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#ShareTheSpotlight: Header: DDB Mudra's Vanaja Pillai takes pride in initiative against gender inequity

Vanaja Pillai, President of 22feet Tribal Worldwide and Head of DEI at DDB Mudra Group shares the spotlight with her sister Shailaja Singh for being the constant source of joy and inspiration in her life.

By  Tasmayee Laha RoyJun 7, 2023 12:54 PM
#ShareTheSpotlight: Header:  DDB Mudra's Vanaja Pillai takes pride in initiative against gender inequity
Vanaja Pillai wants to share the spotlight with her sister Shailaja Singh. “She is important to me because she is family, but more than that she is a constant source of joy and inspiration. Having started her professional career as an exceptional chef, she worked in various fields before settling into the real estate business. Shailaja has reinvented herself every few years and grown leaps and bounds,” she said. (From left to right: Vanaja Pillai and Shailaja Singh)

Note to readers: Storyboard18's Share The Spotlight aims to highlight inspirational stories of women who continue breaking barriers and setting the precedent for other women marketers, entrepreneurs and communication specialists.

The initiative aims to kick off a movement where people from across these communities step up and share their spotlight with other women. They could be women in their team or any other team, a new group or previous one, from a past workplace or the current one.

Share The Spotlight calls on us all to come out and share words of praise and encouragement for each other, appreciating and acknowledging the contributions of so many people who make businesses, brands and workplaces better. Learn and understand how to face challenges and seize opportunities while bringing along others on the path to progress.

This is just the beginning of a long journey to spotlight individuals who are empowering others and bringing change and growth for all. Together we rise.

Vanaja Pillai is a writer, advertising professional, and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) advocate. As an extension of her passion for people and their growth, she took on the role of head of DEI at the DDB Mudra Group, after spending 23+ years in the advertising and marketing industry.

To catalyse the progress happening towards gender parity, Pillai has spearheaded DDB’s Phyllis India Project, one of the industry’s most comprehensive and intensive leadership development programs to help prepare DDB’s women talent for leadership.

The program was recognised by Campaign India as the best Women Leadership Programme, and Pillai won the Mentor of the Year Award as the driving force behind the initiative. In 2023, the programme has grown to cover other parts of Asia.

She also leads the group’s overall diversity agenda, conceptualising and executing programmes aimed at driving diversity and inclusion at the workplace. These include the We don't know Sh!t series, Open Pride and Equal Parenting.

As president, 22feet Tribal Worldwide, Vanaja is responsible for managing and growing the team’s impressive client roster. She has also worked as executive vice-president at OgilvyOne, Bengaluru, and comes with an experience in business management and marketing communications.

Pillai is focused on creating an inclusive workplace by enabling talent acquisition, retention, training and outreach for talent in underrepresented communities. She runs a profitable businesses along with building motivated and talented teams.

Outside of her professional accomplishments, Pillai is a published author. Her deep empathy with women’s struggles and the drive needed to push the envelope on gender equality is reflected in her collection of short stories, Omana, published in 2021.

We asked Pillai about her greatest achievement.

She said: “The Phyllis India programme was my completely blue-sky attempt to impact something that really bothers me -- gender inequity. The creation and execution of that programme, now successful for over three years, is perhaps the most fulfilling task I have done at multiple levels. It catered to my creative needs because an entire programme had to be designed. It met my need to drive outcomes with the detailed and persistent execution it asked of us. And it gave me an immense sense of purpose.”

“The other thing that is very special to me is my book Omana. I always wanted to write and when I finally got down to it during the pandemic, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey,” she added.

Lessons learnt from failure

“We are bigger than our mistakes. Today I have the ability to look back at some of my bigger mistakes and recognize that I am a product of my failures, and successes. The other thing I have learnt is to have a short and precise list of people whose opinions about me matter. Not being able to please people all the time is not a failure. So know who are the few people whose opinion of you is important,” Pillai said.

A sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself comes in very handy in challenging times, according to Pillai.

Sharing the spotlight

“Why wouldn’t you want company when you are in the spotlight?” Pillai said.

She wants to share the spotlight with her sister Shailaja Singh. “She is important to me because she is family, but more than that she is a constant source of joy and inspiration. Having started her professional career as an exceptional chef, she worked in various fields before settling into the real estate business. Shailaja has reinvented herself every few years and grown leaps and bounds,” she said.

“As the chief marketing and sales officer for Ruchira Projects today, she leads a team of enthusiastic people of all ages, with the unique leadership ability of relating to everyone, irrespective of their background or age. She brings the same energy and enthusiasm to everything she does, and every role she plays – be it her love for cooking, her devotion to animals, her drive at work, her friendship with her daughter or her commitment to her family. I haven’t been in a room with Shailaja without her lighting it up with her positivity and pure joy,” she added.

Know anyone you’d like to share the spotlight with? Join the movement, give them a shout-out on LinkedIn and tag Storyboard18 so we can take it forward.

First Published on Jun 7, 2023 12:50 PM
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