Did you ever have that fellow student at school whom you were always pitched against by teachers and who kept your competitive drive humming at a mammoth speed? Abha Bakaya was that person for me growing up.
I was buddied up with her when she joined our class in year 5 all the way from exotic India. With a lilting accent, glasses akin to mine and long luscious dark hair, Abha’s arrival shifted the status quo much more than I wanted, creating a threat to my cherished position at the “top of the class”. Yes…I was competitive even then!
Her brains and confidence were evident from the first day we met and our respective competitive streaks ensured that, even though we were challenging each other for the coveted “head of the class” position, we became firm friends. Our interests were too aligned to be anything else really!
We continued on to the same high school until she left in year 8, when we became pen pals (yes that was a "thing" back then!), as she headed overseas to continue her studies. Those were the days long before easily accessible email and social media, so her detailed letters updated me on her adventures and the accompanying photos showcased her blossoming from an intelligent, slightly geeky and innocent girl to a confident, beautiful and worldly young woman.
Fast forward to today and Abha is a leading Indian broadcast journalist and media entrepreneur with over 15-years experience in reporting on stock markets, interviewing corporate heads and influencers and producing quality content.
She has worked with some of the major news networks in India, is one of the founding employees at NDTV Profit, and ET NOW, and her position remained high-ranking as senior editor & anchor with Bloomberg TV.
Abha has travelled the world for a variety of lifestyle shows and, this year, founded the company AB Network supporting brands who are looking for a more diverse media strategy in order to reach and engage the right target audience.
Through this latest venture, Abha has now launched Ladies Who Lead, an initiative that brings together women excelling in their professions to network, socialise and mentor other aspiring women at a series of events held across various cities.
It seems like we’ve both come full circle really…
Biz Gals: What is your greatest achievement?
Abha: My greatest achievement is yet to come! I think its important to celebrate every small success as these are what define us. I changed 13 schools when I was growing up, I have done all kinds of odd jobs during college, worked my way up in the industry - intern, floor assistant, producer, reporter, then finally anchor and now entrepreneur. It has been fun and challenging and every moment adds up, everything you learn and absorb helps you to grow.
Biz Gals: What is the greatest lesson you have learnt?
Abha: The importance of marketing yourself, something that has become even more of a necessary skill set in today’s social media managed world. You need to be able to manage perceptions within the workplace and at every meeting you go to. No-one ever knows quite how much you’re capable of and you can use every opportunity, recognise any weakness, and turn it into your strength.
Biz Gals: What is the best bit of advice you have been given?
Abha: To value yourself. Never underestimate what you’re worth. As women we all tend to doubt ourselves and are forever looking for validation. We are all capable of so much. Find the path that suits you and stick to it. It’s important for you to be happy and when you find that clarity, and truly value the path you’ve chosen, everything else is far more likely to fall into place.
Biz Gals: What inspires you?
Abha: People inspire me, their stories inspire me and I love telling stories in return that resonate with them. There is so much to capture, so much to learn from people in this world. They never cease to surprise you! Many successful people have risen from nothing, they have been driven by a need for survival, taken chances and have had faith in themselves. I have a wonderful family that has always supported and inspired me and the one thing that they have instilled in me is the drive to get up and keep going - no matter what knocks you down, or what turns you take - the only thing to do is to keep going.
Biz Gals: What is your biggest hope for women in the future?
Abha: Women today are still battling the fear of rape and abuse. There have been many fingers pointed at India recently and some of the instances cited truly horrify me. But its not a country specific problem. The attitude towards women at a very fundamental level still has not changed. Last month a 16 year old girl, a student, was gang raped and thrown in a ditch in Himachal - an otherwise peaceful state. Just yesterday a 12 year old girl was waylaid and raped while on her was to school in Chandigarh. We are fighting for a chance for our girls, for their right to basic education, but they can’t seem to get past their front door.