Uncovering With ClapClap: Boss Ladies & Entrepreneurs, Malini Agarwal, Nirmika Singh
When three powerful women come together, they spark so much inspiration. Malini Agarwal, Nirmika Singh and Karishma Govil are the definition of spirited and formidable boss ladies.
Nirmika Singh is a woman who wears multiple hats effortlessly. Not only is she the youngest journalist to get the position of executive editor at the Rolling Stone India magazine, but she is also an extremely talented shayar, lyricist, singer, songwriter, and music critic. Collaborating with a music legend like AR Rahman and creating a poem called ‘Kuch Aise Badle Duniya’, Nirmika’s artistry is a blessing to all of us.
Malini Agarwal is the OG influencer, starting her blog back in 2008 back when the notion of “content creator” and “influencer” was foreign. Being the pioneer of the concept of an “influencer”, she has created a market for a lot of individuals in the creative space wanting to showcase their interests online. Starting India’s first personality-led digital marketing company back in 2012, Malini’s dedication and confidence in her craft has made her one of the biggest names in the digital space right now.
Content Creator Kanchi Sharma had an insightful conversation with Karishma Govil, Malini Agarwal, and Nirmika Singh. Here’s how it went…
Where did you guys first meet? What was the first meeting like?
MA – Everything you see on social media is a filtered version. When I first met Karishma I knew her lovely husband and then-boyfriend. He told me that he’s met this extraordinary girl and he had never introduced me to anyone before that. I was going to go meet her, so we go to Estella and I get a glass of champagne, I’m walking with all intention to go and meet this girl and I walk, bang into the glass leaving a chhaapa of my face on the glass there. Cut-to I’m sitting on a barstool holding ice on my nose. I’m thinking it must be really embarrassing. But she acted unfazed and had a full normal conversation with me as like this is completely normal. Now that I know her, we understand that we are both the kind of people who walk into glass and pretend like it didn’t happen.
How did you and Nirmika meet?
KG – at the Qyuki office when Nirmika was in the middle of an edit. That’s when I saw her for the first time and I obviously knew who she was. When she entered I thought she’d be super strict as she was the “editor” but she was so nice about it. She introduced herself, which was very humble. She was editing Aur Suno at the time which was quite exciting.
NS – The first time that I met Karishma I knew she was like a breath of fresh air. You see behind the facade of these powerful women who are acing it all but behind that, we’re just all bumbling fools.
Karishma, tell me why you thought Malini and Nirmika are perfect for this cover?
KG – If you’re talking about Women’s Day, for me in my head, it could only be them. I asked them and they instantly said, “hell yes!”. That’s what I love about them. They are always there to support you, that’s the vibe women should have. I can go to them with my stupid questions, and they won’t judge. And they’ll answer it and help me out. That’s what they do and that’s what I want this issue to be about.
As we know, they have been mentor figures in your life. How have they impacted you?
KG – Nirmika has taught me how to multitask. She doesn’t know about it, but every time I’ve met her, she’s doing 500 things. She’s editing her own videos, and she’s editing the magazine or she’s meeting people and networking. And Malini is literally the reason I’m here today.
NS – I think Karishma is somebody who’s always doing things that make a change. I feel visible when she’s around. I feel desirable as an individual and as a creative person.
MA – She is one of those people, when you start reading all these quotes as you get older, surround yourself with people that make you feel like your best self. You feel present, you feel witnessed.
As children, all of us have had that one thing in our minds that we wanted to become. Malini, what was that for you? What did you want to become?
MA – I wanted to become one of three things which was either a private detective, a criminal lawyer or an archaeologist, all based on various cartoons or shows I watched growing up. It’s interesting because we’re a product of all the things that we’ve grown up reading and watching. We have our own brand, the reverse now but celebrating positivity and being the detective, the detective of joy.
Nirmika, did you always want to write?
NS – I always wanted to sing. We all grew up, idolising our elder sisters, my sister used to maintain this diary and I would go up to her desk and pick out the diary and sing in front of the mirror. So the stereotype of someone holding a hairbrush and singing into like a mirror was me. When I was nine, I started writing. I feel very uncomfortable with the term poet because I feel that you have to learn and witness. I’m really learning to become more comfortable with poetry and being a poet.
Malini, when was the moment you realised that you “arrived”?
MA – It’s kind of bizarre because it still doesn’t feel like that. It’s these little moments in life where seeing a lot of people who have been around, who I have been proud to mentor being such boss ladies of their own and that’s when you feel that sense of pride. For me, it was a couple of moments when people asked me what I do and I said I’m a blogger and they said what’s your name and what’s your blog called? And I said Miss Malini and they go like – I read you. So it’s been quite a ride.
Nirmika, you have a very creative side and we love your work. Can you give us an insight into your poem ‘Aur Suno’?
NS – My poetry series is called Aur Suno because I grew up in Delhi and I know that every North Indian anywhere on this planet will never you know finish a conversation without saying Aur Suno or Aur Sunao so I’m which is why it’s called Aur Suno, so kuch aise badle duniya was written as a satirical ode to what we make of feminism.
All of us are impacted by movies, what has been that one movie dialogue, or movie that has impacted your life?
MA – I got a tattoo on my ribs from a movie called Moulin Rouge. And that dialogue says, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” And I think that’s so important because it’s not necessarily only romantic love, it’s like love for your job, your friends, and the land you live in. And I think that’s something that I’ve always really resonated with.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would you name it?
NS – Aur Suno
MA – ‘To the moon’ because that’s what my first book is called
In movies, books, and shows we’ve seen female friendships being celebrated. Do you remember a moment with your girl gang that has been celebrated?
