Vivek Sharma, Pidilite

In the first season’s finale, we speak with one of the most accomplished marketers in the country – Vivek Sharma of Pidilite. 

Vivek talks to us about his career spanning more than 30 years and his experience at both the agency and the client-side! 


I’m Vivek Sharma. I’m the chief marketing officer for pidilite industries and in my career. I have worked with Cadbury, I have worked with Onida, I have worked with Philips and now I have been with pidilite industries for last 5 years and pidilite is a billion-dollar company in paint, pigments, adhesives and has a iconic brands, like fevicol, m seal, dr.fixit & fevicryl and it’s really fun to work at pidilite to all these iconic brands and take there legacy to straight forward.

Thank you Vivek and welcome to the marketing and a podcast. I mean, I’m thrilled to have you here. 

I’m also happy to be here Saurabh. It’s really nice to informally chat and share your learning advices of careers. At my stage of career I’m very in that I share my thinking and my experience with more people and people were coming into marketing and sales career in business careers now and they can gain something out of my experience. 

Amazing Vivek.

Q: So, let me take you back to your very beginning. “Aap ke collage ke time se” like tell me which collage did you passed out from, where did you passed out from?

A: Saurabh it will surprise you and everybody who is listening to this that actually I’m a mining engineer. I passed out from Indian school of mines, which is now IIT Dhanbad and I am B. Tech in mining my basic training has been took it out all the valuable materials from below the earth like gold, petroleum, and now I’m busy digging for insights product ideas and marketing ideas. So that that has been by basic education. 

Q: So, do you actually work in the mines? 

A: Yes, of course as a part of our exhalating we were supposed to do work experience in mines for every year for two months. So cumulatively I have work for six months. I have worked in gold mines which is now shut and Indi polar and at the time and I worked Saurabh they were the fourth deepest mine in the world. And I mean up to a vertical depth of 2.35 kilometers below & 2-3 days I went there and then I worked in most advanced mine near assess or coal mines which are fully automated even at that time in the early 90s. They were automated. So basically, I’m a winner and I will train to look at problems logically solve problems. And that has been the basic training and as you talk, we’ll see I will talk about the fact that how this logical brain has to be shaped to become a better marketeer. From ISM I went straight without any work experience. Unfortunately to IIM Bangalore and yeah, I went Bangalore and from there. I went to join categories for the campus policy.

Q: So, tell me if I ask you to summarize your experience and the three bullet points so what it would be?

A: See when I was in engineering? I used to think. Oh, I’m great. I’m in engineering and I was on top of my batch I mean top percentile top 10% but reaching it teaches you to be humble and you realize that you are among the best of the best. So, you have to raise your game in terms of whatever you do not just studies and gpas. Its more curricular activities what you do how you think how you conduct yourself. There is so much to learn from your career and my classmates and I realize, you know from being tallest among the food Phil’s I was among the Himalayas and I had to raise to raise my game and I had to become better and I really enjoy doing that and you know, I still talk to those pastures of mine now and we all laugh but have in one thing. Which I am does until for me was to put me in company of great mines and great talented people and it helped me become better it’s happy open my mind to multiple thinks because some had talented writing, sports, events. Yeah. I should also have talents other than just studying. No, and I think second thing which I am teaches you of course is Actually disciplines you and it trains you to work very hard. You know how IIM’s are. We used to think we work very hard in engineering but the pace really amazes you because what you learn in Engineering in three months semester to finish it off in two weeks and then you want to next thing so really really and so that is something which I am does of course I can talk about studies. It is a multidisciplinary game and it teaches you. But you also start realizing a bit about social skills that were how you need to become better at social skills. If you are to succeed in life some early terminations of those relations for me happened there. Of course, later life teaches you far more about the social skills, emotional skills all those things, but the first realization that there is nothing Beyond CGP and IQ happened in I am to me.

Q: So, I am going to ask you tough question and Vivek I would love an honest answer “aap ke time pe when u went to banglore. let’s see your batch was say 120 people how many people are your batch mates 

A: 120.

Q: so how about the 120 people. I’m just taking a wild guess that you know, not more than say 20 to 30 percent of people who have reached or head of marketing CMO or sort of level. So, if I were to ask you to reflect that so “aap ne esa kya kiya jo unhone nai kiya” you know what I’m saying? You would obviously be extremely lucky and your journey that allow you to reach the top of the business. 

A: See its difficult to compare yourself to others and talk, but I can say a couple of things seem to reach the top of marketing game. And business game. First of all, you have to really love marketing. You don’t have to look at marketing as a stepping stone to become an MD or a CEO only if you really love what you’re doing whether it’s working with dealers looking with Wholesalers working with Distributors working with consumers and agency. If the work is not just meaning to read somewhere that I think you will do it better. Second thing is too early in your career gained varied experiences. I would say don’t keep on doing the same thing and same industry and the same segments for long time. You have to change because people collect eclectic range of experiences around sales and marketing your mind will not open up and you’re not become a true marketeer. You will become an expert in the industry. Okay, and naturally you can become narrower thinking so that is one and third thing is I think you have to be really about marketeer. You have to can naturally curious. You have to be curious about why and for what and last but not least. It’s kind of hygiene condition. But I would advise all youngsters early in their careers to do feel and sales so that they know the nitty-gritties of the ground realities and that’s an experience. They must put under their belt as early as possible in the careers. 

