You couldn’t find a better way to define Shanaz’s persona than SH Simmons’ famed quote “If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.”
She has been there, done it, relished e very moment, and does so even now. Be it working as a journalist, heading her own PR firm, or delving in CSR initiatives, her career graph isn’t the usual narrow one that people get to see of those starting off as journalists. Her career started off in 1994 as a freelance journalist. HUM, an entertainment television channel came next in 2004 where she joined as the Head of PR. With them for more than a decade, she saw the channel’s fast ascent to become the largest entertainment network in the country. Leaving them as GM Public Relations and Publications in October 2015, she started her entrepreneurial journey.
Life is too short to be ordinary – so put in your creative best at all times! Success is then a matter of time!
StarLinks PR and Events, came about in the November of 2015 with a clear line of vision. That of doing things with a difference. With this thought in mind, they took to building a CSR angle in all their activities by supporting causes by offering services pro bono besides building elements of CSR even in their PR strategy offering to their clients. These besides, they were also instrumental in introducing creative posters and 2-D animations for their client’s social media promotions, a trend that has caught on locally.
Their quest to remain distinct today sees their portfolio in PR services resembling a wide canvas which among others includes celebs, corporate sector, educational institutions, hospitals, government organizations, and fashion fraternity to television networks, film production houses, individual clients looking for party or wedding organization to mention some. To this end, they never say no to a client despite the challenging nature of the work which has bestowed upon them a reputation of being the go-to organization for out-of-the-box projects. Not surprising then, that they have already won five international awards during their brief existence, beginning with the “Startup of the Year”.
For Shanaz, the present is nothing but a reflection of the past, a past which saw her in the company of a surprisingly large number of strong women like her mother who she says she never saw sitting idle ever! The same she says of her late high-school teacher Miss Fikree of St Joseph’s Co vent School, her alma matter who taught Shanaz the value of being meticulous to a fault. Of the men in her life, she credits her father for having nurtured the love for writing and a consequent career in journalism. The latter introduced her to her mentor Asif Noorani, an editor at the publication house she regularly wrote for. Meeting him opened avenues in her career right down to the present one. She also mentions her husband, who has been a pillar of support throughout and was instrumental in encouraging her to pursue her career both in journalism and later in the corporate world.
CSR came into her body of work in the year 2000 while interviewing Yasmeen Lari, celebrated architect, and conservationist for a newspaper. Her initiative, the Heritage Foundation resonated with Shanaz.
Irrevocably drawn to it, she has even since been in volved with all the CSR projects of the Foundation which in her own words “exposed her to places and opportunities she couldn’t ha ve dreamt of, besides a vision of how to lead her life”. Incidentally, her stint with HUM Network too had journalism to thank for when she went to interview the president of the upcoming channel. Destiny intervened and it laid the foundation for her own company!
Managing an overflowing platter of responsibilities, Shanaz nevertheless finds space to do all the right things. She would shortly be setting up an arm of StarLinks PR in the UAE and initiate much-needed diversifications in her portfolio to include talent management among other activities. With her aim to do something concrete for the industry, she is in the process of registering a body that would comprise entities in the field of PR, event management, digital and activation. PREDA would be the collective voice of the industry she hopes to spearhead.
With a decade and half of experience behind her, Shanaz knows what it means to be a leader, as also the traits of a good one. In addition to being creative, according to her, the leader should be able to take suggestions and complaints with an open mind. These besides, the person ought to remain hands-on who won’t flinch at the thought of getting dirty to get the job done. It’s these qualities that inspire confidence not just in the team, but also in the clients and other stakeholders, she says. Another important trait she adds, is to be organized, prepared and meticulous, and demanding the same from the team.
She attributes success in her career thus far to diligence, consistency, and time management. Of these, she attributes time-management as an essential to maintaining the balance between personal and professional life. Always there for friends and family, she goes on vacations with them, never though at the cost of her professional commitments. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a surprising paradox then, she says which has made it that much easier to take out time for one’s personal life, and the books she has been writing, given that a lot of activities and meetings are now virtual.
Technology she sees as the new paradigm which according to her shall make or break an enterprise, despite its size, heft, and age. What can keep things in place besides bringing much needed growth could be one’s knowledge and experience in handling the latest in technology. She credits her zest to learn, even from those much younger as the key to keeping pace with technology.
For emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs, her advice as a seasoned veteran is to move with the times, adapt, and forge alliances and partnerships. When you help others to grow, you will grow as well, says the veteran entrepreneur in her.
Her approach to business and indeed, to life in general, is that life is too short to be ordinary – so put in your creative best at all times! Success is then a matter of time!