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The sellers of small things

Three marketers tell us what it takes to survive in the big, bad, tough world of sales and marketing
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First Published: Sun, Nov 25 2012. 06 36 PM IST
(From left to right) Anil Vishwanathan, Siladitya Sarangi and Deepika Warrier .
(From left to right) Anil Vishwanathan, Siladitya Sarangi and Deepika Warrier .
Updated: Mon, Nov 26 2012. 08 39 PM IST
Get a Glimpse | Packaged consumer goods marketing
Packaged consumer goods marketing jobs today are looking better than ever. They have high growth markets and all the action. And yes, they may begin with the squelch and mud (read that as a mandatory stint in rural markets) and the sheer exhaustion of selling from shop to shop, but they move on to the glitzy world of brand launches, hobnobbing with celebrity endorsers, and designing ads that take the world of consumers by storm.
We spoke to three sales and marketing professionals and discovered that while some part of their job can be about attending photo shoots in exotic places, a large part is dedicated to number-crunching and being able to learn from failure.
••••••••••••
Deepika Warrier, 43
Marketing director—beverages, PepsiCo India region, Gurgaon
photo
Glam factor: Working with M.S. Dhoni and Didier Drogba is the glamorous part of Warrier’s job. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint.
PepsiCo’s marketing office on the fourth floor in DLF Corporate Park, Gurgaon, has balloons, a giant basket of fruit, and pinboards crammed with collages on most desks. Amid all this colour is Deepika Warrier’s cabin, with the doors open. “I don’t mind anyone walking in; I believe in not being regimented,” says the marketing director. An honours graduate from Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi who has done her MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, Warrier has been at PepsiCo for over a decade. She joined the company in 2000 as general manager, marketing—potato chips, working on the brand Lay’s, after stints in Britannia, Gillette and Ogilvy and Mather. Since then, she has worked in various divisions within PepsiCo, including a stint in Mexico (2005-07), as category marketing director for the youth/fun and snacks portfolio on brands like Doritos and Cheetos.
The assignment: As marketing director, Warrier is in charge of strategic development and promotion of beverages, including brands like Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mirinda, 7UP, Nimbooz, Mountain Dew, Aquafina and Slice. It is her job to work the mega campaigns for these brands. Signing on cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni and working with international soccer sensation Didier Drogba may be the most glamorous parts of her job, but there is a whole underlying set of activities as well.
“I divide my day into business issues and people issues,” she says. The business issues include designing creatives, planning and executing advertising and other promotional campaigns. PepsiCo works with three advertising agencies, one media agency and one public relations agency. Along with Warrier’s own team of five direct reportees and 35 indirect reportees, they form part of the larger marketing team. Meetings with these teams, as well as with cross-functional teams like supply chain, research and development and sales, take up most of Warrier’s day.
"Sales is something you need to do, otherwise you become an ivory-castle marketer."
The people issues are centred around her team of reportees. “As you move into senior leadership, your role changes from a doer to more of a recognizer and a champion of good ideas. You need to spend more time motivating the younger talent in your team and dealing with their career issues,” explains Warrier.
Most proud of: Pepsi’s T20 Change the Game World Cup campaign last year, with Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor, Dhoni and the Indian cricket team. “We had a terrific year on the back of that campaign, in terms of both sales and other measures like equity growth and brand affinity,” she says.
Failures have taught me: “Be willing to take risks but ensure they are not fatal risks. With Lay’s we introduced flavours like ‘chaat’ and ‘chicken’. Both had great responses from consumers during the trial stages. But both bombed after we launched them. ‘Chaat’ started well but the growth didn’t sustain, it bombed so much that we had to recall the flavour a year later. With ‘chicken’ we had a major backlash with retailers,” she says.
Why selling comes before marketing: While working at Gillette in 1997, Warrier spent a year and a half in trade marketing, selling buckets (as part of a special promotion scheme) and brushes to the trade in the wholesale markets of Delhi. “I fell into mud and got trampled by buffaloes in the wholesale markets of Sadar Bazar in Delhi. Did I thrive? No. But sales is something you need to do, otherwise you become an ivory-castle marketer,” she says.