Q: You know that brings me to the most often asked question “you know MBA karte hi mereko sale me dal dete hai” how do I get brand & marketing and fancy things right after my MBA? So, I think that answers that question. 

A: I must say. I also been asked that question so often that I go for placement in campuses or when I went to youngsters and shall I do marketing first. Shall I do sales first. I have a simple answer I said you could end up doing whichever first, but make sure the first 8 years you do both continues and simple answer is if you get a chance to do sales first grab opportunity don’t say no go to the remotest of places and work your way up from the ground level and dirty your hands. 

Q: Got this. “To aap mujhe bataye ki” you went to Cadbury campus. So, what was your first stint at a corporate life what role did you play man was? Like, how did you learn there? And so, and so?

A: In Cadbury My first six months was in corporate quarter is now that building is called as Cadbury house and I have such emotional attachment to that below by the side road and then and now it’s gone. The building has been traced down. You all have such high emotion attachment to that building. I think it was a piece of history for Cadbury fry and then Cadbury India and once upon time is 1650s. There was a factory there in the basement. So, I don’t think I should have said yes, they should have sold it but you know the world moves like that.

Q: So, coming back “aap ka experience”. So, you joined Cadbury and Cadbury house?

A: So, my first experience was the first six months were in corporate headquarters, which was Cadbury house and I worked about the various assignments and that time nestle was about to enter so I was imagine and fortunate enough to work with Nita Bali who was the VP in marketing. It was my good luck that project I was supposed to report to her and give a direct feedback. Supposed to gather information about nestle strategies and advice that was a really high learning experience in very interesting. And as a part of that I’ll tell you interestingly. So, we found that in silipudi there the largest tea but distributor there who’s also Nestle distributor. He has some information. So, I travel all the way to a silipudi and spent a night there spoke to the guy game back in session. So, it was my High Learning boss in the for those six months was to get Guided by somebody as senior and experienced and iconic marketer is Nita Bali. And then of course after that I moved to Ahmedabad in Gujarat as for sales where I worked as a salesman in old Ahmedabad and up-country Ahmedabad of quite some time. 

Q: So, what happened? What triggered you move on from Cadbury to move to the next level? And what was that?

A: See Cadbury I must say I work for almost a decade. So, we see and I work on various Brands. I worked on; you know technical names. I worked on Dairy Milk, I have worked at 5-Star, eclairs I have worked with every brand like bournvita and then they had a program in those days called accelerated development program with these to take top 10 to 12 youngsters from all over the world only 10 to 12 and these to post them and more I would say develop markets and give them a role which is a little tougher and let them learn so I went on the train to London and I’ve worked in the group at waters for couple of years. I came back. I continue to work on drinks category GoGo and bournvita then I worked on Halls, cumulates chlorides for quite some time. And that was a high learning experience at that time. The business was left under I had called model Amber and halls is fantastic experience for me cause I lunching halls Ginger and that was my high learning experience because halls you know is a mint lozenge. And so why do used to sell a lot of allover India more in South and oranges to sell more in north and there was honey lemon and so and I said, let’s launch other version for India, you know, I’m a foodie and I am particularly like ginger. So, let’s launch a ginger variant with ginger is also good for throat and I worked with R&D to develop the product and India was the first country across the globe to launch halls Ginger. we launched it. It was a runaway success and so my learning they were to burn but the problem was and for all marketeers while we develop the Rolls-Royce of product. It was expensive and the process the profit margins are not very good. Then I spent the next six to nine months the first year of the journey to bring the cost down on the flavor Center and also very profitable. But the key here is that all these go for local taste the local insights and you will find success and we should not go obvious things because I remember we were developing communication, which is TV ad for the salt Ginger and the most obvious solution coming postage was good for throat. For ginger research is also telling us that good for throat is known and believed by all Indians so why I should talk about that in advertising and waste my time, but people also believe that Ginger is very bitter and you know harsh on throat and it will not taste good. So, I said we will talk about taste of all Stranger in AD and goodness of Ginger will be taken for granted. So, I add all about how Ginger which is tasty and then he said good throat that and that work at work. So, you have to go on to this under the what is obvious observation and dig deeper for insights and then how develop your current operation and communication.

Q: Got this, so from which But I need to ask this question in this was probably on the last question that I had planned for but let me ask it here. So, what is you mentioned that you know, you get into the shoes of the customer and getting size and then create communication? So, what is your role your way of finding new insights? I mean there’s a whole lot to me correctly light and you want to understand the inside of the consumer. So, how do you go about and don’t tell me research? So how do you do it? 

A: No, no so I can both answers are or whether you like it or not and this is million-dollar question. So, the most answer to this is like you asking me. How do I make a runaway successful commercial runaway success features a similar question? Is that how do I get insights? But most obvious answers are for some of the students who are listening in that of course, you can get insights by meeting consumers by meeting shopkeepers by observing them in their homes or talking to them. You can go to sites you can do research very obvious. You can put two panels of consumer panels of Carpenters and panels of architected and you could also visit Advanced markets like southeast Asia or us Europe to learn what is happening here, but real insight what is Insight is not is something that is not obvious that has a unique that brings a unique difference to your business or brand proper issue. And that is what obvious will not come from going through all these usual touch points of collecting observations. It has been connecting the rods. Now, there are two things here. It works in two levels. First of all, when we collect observations, when you visit consumers shop markets Etc. You have to be curious and you have to ask I always tell my people who work with me are asked by why five times after everything and keep on going deeper and deeper. Did you get something that way you will observe things more than others and it’s not an easy task out of ten observations. Only one or two will be unique and collect such unique observation from touch point one observation will come from a shopkeeper was told you something taking a note somebody something that comes from a contractor in South one observation may come from consumer of observation become from what’s happening in Thailand one observation become from my family. Sometimes when it will hit you and as you see go through Workshop or sitting in your room, you collect thoughts. I will find that actually two and two makes 20, it doesn’t make 4 and that is an enzyme. 

