Making ‘Nimbu Paani’ Global
Sangita, Thanks so much for joining me today. You know you’ve had a great career through different areas pharmaceuticals, banking, FMCG and then back in FMCG. I Wanna ask you what was the breakout moment or the other turning point in your journey?
Quite a few breakout moments are turning points. I think the very first one was when I decided to become a marketer and not a doctor which is what I always wanted to do become that happened at that point of time when I was growing up. There weren’t too many options in terms of researching what’s right for you. There was no internet, your friends and family were really a social network and through them I came to this choice with some self evaluation as to what’s right for me. I think in hindsight I made the right choice. The second one has a look at my country overnight transition through different sectors. The first time I moved from the pharmaceutical to the FMCG sector. I think was one breakout moment which helped me realize my potential and the third one that I would call out was just in terms of elevating myself in the organization when I once again changed rule from FMCG to banking and elevating myself from being a middleman middle management person to really a senior leadership team member.
So you know looking back the transition from middle management to you know senior leadership positions is always a mental one rather than designation. When did the penny dropped for you?
So absolutely right I think you have to first elevate yourself in your own mind and you have to have a great belief in yourself that you are up for that challenge. I think it finally seems the only when you get into the rule but I think before that comes the entire I spoke of being ready to take on a new challenge, being ready to take on a new assignment. You obviously don’t know enough about it. I think the penny drops only when you get into the role you define the challenge and you clearly defined your first 90 days agenda.
We’ll talk about that but you know, FMCG professionals of any sort of across the industry is because I think this segment everything in their mind and they are natural marketer. So I am going to ask you when you went into banking, what with a cross learning? What is the fresh that you brought into banking? I know that was your role in banking.
I think a marketer is a marketer in any sector. I think the first principles don’t change so the consumer being at the heart of decision-making. I think was the biggest change that I made when I moved from FMCG to banking. and the way different sectors make decision the starting point is quite different and banking that is what was perhaps requiring a lot of strengthening and that’s really the freshness that I bought in and then to make sure that all your decision start with the unmet needs of the consumer and how do you create an ecosystem and an organization around to getting people along and the other stakeholders along to really buy into that goal and that new way of working.
So as you make transitions from one industry to the other, what was a learning that you went through?
I think one of the biggest learning is that I do move organizations and specially when you move sectors the culture of each of these places is very very different when I moved from the
Pharmaceutical industry to FMCG the culture was very different it was less formal and when I moved back to banking I was told that I am perhaps too aggressive and I think the biggest lesson is about your own leadership and your ability to adapt to changing cultures in each of these organizations.
I am gonna ask you you know when you look at the break out moment. I think one thing
that you did tell me was when you decided to get out of your comfort zone and taken international assignments and how you learnt on the job and how that opened up the world to you. I am gonna ask you is very important for young professionals to take that leap of faith to go and experiment in new markets what are the challenges and what was the learning from them?
So the cultural context that i talked about happens when you change sectors it also happens when you change jobs fees and its very critical for young people as they charge of their careers to recognize that it is absolutely critical to get experience across geographies what that does for you is gives you an experience and a completely different economy where the broad drivers could be completely different so you’re operating in a very very different business environment second your consumer set is very different for example when I went to the by the by is really a multicultural country with a lot of experts residing in the same market and enhance the market to the challenge for me was to talk to the different consumer groups and find a unified way of marketing with a very diverse and despite its set of consumers who had very different needs so that I think becomes a critical by the way experience and the part in the most important thing is really the people so you are in a very different cultural contexts and just being sensitive to people from different nationalities understanding how you should say things how you should not say certain things certain you know gestures mean very different things in different markets so I think just the cultural sensitivity gets absolutely heightened when you exposed to different markets.
You know, we have a very very good representation in the FMCG sector lot of Indians have done very well. Why do you think that happens is that because you’re naturally used to dealing with such a multicultural mix within India that you naturally do well because a lot of big FMCG companies have a good representation of the top with Indians?
So I think India has been a source of talent for many organizations across sectors. I think we’ve seen of late a lot of people in the FMCG sector really rights to grade levels in their global organizations I think a lot of FMCG companies also have a career parting which really provides opportunities at a junior and mid-level whereby they send their talent across different geographies and different kind of markets both emerging and developed and developing market which really readies people for greater challenges as the rise up through the levels the second thing i think is the complexity in the Indian market itself the kind of challenges that you are faced with so I think if you have a combination of challenging assignments in India and great experience but good career par thing I think it leads you to
part of general management and global Organizations.