What I look for in the people I hire: Confidence, groundedness, a knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to learn. Also the ability to work in a cross-functional team, partnering with sales or creative agencies.
Work-life balance: Warrier tries to encourage her team to leave office on time. “We have one day a week on Wednesdays where we try to get people home by 5.30pm. In case you have to stay on, you have to send me a formal mail explaining why, and also pay up Rs.500 as a fine, which goes into a party pool. Unfortunately, we manage to collect a lot of money,” she confesses ruefully. Warrier says her stint in Mexico taught her the importance of doing things outside of work and how outside interests like reading, photography and travel could actually make you a better marketer.
Money matters: Could range from Rs. 80 lakh to Rs. 2.5 crore.
••••••••••••
Siladitya Sarangi, 29
Area sales manager, Marico, Mumbai
photo
In the field: Sarangi’s days are spent touring markets and retail outlets. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint.
“You have to be where the action is. The more you can maximize the time in the market, the better benefits you get in sales,” says Siladitya Sarangi. The management graduate from Xavier’s Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, joined Marico in 2008. His main task is to look after the sales of a basket of products, including flagship ones like Parachute hair oil and Saffola cooking oil.
The assignment: His days are usually spent touring the markets and retail outlets in Mumbai, and he reaches the sales office in suburban Andheri in the evenings. The day begins at 9.30am. There are the kirana stores that stock Saffola and Quaker oats and Parachute, medical shops that stock products like Mediker and hair oil—Sarangi must visit all these, along with the general stores and cosmetic stores that keep Marico products.
There is a different set of sales programmes for each product, and Sarangi spends time working with his territory sales representative and his merchandisers to increase sales and brand visibility. “One of the good parts of being in sales is that you have people reporting to you at a nascent stage in your career; this teaches you people management,” he says.
By 3.30pm, Sarangi heads for the office in Andheri to finish administrative, backend work.
Most proud of: Upping sales in the Goa territory during his stint as a sales manager in Goa in 2010-11. “I felt the market had a potential to grow from Rs.50 lakh to Rs.80 lakh,” says Sarangi, who proposed that the sales schemes for retail outlets be changed to more long-term ones. Sales zoomed to Rs.90 lakh.
"Everything you try in the market doesn’t always work, but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying."
Failures have taught me: “Everything you try in the market doesn’t always work, but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying,” says Sarangi. “Sales were lagging in the outlying Thane district of Maharashtra, in areas like Dahanu and Talasari, for Marico. It was decided to double sales representative visits to this market in order to get more sales volumes. Sales did grow, but only 20%. Purchasing power parity was a problem, not the lack of servicing, and the increase in sales did not justify the extra effort we had put into servicing that market,” says Sarangi, who subsequently reduced sales coverage to the original levels.
Why selling comes before marketing: Selling and being in the market provides real-world exposure. As an MBA it’s easy to come and say increase sales from five pieces to six, says Sarangi. But only if you’ve been from outlet to outlet will you know how difficult it is. There are lots of issues like these. For example, do incentives work? Should you run a particular kind of incentive? These are things you can only learn from the ground level.
What I look for in the people I hire: The ability to plan, to be good at number-crunching and interpreting data.
Work-life balance: Sarangi enjoys travelling, especially to Goa, whenever he can. It’s a fun destination with the added bonus of family; his brother works in the hospitality industry there.
Money matters: Sarangi prefers not to say. Industry estimates for this level range from Rs.6-10 lakh per annum.
••••••••••••
Anil Vishwanathan, 35
Vice-president, chocolates, Cadbury India Ltd (part of Mondelez International Inc.), Mumbai
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Connecting the dots: Having outside interests actually helps the marketing process, says Vishwanathan. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Anil Vishwanathan has the corner office on the first floor of the iconic Cadbury House. It has trees outside and certificates, awards and photographs inside. Vishwanathan has been a chocolate man for as long as he can remember—he joined Cadbury straight from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, in 2000 as a management trainee.
