When we talk about India’s most distinguished female journalists, Manisha Natarajan’s name isn’t kept far away from the discussion. From hosting prime-time debate show ‘Urban Reality‘ on CNBCTV18 to anchoring 2,000 hours of live business news, including key events such as the Union Budget, Credit Policy and Tax Roundtables with NDTV, to reporting for BBC World’s Moneywise & India Business Report, her journalistic career spans more than two decades. Assertive and passionate about her work, she is known in the industry for her subject matter expertise.
Born in a poor district of India, Bundelkhand, and in a family which comes from an unequal social milieu, for Manisha, equality began at home with both of her parents at the front lines of change. While her father raised her with unconditional love, big dreams, and confidence that she could take on the world, her mother was equally a warrior to say that her daughter must get everything that her sons got and more. Aiming to be a lawyer, Manisha never set out to be a journalist. Putting pieces of her initial life together, she recalls, “I did very well in my 12th standard, and when I came to Delhi University from Kolkata where I did my schooling, everyone recommended that I take up Economic Honours. So, I graduated with that. Then my father suggested I should try out civil services and I just went along. Despite studying 12 hours a day when I could not clear the mains, I decided it was a waste of effort. That’s when I decided to do a course in Journalism.”
After having worked with some of the most trusted and renowned media houses, Manisha now looks after Brand & Communications for Brookfield Properties. In the course of her career trajectory, she has worked with several industrious and path-breaking media personalities, but if you ask her whose leadership has been transformational for her, she would without a blink say – Prannoy Roy, the founder of NDTV who is known for his focus, integrity, and intelligence in the journalistic world. “He has inspired a whole generation of journalists through personal example and by believing in them so much. During my 19 years at NDTV, he’s helped me achieve things that even I did not think were possible. I did not think I could be an anchor, and he was so sure I will be. When I had my children, and I needed work-life balance, both Prannoy and his wife Radhika Roy stepped up. Both of them have been unflinchingly supportive, not just to me, but to every employee whoever needed their support.”
Women grow up looking at their mothers who give their entire life to the well-being of the family, who don’t voice out, thinking it’s not important. The happiness of people around them becomes more important to them. And they feel okay being in the background, avoiding any confrontation or strife.
If reports are to be believed, there is ample evidence on the under representation of women in all spheres, including the Media & Entertainment Industry. Some reports highlight the lack of inclusivity despite women taking over key strategic positions. However, in the last decade, female participation in broadcast journalism has increased manifold, the roles of journalists and editors have evolved, expanded, and intensified. Some have even broken the ceiling to become national influencers not only with their on-screen persona and eloquence but also with their grip over the subject matter. India’s leading editorial voice on Real Estate & Urban Development, Manisha, is a prime example of that. However, there still lies a considerable segment struggling to find their voice. Why? Manisha says it’s a combination of nature and nurture. “Women grow up looking at their mothers who give their entire life to the well-being of the family, who don’t voice out, thinking it’s not important. They pick up these elements thick and fast. The happiness of people around them becomes more important to them. And they feel okay being in the background, avoiding any confrontation or strife. Talk about the professional framework, women are usually very self-effacing when it comes to projecting themselves or taking credit. A sense of self-doubt always overrides any feeling of success. While men are not like that.” It cannot be contested that even today, female participation in the workforce is only 29%. That compares with 51% for women worldwide and 81% for Indian men. That does not mean there has been no progress. In Broadcast Journalism, particularly, female journalists no longer see themselves confined to softer, lifestyle, and feature journalism. “Yes, when it comes to hard beats in television like politics, war, strife, there is no differentiation at all. If we look at all the top business journalists today, they are all women. In television, especially, a different combination and skill set is required. You need to have great speaking skills, and I think women are naturally better speakers than men.”
A former columnist with Indian Express, ndtv.com and CNBCTV18.com, Manisha feels her best is yet to come and that keeps her growing and wanting to do better each day. Her mantra in times of stress is good sleep. She says, “After a good night’s sleep, I wake up in the morning and think about the situation that is stressing me out, and almost always, I find a solution to it.” Outside the boundaries of the life she’s made for herself, she finds inspiration all around, especially in ordinary people doing their bit for the climate.