service creative agency, named Delna Sethna as its Chief Creative Officer across all its businesses, early this year. A creative professional with over 20 years of experience in the industry, Sethna has had stints in agencies such as JWT, Publicis Ambience and Lowe Lintas. Sethna joined Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi in 2014, her second stint at the agency. She joined from Leo Burnett India, where she was the Regional Creative Director for P&G’s Whisper. A multi-award winning creative professional, Sethna has won several metals at prestigious events like Cannes Lions, Effies, Spikes Asia and D&AD.


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