“Simply put, my job is to make people eat more chocolate,” he says. Vishwanathan says the per capita global consumption figures for chocolate are 1kg per year, but the figure for India is only 100g, leaving him ample opportunity to work for more growth. If this means getting to work on popular ad campaigns like Ramesh Suresh, well that’s just another perk of the job.
The assignment: Vishwanathan works on four chocolate brands —Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Silk, Bournville and Perk. He is also part of the larger marketing team that looks at advertising and marketing of all Cadbury brands, including the biscuit portfolio of Oreo cookies. Vishwanathan has a team of 14, six of them direct reportees. Besides this team there are other experts. “The marketing world is very complex, there are digital experts, corporate affairs experts, advertising experts; and since in marketing in most cases it is the team that takes decisions, getting everyone into a room and making decisions is important,” says Vishwanathan.
"People who can be analytical, those who can scratch beneath the data to understand the people issues, do well."
Vishwanathan travels to markets like Chennai and Kolkata two-three times a month. “I have lunch with the distributor and his sales force and then meet retailers. There is no substitute for this kind of frontline feedback. It’s the best way to gauge the pulse of the market in terms of reactions to products,” he says.
Most proud of: The successful launch of Oreo in India in 2011. “Kraft had just acquired Cadbury and they were keen to launch their popular global brand here. The Oreo launch was a challenge for various reasons. The biscuits market in India consisted of well-entrenched players like Parle and Britannia, who had been around for years. Besides the product—the Oreo biscuit—itself was different in a difficult way; it was black and had a slightly bitter chocolate taste. The team designed their advertising to appeal to both parent and child. Vishwanathan feels the ads worked because they managed to capture the zeitgeist of the evolving Indian parenting style—that of parents as fun companions and friends rather than arbitrary authority. The launch was a success, and Vishwanathan says Oreo today has a 2% market share of the entire biscuits market in India. “This may not sound like a lot, but it is more than established brands like Bourbon and Krackjack,” he says.
Failures have taught me: Just because you tick all the boxes in terms of research doesn’t mean a new product will succeed. In 2004, Vishwanathan helped launch fruit-flavoured gems and also Dairy Milk desserts with fillings like kalakand and tiramisu. “We were confident these would succeed; all the consumer research was positive. But both the products bombed, leading us to question ourselves about our decisions and looking for what went wrong.”
Why selling comes before marketing: “Pretty much everybody starts in sales. You can sit in your room and devise strategies, but you won’t get the pulse till you have on-the-ground experience,” says Vishwanathan. He started his job with a sales stint—three months in Sindhudurg, in the small towns of coastal Maharashtra—followed by three and a half years in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. “It was tough. It is physically hard work going from store to store taking orders. You see yourself as a management graduate from a premium institution. When you arrive you think people should take notice, but for the retailer you are just another salesman. Only then do you understand what the job of a salesman is, how to keep him motivated. It helps you to understand how to make a marketing plan and execute it.”
What I look for in the people I hire: An aptitude to work with other people. “Marketing has real-life problems, so people who can be analytical, those who can scratch beneath the data to understand the people issues, do well.”
Work-life balance: Vishwanathan runs marathons, running for a few hours early morning at least three days a week. He ran his fourth marathon a few weeks ago in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, clocking a personal best of 3 hours, 50 minutes. “Since marketing is about connecting the dots it is important to have some outside interests as well; it helps to have a passion which lets you think laterally and gives creative energy to the marketing process as well,” says Vishwanathan.
Money matters: Could range from Rs.50 lakh to Rs.1crore.
Every month, we explore a profession through the lives of three executives at different stages in their careers.
Tell us which profession you want to know more about at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Nov 25 2012. 06 36 PM IST
More Topics: Profession | Get a glimpse | Pepsico | Marico | Cadbury |
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