Tell us a bit about your professional journey?
I began my career in 2007, a week after completing my graduation in India. I moved to Dubai to start my first job at Sanyo Gulf. At an inquisitive age of 19 then, and even though I was inexperienced and rough around the edges, I was full of ideas and had a firm sense of clarity about what I wanted to do in life and the direction in which I was headed.
After pursuing my Masters in marketing, I was convinced that I enjoyed studying and understanding consumer behaviour more than anything else in life. Quite early on in my career, I had decided to devote myself to doing what I enjoyed the most. It’s been 12 years since then, and even though I’ve moved across brands and industries, I’ve stayed true to my passion. It is often said that ‘your first job either makes or breaks you’ and I firmly hold that to be true because my first job at Sanyo built a rock-solid foundation for me to build the rest of my career on. I had one of the most brilliant bosses to learn from – Akemi Yamamoto- a self-made, solid, and refined woman who turned out to be my biggest inspiration.
After Sanyo, I decided to do something different by moving to the events industry where I spent a few months at DMG events as a senior marketing executive. I absolutely enjoyed the fast-paced life that the industry had to offer, but within seven months of my move to this space, I received an email from Nikon’s recruitment team in Japan asking me if I was interested in joining the founding team in UAE to help set up operations for Nikon in the Middle East and Africa region. I was ecstatic, and don’t remember ever being so elated and jittery at the same time.
What have been some of the most significant milestones?
Personally, it’ll have to be all those awards and accolades that I have received at both Sanyo and Nikon. I won the employee of the year award once at Sanyo, which marked a significant achievement in my career. I have also been awarded for my outstanding performance, twice at Sanyo and Nikon respectively, which has encouraged me to climb higher.
Professionally, launching all these marketing verticals that are unique only to Nikon are what I believe to be my most significant milestones such as, Nikon Experience, the on-ground camera support given to attendees of various events and exhibitions around the region. Nikon School, which is our training wing that’s dedicated to supporting and enriching our consumers’ journey in photography and videography, catering to both armatures as well as professionals; Nikon Care, the after-sales customer care, Nikon Kids Photo Club, Nikon Social, Nikon Premium Membership and Nikon Professional Services.
The successful conceptualisation, launch and implementation of each of these in the region have been crucial in defining my success at Nikon MEA as well as a distinctive marketing professional in the industry.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career and what kind of approach did you take to overcome them?
Building genuine love and loyalty for the brand among customers was a primary goal that I had set for myself when I joined, and that has also been my biggest challenge. In an industry where cameras were being sold purely on technical specifications that are incredibly similar across significant competitors, it was hard for me to carve a niche for Nikon. I sensed very early on that if we were to win this battle, the only lasting way was by building strong emotional bonds with our consumers.
So, I set off to redefine the marketing strategies and approach of Nikon. I unlearned everything that I had learned in business school about the traditional product and marketing mix and reinvented it with a robust consumer-focused approach that put personifying Nikon and building brand love at the heart of everything. Embodying the brand has paved the path for me and enabled us to tackle the challenges that Nikon has faced.
What kind of workplace environment is conducive to creativity and brand value?
A free, transparent, respectful and non-political environment that rewards success and more importantly, doesn’t penalise failures is the most conducive one for creativity. When working in such an encouraging and receptive environment, people aren’t afraid to try and experiment with new ideas. Creating such an atmosphere within the brand is what has given birth to some truly genius ideas in Nikon. I must admit that Nikon Middle East is an excellent example of a healthy, nurturing, and highly creative environment and much credit for that goes to our Managing Director, Narendra Menon.
What is the current status of women’s participation in your sector and what more needs to be done to be more inclusive?
The participation of women in our sector has increased manifold in the past few years. At Nikon, we have a healthy representation of women in the company and even among our consumers, i.e. photographers and videographers, and it is incredible to see the overwhelming number of women now embracing the art and passion of imaging. Although personally, I haven’t faced any form of sexism in my career, I empathise with those who have been victimised. My message to them is to believe that the right opportunities exist for the genuinely talented and that if they exhibit the courage to showcase their uninhibited talent, it will have the power to transcend barriers of cultural, demographic and sexual differences wherever they go. It fills me with constant joy and motivation to see the increasing participation of women in every field, and deservingly so. In this day and age of growing gender-equality, women can take much inspiration from the numerous fellow-women who have attained great heights in their respective fields. While I do believe that talent and aptitude can never stay unnoticed and unrewarded in the long-run, it is imperative for the society, the corporates, and the government to take further steps to eradicate sexist hindrances completely.
What role, in your opinion, do inclusion and diversity play especially in the field of marketing and creating a brand value?
Psychologically and physiologically men and women are wired differently. Men are more functional and practical with their approach towards marketing and women are more emotional and detailed. Hence, it helps greatly to have both approaches on the table when brainstorming for the next big campaign idea or the key communication strategy for an upcoming product launch. Moreover, people from different cultures and backgrounds have such a beautiful variety of insights to offer. I’ve noticed time and again that having people from all genders, non-gender conforming people, and people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds help paint a lovely artwork of different perspectives that adds so much value to the entire ideating process. Inclusion and diversity bring a unique kind of blended beauty, variety, freshness, and appeal to the brand that strikes an instant connection with its employees and customers alike. In a nutshell, inclusion and diversity within a brand and a workspace help you walk out with a much richer experience holistically, both as a brand and as a person.
What role has Nikon played in embracing inclusion especially at the workplace and also when marketing to a wide audience?
As a woman heading the marketing department, it’s been my biggest prerogative to find, nurture and empower talent within my organisation and among our consumers, especially women. We work hard to ensure that our brand is inclusive and empowering towards people from a variety of backgrounds. We have carefully designed and launched several initiatives like the Nikon ladies club, Nikon kids photo club, and the Nikon breakfast mommies club, all of which are headed by talented women photographers and videographers. We implement these initiatives with a singular vision to train and empower female talent and give them a platform to prove their worth. We want to enable them and help them show the world what women are capable of when provided with encouraging opportunities.