How is our education system gearing up for the changes and for the demands that the job is throwing up right now Sangita because its a very dynamic pretty much every segment and sectors going through a lot of dynamic change.
Right. So I think a lot of alternate learning, modules have come in even in the current curriculum in schools and you’ll see a lot of education institutions now resorting to western ways of learning and I think those days where it was all about competitiveness and it is it was
about standing first in your class with the we are really recognizing the breath of learning and different platforms for learning is what a lot of institutions are providing today which i think is fascinating because really when students get out of school and get out of college. They’re not just competing in India if you aspire to study abroad it’s really the world you’re competing against and hence I think providing best-in-class education system which are in line with the western world teaching platforms.I think is critical and a lot of institutions are following that part today.
What can online do? How can you take this online and what what are the need gaps set that an online platform can fulfil you think?
An online platform?
Education platforms, education training or case study, you know dissemination etc.
So online for corporates and for people who are already employed.I think is a fantastic platform simply because it gives you an opportunity to learn even as you work it gives you the flexibility to be able to find the time at your convenience to really embrace to the training curriculum, more importantly. I think if you just look at world over be we have training whereby it becomes far more interactive and far more enjoyable farm or simulated i think is a huge way of learning for people which is now really gaining importance across many many organizations I think at when we talk about education and online education I think that again has a very very good control the Khan Academy is a classic example which you know has been talked about and it has been written about it where it has really transformed the way both the kind of learning mechanism that provides for students which is not really about reading and memorizing things but whereby you provide the logic for learning make the learning far more enjoyable for students, I think is again great so whether itself with students or whether it is for people who are in the corporate world the combination of making the learning very real, very stimulated and being convenient I think of some of the advantages.
Going back to your journey, you know very often you learn from missteps and mistakes. what was the one mistake that you learn from you can share it with you?
I think as you grow as, I do grow in your leadership journey and as you progress on your leadership journey it’s very important to be self aware. I think I was in that self aware in my initial years of working and one of the classic examples that i talked about very often is when you seek feedback from people around you. Its really like holding up a mirror to yourself and I think it was one of those programs which really helped me identify some of my weaknesses and a lot of it I had to do about my ability to delegate at my this persuit for perfection where I would end up doing a lot of things myself I think one of the programs and feedback from my stakeholders told me that I need to really let go so I think my biggest learning is that early on in your career if you have the opportunity to get feedback from people and really be far more self of it probably helped to accelerate your leadership journey .
Interviewer: What are the one proudest moment I think when did you sit back and say hey I think I have really made a mark. What is that moment for you?
I think for me moving into my current role which is something that I despite for all my life to become the general manager in an organization where the values of the organization but in sync with my own values and organization which had a strong brand that was well respected and accepted by the consumers something that I always wanted to do so when I really managed to get into this role I think that by far I would say has been my proudest moment.
This role is also allow you to interface very actively with Board. The board of the company in on an International putting. what is a learning that you’ve been the leadership board at catalogue both in the region and and internationally interface with them and how do you see the industry evolving because India is you know the market is evolving very fast and you know is a far more market evolved elsewhere in the developed world so what are the learning
that you’ve picked up.
So leadership perspective if I look at Kellogg asia-pacific it’s a fantastic leadership team that we have. I think just looking at the way decisions are made at the board level in terms of India of course has been a market that’s been doing quite well over the last few years your ability to first I think it’s very important to build credibility for yourself every time you need to go up and ask for investments I think a track record really is very critical in terms of being able to deliver what you promise the last time around and third I think of putting up a strong and compelling business case as you seek investments again becomes very critical your credibility as a leader your credibility of the credibility of the organization that you lead is I think the most important thing and to making sure that you really presenting a business case and a strong and compelling manner seeking investments I think is a skill that you need to acquire double up man with a lot of belief in the future you need to really sell your vision to the board.
Interviewer: I am gonna talk about marketing a breakfast Cereals like Kellogg, I mean like you’ve done a great job over the last couple of years because you had to really break through a very conservative segments of Indians who still are used to Indian breakfast you know formats or options what were the lessons when you actually went on the market and how’s your approach to reaching out to the customer changed.
