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(From left to right) Anil Vishwanathan, Siladitya Sarangi and Deepika Warrier .
(From left to right) Anil Vishwanathan, Siladitya Sarangi and Deepika Warrier .

The sellers of small things

Three marketers tell us what it takes to survive in the big, bad, tough world of sales and marketing

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.

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Deepika Warrier, 43

Marketing director—beverages, PepsiCo India region, Gurgaon

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Glam factor: Working with M.S. Dhoni and Didier Drogba is the glamorous part of Warrier’s job. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint.

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.

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 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 80 lakh to 2.5 crore.

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Siladitya Sarangi, 29

Area sales manager, Marico, Mumbai

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In the field: Sarangi’s days are spent touring markets and retail outlets. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint.
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