She is talented, hard working and an example for many. Here’s a candid chit chat with Jashoda Madhavji, an entrepreneur par excellence
Tell us something about yourself?
I am born and brought up in South Mumbai. I studied ICSE in a convent discipline – J. B. Petit High School. I enrolled for commerce at H R College but I graduated in economics, literature and politics from Jai Hind College. I also have pursued theatre from Trinity College Of Dramatics, London. Apart from this, I am a professional healer and enjoy doing a lot of social service. My younger sibling and I were raised by a single parent with very middle class values and that is something has helped me become the person I am today. My aunt always taught me that being compassionate and cultivated is more important than being affluent and illustrious and I feel somewhere that ideal stayed on and for me who you really are is more important than what you own.
Interesting, so how did you get into the profession?
PR was an accidental venture for me, I never planned it. It has been over 14 years now as I started working real young, when I was 18 years old or so. Whilst I was studying in high school I was simultaneously spending my free time interning with my grandfather Ranjit Laxmidas Madhavji who is a world icon in portrait photography at his studio called Hamilton Studios. This is where I learnt the essentials of being a successful entrepreneur and learnt the ropes of running your own enterprise for close to 3 years. I remember reading about a vacancy for interns for a newly launched event company in the newspaper and I jumped at the opportunity because it was a great way of being financially independent and constructive. However the company fell apart sooner than I expected and then I tried my hand at artist management and production till I met Vinod Nair of Clea PR who got me fascinated with the business of image consulting and brand building. I think I was a quick learner and I adapted to different verticals right from fashion weeks to music concerts to retail brands to sports leagues. Having worked with some of the leading PR agencies in India right from Vaishnavi Corporate Communications to Weber Shandwick to Hanmer MSL, I realized that large format companies catered to the requirements of clients with deep pockets and there was a lack of interest for smaller clients who couldn’t necessarily afford expensive retainers. This is the gap that I wanted to fill in because there’s a dearth of talent but everyone today is treating their PR status like a 9-5 job where you cater to clients who have impressive retainers.
In the past I have always set up lifestyle and entertainment verticals at various agencies and hence I decided it was about time I gave birth to my own baby and benchmark the industry. My modus operandi wouldn’t have blended well with a conventional corporate environment. It is quite limiting in that sense to my creativity and my imagination. I wanted to make mistakes and learn from them and imbibe a more Do It Yourself approach. I have a voracious appetite to explore and status quo didn’t appeal to me. It feels fantastic to be the CEO of my own life and understand the true meaning of accountability, efficiency and excellence. I quite enjoy being the behind the scenes go-to person who’s available 24×7 for any kind of counsel and somewhere PR allows me to do that. I love building a brand out of nothing and somewhere I love to challenge myself to think beyond the ordinary. Brand building and public relations has a lot to do with communication creativity journalism and psychology. This is something that comes very naturally to me. Its a part of my DNA to be a people’s person. I find it very exciting to build platforms from scratch and create trendsetters out of ordinary people and ideas. Public relations is a creative art that allows you to tap into your inner potential and constantly evolve. It’s extremely exhilarating to be a catalyst of change responsible for remodeling thought leaders and campaign ideas and showcasing them to the masses.
What were the challenges you had to face during the process?
I believe it’s how you perceive life. There were many obstacles but somehow I was raised to always view an obstacle as an opportunity and convert negatives into positives. If I had to mull over my parents leaving me to not being able to afford luxuries whilst growing up to having friends who were opportunists, I’d never be where I am today. It is the hard times that made me the successful person I am today. When I opened up my company, I didn’t have a string of clients of waiting to get signed up but I refused to give up. I put my head down, opened the company, and kept moving ahead. And here we are celebrating our third year anniversary. Every start-up faces financial issues when you’re not an externally funded start-up. I built my company purely on my relationships within the circuit as I like to invest in long-term relationships. I remember for the first 6 months we didn’t have great balance sheets to show but we focused on delivering seamless client experiences which gave us great word of mouth publicity. One thing led to another and today we service clients across India sitting out of Mumbai. You definitely need to have a strong hard working mentality in this industry, yes. But I believe if you really want something, you can achieve anything. When you handle top of the line campaigns you automatically tend to garner top of the mind brand recall for your brand in the market space. I am proud to represent all of my clients. I love them all. The diversity is really great. Everybody that we work with and everybody that we sign is really accomplished in their fields.
Who has been your biggest support during your difficult times?
My family. While my aunt instilled the art of being a good human being, my grandfather taught me the core values of being an efficient entrepreneur. My family has always encouraged us to live a life full of purpose and passion and become the best versions of ourselves.
What do you think is the best/worst part of the industry?
Most celebrities are very comfortable treating their representatives as slaves and most representatives get comfortable with the idea of sucking up and being disrespected because of the glitzy perks. It’s rather unorganized with no defined code of conduct. The entertainment industry lacks reality, and it’s always good once in a while to detach from the hypocrisy and chaos. A lot of publicists and managers in India feel they are the celebrity themselves which sometimes creates a negative brand value for the celebrity because of the high handedness. While celebrities come with their own baggage but it’s an art to be a celebrity representative. It’s as specialized as being a doctor, lawyer or a chartered accountant. The best part is you can impact lives positively and add meaning to mundane existence.
Who was your best client (celebrity)?
There are many – Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Bryan Adams, Pitbull, Akon, AR Rahman, Anoushka Shankar, LMFAO, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Derulo where I had a ball of a time doing what I love doing best. But from a perspective of gratitude I think it would be Submerge because Nikhil Chinappa gave me an immense push in the world of dance music and believed in me at a time when I was just about learning the ropes of the business. Right from Swedish House Mafia One Last Tour to Above And Beyond’s Trance Around The World to Armin van Buuren’s A State Of Trance – we created a new space in the media reportage for dance music. Before this time there was no media interest in dance music really. We started a movement!
What is your PR mantra?
To never get weighed down by what competition is doing but to build an empire of blue blooded visionaries. Don’t ape others but create extraordinary results through authenticity that defines your unique personal style. Take advice from stalwarts and surround yourself by likeminded individuals but don’t conform to anything that doesn’t reflect your values. Be true to yourself always. Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything and anyone that no longer adds to your growth. It’s all about protecting your brand equity. At a high level, the best partnerships happen when there’s an opportunity neither side needs but instead is something that both feel really makes sense to go for. I’m always looking for the right people who drive culture to align forces with and good partnership starts by building relationships and building trust. We hear the phrase, “the honeymoon is over,” but I say to my staff, make sure the honeymoon is never over. No matter what you are doing in life. Keep it fresh and innovative. Spend time with your grandmother. Take the dog out for a walk. Go trekking with your girl gang. Do little things that rejuvenate the passion that you have in your life. When you apply the same principle to your clients and romance them, you will give them the attention they deserve.
How do you unwind yourself?
Unfortunately I don’t get much time to unwind but anything that involves music is my stress buster. I generally like spending time at home with family.