Girls in India are still brought up in a protective environment by their families and reared to be risk-averse. While our male dominated society is still gender biased, a few successful women like Madhumita Mohanty prove it wrong.
Madhumita is currently working as a General Manager and Merchandising Head at Health & Glow in Bengaluru. She has already worked in Reliance Jewels and Reliance Retail.
She has completed her study from the Utkal University, the XIMB and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (MDP).
Madhumita was the only woman State head of the Reliance Fresh across the country. She was instrumental in drawing up the retail footprint for the Reliance Fresh in Odisha and Odisha was the first State, where Reliance Fresh turned profitable, within a year of operation
She has been visiting faculty for Retail management in the XIMB, the NMIMS-Bangalore, Welingkar’s-Bangalore and other B schools.
She has also written several articles on retail topics published in retail magazines. She was the speaker at the industry events like India Food Forum
Madhumita was a topper in economics in graduation from the Utkal University.
In an interview to Sefali Suman, she spoke about her professional as well as her personal life, which will be an inspiration to other women of the society.
- You have a brilliant academic record, a topper in BA (Economics), then the XIMB and the IIM. Why did you choose this line?
Let’s say the sector chose me! I had joined advertising sector immediately after completion of MBA from the XIMB. While I loved my job, it had extremely crazy hours. When I got married a couple of years later, I realized that the erratic hours were taking a toll on my health and was not allowing me time to invest in my marriage. So I switched over to the nascent retail sector in a rather serendipitous manner. And it’s been almost two decades in retail now. I guess both the sector and me have become fond of each other!
- Normally girls prefer teaching, medicine or Government jobs, called womanly jobs. Who inspired you to take up such a challenging job?
This is where we go grossly wrong by tagging jobs as ‘womanly’ or ‘manly’! These are pretty archaic thought process wherein certain jobs or sectors are considered better suited for women. You name a field today where women have not made a mark for themselves.
It is high time we as a society break out of such mind sets of restricting career choice to gender.
To answer your question, there has been no ‘inspiration’ as such. I liked what my job had to offer initially and continue to like it after all these years. There is always something new which one can learn and do and that’s what keeps me challenged and engaged.
- What are the challenges in marketing/retail sector?
Retail sector is a continuously evolving sector. Despite the huge leaps taken by organized retail, the costs of running large scale operations are huge and hence profitability remains elusive for a lot of large retailers. With increased competition, each of the large retail players is trying to do the same things to attract the same set of consumers. Discounting is rampant and customer loyalty fickle.
With online price wars, the matter has got even worse.
- How comfortable it is to work in a sector dominated by male?
Like I always say, it is all about mindsets and societal conditioning. I have never thought about restricting myself anywhere because I am a woman. Hence I have not faced any ‘discomfort’ working in a male dominated sector. I have burnt the proverbial mid night oil as hard as any of my male peers.
I must recount an instance when I was heading Reliance Fresh in Odisha and we were to open our first few stores in Bhubaneswar. There were a lot of protests from local traders against opening of Reliance retail in Odisha. On the day of launch, the protesters got violent and went on a rampage damaging the sign boards and trying to break open the store shutters. My well-meaning team members wanted me to leave the store through the back door but I stood my ground and refused to leave.
Most of the time I am the only woman in meetings especially at the senior levels. But honestly only when someone points it out do I realize that! Otherwise for me it is always about professional competence and not gender based competence.
- How do you manage your personal and professional life so effectively?
To be honest, I have been fortunate to have excellent support system.
My husband thankfully has been a pillar of support as has been my mother-in-law. Running our household or bringing up our child has never been a so-called ‘wifely’ duty in our house. There has been equal sharing of responsibilities. In fact my family members and friends secretly think my husband, Saurav, runs our house!
In the initial years, I was lucky to have a nanny for our son who was like an angel. She took care of our young son like her own grandchild. Bless her!
Having said that, I also firmly believe each person has to draw up his/her own priorities in life. It is possible to draw an effective balance provided one is able to be level headed about things. One needs to have practical goals be it on the home front or work front. Trying to be the ‘best’ in every aspect of life is nothing but a recipe for stress. Women should learn to chill and not try and compete to be the best cook, best home-maker, best mom, and best wife while trying to balance a corporate career as well.
- Have you ever felt any obstacle for your career progress?
I would answer this differently. Rather than obstacles, let me put it as self-limiting actions. Women in general are not as prone to networking or ‘hanging out’ with peers and seniors as men are and I must confess I too have been guilty of the same. Networking does not come naturally to me and maybe somewhere that has been an impediment.
While it has not been an obstacle, I would also like to mention about malicious co-workers trying to sabotage your career. It was extremely unpleasant and an unnecessary intrusion at work. But thankfully my good work record ensured that the malicious intent did not succeed in causing me any damage.
7.Your message to the Odia women who are struggling to excel in this sector in particular and the society at large.
Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook and author of the book ‘Lean In’ says
“As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home”
I am a strong proponent of this as well. Women should stop thinking that house work and child rearing is their primary responsibility and must encourage their spouse to participate actively in the same. Only then can there be true equality.
Sons and daughters must be raised in a similar manner and not by conforming to gender stereotypes. I am glad my parents raised me without any gender bias and inhibitions which has played an important part in shaping my thoughts and actions.