Q: So, can I try to I mean I am trying to learn right with you as well? Even though I spend enough time will perceive. So, are you say that that you gather? All data points all inputs all know stimulate from wherever you can and then let them simmer in your head back of your head and then suddenly this lightbulb will pop and say “are yeh insight tha” but then it remains that you know, you have to be curious to be able to speak to those inside vast in those five guys. And so, and so is it what you are?

A: You spot on so yes, you have to simmer these things in your head and let your brain come up with the connects. There’s also other way to do it which is be humble enough to call of different backgrounds sit in a room share all the insights with them for example, or for a special with R&D or non-marking people and let them look at this and comment. So, they may have come on the connection section. You will not come up with because your trade and why do you think it is. And this connects the so one is to sit with people and to naturally let them connect in a very different than yours second is teapots. Keep us in the get in your head. It will only simmer in your head if you love what you’re doing and don’t think it’s a job, you know and good at ideas good for at ideas. What happens to you? I get most of my ideas in the morning where I am between getting up and getting ready, you know it shower or somewhere else and certainly pricing on we can do this do that or why did this happen and that forms at least 20 25 percent of my day and then I do that. 

Q: You touched upon the fact that the best ideas to use seemed to come from the time from between the time when you wake up to the time you go to a office brings me to my next question. What is it typical day of CMO of a billion-dollar company like yours? 

A: Of course, ideas keep coming to me all the time. But I think the new things most often come in. The morning is very difficult to say what a difficult day is, but I would say on average head of marketing of any large company would go and spend at least quarter of the day in reviews. It could be sales reviews. It could be Agency Reviews. It could be deeper reviews with various groups. And Analysis Etc. post evaluations the other quarter of the day actually import external meetings with external Partners vendors. We are looking at new ideas evaluating new ideas. And because I really believe that instead of only getting about down in what you’re doing your company and your own people one must always keep certain part of the time open to meeting some people they may or may not be of immediate. Value you will be of no immediate application fee, but you never know what can come out of hearing and often found very useful things like this. And I think the the other last 25% our Amigos is spending time in my people because I really believe that I had of a marketing has to spend time with their own people own people is not only the people in your department. But I walk across to my sales colleagues my business colleagues R&D colleagues, and I make sure that at least twice a day I am walk in those people in formally attracting people and me lot of problems surface there a lot of  solutions surface there and I find that doing by walking I find very useful so I can spend 20% of my day just walking around and chat with people.

Q: So Vivek “Cadbury ke baad phir” what next happened like where did you go from Cadbury?

A: See Cadbury I joined only for advertising I worked there for five years where I was head of businesses in Bombay. And then for the last three years. I was heading the Unilever business the Hindustan unilever business for will be across Bombay and Bangalore across all these functions and do which is businesses like Google outdoor advertising and that was a period of Higher Learning in Ogilvy because as I mentioned the morning in the first 10 years of my career, I was in confectionery industry foods industry and snacking industry some of Mind used to adapt and typical fmcg in Ogilvy. I began to work on this is visual banking which were hygiene which were personal. Here with your fabric wash which were paints Asian paints and multiple kind of new consumers you Industries and that opened my mind and made me a broad-based marketeer brought into the broad face thinking of stress The Thinking Beyond conduct multiple Industries and arguably actually help strengthen the fundamentals of my marketing discipline by being able to think and apply the concepts across various Industries and of course. I must say it was very interesting to work in agony because in the morning you working on so order with afternoon working on a tea and the evening working on paints and each one equally interesting that kept my interest alive. And you know, you really also get in touch with the creative people in the creative process whether it is getting people writing your Ads, Studio people who are drawing good things or producers and song people and music people. So in to really understand the creative process and was the biggest learning for me no will be and I think that a marketeer must spend at least a couple of years either directly or indirectly in an agency to learn the creative processes because that will not only make them better marketeers that will also make them more realistic people by making them understand art and you know the software processes.

Q: So, what would what I mean my biggest takeaway from this is all of your client side because you’re looking and will added to the conversations. Or will we obviously the biggest agency so they have the best client to work on I mean Cadbury, Asian paint etc. All the best ones will be the now imagine you getting to interact with all the amazing people at that basis so I think that the model learning that you will have will get compounded drastically I mean no compare to if u work with only one company, right?

A: Absolutely because you grow when you work with better people who are better than you want different than you and the across Hindustan Unilever, Asian pain and Cadbury ICICI. I worked the best of the best and that really yes, maybe learn far more and they helped me learn and they were able to contribute just a fantastic marketing at this point. I have one of those days.

