Recently, I picked up the book, The CEO Factory, by Sudhir Sitapati to read. The book is about management lessons from Hindustan Unilever. The Company needs no introduction, and its ability to churn hi-calibre leaders is folklore in business circles. In the preface of the book, the author says, behind HUL is English marketing, Dutch acumen and Indian Entrepreneurship. That seems like a perfect blend and a good recipe, isn’t it? It got me thinking about how many Communications firms and outfits have successfully adopted such perfect concoction during their overseas partnerships and tie-ups?
Marketing = What the Customer Wants
Another pertinent point in the book says, for Unilever, marketing = what the customer wants. This also explains the reason why it sold fairness cremes for decades in India and the Rin advertisement of how appearances can open and shut doors ran for several years. However, that is not the point here. How practical is it for firms to provide what their customer wants? How to set the expectation and objectives right from the start. That is fundamental to a healthy partnership between clients and firms.
Often in my experience, I have seen both happening – clients demand the impossible and firms push their one size fits all agenda. Recently a friend who is a senior marketing executive with a retail firm asked me why do PR firms, most of the time, come up with only digital paid communication strategies? If that is what we want to do, why will I hire them and not rely my digital marketing firm? f I speak to his firm, I probably may hear the comment that all they want always is to be featured in the largest business media in the country. One must strike the right balance, and that is not easy.
Throwing Toddlers in the Deep End
Most consumer companies in India are notorious for putting their interns on the field, posting them in non-urban and non-metro cities to rough it out. As the book mentions, what most consumer companies do right is to provide the right breadth and depth to their young colleagues.
Many times, I have seen firms throw their toddlers in the deep end. It happens either because firms believe it is the best way to learn or don’t have the luxury of training or mentoring for sufficient time before the interns get assigned with the real job.
Such an experience can be unpleasant for many young aspirants who come dreaming of making a career in the sector and soon enough go through frustrating times between the devil and the deep sea. (the two main constituents!)
In our sector, we also witness frequent people churn. Many a time, it leads to loss of knowledge and understanding that is necessary for managing the client’s business. Talking about product quality, the book states it is delivered quality and not design quality that matters. Drawing a parallel for our sector, it is the outcome that matters for us and not just the strategy we put on slides. People consistency, good knowledge management and best practice sharing all play a crucial role in ensuring the desired outcome. Harnessing this consistently like a factory is an uphill task. Difficult but not impossible.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.