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“I work by choice, not force.”
In a country where the consumer durables segment is brimming with breakneck competition, Shanta has been expanding Haier comfortably
Issue Date - 20/10/2011
Marketing a product in a price and value conscious market like India is challenging. But the opportunities of tapping the vast potential that the country has to offer are equally exciting. The motivation comes from entering a mould only to break it and grow bigger and better. Shanta Roy Sanjeev, Marketing Head, Haier Appliances India is one such person who has skillfully broken all those moulds that labelled marketing as a complicated business function. In an exclusive conversation with Onkar Pandey, Sanjeev talks about the dynamism of the Indian market and her journey as a marketer in such a challenging environment.

Since the beginning of the year, Haier has launched many new products. Is this a well-thought strategy?
The Indian market, according to me, has a lot of potential when it comes to electronics and consumer durables. With an impressive line-up of products across different offerings in electronics and home appliances, we are confidently targeting a turnover of over Rs.1,250 crore in FY 2011 as against Rs.825 crore achieved in FY 2010 (between January and December). Reflecting Haier’s strong commitment, we are planning to introduce new and innovative range of products this year across all its categories. Moreover, looking at an aggressive multi-fold growth with an emphasis on technology, quality, innovation, value and services penetration, the focus this year is on ‘consolidation’ with expansion of ‘Haier Experience Centres/Zones’ nationwide.

Every market has its own set of challenges and opportunities. What is unique with respect to India?
The market for consumer durables is very competitive and the dynamics are changing. Great quality products backed by R&D, strategic marketing and distribution are the only way to remain in the market. The highly competitive market also adds the ‘homogeneity’ aspect which affects the overall market attractiveness. Moreover the basic marketing principles have changed. Due to continuous consumer empowerment, the “center of power” has forever shifted from the marketer to the customer. With days passing by, it is becoming harder and more expensive to replace customers, making ‘Customer Lifetime Value’ an essential business metric.

From Panasonic to Yamaha, to HCL, and then Haier, you have had varied experience as a marketer. How was the journey and what lessons did you learn on the way? 
So far my professional journey has been highly experiential, challenging and rewarding in many ways. I have worked with various brands with learning experience attached to each. The basics learnt during the initial years have always served as the cornerstone for my career growth. Moreover, I have been fortunate enough to have good mentors and leaders who have always added value to my work. Mr. Eric Braganza’s (President, Haier India) extraordinary leadership skills and his expertise in planning and management, led me take key initiatives for Haier India that has changed the position for the company in the face of its active competitors. He has always been very supportive and stood by me for the strategic marketing decisions that I have taken for the company.

How does the marketer inside you functions when you away from work?
Considering that it’s a highly technology driven world, striking the optimal work-life balance is always challenging. It’s not pragmatic to disconnect the mind from work even you are off work. However, I am very happy that I have nurtured my family, and at the same time met deadlines with sheer determination and strength of mind. Though I am a workaholic, where I work by choice and not force, I categorically set my priorities right, be it work or family.

What about your leadership style? What works best for you when it comes to managing people?
A leader needs to craft a vision and carry people along with passion and reason. With the dynamic organisational setting and the complex environment within which the company operates, I believe in utilising the leadership skills in numerous methods depending on what the situation calls for, task or relationship oriented decisions. As sustaining employee morale and building company culture are treated as critical obligations for company’s success, I firmly believe in holistic engagement with employees. Unless you build a strong network of people with complementary skills, you will be restricted by your own limitations. Further, in a complex, often-volatile environment with few resources & much red tape imposing the constant challenge of need vs. requirement, I practice optimum utilisation of resources.

Advice to future marketers...
‘Intelligence’, ‘unique thinking’ and ‘passion’ towards work are the jewels without which success is not possible.
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