8 August 2016 | Shruti Kohli | New Delhi
This erstwhile Gladrags glam girl has no fetish for designer clothes or jewelry, detests shopping, and strongly feels that money should be spent on buying comfort rather than using it to unnecessarily pep up your social status. Here’s Jagi Mangat Panda (Jagjeet Mangat), MD of OTV, talking to Shruti Kohli about the money in her life…
COMFORT NOW, LUXURY NEVER
I was not there to discuss health books. But Twain’s humble advice ‘Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint’, came back to me when I met Jagi Mangat Panda recently. And now I can’t help but say, “Be careful about believing Google, blind-folded. You may die of embarrassment.” Google tells you that the girl in the chocolate commercial doing her monkey dance bit, Cadbury’s in hand, to cheer her cricketer boyfriend is Jagi Mangat Panda. She’s not!
When I meet this erstwhile Gladrags glam girl at her Mahadev Road house in Delhi, on a pleasant Saturday evening, she walks into the room, in grey formals, smiles and shakes hand in that patent business-like manner, settles down, clarifies she’s never had a Cadbury’s chocolate on a rolling camera and then talks to me about her business, life in Orissa and the money in her life.
And yes, thanks to her composed, charming and casual demeanor, I lived to bring you this conversation even as a bit of me did die of embarrassment upon that chocolate checkmate.
Shruti: Tell us about your journey from Gladrags to OTV.
Jagi: That was back in 1990. I was in Mumbai for a while and then was away to Paris for a year. In 1994 I got married…to Jai. As long as I was there, I enjoyed what I was doing. But at the back of my mind I knew this is not what I want to do on a long term. This is definitely a short term thing. But one thing I was sure I was not going to do business either. I knew nothing about running a business. It just so happened that when I got married to Jai and moved to Orissa, it was purely the lack of nothing to do that kind of got me to get into the corporate world. I started with being in Jai’s company. But they were into mining and power generation and I had absolutely no idea about all this. So I joined the New Projects department. Then I figured I needed to get more education. I had stopped studying earlier because I found the modeling world very glamorous.
I just had a degree in B.Sc. from Osmania University. So I figured I needed to go an educate myself. That’s when I went to IIM, Ahmedabad for an executive MBA. I came back and the New Projects department at that time was buzzing with activity. It was the perfect time. So I tell people that I was at the right place at the right time. I came back with lots of ideas and eager to implement those ideas. There were three or four projects that were being considered at that time. I found this communications project very interesting.
It was my Jay’s (her husband MP Baijayant Panda) brainchild, and I hijacked it. I moved out of the office and started from a small, dilapidated house that we rented at Rs 3,000 a month. It was an old broken house of three rooms with two washrooms. When we got more people, we converted the lobby area also into office. Two people from the projects department joined me. Then we started from scratch from making project reports, from getting government permissions.
Shruti: What about the initial capital in your startup? How much was it? Where did it come from?
Jagi: We got seed money of about Rs 20 lakhs from Jai. We had to kind of make do with that. We recruited people etc. Then there was a company called CDC Capital which wanted to invest in poor states and Orissa was an appropriate place. They were the first ones to invest in our company although it was a small amount of just about Rs 10 crores.
Shruti: You studied and worked abroad and in Mumbai. What’s the difference you saw in the work culture?
Jagi: I studied abroad only recently for short courses in film making etc. Yes, earlier I did work in Paris for a year. When I moved to Orissa of course there was nothing to compare in terms of corporate work culture because I never worked with a corporate house. I used to model. That culture was again very different from any corporate culture. But yes I could clearly see that the way people worked in Mumbai and the way they worked in Orissa, was very different.
People in Mumbai were very hard working and were very focused in what they were doing. But in Orissa, I saw people were laid back, very casual about things. Nothing was urgent. Everything could wait. That was something that really bothered me. For me everything was “we must do this… We must do it now.” The sense of urgency was very high for me and nothing for them. That was a big frustrating point and over years of operating I figured out that it’s very difficult to change that. So instead of trying to completely change that, I decided to work with that, to find a midway where I could accept their laid back attitude and at the same time get them to perform.
Shruti: Would you have anything to say about the glass ceiling?
Jagi: Now of course things are changing in Orissa. Now you see a lot more women working. At that time when I came to Orissa, very few women used to work. That was 17 years ago. Now there are a lot of women at work places. But again, you still don’t see too many women in offices whether it’s Mumbai or Orissa or any other metropolitan city. There are even fewer women at higher positions especially at board levels, the CXO levels, and top management levels. That’s true even for my company, and I’m not so proud to say this. But I must say that I tried a lot to recruit women at higher levels. But it’s not easy. Even if you do recruit they tend to remain where they are. They don’t grow very fast. Limitaitons, huge limitations in that.
