At BrilliantRead Media, our aim is to bring to our community some of the unique and compelling stories from the start-up ecosystem. As part of this endeavour, we invited passionate entrepreneur Sowmya Iyer for an exclusive interview with us. She is a Business Leader, Brand Consultant, Entrepreneur and Founder & CEO of Clarity Communication. Let’s learn more about her inspirational journey and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Sowmya:
We are aware of your contribution to the ecosystem, talk us through your background and your journey as a women entrepreneur, please;
My early days were spent in New Delhi where I was educated in a Government-aided school since my father couldn’t afford a fancy convent education for all his three children. I was known in the family to be hardworking and was always burning the midnight oil to do better in academics.
My Tamil speaking Brahmin family could never have imagined me blossoming into an entrepreneur ever. My maternal family was filled with exceptional academicians teaching in prestigious colleges in South India. In the initial years, I was always trying to match up to this expectation of my parents and even though subjects like mathematics or science were totally alien to me; I worked hard at it regardless.”
In the twelfth standard, I decided to major in Arts and when nobody was expecting anything from me; I stumped everyone- family, teachers at school by doing exceptionally well in my board exams. I stood first and my name is etched in the achiever’s board even today! I got entrance into Miranda house due to my good performance in school and I was exposed to the elitist crowd of Delhi University overnight. I struggled to adjust myself well to the changing environment and my personality started to take shape only then.
Come to think of it, I always had a burning desire to be an achiever, to stand out from the rest of the people. I graduated in Political Science (Honours) from Miranda House with flying colours and my life goals were still not clear to me.”
I was a drifter for the most part and dabbled in various jobs such as selling credit cards to individuals, working with Child relief and you for a brief period of time before I meandered into the public relations world. This happened by chance when I happened to meet one of my neighbours in Bangalore in a busy market. She was running a PR agency and offered me a job which I instantly took since I was looking for one then. Since then there has been no looking back.
I moved from one PR agency to the other climbing the corporate ladder which helped me understand the nuts and bolts of the business really well. It also exposed me to the elements that needed improvement in order to satisfy the end customer. The typical corporate job and the climb did not satisfy the person in me because there was lobbyism, favouritism and despite all the work that you put in, there was always something that you were lacking in your supervisor’s eyes. I thought I was squandering away my potential and decided to take the plunge one fine day to start working as a freelancer.
I was familiar with the business and clients kept adding up and I thought it is time that I take this to the next level. With a Venture capitalist backing, I set up shop, hired employees, expanded my services to include media monitoring and digital marketing. In just four years, we have grown from strength to strength and I as the CEO of clarity communications have the satisfaction of doing things my way and delighting my clients with every assignment.”
I am aware that it is my clients who believed in me then and continue to do so because of which we not just exist but are alive and kicking even during tough times such as this.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
I chose entrepreneurship because I had a vision for myself and after having being exposed to the world of the Public relation, I was aware of the gaps that this business had. I wanted to bridge these gaps and wanted to make a significant impact. It was a difficult decision to make considering the fact that I did not have any support whatsoever. In my family, there is not a single soul who has tread this territory and others who have failed miserably at it.
There was absolutely no reference point or anyone to look up to. I had to start literally from scratch- financially and mentally. People I spoke to at the time dissuaded me from taking this step and nobody had an encouraging word. My undying spirit was in no mood to listen to the naysayers and I decided to hear my inner voice. I took a plunge just like that only because I had immense belief in myself, was willing to take a risk. Today I will say that the gamble has paid off and I have only bigger dreams to scale now.”
I want to put Clarity communications as one of the most trusted PR companies in India. I know the journey ahead is daunting and there will be more sacrifices to be made. I am prepared for it because giving the best service to the clients in this space is what I aim for. All the rest of it is noise. I noticed a very big gap in promise and delivery early on while working with other PR companies and I have only focused on reducing this gap over the years.
My clients are happy with our work and that is what matters in the end. I could have had a spectacular career in the corporate, but I quit all of it because I was passionate about being an entrepreneur in a space which is dominated by men at the top.”
I want to be a beacon of hope to all the women out there who aspire big and are fearful to take the step into this big bad world of business. I believe in the last four years; I have taken steps in this direction and there will come a time when I will be on the cover of Forbes magazine as one of the successful women entrepreneurs in India.
‘Clarity Communication’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please. Our audience would also love to know what kind of problem you are solving with the help of your start-up?
The word clarity came about because I thought it conveys the right attitude and would represent our journey with the client appropriately. We walk hand in hand with the client right from the start bringing structure to ambiguity leading them in a way towards clarity. It is akin to the prayer that we all are familiar with how a guru takes the disciple from ignorance to knowledge.
We present ourselves as the Guru in the space of the Public relation to our clients who has the necessary expertise to handhold clients in their journey of opening up to the world as a brand.
The problems or issues that we have been able to address successfully are –
1 – Offer services based on client’s requirement which means that we curate services based on what the client needs and sometimes this means taking a consultative approach to curate need-based solutions.
2 – Services that are affordable – Right from the very start, it was a conscious move to price our services at an affordable rate in the lines of faster, cheaper and better than the rest of our competition.
3 – Planned delivery – Clarity manages each assignment like a project with a concrete plan and this enables us to foresee issues/risks ahead of time and keeps surprises out of the way
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
You will be surprised to know that I haven’t laid off anyone during this tough time. Our retainer clients are with us and we have managed to stay afloat. I have a brilliant team which is so supportive and is always there in the background to pitch in.
The saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” is apt for each one of them. Our business has grown during the pandemic and I attribute this to our team’s diligent work and our loyal clients who have referred us to others during this time.
1 – Our business model consists of a lean team which is not at all resource-heavy and has minimal overheads.
2 – Every aspect of the business is online and tech-enabled which means we can do our work in the confines of our homes.
3 – We have added two heads to our ever-growing team since we are in the process of expanding our base to Bangalore, south of India.
What are the business mantras you have embraced as you sought to establish your success story?
My business mantra has been to serve the client in the best possible way truthfully so that the client never ever walks away from you
How do you manage yourself and keep on going despite the challenges? What drives you?
There is a saying “Do what you love and you will never work another day”. This is absolutely true for someone like me. I do not have to do anything outside of my work to feel rejuvenated. Work is a reward in itself. I am single and consider clarity as my pampered child who needs tons of attention and proper nurturing.
I can’t stop being a parent even for a single day. Moreover, the team I have behind me is equally responsible for taking ownership in my absence and working with the same passion and zeal that is needed to make a business grow. I am unfazed by challenges and have learnt to keep a decent head above my shoulders when things go awry.
What are the three most important lessons you have learned building your startup?
1 – Take risks
2 – Don’t be cowed down by naysayers.
3 – Don’t take yourself too seriously
In your opinion what is more necessary: Idea or a Good Team for a successful startup?
Ideas die a natural death if you don’t have the right people to execute it. I would say a performing team is extremely important to be successful.
Given the rapid pace at which the world is changing, what are the leadership traits that are necessary for success?
Be a good follower. Listen more. Be humble
You are always positive and motivated, what keeps you going?
What keeps me going is my life goal of making a place for myself in the entrepreneur world with hard work and integrity. This is my fuel every single day of my life.
I want to establish a name for myself in the public relations world in our country. I also love working with people, understanding them, growing with them and getting extraordinary out of ordinary people.
We would love to know your advice for all those starting out as an aspiring women entrepreneur?
My advice to them will be to dream big and not small.
Be fearless in the face of challenges or criticism.