Speaking to The Glitch’s Pooja Jauhari, it’s no surprise she’s had the illustrious career she has. Now CEO at The Glitch, part of VMLY&R in India, Pooja was always a go-getter from the moment she realised what advertising was. She recalls working for her mother’s company when she was younger, but being more interested in the advertising agency across the road. “I walked into the agency as a 15 year old and asked to meet a manager who I could talk to about an internship. The receptionist shooed me away a few times before a creative leader finally noticed a child coming to their office every day asking for him! I got my first interview out of intrigue (on their side). I have always believed you have to create opportunities for yourself!”
This wasn’t her first creative experience though, and growing up in the hill station of Panchgani in India, Pooja’s independence is something she attributes to her creative nature. “Living independently since a young age makes you creative anyway and creativity has a different meaning then. It’s not just about what you put on paper but how you live your life.”
After completing a BA in Advertising, she took up roles with Unilever, Contract Advertising and Femina India. But her path to The Glitch’s CEO is quite a story. “I actually lobbied for my job. I met the founders at a marketing conference many, many years ago and I invited them to pitch for the business on the brand that I was leading at that point in time,” says Pooja. “I reached out to them and said that you haven't won the business for XY&Z reason but give me a job and I will show you how to convert it. I said we'll see how the next few months go and basically the rest is history because two months in we'd won 16 new businesses.”
Those early years taught Pooja many lessons but two that have stuck with her are the importance of human connections and taking people with you because ‘this makes you a leader even at an internship stage. Work isn’t everything, it’s a part of your life.’ Her second lesson is simple: “Choose to be an interesting person in your life only then will work be fun.”
Speaking of interesting people, Pooja reflects on being a female CEO in India’s advertising industry. “The world we live in today, as CEOs we are now extremely aware of not just the mental state of the people that work in our organisation but also the societal examples we can potentially make decisions to set. I'm the guardian of being able to protect, enhance, and in a sense be some form of change, even if it's in an extremely small way, because I do think that everybody has power to make some form of difference and our jobs are so transactional.”
She adds that while the women who came before her did the ‘hard work’ to get women’s voices heard, Pooja believes it's her time to set an example because ‘it's not just about just a dialogue, which needs to keep happening for as long as there is real equality’. She looks at her position as one of leading the way, and as a female CEO her plan is clear: “Look at what happens when there are women leaders. Look at the kind of work we put out and the kind of people we're able to retain and kind of policies we build, in how profitable we are as an organisation.”
Looking at the policies the agency builds and the people it retains has been key for Pooja since she began her tenure at The Glitch in 2015. In particular, the agency has a policy to be ‘gender blind’ and ensure there are no unconscious biases when hiring. “We looked at our data, and we said that we've been 50/50 from the beginning. We have more than two genders in our leadership team. We have people who are openly comfortably about their sexual orientation. And because we operated like that, when we compared ourselves to other teams out there or other organisations out there, we saw that we were really far ahead.”
It's no surprise then that The Glitch’s aim is to ‘be a creative company that creates a positive impact in society via the work we put out for our clients’. This is something that Pooja is keen to instigate in her personal life too and as a keen champion of sustainability and coral reef restoration she spends her time outside of work focusing on how she can build a better future for her daughter.
As Pooja steers the agency into the post-pandemic era she has just one focus in mind: to win in a crowded and noisy environment.