Shruti: You would have a lot of young women working at your office. What’s your perception about them? Are women these days over-ambitious and unnecessarily aggressive?
Jagi: I don’t think so. I think they need to be a bit more ambitious and more aggressive. You see one of the things that is different between a man and a woman is that at a work place, it is seen that there would be a guy who will do the same sort of work and a girl doing it too. But the guy will push for a better salary, better position. But the girl will never do that. She’s quite happy in her position.
I, in my own organization, have pushed my assistant, a girl, into different departments saying that if you have to grow you can’t just stay here. You have to move to other departments. You have to ask your bosses ‘what is it that is lacking in me? You can’t just take no for an answer’. So I think that’s what is lacking. I don’t think they are not yet very aggressive. They need to be more.
Shruti: You say women should be more aggressive. As it is so many marriages are breaking up and it is believed that this happening because women are becoming financially independent and hence more aggressive.
Jagi: That’s different. That’s a very different thing. That’s because of our cultural background. Boys and girls who are in these marriages have been brought up to believe that in a marriage the woman will look after everything. But when the woman starts working, the man is not able to accept the fact that he must share the responsibility. So I think it’s more to do with the cultural background that we come from. I don’t think it’s got to do with the aggressiveness of women. Like they say ‘tali toh ek haath se nahi bajti’ (it takes two to tango). So if there are problems in a marriage, both are responsible for it.
Shruti: You are financially very well placed at present. Did you ever imagine as a kid that you would make this kind of money?
Jagi: Actually not. I had never thought that I would be a businesswoman. Again it has to do with our culture. When we are kids, we are always told that you should be a this or a that when you grow up. But no one tells us to be an entrepreneur. So ‘that I’m going to be an entrepreneur when I grow up’ never came to my mind. I wanted to do many creative things and one thing immediately on my mind was that I wanted to model. As a young person you don’t think beyond a certain point.
Shruti: Have you ever as a kid or teenager or now set a target to be a millionaire or billionaire?
Jagi: Actually never. Now that you are asking me, I’m thinking about it. But I don’t dream about it or think about it that I should make money. See I’m married into a family which has a lot of money. So money was never a criterion to get into the business. I didn’t get into the business with the idea that I’ll make a lot of money one day. So that was never attractive to me. What was attractive was to engage myself and build something. Now after so many years in business I’ve eventually formed a very good team at the top. So I get a lot of time to think now and what I think now is beyond building a company. And that is again not about making money. It’s about what we can give back to the society. So if anyone asks me how I would want to be remembered that is how it would be…what I did for the society.
See, as you grow older, all the bad news about people passing away, your elders somebody somewhere or the other is ill and dying, bothers you. That’s when it occurs to you ‘how do I want to die’ or ‘how do I want to be remembered’. Then I tell myself that the way I want to be remembered is what I gave to the society…what I really did.
Shruti: On the family front, you have a very successful husband. How easy or difficult has it been to manage household smoothly while driving a fast-paced, time-consuming career?
Jagi: I’ve been extremely lucky in that. I didn’t have to worry about how to handle a home. When I got married and moved in with Jai, he was living alone. He already had an established home. He had a good housekeeper. So looking after the house has never been a problem. From day one I was very easily able to go to work. Then we both took a decision that probably helped us in focusing on our careers was when we decided not to have kids. Although intentions were great…the intentions were to adopt children in future. But we never got down to doing that either. I guess we got so busy with our work that it never happened. I think we got very comfortable in what we were doing. Now we’ve given up the idea and just funding organizations that work with children orphanages etc.
Shruti: Most men who earn a lot of money spend it on owning a private jet, yacht, scotch, and of course on women. How are women different in spending the money they earn?
Jagi: From what I’ve seen with friends and acquaintances, who are women and who earn a lot of money, it’s different at different levels. At very high levels, you’ll see women behaving just like men at top levels. They’ll invest very similar to men like in property etc. They may not go to the extent of buying a yacht or so. They’ll invest in property, jewellery. Yes but of course they don’t spend on men, fortunately, like men do on women. But who knows that’ll also change. Because if you see there are women in the US who spend on men.
Shruti: How do you handle bill payments – Credit cards, phone etc? Do you have someone managing all this for you? If yes, how was it when you had no one doing it for you? People tend to forget making payment in time and are then saddled with penalties.
Jagi: Everything is taken care of from the office. My assistant takes care of everything.
Shruti: As a spouse, how easy or difficult it is for women to participate in financial decisions at home? What has been your experience?