Q: So next question to make his two parts to it and the person saying but I will like to thesis is to build a question one in one of the recent interviews I forget where I read that  you can mention that you advise everybody to work in that advertising agency for some quality time in their career the way you advertise and the way you told us marketing, sales, so that is something I read about you so that is in lot of people especially with photo editor experience in on the client side. Into join the agency side because they feel that they will get stuck in the agency and you are clearly one of those people who’s been on both client and agency side for substantial amounts of period and you’ve been able to visit. So, what is your take on this entire client side and agency side piece of career? 

A: So, let me enter the first part why I speak of marketers Should have the need to work in advertising agencies for a couple of years. I say that because marketeers at the end of the day want to build successful businesses are successful brands. The successful brands are made in the minds of consumers not in the physical Market its the premium for the brand and the Loyalty of the bands in mind certain Uris the minds of consumers through various touch points, which is product packaging but very important communication. Right. Many marketeer say that as in our coded board packaging the logical part, but they’re not creating communication always because they don’t have full understanding of the nuances of actually how consumer mind works and what are the leaps we need to take the leap between a physical product and brand is the creative part of communication. And that creative part how to translate a marketing communication into a good piece of communication you can only become good at if you work for some years on the other side in the trenches advertising of them. Second part is, you know, advertising agencies work with is a people’s businesses it’s no Factory. There’s no product. So, if you really learn people management for more interpreting agencies that marketing companies and that makes your better question your question about concern with some marketers have about getting stuck in advertising agencies. I acknowledge that concern and that’s a real concern. There are there are two suggestion I have in which people can handle it a join agency not been very eager very young. But when you are middle or senior because then you have more experience behind you in marketing that can help you jump over again to jump over back to marketing again. Second  is you can take help of your senior marketeer if marketeers in the company, or you can take help of your MD and CEO and ask them to send you the other segments to an ad Agency for one year and a half or two years your work in an ad agency learn on their company behalf. But also have the safety line tied back to your marketing career, which you can pull back and come back. Under a week or a month straight will not do you have to be there for a couple of years, but after two years we have the responsibility for clients only then you will learn what it means. 

No, I think also a lot of marketers think that you know, advertising is a level below marketing. So, which one should not go there is stepping down etc.? I think I don’t think it only reflects upon what people think if you are secure enough in your mind, you will never think like that and you will have confidence in yourself to jump back to marketing. So, I really have developed after work, you know, we need a very high level of respect for advertising professionals because it creates so many good ideas so many Fantastic piece of work which works for Brands and businesses for years. We must respect. 

Q: So, after you spend five years. So, what was the roles and what did you do there?

A: It is very simple. So, I moved back to Onida as VP sales marketing and service and it was tough industry but I think after five years I thought I had learned enough. So, I moved back to my first love marketing and sales management. So, I was heading all three functions sales marketing and service and I did three-year stint with Onida. Although it was fifth largest brand that point in time and you are upper case Sony and Samsung I really proud to say do business in is this very high rate and give are able to read in the market share and the Fantastic learning speaker in reverse is toughest industries in teaches you the intricacies of biennial management of operations, as you know, the technology of service is very high-end durables and you have to be on your feet. These are the industry is very fast it teaches you an agility, which is very much required when you become a senior marketeer. 

Q: So, you bring me to another point. I don’t know again if you are responsible for that or not. Entire onida is evil genius neighbors and the owners pride its again one of those campaigns I can never forget I mean imagine using a negative character for your product? 

A: Yes, Saurabh so That character is called onida devil. And I must say that I was not responsible for conceptualizing The Campaign which is done in the early 90s of neighbors and the owners Pride, but when I joined will you be that character was not in use for many years they had discontinued it but I brought it back. You launched ID launched a onida with the devil character again and the brand jumped in the just-in-time survey multiple places and it was top brand for many years and I don’t remember the data, but I can be jumped in does it match surveys jumped in a consumer rankings and that campaign say onida devil was the line nothing but the truth and you success and as really happy that I was able to bring it back and that is core of the brand that will the DNA of the brand and the confidence of the brand.

Q: And Vivek any of this is one of those deep core insights that drives, you know purchases and foremost of these let’s say, you know not essential category product like fashion, technology?

A: Yes, fundamental human emotions drive or not discretionary, but this is whether it’s a BMW or a fashion brand new mobile phone or whatever. And I must say that I various shaped degrees of NP that just can’t be there is NP at a physical level. There is NP at a subtle level. So, their degrees of NP and jealousy of NP is difference jealousy can destroy you and we can Propel you. But fundamental emotion and yes, so fundamentally emotions, like love and be fear, respect patriotism. They can drive Brands and businesses to places if you use them well, and if you connect them to your products website and the fundamental constant, there is poured insight has to protect the life insight and as to correct the brand insight. Going to brand insight is connecting to the burnt insight and the life insight become successful and from Life insights. You have to tap gap into fundamental emotions and aspirations of human being as love and be fear. Belongings so on and so on. 

Q: so, in my head as you speak. No, I can try. I’m trying to draw a vain diagram in my hand, you know brand truth in to consumer truth. And obviously the communication truth is able to give you that magical campaign?

A: if you it as a triangle where of the top is the is the life jokes and the on the left hand side is your morel growth and the right-hand side is the brand growth so if you connect this three even if one is vegan, but is not connected so you will not have a strong brand from. 