So lots of lessons over the last 45 years, one I think it is very important for us from the perspective of the category that pre-market to make sure that be educate people and give them a strong enough reason to buy into this category with the increasing levels of health and wellness we realized that people are far more conscious of what they eat today I think one of the things we pride ourselves in is we have a very very strong consumer practice at Kellogg.
so it helps you constantly to keep your finger on the pulse of the consumer and as we continue to track the journey of the consumer and how do consumers evolves, making sure your innovations keep pace in line with the changing consumer needs is important but like said before that the entire piece around educating the consumer so a campaign on Anaaj ka Nashta came from that inside a lot of people didn’t know what cereals are made and it was important for us to tell consumers that there was no better way of finding the right cultural context and anaaj is something that every Indian really understands and the cereals that we make are made out of an anaaj. is just that the consumers did not know that and we
found that insight we found the right proposition and put it forward in a strong compelling manner the other thing is also in terms of the way that consumers shifting in the Shopper is changing today the consumers and shoppers are far far more in part they really have platter of choices bars in their hand where they can look at various products compared them, have
them delivered at the doorstep at their own convenience and the price that the really aspire to pay. so that really changes what we call the part to purchase or the consumer a customer
journey in terms of decision-making and I think that really opens up lots of possibilities in terms of revisiting your business model looking at your route to market looking at your supply chain your ability as an organization to be ready to dive into huge amount of data
and analytics because today with the entire social media platform and with e-commerce it’s really become possible to look at consumer and shopper behaviour and for organizations to really harness that data to drive the business results.
Interviewer: But get rid of the other person now companies have far more intelligence and deeper than when you started off what is a transition being in the real? How technology has mean going to consumer and getting consumer insight easier from the time that you started off to now?
Sure. So if you rewind twenty years back in time a lot of it had to be face-to-face contact with the consumer research agencies we believe that even today there is no substitute to direct conversation with the consumer and direct consumer or the direct conversation is for the managers not necessarily through the research agency so I think that truth still remains I think tools and technology has only enabled us to get access to the consumer in a far more easier manner and in a far more faster and agile banners so all that has enabled the other thing is because consumers are now far more empowered as I said it’s possible to have databases is created which really track consumer behaviour its always been the case for banks for telecom companies I think the FMCG companies are now getting onto this journey in India thereby it’s possible to really look at consumer and shopper behaviour and then put out very targeted
and sharp programs which can either predict the behaviour of the consumer in the future or provide the right propositions for the right consumer segments based on the data analytics.
Interviewer: How much do you use data analytics for example in Kellogg?
So I think for us, so far it is still been a lot of it has been around insights that we drive talking to the consumers and shoppers we’ve just come and join me in terms of looking at analytics I think we are right just at the beginning whether It’s the consumer data or even in terms of the customer journey whereby it’s all about providing digital solutions to our field force for example but from a consumer marketing standpoint and under fire advertising spends a significant part of our friends have moved on to digital and also I think the future lies in content marketing so for example we have a wonderful association but Chhota Bheem and there is content has been co-created with one of our strongest assets which is Coco the monkey with Chota Bheem it’s the same target audience of kids that two brands are really working on and I think the two brands have come together beautifully to create content the second example would be in terms of online campaigns that we have created knowing that’s where the consumer spends most of her time and the entire Customization campaign on Corn flakes led by an inside that consumers want flexibility and they want variety in their food that was the genesis of the campaign but we chose to create a campaign which was an only online campaign and we created hundred videos of different recipes on Corn flakes so I think to come back to your question we started our journey to digital have moved we have got content marketing as an important back to our entire marketing programs I think are joining on data analytics has also commenced and it will only grow stronger and will continue to invest in that place.
One question on data analytics, how closely do you read your work with other Kellogg offices because there is a lot to be shared in terms of inside so what is that piece looking like ?
So the data analytics if you’re talking about quantitative I think as a multinational organisation where we can benefit is really looking at the systems and processes that other Kellogg companies use and how do we borrow those and really lean on that experience that the other group companies already have the data and the insides have eventually got we created locally so I think the systems and processes can come through the global organisation and there’s a lot of experience in the best because these are developed markets will be much further in this journey but at the end of it because need to be deployed in India and you need insides for your local consumers
Interviewer: Sure, let’s focus on the youngsters when you see a fair crop of youngsters come out of schools and and join the workforce how do you think they have changed? Have they kept pace fast and rapidly changing market environment?