MA – We have a WhatsApp group called Powerpuff girls. It’s really been those moments where I know, I can just look across the room at a girlfriend and we know what the other person is thinking without any words. We have code words that we use to just point something out.
If you could be in any sitcom, which one would it be?
KG – The office! My life has never been like that but I would want to sit in an actual office and experience the 9-5.
Any specific character that you relate to the most in TV series?
KG – Oh The Bold Type, which is totally us.
Is there any bizarre assumption made about you, that you have heard from another person?
NS – When I first came to Bombay, we dealt with a lot of elitism. We were always moving in elitist circles. The only reason I started writing in Hindi was that I wasn’t speaking a lot of Hindi in Bombay because you’d always converse in English. There were people that would be just taken aback when I would speak in Hindi. And then when the poetry project came along a lot of people were surprised, and they would come up to me and say “yeh kya aapne likha hai?” I always say in Hindi, I found my home that I kind of lost when I moved to Bombay.
As we grow up, we have so many women around us who have impacted our lives. Malini, do you think there are similarities you have between you, your mother, and your grandmom?
MA -I have a huge age gap with my mom as she is 40 years older than me. And my grandmother is more like me. She used to have a girl club years ago in the early 1900s. Where she would get women together and they would sing, hang out, and party in their own way. We’re very similar that way, and my mom loves Bollywood. So she lives vicariously through me. But the similarity I found is, everybody here has this great love and joy of connecting with people. And I think I’ve really taken that from them.
Karishma, what were the words of wisdom imparted by the women in your life, that stuck with you?
KG – My grandmother always said that there are two things: beauty and youth that you should never be proud of or obsess over. Because they are amazing yet deceptive and the two things that you should respect and have always are, good zabaan and good dimag because that will never leave you or betray you.
Now that we spoke about role models, on the other side comes lots of hate and negativity. Nirmika, what are the most effective ways that you have gotten rid of the hate or negative stereotypes towards feminism?
NS – There are a lot of people who attach the word negative to feminism but haven’t really taken the effort to know about feminism. It’s like hating on something you don’t know. The reason why we still struggle to imbibe a spirit of feminism is that we’re all products of patriarchy and have grown up with the same sort of cultivation. What I do at forums is, ask for a show of hands, ke kon feminist hai? Then I ask, do you believe in equality for men and women? Yes. Do you think that gender should not have any more rights than the other gender? Yes. Congratulations we are all feminists. This little, demystification of feminism needs to happen before we can talk about its negative effect.
What would you change about the assumptions that men have about women?
MA – I think that it’s not just men that have assumptions. I think that the problem or the solution is that we need to rewrite the narrative that we are saying. Just because a girl wearing a short dress in a movie played the vamp doesn’t mean that’s always the case right? Now, it might be someone in a salvar kameez that is the meanest person so you can’t judge the cover, just like Karishma’s grandmother said. At the end of the day, I feel that we shouldn’t take this conversation to the degree of cancel culture and catch everyone on every word because everybody is a human.
What would you do if suddenly all the men disappear from this planet?
MA – I’d be sad, I mean the human race would eventually end. The problem is, this is not men against women. When we talk about feminism, it’s not just about women. I know so many men, and we talk about positive masculinity. So it’s very important that don’t make it men versus women.
What is one thing, Malini and Nirmika, that you’ve learned from each other?
MA – I have learned this amazing ability from Nirmika, which is to be present. We were at this lovely dinner. And I was so happy, I was able to capture a moment when she was reciting a poem to Kabir Bedi. And it was so nice to see that exchange just for you. When you’re the main character in your movie, we miss a lot of this valuable BTS. And I think that’s what’s really beautiful.
NS – I’ve always admired Malini for her entrepreneurial spirit. My first internship was at a digital portal with Hindustan times, and I was very keen on learning what was new, and what was breaking on the circuit. We’re also products of elitism, where in print, there was this elitism of journalists and people who thought they were gateways and curators, and then came out of like, nowhere Miss Malini, with a blog, and with the sort of energy that was infectious, she was breaking boundaries and creating a new ecosystem that was based on her own insights and her own belief. I feel that Malini, to me is such a pioneer of the creator economy. I really have felt very visible around Malini and I was telling a friend that she is someone who will say great things about you behind your back. I think that’s the mark of a person who’s a true empowerer.
What advice would you give to upcoming girl bosses in their respective fields?
MA – Support each other, it’s collaboration over competition. If you can learn anything from this interview today, is that the more you stick together the more power you have. I was standing in a room with Michelle Obama and I was so lucky to be in that room. And she said the most amazing thing, you know I have great hope for the future. Because in this room, filled with women, I see tomorrow’s leaders, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, parents, sisters, all of that. There’s a great line that I love, you don’t have to unscrew anybody else’s light bulb to shine. And as soon as we get together, we can really empower each other and glow up together.
KG – You need to find inspiration and positivity in whomever you meet, others could tell you that this person is bad and you should stay away from them. But I still feel that person has something amazing to give you and share with you and then you can take off from them. And that’s why you should absorb everything and that’s what makes you grow.
NS – Two things I would tell everyone who’s trying to make a career, get excellent at what you do. So the pursuit of excellence is at the core of what you do. The second thing is to ask for opportunities. We all know that women ask for fewer opportunities. They are always carrying this big impostor syndrome on their shoulders, they think that they’re not good enough or they haven’t reached the heights to ask for better opportunities. Ask and you shall receive. If you have a strong core, if you’re excellent and feel secure about your craft, the world is your playground.
This conversation definitely hit the right cord and we hope it empowers all our readers out there. As these boss ladies are full of power, positivity, and best interests at heart.
Let’s not celebrate women for a day or month, but always and forever!