Biggest driver of change for women has been education: Ambika Srivastava

05 Jul,2012

With nearly three decades of experience in senior positions at agencies of repute like JWT, Lintas, McCann Erikson and the Publicis Groupe, Ambika Srivastava, Chairperson, VivaKi Exchange India, has been instrumental in bringing media planning and buying out of shadows and propelling its growth.


In this conversation with Shruti Pushkarna of MxMIndia, she focuses on understanding women’s preferences and priorities, marketers’ need to understand them well, and their increased role in making purchase decisions.


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Q. It is often stated that women have a very different set of priorities, preferences, and attitudes vis-a-vis men? What is your take on this?

Yes, women are different. However, some priorities are the same. If you take the example of looking after the children, it’s as big a priority for a mother as it is for a father. I believe there are some universal issues that are as important to men as they are to women. But, yes, the way a woman will deal with something would be very different from the way a man would deal with it.


There are inherent differences – even at the workplace you will notice that women tend to approach things a little more intuitively than men, who are far more rational. Women tend to be more emotional, they have the benefit of intuition or emotion, whereas men look at life very rationally.


Q. Do the marketers need a specific skill set to reach women effectively? How would you define this skill set?

I think the key issue is understanding your consumer, and using that understanding to create powerful way of connecting with your consumer. Marketers do need to understand women – what motivates them, what are their aspirations, what is it that inspires them… So, you need to develop knowledge that is perhaps a little women-centric.


Q. What in your view are socio-economic forces behind the growth of women as purchase decision makers?

I think the biggest driver of change as far as women are concerned has been education. And this is not just in India, it’s across the globe. Education has driven them to seek better opportunities, many more women are working today. They are financially independent, and that independence has given them a sense of power and a sense of responsibility. It has allowed them to actually live their dreams.


Q. What are the key sectors that have gained with increase in purchasing power of women?

Many sectors have gained. To name a few, I would start with education, because today every mother wants to educate her child – not just in middle income homes but even in the socio economic strata at the bottom of the pyramid. They want their daughters to study and to be able to stand on their feet. So, education is a sector that has benefitted immensely. Women today are more conscious about how they appear at the workplace, so personal care has become a big thing. Apparel, garments etc. too have grown as a big sector. Then you have luxury and leisure sectors – women want to spend on themselves.


Having said that, it is not just categories that pamper women or address their specific needs.  The fact is that many more women can afford to buy a car or house for themselves, and so Auto and Real estate too have benefitted. And of course, the fast growing category off mobile telephones too have gained.


 Q. Does it make sense to define a set of women as ‘Primetime’ women – and use Primetime TV as the medium to reach them?

There are two ways of defining primetime, it’s when the largest number of women can be reached. The other criteria is trying to see when is it a good time to reach women when they are not distracted by anything else. We have to remember that women are multi-taskers. Is primetime the ‘me time’ or is primetime simply the largest number of women? If I were to look at the largest number of women, that would be when you have both sets of audience available, working women and the homemakers, and this would typically be in the evening. But if we were to look at the ‘me time’, then perhaps the audiences that you can reach out to through afternoon television or through magazines, would be what I would call ‘prime time’. That’s the best way of connecting and engaging with women consumers.


Q. You are one of the biggest success stories in media business, what would you attribute your success to?

I think hard work.  More importantly, I have been very fortunate and blessed because I’ve had a great team. I have worked with some wonderful people who helped me do the right things. Also, I would like to attribute my success to my family that has helped me, and supported my efforts.


Q. Has being a woman ever been a hindrance?

Never! I think it is not about being a woman, it is about being a professional. And I feel very strongly about the fact that women tend to get evaluated amongst a set of women professionals. If you are a good professional, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, you should be actually in that league. So it’s not Top 10 ‘women’ in advertising, it’s Top 10 ‘people’ in advertising. And personally I have really never had a problem.


Q. What would be your message to new entrants in the media fraternity?

I think this business is really exciting and very dynamic. Having said that, it’s extremely demanding.  I  believe that people who are getting into the profession need to be prepared, it is a tough profession. You have to be very focused. It’s not just demanding physically, it also demands a lot emotionally and intellectually. Once the new entrants are ready for that, they will be able to strike a good work life balance which can help them really do well.


Q. The last question, how would you define a Diva?

My definition of a Diva is somebody I admire, and someone who would inspire me. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a celebrity. I have come across girls who are full of grit and great spirit, who have achieved a lot very young in their life, fought against the odds. And I think from that spirit, there is a huge inspiration. Again in my own office, I find women who are amazing at ideation… at meeting really tough deadlines. So for me, it doesn’t have to be somebody sitting on a pedestal, you look around and you should be able to find that inspiration. That’s really my definition of a Diva.



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2 responses to “Biggest driver of change for women has been education: Ambika Srivastava”

  1. vidya Nandakumar says:

    It is nice to see my old boss’s commends on Women. There is no difference between men and women. Women become lazy once they are in a comfortable position. Where is the difference when you are upgrading your skill, knowledge and applying to your work, etc. Any one can do all these. Instead of finding fault in everything, have to be positive and have to do all our jobs as it is doing for ourselves

  2. Kudos to Ambika Srivastava for being on the top in a male dominated society where women are treated like second benchers. I recently nominated my friend for the ITC Choo Lo Aasmaan Awards that is honouring women who have left aside their inhibitions and have fought for their own rights. Ambika definitely redefines feminism. She should also be on that coveted list on