Staff Reporters
Nov 24, 2022

Women to Watch 2022: Sonali Malaviya, Essence

Malaviya is a fierce advocate of a people-first approach. And this has led to increasing retention rates, best-ever employee engagement scores, and relatedly, incredible business growth.

Women to Watch 2022: Sonali Malaviya, Essence
Celebrating outstanding talent in marcomms

Sonali Malaviya

Managing director 

When Sonali Malaviya’s young son was diagnosed as neuroatypical, she was thrown a curveball. Managing this situation at home while returning to work made her feel the way many mothers would in a similar position—guilty. Arguably, making peace with her decision has made Malaviya a better leader as DEI in the workplace became a life goal and connecting with her team at a human level became a default way of operating.

In 2021, Malaviya was promoted to managing director when India battled a particularly difficult wave of the virus. Despite that, she drove transformation across all people, product and processes at Essence. And using her trademark human-level connection, she instead focused on holistic employee wellbeing, engagement, belonging, and culture through various programmes and initiatives while investing in professional development, emphasising active listening, open dialogue, compassion and empathy. As a result, morale and retention benchmarks rose and employee satisfaction is currently at its highest the India operations has ever seen.

Like any good leader should, Malaviya understands that commitment to DEI starts at the top and should be approached in a systematic manner with coordinated solutions. Hence, beyond mandatory online training on unconscious bias, she spearheaded the (Un)Covering in the Workplace series and championed the Courageous Conversations series to encourage open dialogue among employees. This ethos she channels includes standing for what is right, and taking care of people as a way of life; and following this, everything else will take care of itself.

Based on Essence India’s performance in 2021, it looks like Malaviya might be on to something. Last year, she led a steep growth trajectory by advancing the agency’s product quality for clients across strategy, data and technology, analytics, media and content innovation. She did this by launching a suite of consulting services to help clients such as Ace2Three, Himalaya, and Vedantu. She also aided in uplevelling existing accounts as well as clinching new businesses across categories, leading to double-digit revenue growth in the market. Having drawn from experience at past companies including Twitter, Mindshare, PHD, Roy Morgan Research, and MediaCom, it looks like Malaviya has settled into Essence just fine.

Celebrating outstanding talent in marcomms


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