Setting milestones in the school of life

Meenakshi Menon — Founder, Spatial Access

Meenakshi is an advertising, media & marketing expert with a track record for building successful businesses in new niches. She launched Spatial Access (www.spatialaccess.com) in 2003 – a company providing audits, advisory & analytics across all areas of marketing investments. They are currently working with over 120 clients across India and the ASEAN region, evaluating the efficiency & efficacy of marketing investments.She has also co-founded Social Access – a communications practice that focuses on NGO’s and non-profits and helping them build strategies and communication plans for scale and impact.

According to Meenakshi, she had the best education possible in the University of Life! Graduation in Sociology from Mumbai University followed by a diploma in Marketing & Advertising was just the start of her education, then Life took over. Over the years she has shared these lessons with hundreds of students in colleges across the country as a guest lecturer. She is part of the Board of Studies at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, for the Bachelors in Marketing Management program ensuring that the curriculum reflects the need of the student & not the institution.

Meenakshi loves teaching but still considers herself as a student. Her passion for scuba diving began four years ago & has become an integral part of her life & travels. Despite over 250 dives, she still considers herself to be a student. She says — “Every time you slip beneath the waves it’s like the very first time you experienced the wonders beneath the sea. The awe makes you a permanent student, eager, anxious & ready to learn.”

High point in career

Too many high points in my career to list and sometimes I think there are many more to come. Professional success was mine at an early age. I was a GM of a division at age 29, a MD of a listed company at age 36 (a rare feat for a woman in 1995) but what gives me the greatest pleasure is the people I have trained and mentored. When someone who has worked with you 20 years ago still looks up to you despite being a CEO of a large corporation, you know your journey is not over!”

Most challenging assignment so far

“Undoubtedly it was setting up Spatial Access, my audit & analytics practice. It was an innovative idea in an industry that fights innovation and change.  Resisted by the big agencies who fight transparency and accountability tooth and nail. For these guys no trick is too dirty. From legal notices, luring away staff to attempting data theft they have tried it all. I think it was my inability to surrender that made me hang in there and fight the good fight. What also helped was that I was my own boss and had built my business on my money & my principles. So external pressures could not make me disappear. It’s been hard but worth every bump. Today the global marketing industry is waking up to the reality that there is an urgent need to ask the inconvenient question. Agencies who believe they are not accountable to clients do so at their own long term peril. We would really like to see the priest defrocked. Because what is currently out in the open on digital has been going on in traditional media for decades!”

Greatest inspiration

“Nature is my greatest inspiration. Nature gives tirelessly but does not reduce in the giving. Nature treats us all as equal creatures & species. That equality is what we need to emulate in life. We need to understand that each creature on this planet has its role to play & that man is not the top of the pyramid, just a small piece of the puzzle, albeit a highly destructive piece.”

What is that one milestone in your life that makes you happy?

“There are so many things that make me happy but at the top of it all is the fact that I have been very fortunate to have the freedom of choice. The ability to exercise your choice with no fear or favour is a giant privilege & I think that is one milestone that defines me & which I am eternally grateful for.”

Women are the better halves. What does it mean to you?

“I don’t like this phrase because it is sexist. Why should one gender be better than another? I also have a problem with the concept that it needs two halves (man & woman) to make a whole. So keep this one away from me please.”