Media powerhouse, Ipsita Dasgupta on balancing work life and family
She says her family makes it work
As the president of strategy and incubation, Ipsita Dasgupta leads Star’s Pro Kabbadi League’s business as well as Hotstar (ex-India). Her transition to media was an unusual one, having come from the global manufacturing conglomerate GE. To add to this, her academic background includes an MBA from Harvard Business School and a degree in mathematics and economics from Columbia University. Dasgupta admits it’s challenging to balance a career she’s passionate about with being the mother she wants to be to her young daughters, but says her family helps her make it work.
ELLE: You’ve had an unusual career, rising to the top of diverse industries from manufacturing to sport and digital TV. How did you plan it?
Ipsita Dasgupta: I have never thought about it much. I have always felt that an opportunity isn’t worth pursuing unless it fulfils three important criteria for me. First, it has to give me purpose. It’s hard to leave your kids every day and go to work, unless you feel you are doing something that will make a difference. Second, every new opportunity I have taken on has given me a knot in my stomach. Things need to challenge you. Third, it needs to be fun. Work has never felt like work for me. If it begins to, I lose motivation.
ELLE: What were the professional—or life—lessons you took away from your time at Harvard?
ID: Live within your financial means, but push beyond your own intellectual capabilities. Seek out people and environments better than you. Make friends; don’t build networks. Ride the high ground, always. And lead with your values. Reputations take a lifetime to build and a few minutes to lose. Harvard trains you for two years to take a point of view no matter how much or how little information you have. A good leader takes decisions and is accountable for them.
ELLE: Who is your biggest inspiration?
ID: I find inspiration in almost everyone I meet. My mum encouraged me to find role models in inventors, leaders, artists, and people around me. So, influenced by that, I tend to look for what is inspiring in every person I meet.
ELLE: How do you manage all the travel your job dictates with bringing up two young daughters?
ID: Travel is difficult with young children. You often feel as though you are missing out on things. And as my girls get older, they feel it more as well. I keep a brutal schedule when I travel, often scheduling meetings from 6:30am to 11pm, just so I can contain my trips and be home sooner. My field has always been international, so not travelling has been out of the question. My biggest comfort is that my mum steps in when I travel; I leave my girls with the best mother they could have around.
ELLE: Statistics show that women are still leaving the work force in overwhelming numbers to prioritise family. While we wait for companies to evolve systemic changes that will help them strike a healthy work-life balance, what can women do to hold on to their careers?
ID: The single biggest thing I tell women is that the longer we stay at home and prioritise our families, the longer all major decisions and public institutions will be driven by men. Abortion laws, marriage laws, divorce laws—everything will be decided by a room of men. That’s the scariest thing. Use this fact to inspire you to make an impact outside the home. On a more practical level, know exactly what you want and then prioritise according to it. Women need networks more than men do, to manage both work and family, so build meaningful relationships at work, and personally, so you get the help you need when you need it (it really does take a village). And be deliberate with your time, even if it’s just downtime in front of the television—plan for it.
ELLE: What are your biggest fears and your biggest strength?
ID: My biggest strength by far are my parents and my family. They are the reason I can do and be who I am today. My biggest fear is failing to ensure that my daughters believe that they can do anything they want to do.
Aabha Bakaya is the co-founder of Ladies Who Lead, a networking platform for women entrepreneurs and working professionals. (Ladieswholead.in)
PHOTOGRAPH : SAHIL BEHAL
SITTINGS EDITOR : AKSHITA SINGHA
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