Q: Got this. Superb, no wonder no wonders the communication from Fevicol keeps hitting us so hard and so nicely that, you know, you can’t get over Those ads. I mean this entire the recent communication about that sofa. Oh man, you have no clue where how many people have come to me and ask me for an opinion and my pardon my language but people are either on the love it or they’re like “yeh ho kya raha hai samaj nai aa rha hai” and it is no of people love it as it far good and is super cool and I don’t have clue Mr. Pandey is came up with that?

A: Let’s me make a mention is AD conceptualized by Piyush Pandey and executed by Himanshu Pandey and all about to tell you. Look here is a brand which a consumer never ceases because he hardly buys it is carpenter buys it right. He pays money to carpenter for furniture after it is put into furniture it sees the brand. It is gone inside the hood in brand which is brought by consumer which is used by consumer but seen by consumer. But is that loved by consumers and is for by every consumer eternity, right? Yeah, that is so emotional and to the core value proposition, which we have kept alive. And say we call for 60 years is the unbreakable bonds. Then unbreakable bonds and sofas. It was able to illustrate that so we said Fevicol make beyond bond between people. We will actually conceptualize the bond between generations of people through something which with fevicol is a part of which is a piece of furniture and a handloom Furniture has been from generation to generation is a part of lives of people in the in India as well as abroad Global insight and that’s what the relative to emotions attached to a handloom furniture. And branding able to actually into those fundamental positive emotions is a brand which is remembered and loved. 

Q: And more I think more it’s the to just fit. So rightly into the triangle and you just do for us Vivek.

A: Absolutely. 

Q: And even the recent communication around COVID right what you done with elephants and masks is also super interesting and poetry. And poetry what it did narrated by Pandey himself. 

A: Yes. So both these pieces of communication, one in March where we took their two elephants, and we put them into a distance and he said “atoot bandhan ke liye duri bnaye corona” and I think one is around two elephants of fevicol with masks and this poem both ads conceptualize by Piyush Pandey and the voiceover second. One of the poems is also of Piyush Pandey. So many second talk it about these two ads see in the times of covid. You see all kind of communication some is around fear and selling products. Some is trying to associate with weight and doing associations. I would name them some sound very convincing we believe that we don’t have for second action between brand and covid directly and we have to be a possible brand. Which doesn’t try to sell the product but it does try to force association and only has a dialogue with you were in this time, which is natural and responsible. So, we set the first dialogue. We should have a party thought was that question people about maintain distance. And the second one is about still maintaining distance when the unlock when the battle for covid from indoor to outdoor. but that point if you listen Saurabh to the answer and note of positivity and high-spirited that and then positivity and high-spirited pain is required to boost the morale of people consumers dealer’s contractor because the brand also leads to give a message positivity in these depressing times. 

A: Absolutely and more than that, you know these brands when you give such messages you actually become a part of their lives if you are invisible and yet a part of their lives, you better be talking about that as well. 

Q: Saurabh your fantastic marketeer, you stole my next piece of thought is that many people have often asked me. So, what is fevicol trying to do to talk about COVID? It has no connection with the category. You are not enough health and hygiene categories and he say that fevicol is a much-loved brand by Indian consumers is part of their lives for last 60 years and the brand is having a dialogue with customers about their life. It’s not necessarily their brand should have a dialogue with diverse about its own product or an unbreakable bond. The brand which are loved by people talk to their people about anything which concerns people if today the lives of people what concerns people is covid fevicol is talked about if it’s able to relate to operate. Well, what if it is not then also it’s good, but Love that. Unnatural in a very natural way becomes a part of life of people through these I would say genuine and empathetic dialogues. 

A: So, I have question. In my entire life as marketeer on the agency side. Most communication is triggered by a business need “sales nahi ho rahi hai” , “relevant rehna hai” , “kuch toh karna hai” how for a brand like fevicol where you work up to day and day out basis what triggers this communication apart from covid let’s see extraordinary things you made that “chaudhrain ka sofa wala thing” so what trigger you?  

A: So, allow me to take you through the Journey of a fevicol if you may understand the real concept of fevicol. So fevicol is brand launched in 1959, and if you remember go to the first iconic acts of it is “dam laga ke haisha”, two elephants’ different people on been another side doing a thorough. So that was about physical bonds. Okay, then no one next to another one next 10 years try to demonstrate that unbreakable Bond through culture and symbols from India like Neta, Like the Egg etc. and after that when it firmly established this physical Bond through sticking to Wood all the way to cultural symbols. Okay, that move Beyond physical bonding into metaphorical bonding. Like the bus there are sitting in a crowd you may have seen that it also one of the cons of all over the joint family son joint Family Support zika Govinda then brand-new Sim 2 days. There is time for brand for unbreakable bond, but not in physical sense, not in cultural sense but in a metaphorical sense, you know anything in life of consumer around unbreakable bonds we begin to do ads but remember the brand also has a role to play in this category. So, on other dimension fevicol kept innovating we launched Marine, we lunched Heatx we launched Piper. These are Advanced Technologies and advanced versions of fevicol. So fevicol is the first one we go innovative. And we also advertise those we have advertised Heatx and we have advertised Marin. So, the brand keeps doing that now, why did we do sofa so advertising fevicol is driven by it needs to Communicate the new product Innovations to Consumer like Marin, Heatx etc. or speed X or it needs to keep on strengthening and further building upon the core value of unbreakable bonds. It can build it through metaphorical means “GOVINDA, KISA KHURSHI KA” and here came an opportunity to us toll celebrated 60 years of existence. Last year Okay, so we thought that’s a time for us to celebrate our unbreakable bonds again and take to Consumers fevicol journey through their life for 60 years and our journey through their lives. And that is a limited celebration through by making this whole fat which actually took us on a journey of this sofa which parents is passed on from generation to generation and lives the life which Indian emerge live from 50s to 60s 70s to 80s the 90s. 

