Mandovi Menon is the co-founder and editor of Homegrown: A wicked urban Indian youth media company. “Mando” and her team are attempting to change the narrative around youth culture in India, seeking to open up the debate on taboos such as gender, sexuality and entrepreneurship in progressive, positive new ways.
#sheisthecity #sheismumbai #theyarethecity
Mando is a true Mumbaikar. She loves her city. “It’s real. It feels like home”. She loves the ease with which one can connect to all kind of life. “I miss it even when I’m standing in the middle of it.”.
Like most entrepreneurs, Mandovi is truly passionate about what she does. Her work requires her to be in a constant state of inspiration. Everything around her is a source of interest. Running your own business is a challenge but it also comes with a great deal of freedom. She loves the creative freedom and personal growth that comes with running a media company.
Although still quite young, Mandovi really stands out for her genuine beauty but mostly for her wit and capacity to think critically. She truly has it all. Everyday is a new challenge but “it’s the best kind of struggle to navigate something new”. She feels like it’s making them better and tougher people. She’s inspired by the ability to “encourage people to think more critically, and be less passive about the life we’re here to live.”.
When asked how to describe herself Mando gives a really interesting perspective. She seperates DOING from BEING, something most of us have trouble differentiating. When it comes down to what she does, she sees herself as a storyteller of all kinds; from writing investigative articles to conceptualising and writing children’s books or bringing a script to life.
I think it’s a lot more than just words, she says.
As far as BEING, she lives on extremes. As she says herself: Not always very visible from the outside but it’s true. I guess that’s what happens when a person is genuine.
I have to be insanely uncomfortable to pretend to be something I’m not, I find that very difficult and it’s incredibly obvious when I do so I just don’t do it anymore. So yeah…I feel like genuine describes it best.
It is really quite surprising how REAL Mandovi is. When asked about her take on the perception of women in her line of business her answer says it all: I don’t care as much about the perception as I do the reality. The media industry is a business where women are present and owning their spot whether internationally or locally.
There’s a level of intuitiveness that I feel comes very naturally to them that’s vital to thriving in this industry and really, it depends on who you’re dealing with and how you are as a person/ how you react.
This does not mean that misogyny does not exist. Women experience it all the time. Perception is something that’s warped, but isn’t it with everything? The focus lies on the quality of one’s work. If your work is qualitative you can correct people’s attitude. That’s the fight. Homegrown is the living example that women can be entrepreneurs and thrive. Leading their business the way they do, Mandovi and her partner in crime Varsha show us the way.
Varsha, is instantly taken seriously and respected within minutes of meeting her. Often more so than any man around, she’s literally the most badass woman I know.
Their media company has a higher female-male ratio, without any gender bias involved. I see this amazing drive and desire coming out of the women to succeed and prove themselves. It’s just an attitudinal shift and I think they’re very well-suited to media.
Her typical day? Completely manic. No day is like the previous. Her me time is breakfast. She keeps it leisurely and listens to a good podcast on her way to work. That’s her way of switching off while still learning.
Her top 3 habits? Ray’s pizza, ray’s pizza, ray’s pizza. Yeah, I might have a problem. Clearly, although very successful and bright, Mandovi still has a sense of humour and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She feels learning how to teleport is important as well as music, her sister, every stray dog she meets, the ham and cheese sandwich she ate a couple of hours ago, coconuts, her work, that somebody starts programming friendliness into potential AI, that time she got angry with an old rickshaw driver even though it was her fault and she was in a shitty mood (she still feels guilty sometimes…).
Everything plays its role, everything’s important. Equally important not to dwell and be flexible in the way you think though.
Mandovi is fun but let’s not get fooled by that. She’s also very engaged in things that are close to her heart. She can’t stand inequality and injustice. They affect her on a visceral level. She wants to see the world change for the better and sometimes it keeps her up at night. But she can’t be put in a box regarding what causes she is passionate about. From at outside perspective she definitely appears to be more passionate about women’s rights, animal rights and LGBT because they are more relatable to her and she is exposed to these issues as an extension of her interests and personality. However she does not believe in selflessness as absolute concept.
I do want to say here though that I don’t really believe in selflessness as an absolute concept. I think if you’re fighting for anything, you need to be fighting just as hard for yourself to be content and driven and excited. You should be doing what you’re passionate about and using the strength you gain from that to keep fighting for others too. (Unless of course they’re all one and the same thing, this is just my two cents.)
Her advice to other women? Fuck fear. Fuck being an outsider. Even if people make you feel like that, don’t treat yourself like one. It’s ok to want to take a knife to it all some times but remember that everything you perceive/ feel/ see is nothing but a reflection of you. It’s a lesson I keep re-learning and it changes my life every time I do. Nobody and nothing else is to blame for your inadequacy/ doubt/ fear/ where you are. And you have the power to change all of that. I really, REALLY believe this, you just have to keep practicing it. Don’t get distracted by other people’s demands either.
P.s. – Getting older is AMAZING. Don’t fight it, yo.
P.p.s – LEARN HOW TO COOK DELICIOUS THINGS AND THEN EAT THEM ALL.
P.p.s. – Please take whatever whitening/ brightening cream you can see and use it to paint a giant turd wherever you like. Be a rebel. Poop is brown, poop is beautiful.
P.p.p.s. – I think I would also give this advice to men, honestly.
As with all people I interview, Mandovi was asked to share one of her favourite quotes. Her response? Hardest question ever. Words are my life so I’m going to give you two.
“Well never mind, we are ugly but we have the music.” – Leonard Cohen (apparently Janis Joplin spoke about this).
“Some stories you use up, others use you up.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Find her online: