Anu Gupta is Director at Asia PR Werkz. She leads a team that works with startups and tech firms and has played a key role in building and driving the communication strategies for several of Singapore’s fastest-growing startups across industries such as Travel & Hospitality, Food & Beverage, FinTech, SaaS, E-Commerce, AgriTech and more – many of which are regional category leaders today. She has spent the last 23 years in the area of Public Relations having lived in India, Dubai and now Singapore. She loves to write and her thoughts can be found on her personal Medium page.
Note to Ally: To my mentor, thank you for betting on me when I was so young. It could have gone either way.
In your career/personal life, have you ever had an ally who supported you? Who was that ally and how did this person make an impact?
I don’t think there is one person but a few people who have been my allies. On the professional front, it would be an ex-boss of mine who took a bet on me when I was very young (only 24 years old) and ignited the ‘entrepreneurial spark’ in me. He plotted me into a role that gave me the opportunity to fly, make mistakes, learn from it and discover that I have the ability to be an entrepreneur. To date, I vouch that if there is anything I have learnt about running a business or managing relationships, it is from him. He was the main reason I set up my first agency, Watermelon Communications in 2004 in Dubai, which grew to become one of Dubai’s leading locally-owned communication firms. My partner there was another strong ally and my current partners at Asia PR Werkz are my current allies.
On the personal front, I say my family who have been witness to all my eccentricities, wild decisions and never stopped me from taking the path I chose for myself.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your own personal or career life, and how did you overcome it with the support of your allies or community?
The biggest challenge I faced was in 2009 when I moved from Dubai to Singapore (for personal reasons) and had to re-start my journey all over again. It wasn’t the easiest period. It was a time when I made a conscious decision to take a break from work, focus on my kids and writing (which is my biggest let go), take the time to make friends and settle down in a new country.
I always say that I was blessed that I could make this choice. This was only because I had the right ally’s around me- this time round it would be friends and family, who were empathetic to this decision of mine and let me take my time to settle down. Having been an entrepreneur, it wasn’t easy for me to go into any job and I surely wasn’t ready to fly once again on my own. My profession is all about relationships, understanding your media, the local environment and cultures and I wasn’t ready from any quarters.
How have you been advocating for the evolution of women in the workplace?
Interestingly, Asia PR Werkz where I am one of the Owner-Director’s and is today Singapore’s oldest and largest independently owned communication agency into our 25th year, is run by a team of six entrepreneurial women. We have a team of 53 staff who have joined us fresh out of University and moved upwards. We run a 6-month Graduate Recruitment Programme (GRP), where each of us (6 Directors) focus on key topics related to Public Relations and Social Media. The programme is aimed at building a strong foundation that addresses the fundamentals of communications and what it takes to be a well-groomed communications professional. Of course, everyone who joins Asia PR Werkz has to undergo the GRP (men and women). But this is surely an initiative at our workplace that we are proud of. I must admit that we are a unique bunch of 6 women who run Asia PR Werkz. Each of us have very distinct strengths, and especially during a crisis year like last year, does one realise how important and blessed one is to have the right kind of partners.
In 2017, I joined Asia PR Werkz to set up the sixth practice that would focus on investor-related communications for startups/tech firms. Way back then, this wasn’t the easiest industry to step into. Most startups hadn’t scaled, it wasn’t easy to do due diligence on these firms and the media landscape was still evolving. Hence it also required us to build a team that had the skills to be adaptable and agile, just like our clients. Interestingly I have had more women than men in my team.
FinTech has been a strong pillar that we have focused on since 2018. Apart from an early roaster of clients from the sector, we also started to work with the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) who then was still in nascent stages. I was also nominated to be on SFA’s Women-In-FinTech subcommittee (2019-2021), which provided me with an industry platform to give back and share my learnings to a much wider audience on career opportunities in a fast-growing sector like FinTech, evolving roles for women and upskilling opportunities.
What do you believe is needed to help other women in the future succeed? What has helped you succeed?
I think as women we are faced with several challenges in both our personal and professional lives. As much as we love our profession, most of us are also very tuned to our home (especially if we have grown up kids). I was lucky to have met the right people early on in my career who taught me how choices can be made. As we progress in our careers and in personal life, what we surely need is a strong ecosystem of supporters (personal and professional) who at every stage will understand your decision and stand by you. On a tactical level, flexibility at work and not at the cost of reduced salary, the choice to move to less pressured roles at different inflection points of our career and freedom to take short sabbaticals from work will go a long way in enabling organisations to retain some of their best talents that are women.
What kind of allies do you think women need more of, and why?
We need both personal and professional allies. A strong ecosystem of personal and professional support who at different stages of our life will guide and support us. Most importantly, people who will never make you feel that any decision you took was the wrong one.
What would you like to say to future generations of women?
I definitely believe the opportunities are galore. We should be fearless to take some bold steps, make career shifts, upskill ourselves as we go along, be open to taking career breaks (if kids and home need us), find various ways to keep ourselves engaged and mentally stimulated. It is purely to teach my two girls this lesson that I teamed them up to start their own home-baking venture (BakeAway). If nothing, they will learn to take failure and success the right way at an early stage of life.
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