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The golden mean: How Girl Power Talk is empowering employees and communities

Mohali-based digital marketing agency-cum-social enterprise Girl Power Talk seems to have struck the perfect balance between profit and purpose.

April 25, 2022 / 06:26 PM IST
Girl Power Talk’s business model is founded on four pillars: women in technology, diversity and inclusion, impact generation and an entrepreneurial culture. (Representational image: Brianna Tucker via Unsplash)

Girl Power Talk’s business model is founded on four pillars: women in technology, diversity and inclusion, impact generation and an entrepreneurial culture. (Representational image: Brianna Tucker via Unsplash)

Ludhiana-based Karan Jain has a unique workplace ‘problem’; not so much a problem as an aberration: reverse gender imbalance. The 24-year-old web developer is outnumbered by his female colleagues, but then, when one signs up to work for an organisation called Girl Power Talk, that’s par for the course. However, Jain isn’t complaining, because, at Girl Power Talk, he has not only found an opportunity to realise his artistic aspirations as a branding associate, but also a lifetime’s worth of lessons in gender sensitivity. “All these people are very smart and goal-oriented and they have taught me so much. I am much more conscious and aware of how I behave and what I say to women outside (of office) now,” he says of his female colleagues. Jain’s description is an insight into the organisation’s work culture.

Founded by Rachita Sharma and Sameer Somal in 2019, Girl Power Talk is a Mohali-based digital marketing agency and social enterprise premised on empowering and employing young women not just from India but all over the world. Its services include digital marketing, public relations, business consulting, customised human capital partnerships and technology solutions. Simultaneously, it is committed to a number of developmental endeavours, such as educating underprivileged children, providing infrastructure support, and offering free training to students, among other things.

Between building a profitable enterprise, creating an empowering work culture, and adopting a philanthropic approach, Girl Power Talk seems to have hit the golden mean between profit and purpose.

From an empowering slogan to an equitable brand

In 2017, Sharma and Somal first came up with the rather atypical name Girl Power Talk to embody the ethos of women’s empowerment. The name soon turned into a message on T-shirts, then an app, and eventually a company, which was officially registered as a business in December 2019. This unique and rapid transmutation was powered by the duo’s vision of creating a brand with a conscious focus on young people, especially women, which would offer them a place to learn, grow and develop.

Says Somal, “Seeing so many young people, particularly young women, struggling with meaningful work opportunities, we wanted to be the change and company that redefines work as the antithesis of the typical corporate job that so many young people dread.”

Sharma’s and Somal’s vision was not restricted to offering young people jobs, but went further in ways that would make the company a truly empowering and equitable place. Girl Power Talk’s business model is founded on four pillars: women in technology, diversity and inclusion, impact generation and an entrepreneurial culture.

Those principles seem to be reflected in their employee roster, which is a refreshing mix of young people from various nationalities, faiths and gender identities, and sexual orientation. The mean age of the employees is a sprightly 22, and their youngest intern is all of 14.

Nuts and bolts

Girl Power Talk seems to not be limited by geopolitical boundaries when it comes to hiring and encouraging young talent, and the team comprises members from over 15 countries. With work-from-home having been normalised during the pandemic, this model has been easily adopted by the youngsters.

But wherever they may be located, the hiring and induction processes seem to impress every employee equally. Marion Nekesa, a marketing and communications associate based in Kenya, who works for Girl Power Talk remotely, is an example. Nekesa found the opportunity online, and says the onboarding process was unlike anything she had seen before. “I joined the company in October (2021). Everyone was so nice! I received a lot of welcoming messages and call requests, which made me feel at home instantly.”

Kurtney Garcia, another remote-work employee at Girl Power Talk, is based in the Philippines. Now a part-time marketing and communications associate, she started out as an intern. Garcia’s recollection of her recruitment is similar to Nekesa’s. “To be honest, it was the most unique interview I've ever had. The questionnaire that we were required to fill out tapped into our thought process, creativity, and technical knowledge. It was a whole marketplace of questions that made one ponder,” she says.