So I think every organisation is faced with the struggle of making sure that you’re able to hire the right quality of talent and the war for talent i think is the biggest challenge that every
organization faces. more importantly I think it’s critical to understand that the expectations specially the millions the expectations are very different I think today the don’t no longer seek to be employees necessarily but what they are seeking is wider enricher experiences and they really want to make sure that they maximize their experiences in a short period of time
and it’s very important I think for the youngsters to really understand that width the experience is important but equally the depth of experience is also important so why do in a hurry to accelerate your career do so by making sure that you stay for long enough and longevity and enough time spent in every rule I think becomes very critical. But organizations are gearing up to really keep pace with the changing expectations and as I said they’re not seeking to be near really employees they’re seeking to be really up corporate citizens creating rich experience
Tell me something in your journey Sangita, who were the people you looked up to? Who was the role model that you emulated? looking back?
At a personal level early on my father is been a role model for me. One of my professors in my business school has been a role model for me. I think the entire pursuit of perfection came to me from my professor who taught me that even if it was about drawing the line and he was very very well respected marketeer himself and a marketing professor but he taught me the art of doing whatever you’re doing do it really well and that applies to every sphere of life and work and from my father I think I picked up the entire tengo for the need to pursue, the need to really really work hard and my father started his medicine in Pakistan and came to India with absolutely nothing and not knowing anybody and he really struggled and became very very successful so I think the entire his story has been truly inspirational for me and that’s been one of my mottos that you don’t really, you know give up in life so easily and you try and find solutions in life to really to get to your goal and if you seek out something it truly happens.
So what would your advice be to youngsters wanting to be value you’re, you know and seeing that hay I want to be in the FMCG sector I want to reach the top of an organization like Kellogg. What would you advise to them?
So couple of advises one from the perspective of just a business if you aspire to be in the FMCG space make sure you’re passionate about people it’s important to your consumer shoppers are all people and I believe that great insides are the biggest enablers for a business to succeed and great insides really come from those people who are curious about people So have the passion to talk to people to really constantly find the truth to ask the question by several times and really unearth some insights that can unlock the business always been passionate about consumer no matter what level you are at. The second thing would be what I said before in terms of just Charting your own carrier to not be in hurry. So be patient make sure you choose the right organization the values of the terror organization something that must resonate with your own set of values and having got in to organization which we believe is right for you make sure that you make your choices in terms of either changing roles are changing organizations in a pragmatic manner and having ensured that you’ve stayed long enough to make a difference to the organization and to yourself.
Right! You think if there is one challenge that people face when they want to make especially
women what would it be if you could put a little bit of emphasis on that?
For women I think there is an important choice that they need to make is the right choices house I think that’s absolutely critical so that irrespective of a move but that’s just a critical
life decision for women and because that really very often decides their future women tend to otherwise make choices between family and their career and I think if you have a husband who really understands and respects your aspirations that past becomes that much easier terms of getting you closer to your goal and the second bit is women very often can be reticent about raising their hands when the right opportunity comes up either because they are not
confident or they’re not sure of themselves my advice to them would be you’re as good as a man have to believe and raise your hands.
Great! Last question what is your message be to upgrade, because the whole idea of a upgrade is to stress and continuous education to get digital is a platform to allow curated set of courses to help people go along so how important is continuous education in a journey to the talk and be what’s a message for upgrade?
I think it’s a great initiative very very befitting and well time for India I would say both for students and for people who are in corporate world. I think it would facilitate the learning process it’s a great solution for the corporates. I think as you see entrepreneurship in India and India ranks among still one of the top markets in terms of the level of entrepreneurship so if we can enable that and Headley entrepreneurs find the right answers to the questions who otherwise they would not find answers to very easily I think it’s fantastic and eventually its going to make a difference to the economy and eventually for students I think it would become a great learning platform because there is nothing which is really at that scale and is available in an organized fashion for students today and i genuinely believe that the learning process never stops so it’s fantastic that if we have a platform here that can work for different segments of the society be it a person in the corporate field or the entrepreneurial student it’s going to make a very positive difference by way of employment and thereby to the economy.
thank you so much Sangita.