Q: Now we are talking I can actually relate you know the fact of sofa went through let’s say “paani, dhoop” all the small part of innovation you spoke they about are also there and they may not be communicated very upfront verbally etc.

A: Yes and you may notice ad starts from black and white 50s and music is like that and then it goes to TV with more fashion that moves to a colored era, but filled it of 70s 80s and moves to 90s that moves to now subtle changes which jump and this creative touches are added by the Piyush and Himanshu and that is what actually evokes emotions amongst people and then they respond to you very positively and the brand.

Q: So next question “aap Onida me the toh” coming back to your journey. when you’re in Onida after Onida what happen? Where do you go?

A: From Onida I actually, I went to Phillips as their first Chief marketing officer for India. 

Phillips, you know hand three businesses consumer lifestyle lighting and Healthcare at that time the global CEO of wanted to really bring Philip to the emerging markets and want to really build Phillips as a brand across various businesses. So, they decided to create this position of Chief marketing officer and I am Emerging Markets, including China India Brazil Etc. They appointed the senior independence chief marketing officer   So I was fortunate to actually join Phillips India and 2008 as their first Chief marketing officer and work on establishing Phillips, Brand one Phillips brand across three businesses of Lifestyle lighting and healthcare. 

Q: Okay. okay. And what was your experience like what did you learn from there what was the biggest thing and how difficult was it in different one from the other categories?

A: It was really a fantastic learning it was challenge because having worked through fmcg in Cadbury. Advertising in and will be and durable with Onida. In Phillips. There’s a durable which is give you a special consumer lifestyle Electronics and Appliances. But for the first time I experienced in marketing in lightning and Healthcare, so lighting was consumer as well as B2B and for set to work in one of the best companies appear to be marketing and the Philips Healthcare and learned my B2B in a professional marketing there. So that was initially challenging to learn Health Care industry because not easy to learn about MRIs, x-ray, you know various medical devices instrument which we were selling you have to first understand them before you can even visit a customer like a hospital or a doctor or a cardiologist and have a meaningful conversation. So did make the effort to learn and the journey that was beautiful. 

Q: Nice and how long did you spend at Phillips?

A: I spent 7 years at Philips and I must say anybody able to reposition Phillips from at that time. It was known as a bulb and a TV DVD brand and I’m talking of early 2000 and from there. We moved it to Dynamic Innovative and high technology brand which is across Healthcare lighting lifestyle selling a fry selling most of us medically and LED lighting. So that was fantastic and a lot of Global Learning from also there because Phillips is a pretty strong company and positive but a strong company bird bite and I met some fantastic people here and I learned a lot from them about vision and all of innovation. 

Q: So, what happened after Phillips?

A: So, Phillip I stop working it is for seven years. I move to pidilite and seems that I’ve been in pidilite and the journey was fantastic here because pidilite also has B2B businesses industrial pigments, adhesive chemicals. Now, we have consumer between consumer businesses fevicryl with art and craft. And we also have bazaar businesses. Where consumers use the product but not directly the contractor use it for them either in building their furniture or water proofing their homes. So, we have businesses here we call? Dr. fixit waterproofing and Mseal in plumbing. So, that’s very interesting for me to work across a span of these B2C bazaar and B2B businesses. And I must say marking at pidilite is very very highly developed. It’s a company has Innovation and insight has DNA and achievement drives it so it was a fantastic opportunity for me to contribute to it and take it over. 

Q: So, I’m going to ask you the toughest question that most of my guests stumble on to be honest. So imagine if I told you “Vivek aap ko to be given a different role with pidilite or something sense and you need to find your replacement for this role that you’re doing right now and it could be internal or external candidate what tenants would you look in that person to replace?

A: First thing which you need for CMO of such a diverse company like pidilite. Or any diverse company is actually comfort with ambiguity. Because we’re heading a business’s access inner levels. All information all data is not available. So, you have to be comfortable with a routine situation businesses and Brands and you have to be comfortable move. second biggest thing is that you have to have that trait which is in you where you’re happy working on new things not necessarily biggest people often go for largest brand, biggest business How many crores but if what is stick to a person is something new whether it is this could be small and could be small something new. I think that is something which I would forward and third good thing is the ability to work with people across functions. And this is high level high level of people skills and adaptability and flexibility is desirable in such a role because the reason I say that is you know time Marketing in a big company by issuing or direction center attacks and policies you work through by influencing people by Leading them by inspiring them and by getting examples for them to follow. So the leadership model which has for CMO   and companies not of issuing directives and policies but of a leading people example, or it’s like saying having influence power without control so that expect needs to be learn very well for become a better senior CMO here, of course last but not the least that’s a plane needs to have marketing competitive skills, which I assume that I have. 

Q: Obviously even if you reach the level of the chairman than obviously, he has been bated out for those especially skills for sure?

