'Leadership is about creating more leaders and not followers' - Farzana Cama Balpande, Head of BookASmile

Farzana Cama Balpande is the Head of BookASmile, a charity initiative by BookMyShow, India’s biggest digital platform that offers ticketing for cinemas, plays, concerts and live events. She has 20 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education and has been involved with her own Pre-schools and the Day-care space.

She was the Corporate Head for the Early Childhood Department at Kwakids Learning. Thereafter, she decided to contribute to society and wanted to create value by doing something more meaningful. In 2011, she joined BookASmile to further her passion for philanthropy and social awareness. She has been instrumental in creating a charity model for BookMyShow consumers and has spearheaded multiple internal campaigns, where-in, employees have raised money for various causes.

BookASmile has enabled Farzana to support special causes and enrich the lives of the
less fortunate across India via the medium of Art, Cinema, Sports and Culture by providing them
with opportunities, activities and experiences.

Farzana Cama Balpande, Head of BookASmile

Farzana Cama Balpande in an interview with Suman Prasad spoke in length about the concept of BookASmile, its impact, different initiatives under the brand, its future plans, about women entrepreneurship and other interesting details.

Excerpts from the interview.

On the concept of BookASmile

BookASmile, the charity initiative of BookMyShow, was conceptualized in 2012 with a vision to use our platform to give back to the society. We wanted to do something distinctive and revolutionary in the charity space by lending our arm to an area where we already have a strong foothold. We wanted to provide opportunities to those from the disadvantaged sections of society to experience a world of entertainment, music, theatre, arts, sports and culture, things that you and I usually take for granted. This stemmed from the observation that there are already plenty of brilliant organizations that are working towards other critical areas such as health, nutrition, and education but we felt that entertainment and culture was something as important, and perhaps their importance largely undermined. With eyes set on achieving this, I came onboard BookASmile in November 2014.

Impact of BookASmile 

BookASmile is constantly upping our game in terms of the work we do, the communities and causes we support and the lives we want to impact. From fund raisers, employee engagement programs, internship offerings and sensitizing society at large, we hope to bring about these changes and expand our reach. Whilst the core of our purpose is to work within the entertainment space, we are also exploring other avenues.

Initially, BookASmile primarily worked within Mumbai and had a few liaisons with NGO’s outside Maharashtra. Over the next one year, through research, referrals and showcasing the work that we did, we connected and liaised with many more NGO’s and organizations pan India. Today, we are looking to grow and expand to different geographies in India and wish to impact lives and change perspectives of people residing everywhere, from big cities to towns and villages including kids, senior citizens, physically/mentally challenged individuals or even the armed forces. We already actively work with over 100 NGOs across India and have successfully impacted over half a million lives.

Different initiatives under BookASmile

We have supported and driven a variety of initiatives catering to different sections of the society- be it children, sports enthusiasts, senior citizens, young adults, or physically abled. We also do work in animal welfare. On one hand we have given a chance to kids to perform at a platform as huge as The Global Citizen Festival India 2016, on the other, we invited Salman Khan to meet over a thousand children when we organized a special screening of his movie Sultan. We are only limited by our imagination.

Future plans of BookASmile

In line with our plans to reach out to more people in more geographies, this year we are encouraging people to be kind to one another by rewarding their gestures. We are also promoting music in a huge way through our BookASmile Music Scholarship Programme. We are supporting the setting up of a residential Gurukul to empower young adults in Digital Literacy and Life skills. We are engaging in projects that are impactful and promote horizontal as well as vertical growth.

Keeping the team motivated at work

The BookASmile team is a small think tank of individuals who are excited and passionate about creating positive, yet insightful impacts. Together we think of or evaluate various ideas and campaigns through which we can make a meaningful difference.

On women being reluctant to take the first step towards entrepreneurship even today

Entrepreneurship is largely perceived to be male dominated and somewhere a lot of women end up believing that it is something that is not meant for them. Education is definitely changing this and we see a lot of amazing women run successful enterprises today. A woman has multiple roles and responsibilities to fulfill. With the right support system, it has been proven that a woman is definitely unstoppable.

On how receptive the industry is to women entrepreneurs when it comes to funding

Great ideas always find the right believers and funding, irrespective of the gender. Entrepreneurship has been largely male dominated but women are breaking glass ceilings everywhere, thereby changing the existing regressive thinking and beliefs.

On industries where women can enter as innovators and game changers

I believe great women are everywhere, just that their stories are yet unheard. The movie Hidden Figures is a great example in this sense. Women are ruling all fields be in entertainment, fashion, home-making, science… just to name a few. What is perhaps lacking is right talent recognition.

On skills which are important to be a good leader

More than skills, its qualities that defines a leader. Leadership is about creating more leaders and not followers. It’s important to be a good listener, problem solver, and a motivator.

On rising cases of sexual harassment at workplaces and if a woman on top can curb these

It’s a question of people’s thinking and mentality rather than who is at the helm of an organization. Creating awareness related to these matters, encouraging dialogue, education, inculcation of right values will go a long way in eradicating this social evil.

On whether it is important to have an International Women's Day

International Women’s Day is all about celebrating women and their contributions. It’s that one day where the entire world comes together to think about women related issues. We need to do it more often, not necessarily by naming another day for women, but by bringing into light and resolving problems that women across the world face in form or another.

Tips for women who want to be an entrepreneur

Women should believe in their idea and not let anyone tell them otherwise. They are capable of driving it, building it and making it successful. There are thousands of inspiring stories all around us and whenever things look bleak, they must keep going by drawing strength from more such incredible stories.


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