Jagi: I think at times at home women are more dominant in financial decision making. In eastern India I see a lot of women who are very dominant when it comes to taking a financial decision between her and her husband. Financial decisions as to where the money should be put, what services to buy, how much to pay to whom, how to spend on children. There are a lot of women who are very proactive when it comes to investments even like in real estate. Lot of women get their husbands to buy a house even though at times men may not be willing and even if they don’t need one.
Shruti: What’s your experience as a spouse?
Jagi: Ours is a very different set up, an unconventional set up. We are both very independent, we are both working. Jai is extremely open-minded. I won’t consider out situation as a traditional one. It is pretty out of the normal. We both are very independent and we don’t impose each other’s decisions. I never tell him what to invest in and he never tells me so either. Each of us understands the importance of investing equally. There’s never been any argument as such as to where we should invest the money.
Shruti: Now a broader, a rather philosophical question. What does money mean to you?
Jagi: I think one should only have enough money to be comfortable. I don’t think one needs beyond one’s need. What’s more important is what you can do with that money. From my perspective, it would be important that how to put this money to its best use not just for returns. But also what you can build with it…something to be remembered.
Let me put it this way. Today there are a lot of luxury cars in the market. Those who have money will buy luxury cars. But my theory is different. I don’t think you need a luxury car. You need a car that is comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a name like a Mercedes or a BMW or a Rolls Royce. I remember when I was choosing a car for my Bhubaneswar office, people suggested Mercedes etc. But I went for a Skoda. I said it’s as comfortable as a luxury car and it is one fourth of the price. I don’t need to move around in a luxury car because my purpose of owning a car is comfort not to show someone that I have a Mercedes or a Rolls Royce. That was a recent decision. A few years back I bought a luxury car and I repented. I got this feeling quite often ‘why did I pay so much money?’ So it’s all about whether you are comfortable with what you have or do you want to show to someone that you have so much.
Shruti: Is there an expenditure you would want to cut?
Jagi: None. I’m not such a spender. I don’t buy designer stuff. I don’t buy that much jewelry.
Shruti: Which car do you drive? How many cars do you own?
Jagi: I have one car in Delhi and one car in Bhubaneswar. In Delhi I have a BMW and in Bhubaneswar I have a Skoda a couple of months back. Till then I used to have an Innova in Bhubaneswar.
Shruti: How many credit cards do you have?
Shruti: What do you have a fetish for?
Jagi: I’m a movie buff. So wherever I go I buy movies.
Shruti: How do you indulge yourself?
Jagi: Holiday. I like going to the spa and reading something. I don’t like going to shopping destinations.
Shruti: What’s your favourite cuisine?
Shruti: If you were to hit a jackpot and suddenly get something like a billion dollar, what will u do with all the money?
Jagi: Have a Trust to help children’s education. That’s what I’m doing even now. I have a Trust called Dayitva.
Shruti: What is your preferred mode of investment?
Jagi: My business. I buy shares of my own company so people know I believe in what I’m doing. Then my Trust and little bit in real estate.
Shruti: Do you worry about your retirement and plan for it?
Shruti: What is the wisest tip you’ve ever given?
Jagi: To youngsters whom I meet at colleges where I am invited to deliver lectures on entrepreneurship. I tell them to go with their heart in whatever they do. It’s very important to connect with your heart. If you have to enjoy what you are doing, it has to be something that is close to your heart.
Shruti: How much cash have you got in your wallet/purse right now as we talk?
Jagi: Rs 15,000
Shruti: How much was in your first pay packet?
Jagi: Rs 1 lakh. That was for my first modeling assignment.
Shruti: How disciplined an investor or spender are you?
Jagi: Very disciplined both ways.
Shruti: What could be the best use of money for you?
Jagi: To help someone. Someone really needy.
Shruti: Your husband is a successful politician. Have you ever nurtured a desire to be a politician?
Jagi: I’ve consciously stayed away from politics. Far away. I keep away because of my work. No I’ll not say that I’ll never want to get into it because they say whenever you say never for something, you get dragged into. So I have this major fear that I’ll get dragged into it. And it has happened to me before.
Shruti: What’s your idea of a good holiday? Any favourite destination?
Jagi: Italy, Greece and France.
Shruti: Any holiday home at some exotic destination?
Jagi: No. It’s so much easier to live in a hotel without any hassle. I have friends who have holiday homes. When they go there, they spend first three days doing up their places, filling the refrigerator etc. Then the last three days are spent emptying the fridge.
(this interview was done & first published in December 2011 when The Petticoat Journal was focused on financial independence of women & was called MoneyQuin.com)
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