This young global team is engaged in a range of projects for clients across many countries. Some of them include inDriver, a global company headquartered in California, for whom Girl Power Talk handles online reputation, social media and community management; Everspire, an American wealth management company, whose digital reputation it manages; a Canadian entrepreneur for which it handles data science and AI consulting; and a UK-based telecommunications company, which has engaged Girl Power Talk to conduct cyber investigations on competitor conduct of a slanderous nature.

Girl Power Talk had a promising start, recording an annual turnover of $300,000 in 2020-2021, in the first proper year of operations. But Somal insists that the company neither measures success nor wants to be measured in fiscal terms. The balance between the two sides of the scale—the profit side and the social purpose side—is key, he says. In building a company by young people for young people, Somal and Sharma were inspired by the work of the late Leila Janah, who founded Sama, an American training-data company. Janah’s very successful company was driven by the belief that “talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not.”

A nurturing work environment

Committed to providing equal opportunities, Girl Power Talk has quickly built a team of 85 young guns in a short span of 18 months, since operations began in earnest. Together, they handle Girl Power Talk’s web tech work, which is not only expansive in scope but also sensitive in some cases. Working with very young and often inexperienced team members is something of a tightrope walk for the management. But trusting young people with leadership roles is something Sharma and Somal do readily.

Says Somal, “Because we have an emphasis on younger, but highly capable team members, there is a big learning curve at the start. Being patient in that process is important. However, once they assume responsibility and learn, they become extraordinary contributors.”

Girl Power Talk’s young members are naturally fans of this flexible approach. For Jain, the best thing is that he is free to work in the domain he wants to. “I joined as a web developer but was able to move into branding and design, where I can indulge and hone my creative side... along with professional growth, this place has helped me to grow personally,” he says.

Nekesa says that in her communications role, she gets “to work across departments and take on different projects”. Garcia’s experience is similar. She says “it’s totally awesome” that she can participate in leadership roles and learn from people of varying backgrounds. “It's surreal to land in a place where one’s creativity is not compromised despite a technical job title, and where participation is not restricted despite starting at the bottom,” Nekesa says.

Such focus on the individual is strikingly different for most of the employees, who have come to equate having a career with being treated like cogs in the wheel of a big corporate machine.

The way Girl Power Talk places an individual front and centre is evident to those on the outside too. Ex-employees, clients and collaborators all seem to have only good things to say about the company. Award-winning communications and marketing strategist Laura Powers, who has been associated with the company since its inception, notes how “Girl Power Talk is extremely unique in its approach to supporting its community of talent. The nurturing work environment highlights the unique abilities of each individual while also providing clear direction on ways to learn and grow with the organisation.

Do good-ers and give back-ers

This spirit of giving goes beyond Girl Power Talk’s HR policies. In fact, philanthropy is braided into their philosophy, and the company makes consistent efforts to give back to society.

Co-founder and CEO Sharma shares some ways in which they pursue this core value. “We recently committed to sponsoring an orphanage in Kenya and will be supplying them with a new water tank, a monthly contribution for food, and team members on the ground to educate/interact with the orphans twice a month. Additionally, we have an education centre at our office for underprivileged young girls (and a few boys). They are mostly the children of daily-wage workers who have no or limited access to quality education. Our team loves interacting with these children and takes much pride in spending quality time with them,” she says.

Knowledge-sharing is another way in which Girl Power Talk aims to give back to society. It offers free bootcamps, workshops and presentations to school students, college students and young professionals. Girl Power Talk is also engaged by other companies and educational institutes — including the Indian Institute of Management—for the same programmes. Through the “People We Admire” series on its social media/ blog, the company amplifies inspirational voices. The series not only tells the story of inspirational leaders, but also gives young leaders the opportunity to learn, gain confidence, and hone public relations.

Somal and Sharma are hungry to do more. “Naturally, the pandemic has limited our ability to give back in traditional ways. We want all of our philanthropy to be sustainable over the long-term,” says Somal.

In a world where profit is paramount, Sharma and Somal have set out on a course-correction mission.

Urmi Chanda is an independent writer.