“Women face so many challenges at the workplace. Sexism and inequality are one of the primary reasons many women decide to branch out on their own. And there are so many women today, who want a solid platform from where they can launch themselves. That’s where Ittisa comes in.”
“Honestly, how many of these women are prepared to shed that “She belongs in the kitchen” tag, and take a stand? I feel that women judge each other a lot, and that needs to stop right now,” says Sneh Sharma, Founder & CEO, Ittisa.
Share your vision with us. What inspired you to be what you are and where you are?
I’d worked with quite a few media and creative agencies before the idea for Ittisa took shape in my head. I suppose it was born after I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book LeanIn. The narration had a crucial impact on me, and my thoughts and perceptions of new age women and their career graphs, which I’d never really spent much time thinking about before.
Women face so many challenges at the workplace. Sexism and inequality are one of the primary reasons many women decide to branch out on their own. And there are so many women today, who want a solid platform from where they can launch themselves. That’s where Ittisa comes in. I just thought that it would be a fantastic opportunity to bring talented women under one roof and allow them to tap into their creative core without facing any problems that they might encounter in a regular working atmosphere.
Tell us about your journey so far and the challenges you faced.
It’s been a very eventful journey for me. In terms of challenges leading up to Ittisa, I would say that there were a lot of naysayers, and that was a little unnerving at times. They said forming an all-girls agency was a really farfetched idea. Most of them said it would certainly fail.
There are always going to be some dissenters, and it’s very hard to silence them in the initial stages.
But I kept at it. I’m very glad I did, because today, although we’re a team of just 10, we’ve handled more than 20 projects within 10 months. Now that’s something even the dissenters won’t have anything negative to say about.
What milestones you have achieved in this journey and what more you aspire for?
We’ve worked with a lot of interesting people and organisations. Off the top of my head, top players such as Bhima and Manipal have entrusted us with important projects and I’m happy to say that we’ve delivered the goods.
We want to make sure that we stay on our path of doing some amazing work while keeping it edgy and creative. That’s not to say we want to compromise on the use of logic, so we make sure our analytics are all in place.
We want to grow, both in terms of company size as well as the number of clients we serve. So, that’s going to be our next target. We’re a small team right now, but with the amount of potential out there, I feel we can grow quickly and add some excellent names to our growing portfolio.
What keeps you motivated and strong?
Ittisa’s main strength comes from its employees. We’ve got a team of very talented women. They’re thirsty for more knowledge and innovation, and it shows in the work the agency produces. And I’m happy to state that none of them shy away from hard work. When something needs to be delivered at a certain time, it gets done without the quality getting drained. When you have that kind of dedication in a team, it’s all the motivation you need to keep going.
What you feel about the state of women in India? How you think it can be better?
I strongly feel that women are not pushing themselves enough. Empowerment videos, messages, emailers, etc. are dime a dozen. All these things are going viral, all of them are getting noticed by women. But honestly, how many of these women are prepared to shed that “She belongs in the kitchen” tag, and take a stand? I feel that women judge each other a lot, and that needs to stop right now.
We need to come together and silence society. It can’t be done overnight – no great things can. But we can each do our own bit. Ittisa, for instance, is a step in that direction. There’s always an element of risk in standing up for you believe in, but it has to be done, or things won’t change.
How challenging it is for a women to build her identity?
Today, thankfully, it’s a little easier than it was 20, even 10 years ago. Women can be seen in the corner office calling the shots in their career. But the ratio of women leaders to men leaders is so skewed, it’s appalling. Women who want to “have it all” are termed as tyrants. For some reason, a successful woman is seen in a very negative light.
Building an identity takes courage. It depends on what you want to be seen as. Although it’s hard to be taken seriously as a leader when you’re a woman, if you are prepared to rubbish critics with a bold firmness, it can be done. There will always be people who will see your confidence as arrogance, but that shouldn’t matter to a woman who knows one from the other, and is doing the right thing.
Would you like to play a role in women empowerment? If yes, how?
Bringing more women on board the Ittisa ship is the first thing I would do. When people think of women empowerment, they only think of social issues like women’s security. But what about women’s education, women’s employment? These are important, too. So, with Ittisa, I think I’m thankfully already empowering a few women. Helping them stand on their own feet is a great feeling. I’d like to continue doing that.
Any message or mantra you would like to share with Indian women?
Indian women have a tendency to be apologetic. They use the word ‘sorry’ so generously. To them I want to say, do not feel sorry that you’re career oriented; do not be sorry that you are supporting your family; do not feel sorry that you’re getting an education. Would a man be sorry about these things? No.
Women need to stop being their worst enemies. That’s the only way we can strengthen our gender.