- Thursday, 21 January 2016 08:17
After more than two decades of experience as a freelance journalist, over a decade as an editor, as well as the GM of public relations for the biggest entertainment network of the country, HUM, Shanaz Ramzi has become the CEO of STARLINKS, a PR and event management company with a strong CSR component.
Here we speak to the powerhouse that has earned a reputation of being an industrious, scrupulous and responsible career woman.
How did you launch your career as a journalist?
Shanaz Ramzi: I started my career as a freelance journalist with Dawn group of newspapers way back in 1994. I had majored in journalism and had always been fond of writing but since I had got married while still at university, I had not been able to pursue journalism as a career till much later, when my kids were slightly older. At that time, with encouragement from my husband, and an artist friend, Fahim Hamid Ali, who knew many magazine editors of Dawn and had been asked to introduce some freelance writers to them, I took a sample of my writing for them, and was immediately given assignments by all four sections – The Review, Sunday Magazine, Images and Star Weekend. Since then I have never looked back, and have been a regular contributor not just to Dawn, but many other publications as well, both local and international. I have also edited a number of publications, including the monthlies GLAM and Masala TV Food Mag.
How did you make the transition from a journalist to a PR general manager?
SR: The transition to the field of public relations was a relatively smooth one. I had interviewed Sultana apa for Star Weekend in 2004 and when the interview was published she invited me to join an organisation of which she was the President at the time, MWPJO (Media Women, Professionals and Journalists Organisation). I joined, and was promptly given the responsibility of taking out a newsletter. Since I had to travel up north in those days for some community work I was doing with KaravanPakistan – an organization I have been actively associated with since 2000 -- I made my calls from there to gather the information and interviews I required. I think apa was impressed by my commitment and responsibility because as soon as I returned she asked to see me. She informed me that she was launching a channel in January 2005 and wanted me to head its PR department. I protested that I had no experience in PR and wasn’t willing to work full-time either as I had a hectic social life, but she insisted I do it for myself as it would help me grow professionally, and agreed to let me work as many hours as I wished. So that’s how I landed up doing PR for HUM TV, initially just working from 11.00 am to 2 pm.
You mentioned Karavan Pakistan. What exactly is that and what is your role in it?
SR: KaravanPakistan is an offshoot of Heritage Foundation, Pakistan, founded by retired architect Yasmeen Lari. When I went to interview her way back in 2000 I learnt she was initiating a series of heritage-awareness activities under the banner of KaravanKarachi (the name was later changed to KaravanPakistan when the scope became much broader) and I volunteered to join her motley band. Since then I have been involved in organizing various events for them, ranging from street festivals, fashion shows and carnivals, to training programmes, and rehabilitation work, and have become a trustee of the Foundation.
Please tell us about your latest venture Starlinks.
SR: Starlinks is a PR and Event Management company with a strong CSR component. I have launched this company with my son, Turab Ali, and daughter-in-law, Mina. My son, who had been working in Dubai got married earlier this year and both he and his wife were keen to start the business with me as they too have experience in this field. So, after eleven years of handling the PR for HUM Network I decided that it was time to now establish my kids and give them the benefit of my experience and contacts. I strongly feel that every Pakistani should give back to their country, thus the CSR component in all the brand building activities we do.
What has been the sole reason of your success? Who has been the driving force?
SR: I don’t think there can be just one reason for anyone’s success. I am a workaholic by nature, very dedicated, responsible, and a perfectionist. But, none of these qualities would have been of any value if it weren’t for my husband’s support. Also, I sincerely believe that God has been charting my course, opening doors through which I would never have dreamt of entering on my own, and creating situations that have only led me to better myself.
How has the journey been so far? Did you have to overcome any hurdles in a male dominated society?
SR: I cannot complain, that’s for sure! That is not to say there were no hurdles, but the hurdles were not created because I am a woman in a male-dominated society. If anything, I feel it is an advantage in our part of the world to be a woman, and in many cases we manage to get away with a lot because of our gender. However, wherever there are people – regardless of whether they are males or females – there will be politics, and there will always be people who will be jealous of your success and popularity and be bent on pulling you down. The key to handling such people is ignoring them, remaining true to yourself and to your work and letting your work speak for itself. All the negativity that such people indulge in eventually brings their own downfall while you soar higher and higher!
As a role model for young girls what would you suggest they do if they want to succeed in life in general and career in particular?
SR: To succeed in life in general, and in one’s career, time management is very important. I would say, prioritize all you want to achieve in the day and then focus on achieving those ends. Divide your time intelligently, allocating an appropriate time slot for each chore and then try and adhere to that schedule. You will find, once you get used to doing this and that, you will be achieving a lot more in a day than you ever did before, and juggling life will become easy!
Can women achieve success in our society?
SR: Why not? We have had a Prime Minister twice over who was a woman, and women in the top-most position of judges, lawyers, doctors, bankers, etc. We have the first woman president heading a television network in all of South Asia, and even one young woman that has climbed Mount Everest; all this bears testimony to the fact that nothing can stop our women if they really put their minds to achieving their goals, no matter how high.
What's your plan for the future?
SR: To run a company that becomes known nationally as well as internationally for its quality service, integrity and ethics, and becomes the most sought-after PR and event management service provider. Also to complete my second book commissioned by OUP, and to get back to my freelance writing with gusto!