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Los Angeles: Samantha Johnson (Saatchi & Saatchi) & Aparna Popat

Alongside the dynamic Grace & Joan duo were Aparna Popat from India and Samantha Johnson at Saatchi & Saatchi LA. Their mentorship has incorporated cultural experiences with the business aspect, which means that Grace and Aparna have gotten a true “LA Experience.” They’ve danced in the audience during a taping of “Ellen,” cheered curiously an American Football Game, and visited several prestigious offices like ESPN, YouTube and Toyota.

Aparna began her sports journey as a six-year-old sitting in front of an old TV watching the 1984 L.A. Olympic Games. Even though no one in her family participated in sport,Aparna dreamed of competing in the Olympics. However, she knew the road would be difficult.“In India,it’s a bit of a challenge when girls want to take up sport. Sport is frowned upon in many cases. But in my case, my family was very supportive. I was fortunate.”

Aparna’s love for sport continues today. Currently, she is the managing director of the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL), the largest corporate sponsor of sporting activities in the country. The IOCL currently sponsors over 150 professional athletes across 19 different sports.Aparna is responsible for identifying talent, providing logistical support for exposure, recommending sports policies, and preparing the annual sports budget. Through this program, Aparna hopes to “bring sport out on a larger scale” and give girls the confidence they need “to find their feet in society.”

Since we arrived in LA near the end of her mentorship experience there, she shared her thoughts with us about her return to India:

“Well I think I always thought of going back and doing something with sport and contributing to the community through sport because that’s what I know best, and I think this program helped me to believe in myself and also inspired me to go back and do something that can really help the community that will help the children and the women at large.”