A: As you can see it is a softer Parts which are which will become more critical when you work at this level. A last but not least you know tenacity is required because at these levels’ failures will come things will not succeed you go through early phases. If you don’t tenacious enough to react to situations, then you will not be able to lead as far as you can.

Q: Super answer thank you Vivek. As you mentioned that you do spoke about your replacement. Now tell me that, let me flip the question the head sudden. Let’s say that you have five job offers from five different companies who work for and super have critical. One is B2B consumer related company, one is B2C startup business a lot of work and let’s say online detail. So, what kind of question would you ask your employer before you join them?

A: The first question I ask them like what is there ambition and vision about their businesses where they want to take it and what are the new thing for different needs to be done that will tell me what my role and contribution where I can contribute in that Journey. Second thing I would learn about their business model. Because a good job depends upon how a business which is sustainable and not necessarily profitable immediately but it has to be sustainable long-term and we only create long term things because its fundamentally the business is sustainable and there is something fundamentally right if the proposition of its right and Last but not least understand the people behind the business because at senior levels you don’t work for business and brand you work with people and chemistry is very important. The trust and chemistry are so parallel super super parallel. 

Q: In fact, I got told by somebody is that most of people don’t quit their jobs but they quit the people for who they work for so think your also hating same thing right?

A: Yes.

Q: So Vivek tell me if you’re I mean if you’re graphing with a big marketing company problem and you know that for some reason arguments say your team is on leave and you can’t talk to your team, who do you go out to jam with ideas on and come up with Solutions if you are facing big problem?

A: But there is always someone from team.

Q: Your team is not available they have sent outside without phone or like “Aap akele hai” you are alone you’re by yourself. Who do talk? 

A: I must say that I will reach out to and often reach to my colleagues and who buy products from our previous companies and I’ve been fortunate enough to have good friends in those people with always and I have always been taken to connect with them and they always maintain connect with them. I will reach out to anyone of them who’s available and bounce my ideas with anyone of them to say if I’m thinking right or wrong? 

Q: So, the lesson for my listeners would be that even if you have to move between organization always try to have and connection going isn’t what I can leave my listener?

A: Yes, because it necessary to have relationships and relationship should be natural they should not be you know, the word which often hear is networking its sending cards and saying hello on LinkedIn is not networking because networking happen when you have a genuine relationship with people because people only help you when they have genuine relationships with you. We are giving it the relative as much as you are taking. Okay, so at least replace your work make some good friendship deep connections more think of immediate benefits and I’m sure they will always handy and helpful for you in your life some point in time. So, the key thing realize Saurabh in life is that you have to be yourself and be genuine if you are genuine. And if you’re not selfish. And always sharing a knowledge and your success also with others people will always interact with you have to be a bit giving and generous if you’re giving and generous in Sharing credit sharing success even sharing the failures helping them then your life is exactly will always be well. That’s what I thought.

Q: Another question that people ask me is, so tell me about your failure. We’ve heard success stories. We know that all the communication is great team is great people is great but tell me your two or three times when you actually fail as a marketeer? 

A: Okay many learnings here I am trying to where should we go which industry example do, I take you know I mean.

Q: Talk to me about something nobody even heard like example more often then not thing you don’t really talk to on. May be talk about something nobody knows and surprise to listener as well.

A: I was directly involved in Cadbury we had bournvita and that time biggest competition was Complan with 21 ingredients. And I remember, if you research you will dig out the name Cadbury launch a brand which was the complan white powder in 22 ingredients they have two more ingredients or nutrients and though, okay. I sank like a stone and the biggest lesson I learned from that as a brand manager at that time was if you try and shape your marketing strategy looking at a competitor and what they’re doing and trying to build your strategy around piece of I’m better than you in this attribute of products. You will fail. You have to you have to do your own strategy. So biggest lesson for me. So long time back in five star we’re trying to increase addition of 5 Stars, those days chocolate market it was very very small. So, we said you will launch the view launch smaller gram or smaller version of a star at a cheaper price point. Yeah. And I we do marketing and I was a brand manager at that time and we thought was fantastic. So, when people find a cheaper 5 star the new consumer, new affordable chocolate comes rupees five at that time and it expand a market. But learning was opposite a lot of five rupees consumer they downgraded two rupees. Okay. So it caramelize so caramelization happened and we found that the net sales value of profit who live in that state it was showing to hear that who decline so we discontinued and didn’t roll it out farther  the learning from this is why is this is logical to go to lower price points to expand the market but always be very of giving choices to your customers and consumers of downgrading  tradition. They can often downgrade and especially to the category is industry space and in space of treats.

Then we have to be very very happened of caramelization and down gradation consumer or down as the same people come down the value share at the cheaper escape use. This is truer of discretionary or in multiples. But this brands it is desirable for consumers to this experience and you know, the category and move on.

Q:  So, my friend as I told you. My best friend with Cadbury so he worked with Cadbury the procurement place and their leader for the market so he often tells me “Ekbaar maine kya kiya jo aap 1 rupees ki eclairs. Toh unhone kya kiya voh 2 rupees ka chocolate ata tha” when consumer will eat na will fill the mouth when you’re chewing on to it. Unhone grammage kam kiya and then that’s mowed like crazy this important because different getting the same experience of chewing on to a certain Quantum of things in their mouth. You know what I’m saying? 

