A brief description of your current job profile.
I’m currently the Country Head for Gillette and Oral B for Indonesia at P&G. This role is analogous to a CEO’s functionality and I oversee all the different kinds of operations for these brands. I joined as a Brand Manager for P&G and have been working here ever since. I was initially involved in the design of products and concepts and I’ve worked in a variety of markets like Australia, India, Japan etc. Currently, my role is cross-functional and involves a lot of strategy.
What are the skills one should develop in order to pursue a career based on Brand Management? How useful are internships and online courses in this regard?
First things first, almost everything that you learn on your job is what you eventually make use of. Yes, relevant knowledge is definitely a bonus but it only helps you so much. During your MBA placements, no one is going to look at a management based internship which you did during college and be like – that’s what makes you different. That being said, you must always develop on your interests in some way or the other. Now, I was interested in creative content like commercials from a young age and hence I’d discuss new, fascinating commercials with my friends. If something like this excites you, you can probably discuss while eating in your mess about how Sanjay Leela Bhansali shot each of the three different characters in Padmaavat using different filters. These are small things but these interests go a long way if you develop them. At IIM A, my natural curiosity for creative content was noticed by my professors and they gave me extra HBS case studies to work on. I also had a microblog on which I used to review commercials. I pasted the link of this on my resume and during my interview with P&G, the interviewer was impressed by this unique hobby of mine and I eventually got the job. My mere interests and hobbies developed into my final career path. I’d also advise students not to do everything from a career point of view.
How cross-functional was your role as Brand Manager at P&G? What were the challenges you faced during your growth as a Brand Manager?
At P&G, the role of a Brand Manager is very analogous to that of a CEO, that is, it is highly cross-functional: you have to handle everything from Strategy to Production, from Finance aspects to Sales and more. It is a dream job. There hasn’t been a single day without challenges, though. P&G is a global brand and hence, there are various challenges that come along during your job. Firstly, P&G hires the best among the global pool of students and hence everyone around you is really smart. You need to keep improving on what you do constantly. Secondly, P&G is highly multicultural. In my team, my Boss was from Thailand, Finance head from Netherlands, R&D head was from Beijing and many more like these. In such an environment, I had to rework on how I communicated. Many of these people don’t have English as their second language and hence you need to work on how to effectively communicate with them. I had to be really basic and simple in what I was trying to put across – all that hi-fi language which we used at IIMA and learnt over the course of preparation for CAT wouldn’t help me one bit. There are several other challenges like these and we had to work to adapt to such an environment and overcome these challenges.
In the current scenario, most people look to change jobs periodically for something more lucrative in terms of compensation, work-life balance etc. Are there any particular factors which led you to continue working at P&G since the beginning? How permanent is any choice of career?
It is a weird myth that you need to jump jobs to grow faster in your career. On the first day of my job at P&G, I was told by my manager that I’d be handling over 45 million dollars in volume. Mind you, I was a guy who had never worked until now and this was my first job and on the first day, I was told this. And so we got to work. The best thing about my job is that I’m always taking up challenges and I’m enjoying it. P&G has a ‘Grow from Within’ culture, the compensation is great, work-life balance is amazing and nobody questions how many hours I put in or anything like that as long as I deliver. In about two months, I’ll be heading Gillette for P&G in Africa. One should be happy with their job as long as you challenge yourself and keep growing.
What did your role as Master Trainer for Effective Workload Management at P&G entail? Are there any productivity based insights from this role that would be useful for students as well?
P&G has these corporate courses within the firm to improve the skills of the employees and this was one of them. As you grow, you become responsible for a larger part of the company’s growth and hence the expectations from you are also more. Hence, it becomes crucial that whatever time you spend at office is highly productive and you’re 100% efficient. This role of Master Trainer involved me handling the course of productivity and giving tips and suggestions on how to make the best use of time. Simple tips like the Principle of 123 – 1 person: give the salary of 2 people: extract the work of 3 people – were discussed.
For students, I’d mainly advise you to develop the habit of being diligent with your work.
At IIM A, I was definitely not the smartest among so many talented people but I was highly diligent and hence at the end of the course I was among the top 10 students in the batch. Doing work at the last minute might get you through your academic life but at work, you won’t be able to grow fast with that attitude. The habit of being diligent is something I’d seriously recommend everyone to develop.
In your opinion, what is the extent one should go to find a balance between work satisfaction and monetary satisfaction?
What I’ve observed is that jobs which make you work hard eventually pay you more too. The output required for some jobs is only so much and hence the pay or growth in such jobs might not be great. If you’re on a job which offers you opportunities for growth and throws at you challenges which get you going then you don’t have to think twice about continuing there. The pay will come as you grow. Burnout is not a part of the job, it is about how you work.
How useful is the technical knowledge you gained during B.tech, in your career now?
This is a question I get asked a lot.
I’ll put it this way – Would I have grown to this point in my career without my engineering experience at NITT? Definitely not. Do I use the technical knowledge I gained during B.Tech at work? Not really.
At every point in your academic life, the Indian education system puts you through the grind – through school, then college and then post-grad. I’ve been in a role at P&G which is offered only to the cream of the crop. If among 1.3 billion people I’ve made it here, then something in my education was done right. B. Tech instils rigour and discipline into you and teaches you how to multitask; technical knowledge is just a means of achieving this.
How different is the connect to IIM A in comparison to NITT? How did each of these institutes develop you as a person?
IIM A has been in touch with me constantly since I’ve left (about every 3 months or so, I hear from them). I was at the Dance club of IIM A and in Tennis Team too; these associations have an active community and hence have always been in touch. At NITT, I was a part of the Tennis Team and used to participate in the Dance events for Festember and had strong relations with DT. But I haven’t heard back from the college since I’ve left in the past 10 years and this interview has been the first time someone from the college has gotten in touch with me. Probably, only due to the stronger relations I have with IIM A, I’d look to give back more to them. Coming to the personal development at these places, I’d say it was no different. I learnt equally both at NITT and at IIM A.
What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect? Is there any advice you’d give to engineering students, generally?
Develop hard skills like coding and design approaches (product design etc). Typical corporate management jobs will die in the next 15 years. AI will take over many aspects and be a crucial factor in decision making. However, I don’t mean you should be really proficient at everything; just know the basics of things like these.