Women are involved in a lot more stronger way in decision-making processes: Shubha George

14 Aug,2012

As the Managing Director, South Asia of one of the fastest growing agencies in India, Shubha George has been responsible for steering MEC to great heights over the past few years. Her passion and decision-making skills have earned her laurels from clients and colleagues alike. In fact she has been giving a tough run for Group M India’s other big agencies who are compelled to perform better and stay ahead in the race to the top. It is her dedication to her work and family that makes her a diva in a true sense.


In conversation with MxM India’s Ritu Midha, Shubha George takes time out to explain her dedication to her profession, how women professionals of today stack up against their male contemporaries and what is it that makes the women TG a hit with the marketers.


Do you agree that men are from Mars and women from Venus?

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It is true in some cases – not always. If I look at the way in which men and women approach certain things or in their areas of interest, in some cases it is true. But not the way it is made out to be.


To what extent do the preferences and priorities of the two genders differ?

In India in advertising, as that is the sector I am familiar with – there is not too much difference in the way men and women approach corporate world or deal with business etc. I am told that it is more of an exception than the rule, and other industries are somewhat different.


From a consumer and purchase behavior point of view, yes, there are some differences intrinsically in how men and women shop and that does make a difference in how you would communicate to them. Men are easier shoppers than women – who are far more involved and inquisitive. You would rarely find a woman who walks into a store, heads to the isle from where she wants to buy things and heads out. She definitely explores more, and shows interest in things that she did not necessarily plan to buy. Men generally tend to be point A to point B shoppers – so they know what they want, and pick up what they want, and are out of there.


The woman of today, especially from metros and big cities has evolved rapidly and is seen as a key decision maker. What would you attribute this change to?
Women are involved in a lot more stronger way in decision-making processes. But what I find increasingly surprising – and I was also of the view that more and more women are involved in decision making but research that we have done for brands shows that men – even if you look at household products, which are your regular household shopping baskets, in 50% of the households decision is made by the head of the household, which is typically a man. He even makes decisions on things like what soap, paste and oil to buy. So, if you look at a larger set of households, and not only very upmarket and affluent households, role of man is very high. Difference perhaps is that influence of women in purchase decision making is definitely increasing. Reasons for same are greater exposure, more availability of communication tools, higher education levels – even if you go towards the lower end of pop strata of society. They have a point of view and that is communicated even if they are not the people in the last mile – actually going out and closing shopping, but they do influence what goes into that basket. However, there is some distance to go – even as compared to other Asian countries, when it comes to what role women should play.


What, in your view, is the key to reaching the upmarket women in the most effective way?

One of the mistakes we make in the media business is that we assume that women are watching a lot of TV – which is true when it comes to majority of India – but when you get into more SEC A1++ women, the amount of television they watch is relatively lower as compared to the mass based women. The difference is that when we look at planning for premium audiences among men we are very very conscious that they do not watch too much television, and how else and what else should we communicate. But same degree of attention to amount of television they watch is probably not there. So I would say that yes they watch television, but they watch very less of it and they are very selective about what they watch. There are some typical programmes that they follow but it is not that they would have some free time and they would be surfing television. Role of digital media is definitely increasing. Most of them have access to Internet, whether it is on their cellphone, or at home – and they are rather avid consumers of digital media.


Newspapers, especially supplements continue to be read. I am a bit of doubter on the role of magazines – data too shows that it is declining. Apart from that, in consumer groups that we do, and people we meet, instances of reading magazines is very very low.


As for women professionals in media, would you say they have some inherent characteristics that make them excel in the business?

A couple of them, yes. Women have a greater degree of attention to detail – which I think is very important in media business because all said and done, we still deal with a lot of numbers and spreadsheets – and it requires attention to detail. But that is at an operational and executional level. In general, and it is not only true of media, women multitask a lot more. So even when their working world is a little chaotic, they manage with multiple elements of pressure points which are there within that. Women, by and large, tend to be a little more patient – that also helps in an environment like media where there are a lot of pressures. Maybe because, as we know Roda Mehta for example, was one of the earliest successes in the industry, and also from the time the media industry was evolving, a number of women leaders were there. Probably it was very aspirational for other women who were coming in – and also comforting that you already had women leadership.


Finally, how would you define your journey in the media industry so far?

Well I am still here – so I guess it has been good. I really enjoyed whatever I have done till date. I primarily worked with one organization. And yet within that I have been fortunate to have very varied set of experiences. And it is really the strength of Group M that it does offer you opportunities to grow and evolve. I have taken advantage of opportunities that came my way – and it has been fantastic. I would recommend that this industry and particularly the company I work for is a great place for women.


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