Home > Feature Top Home page > Female Entrepreneur: Sandhya Mendonca – MD & Editor in Chief of Raintree Media

Female Entrepreneur: Sandhya Mendonca – MD & Editor in Chief of Raintree Media

UnknownTell us about yourself

I’m a Bangalorean, born and bred. I have a Masters in Political Science, with a specialization in International Relations. I was drawn to journalism from high school as my father was a journalist in his earlier career and my first break was as a trainee at the Deccan Herald. I was the first woman to be on the crime beat for a long time, and I ended up covering political meets and legislative proceedings. You may read between the lines to figure out which was more satisfying…

I later went on to work with a national magazine Sunday, reported for national TV, did a stint as a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore before getting back to journalism with Mid-day, Bombay. In between, I have written columns and articles on politics, lifestyle, business and travel for various publications. There was also a stint with ITC Hotels when I handled the media during the Miss World Pageant!

Tell us about Raintree Media

Our company was incorporated in 2004. My husband and I set it up together and initially we did a whole lot of different things – from content writing to publishing, to media and brand consultancy. Though DNA Networks we handled the media for amazing musicians like Sting, Knopfler and Engelbert Humperdinck when they toured India. About six years ago, my husband decided to take up an offer to be a media consultant, while I decided to focus on publishing books and build up the business.

We have three major verticals:

  • One is for custom publishing books for institutions and sometimes, individuals who want to mark a milestone – we handle everything from concept to print.
  • The second vertical is the BEST OF books, where under license from the Global Village Partnerships we publish unique business atlases about different regions. These books are published in close to 40 countries and we publish them in India, besides helping out others in the network.
  • The third vertical is the ‘Marvels of ‘ series of travel and photobooks. We have also started publishing ebooks.
Why did you set up the company?

My late husband Allen Mendonca and I were disillusioned with the state of journalism. Our early ideals about journalism were in smithereens. Instead of being unhappy cynics within an increasingly unacceptable system, we chose to exit. Words are what we had, and we wanted to use them to please ourselves, and hopefully, our clients.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

We never compromise our ideals; we don’t ask for favours nor do we follow the system of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. In this country, trying to survive and thrive on merit is challenging. On another level, I had been a writer all my life, barring a few months on the desk. So learning to edit and figuring out what is a good design was a rewarding challenge. Today, editing and creating design templates come easily and naturally. I also learnt how to do sales pitches, and in fact joke that most of my writing is now of collaterals and proposals.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Each gorgeous book that my team brings out is rewarding and sets the bench higher. Publishing not just one, but two books for the Raj Bhavan, the second of them being released during the President of India’s visit to the city was overwhelming.

Be strong. Never let anyone undermine your intelligence or abilities. Be focused and learn as much as you can about your industry. If you are among the best, you can command a premium.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My parents. My mother brooked nothing but the best attempts, and my father gives me both the restless urge and the confidence to keep doing something different. My husband, whose motto for any problem was to just focus on work. And of late, I value my son Aditya’s enthusiasm as an entrepreneur in his own right. Aditya has a keen perception of brands and trends, and we have sparkling conversations.

I would also like to acknowledge Nandan Nilekani’s influence. We were neighbours for a while and when I used to crib about the uninspiring journalism and attempt many different things he urged me to focus on one thing at a time.

How do you balance your work life and home life?

I wonder if one can ever achieve a perfect balance. It’s much easier now as my son is grown up. But it was tough when he was younger. Though we lived in a nuclear family, I relied on my parents, and sometimes my sisters for support. As a hard-core journalist especially, I had no control over my hours of work. There are times now when a book is going to print when we are working almost round-the-clock but I don’t have to worry about packing anyone’s dabba the next morning. I can’t tell you what a relief it is when children grow up!

As for the other parts of life, a few years ago, we started a non-profit platform ‘Under the Raintree’ to promote the Arts, and this gives me a wonderful sense of completion. I swing between extroverted socialising to periods of solitude; at times like that I like to travel, explore new places, read and come back with a fresh perspective.

What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?

Be strong. Never let anyone undermine your intelligence or abilities. Be focused and learn as much as you can about your industry. If you are among the best, you can command a premium.

Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?

I did not really connect with any until fairly recently as either I was unaware of such groups or there didn’t seem to be much synergy. Some years ago, our company became a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry, and now I think we are open to joining more groups.

If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?

Funding, to scale up,

What does the future hold for you?

Adding more verticals rapidly and holding on to our standards of excellence.


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