Female Founder Spotlight: Sonal Vara-Parmar

Tell us about yourself and how you came to found the first female entertainment company in the Middle East.

Being the first wasn’t my intention, my intention was to have the courage and vulnerability to start my own business based on what drove me, which was my passion for the entertainment industry and owning my power within that space. It took a few years to have the confidence to go alone.

Congratulations on the success of raising multi-million-dollar funding. What is your vision for IAM Entertainment?

Thank you, my vision is for IAM is to become a catalyst for content creation for a global audience created in the middle east by working with a strong network of international partners.

There are so many stories and facets of the Middle East still to be told. My vision is for IAM to be a global catalyst through, music, film tv, live shows and content creation to tell the story of Arabia today.

It is a common perception that it is more difficult for females to raise funding than males, do you agree with this statement?

Yes, I agree with this, but I think it’s also relative to the sectors men dominate like the VC, Tech space where we have seen a boom in investment in recent years. Women predominately will operate in health and beauty on a smaller scale.

This of course is changing, thanks to women like Whitney Wolfe Herd founder of Bumble, Suneera Madhani founder of Unicorn Stax in fintech who have given the female unicorn market a 14% growth since 2019.

Why do you think now, and the future is so amazing for females?

I can’t speak for the world, but in the UAE, I wholly credit the leadership for giving women equal opportunity, which is still not the case in places like America where women still experience pay disparity compared to men.

This is an exciting era for women, almost virgin territory for us to garner respect, momentum, and success in the business field.

As a successful woman in the UAE, how do you see the UAE’s attitude to females in business and entrepreneurship changing? Have you seen cultural shifts in the past 10 years?

I’ve lived in the UAE for 16 years and started 2 businesses here, its incomparable to any other place I know.

I grew up in Zambia, educated in the UK and started my career in London and New York. I consider myself very fortunate to live and work in an environment such as the UAE where equality is at the forefront. 50% of the UAE parliament is led by women, this is unparalleled. For the UAE I don’t think it’s so much a shift, as much as a new country learning and growing from what the west is unsuccessfully doing, so they can build a better today for future generations.

How have your accomplishments forged a path and place for women in the field and beyond in the UAE?

If by default, I have helped women feel confident in this space, that would be incredible because more of us are needed to equal the playing field.  I’ve followed Anjula Achariya’s trajectory a powerhouse in entertainment as Priyanka Chopra’s manager, but also someone who has forged her own path as the tech investor with the midus touch. She is an incredible modern-day example of how versatile, skilled and fearless women can be in a male dominated environment. I’m fortunate to call her a friend. I hope I can pay it forward and inspire other women to go after their dreams in a big way.

Can you share an experience in your life when women supported other women and what you learned from it?

Recently actually, a partner I work with in London, is retiring and asked me to take over her clients and roster of talent. We’ve become great friends over the last few years. She’s prolific at what she does, whilst working with 3 other male colleagues.

She asked me, someone who lives in a different country to her to carry on her legacy and IP because she wants more women to come into the field and own this space. Whilst I am utterly humbled, I also understand that women need to stop seeing each other as a threat and form our own GIRLS NETWORK.

Who are the women that have inspired you?

My mother who started a whole new career at 60 years old, something much more challenging than she’s ever done before to expand her mind, meet new people and enhance her spiritual journey. She’s taught me to never stop learning and developing.

Karl Lagerfeld echoed the same sentiment, he taught me to not fear change but embrace it, dance with it and pivot your way to new opportunity in the face of any adversity.

Steve Harvey taught me the power of faith and gratitude through our conversations together.

Alicia Keys, her humility, kindness, strength all inspire me, I’m fortunate to have spent time with her over the years, and she’s the epitome of a women, multi-skilled, diverse and compassionate.

Oprah – remains a constant inspiration from afar, I’m manifesting my way to hopefully one day meeting her. From a young age like many of us we grew up with her and her teachings.

Write down your thoughts and be thankful.

Have a vision board

Live with purpose

Manifest your life.

All mantras I now live by, it’s a constant work in progress.

Do you have any “life hacks” that you can share with us for balancing your professional and personal life?

Cut off at a certain point. My husband and I work very closely together. WE set boundaries to now discuss work after a certain point. Usually, dinner time till bedtime.

Give yourself 2 minutes in the morning to say thank you and wake up consciously to set the tone for the rest of the day.

What is your number one piece of advice to women in business?

Buckle up and keep going, hustle doesn’t hurt.

How can our readers find out more about you?

Gosh I leave my talent to do all the posting, but you can follow me on sonal_vara or @iammanagementinternational

Editor-In-Chief of Bizpreneur Middle East