Breaking the menstruation taboo – Why India needed a ‘marketing gimmick’

Flashback to seventh grade.
We were told Whisper was coming to school and there was going to be a talk about menstrual health. I personally thought this was a great opportunity to learn more and ask questions from health experts about the monthly cycle. Boys were obviously assigned to “two sports” periods while the girls went to this secret seminar.

This is about fifteen years ago, at a well-known school in Noida.

From a hush-hush topic to the PadMan movement where celebrities, regardless of their gender, are publicly posting a picture of them with a pad in their hand – this is an imperative movement giving a chance to Indians to be more mature about women’s health.

When I first saw the trailer for PadMan, I felt a mix of emotions. Growing up in a country where when I used to go to the chemist to buy sanitary pads, I’m handed over to – either wrapped in a brown paper bag or an otherwise-never-seen black plastic bag. I wondered why. Over years of confusion and guessing, I realized girls were meant to hide these sanitary pads from everyone. This included friends, family and let’s not forget – anyone else standing around the chemist at the time of purchase.

akshay kumar
Picture courtesy: Instagram.com/akshaykumar



PadMan, is not only a movie openly discussing pads – it is being done so by a huge artist. Unfortunately, in a country with 74% literacy, where we claim to be forward thinking in many ways – Bollywood influences the masses more than it should.

Coming to the main reason for this article – I’ve noticed that people have raised questions about the movie’s marketing strategy. I am out of words – Thankfully not literally. The outrage is over ‘wasting pads’. If a person is ‘holding a pad’ and nominating another person to ‘hold it’ – how it is wasting pads? First off, they are perfectly returnable to whomever they belong to and in perfect condition for any woman to use. Even if people decide this is not a good enough reason – isn’t the point of advertising all about displaying the actual product? The fact that huge influencers have taken up this issue is a big deal.

Can you imagine the magnitude of its reach across India? And I mean through all existing platforms – movie, print media, online media, and new media.

Now comes the point where some people are raising the fact that the Instagram ‪#PadManChallenge‬ does not in fact cater to the rural areas. Sadly enough, we have enough reasons to have this challenge on Instagram. Exhibit A:

One of many comments on Akshay Kumar’s Instagram post holding a pad

Many such comments can be found here.

To remove the taboo of just talking about pads, to me, holding out a pad, and posting a picture of it for the world to see – was absolutely necessary. What should be an issue is the tax on sanitary napkins, which deters women from buying pads, further causing reproductive diseases. Marketing gimmick or not, India needed Padman. I am glad we’ve taken the first step to start an open discussion about women’s health.

 

Why I Almost Quit College After The First Semester

Penning down this uncomfortable part of my life for any student who may be in a similar situation.

Ironically enough, I am going to start this rather personal article telling you how I’ve never quit on anything in my life. Professionally speaking, working in startups requires 100% commitment, a can-do attitude and a strong-as-stone determination level. And I take pride as a hard-worker. Getting in the University of Melbourne (referred as unimelb) was definitely one of the best things that happened to me. But it also didn’t just happen, there was a lot of hard work and wishing that went behind The Decision.

Leaving the comforts of home is hard.

When I left my work-life and social circle in Delhi, I had no idea what I was in for. They say, you get more and more comfortable as you get older and it’s harder to study after working for a certain period of time, or to even live in a new country. And they’re right. Maybe different people react differently to dramatic changes, but this step was exceptionally hard for me.

My first semester at uni was tough.

They were the longest 4 months of 2016. I had anticipated difficulty in assignments and to be honest, it was a bit of a struggle to get used to the referencing style and citations but I thoroughly enjoyed the advanced level at which our professors made us think and research. I’m pretty proud of most of the essays and took the liberty to publish them on LinkedIn and my website.

Accommodation was another struggle but after a decent semester I was ready for the next.