A: They called mouthfeel in the food category. So, it also has another chocolate that while Grammage can reduce slightly on visual inspection. You don’t see it but is something called bite feel and mouth feel because bite feel and mouth feel changes a lot.  Okay, then consumer or long-term will resent you because they will they will not sense experience of their design of design. 

Q: That’s was he is trying to explain me. Because I was talk to him or something and he was crying because he’s forgiven right? So, every time you change the grammage he has to know?

A: Yes. 

Q: So, the next question I have for you is as a marketeer you rushed upon briefly in our conversation that you need to understand data and so tell me what are the some the gadget you use. You use on regular basis you know, that help you with your job?  

A: Like everyone else I use laptop. I use phone and beeps I use zoom though the gadgets I use frankly speaking.

Q: And any specific app that you use?

A: No, I have no app. I’m active on all social media assets professional loss. There’s on all social media as at least professional one and there is no particular app etc. which I am active on those and I read a lot digitally. I subscribe to many packages’ initiative but Global as well as Indians and I try and make sure that in the days see what necessary for a good marketer is to have good speed steel knowledge but instead of knowledge, but I mean is that on Market? You need not only be aware of the product knowledge and the segment knowledge but also on the what’s happening in the country what’s happening in the state what’s happening in geo-political would have tables in a balsamic you’re practically Because nowadays conversations are everywhere and unless a marketer is aware of all this implications or regulatory. What are the issues emerging they will not be able to handle marketing? So, one has to continue and one has to be aware of lot of information in the day and try and make sure to my reading whether it’s through social media feeds or to my news apps or to newspaper physical newspaper also aware of what’s Happening. And bigger reading pieces like this are articles newspaper Etc. I keep aside for the flight reading or because it’s not necessary to be consumed snacks of information and news in few lines of one para. Sometimes you have to read insightful analysis to really appreciate the nuances of it.

Q: Last two question. A – of all the interview you have done so far with many many visible marketeers what was toughest question that you thought that somebody asked?

A: See when I joined pidilite we done Feviquick around Two Soldiers taking each other’s shoes or something. Right and it was perceived to be around India Pakistan. So, something TV interviewer live and ask questions about that and they interviewed right now precisely by saying she had a query from Pakistan Embassy. What do you have to say etc. so it was funny but I had to emphasize that the situation was not around India Pakistan, but it was found generate Two Soldiers so, but it was tough because I was live on the news channel?

Q: And you got often think there. I mean emotions are visible TV news video. Your emotions are superficial. 

A: You can’t invisible. You can’t go back to refer to someone ask for permission you can’t refer faulter you have to keep you knew and then answer with facts. That’s what I did. 

Q: Okay, the next question is that you always wanted somebody to ask you and nobody’s asked you that?

A: Nobody has asked me? Yeah, people don’t ask about see what we do in a personal life also shapes us as marketers, but also people don’t often ask is what do you do in your personal life, which has influence on you as a marketeer? What are your interests is in fantastic marketeer were shaped by their interest in the art or music or some technology? So, this is a part often missed because at the end of the day, we don’t live life in buckets, you know work life personal life this life and like it’s all like one human being it’s all it’s all one and one Effect one shapes are other so this whole thing about the person behind a CEO the person behind a CMO the person behind the MD an employee is equally necessary for people to know. 

Q: So, this conversation is actually to know of Vivek the individual not Vivek to marketeer. That is what we are trying to achieve with this validation from here. 

A: You’ve got some flavor of it, I hope.

Q: And validation your validation as individual for the idea okay last question So what we often do is for each Marketeer. We asked them that if they could throw open a challenge a marketing challenge to the listeners and these are typically students or mid-level marketeers. What would the challenge be and this could be from your work or it could be a thing that you’re passionate about something?

A: No, I feel very strongly about social issues. And I wonder we could be a better country. If you could actually develop more Civic sense. The marketing challenge is if consumers wanted with people wanted to be emanates from belief and that attitudes. Can someone develop more sharper relevant and hard-hitting marketing campaign where we can get Indian people to maintain their clamminess in social life and maintain Civic responsible sense not read traffic rules not spending public. care about each other social etiquette we will such a better country India was that. So, it’s not necessarily TV campaign but cold be some kind of mention get altering people’s attitudes and behaviors this area is what I feel it is a challenging thing.

Q: Summary words about interview.

A: All I’ll say is that marketing is Marketing sales business is a fantastic profession. As long as you start every day with different problems woke on different things. I look forward to meeting people. It’s not necessarily the creating advertising which is sexy part of marketing equally exciting is actually creating something out of nothing getting something out of here, which is the new brand or any business and equally has people who are listening. They realize as they grow senior equally exciting will be when you see the people whom you work with if you’re able to shape their careers available to print them and do more of that that is more satisfying on guns. 

Q: Thank you so much Vivek it was great great great hope you have great evening.

A: Thank you for giving me the opportunity and I don’t know how to sheer intuition. I took this invitation and I said that we try and do it and I never done podcast and I must say this information has been very active, effortless, seamless and you Shepard it very well my compliments to you.

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About Marketing Connect

In this podcast we get up close and personal with some of the most celebrated marketers in India.


Saurabh Garg is an entrepreneur, writer, and an adventurist. With The Podium, he wants to learn the method in the madness from other entrepreneurs, creators, and adventure junkies.


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