For a lack of a better word, in the first week of our second semester I realized I was scared to commit to living a life in Australia after I graduate (which made sense after having spend thousands of dollars on education). Did graduating from unimelb hold any value if I didn’t see a future here to begin with? Of course it did. It’s one of the best universities in the world but who could explain that to someone having a major panic attack?

I talked to noone – just went ahead and withdrew from the course. Just. Like. That.

…The next day, I spoke to close family and friends who reminded me of the core reason I was pursuing post-grad in Melbourne – To be a qualified PR professional. People are unaware of how anxiety can play a large role in your demeanour. I came across a Quartz article elaborating on a significant percentage of graduate students in different countries suffering from depression.

A lot of people don’t know this but getting a job at LinkedIn was a huge motivating factor behind getting a post-graduate degree. No surprise that I absolutely love the platform that LinkedIn provides millions of people and it would be amazing to work for the largest professional network in the world. In the middle of all the craziness I also wrote to Mr. X, a senior guy at LinkedIn, asking for his opinion on whether I should continue at all. To my surprise, people, busy people, do reply to panic emails! And it was really nice of Mr. X to emphasize on me completing my degree.

Needless to say, I am thankful that my uni has a grace time period where you can apply for re-admittance. If you are a student and you have thoughts to quit college, do not panic. Easier said than done – but it’s better waiting a couple days and talking to people you look up to before signing yourself up for a ton of paperwork.

Remember why you made The Decision.

The following quote by Anne Lamott inspired me to write this article:

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

Entering 2017 with Edelman: My Internship Experience

There’s a lot of weight in the name. Known as one of the best communications marketing firms in the world, what sets Edelman apart from its counterparts is the company’s culture that always look to the future. They are ahead of their game simply because they are always on their toes. Edelman not only analyses the current coarse of PR, they also predict future trends. And when they think PR, they don’t limit themselves to a city, country, or continent.

So how was it interning at Edelman?

At the risk of sounding cliché, here goes.

The moment I stepped in the office, I knew I was at the right place. This was exactly where I wanted to be. But I had never worked in a corporate setting before, leave along a giant like Edelman. It was exciting and nerve racking… soon after, I was introduced to my team members and jumped right in the middle of non-stop work. In the two months that I interned there, whoever asked me how I was settling in my new workplace, I could not help but mention how new it was for me to be handling work for more than one client in a day. While I attempted to find a balance multitasking, my colleagues were already pros.

A typical day in the office started with a quick inbox check, scanning for client news through print and online media, heaps of research and word/PowerPoint edits. Most of my tasks included connecting with journalists and bloggers to pitch stories and being a part of the ideation team while working on creating PR plans for new clients.

For public relations enthusiasts, here’s what I took away from my Edelman experience.

PR is bigger than you think.

There is genuinely so much team-work that goes on behind-the-scenes. Work is divided between departments and executed neatly. Edelman offices worldwide are connected in a very organic yet mythological way. All Edelman employees are interconnected – bound by international clients. Adding imperative value to this PR community, the president & CEO Richard Edelman regularly shares his futuristic views on the Edelman 6 A.M. blog – one of my personal favourites.

When a leader regularly communicates the company’s vision with its most important stakeholders – the employees – he creates a breathing machine more aligned with the company’s mission.

Don’t think before you say yes!

Yes – is the default answer. The moment you say yes, you open yourself to the possibility of getting things done. There are many instances where I noticed my brain hesitating for a micro-second – Did I know how to create a dossier in my first day at work? Nope. But I was open to learning and saying ‘yes’ got me places – always.

Get a glimpse of ‘the future you’

When I arrived at Edelman, I was instantly inspired by the strong, intelligent women who surrounded me and made me want to be a part of this team-based environment. A work space that Edelman offers enhances an individual’s PR strengths, and helps them realize the kind of work management style that suits them best. You might even decide the kind of work you’re interested to pursue and catch a glimpse of the future you working at the office, like me!

If you’re someone who’s going to start your internship at Edelman soon, don’t forget to own the moment.

This post was previously published on PRmoment and republished on the Edelman website.