Ms. Charu Gupta, Head of Marketing and Category (Director), Chai Point answers a few frequently asked questions by students at SDA Bocconi Asia Center. Her career has spanned across organizations such as Medlife, BigBasket, Healthkart, and Bank of America. Her insights would be of immense help to students in their careers ahead.
Q1. How can students develop the right ‘business mindset’. Can you recommend any skills that they can inculcate now that would help them in becoming successful professionals in the future?
One habit that I noticed in successful business managers and entrepreneurs is to calculate PnL of every business that they come across in their daily lives. For example: if they go to a restaurant, they should try to estimate its cost of running, daily revenue, yearly revenue, capital investment, and profits and wonder how the owner is making money. Even if they go to a tire-puncture repair shop, they should try to calculate the owner’s monthly earning. If they use a new software or SaaS they must try to estimate its earnings and costs. It’s a habit that makes you calculate, estimate, Guesstimate and ultimately focus on things that make money and things that do not make money, things that are high on cost as well as things that are low on cost.
Translate this to professional work environment, and you would start questioning the cost-vs-revenue metrics of each new project, each new feature in a product, each new program that any department wants to initiate, and any new business line business vertical that an employee wants to launch. Team mates also get a perspective that what all factors are important to consider before declaring “this idea is good/ bad”.
This suggestion is from a startup perspective, but I believe the habit can be useful for every professional in any department and business of any scale, however it needs to start at a small scale to fully understand at a simple level and then complicate it with scale.
Q2. You have had a diverse career across industries ranging from healthcare, banking, and retail. Can you tell us in what ways this has benefitted you?
For understanding this, I would recommend reading a book by Chandramouli Venkatesan – “Get Better at Getting Better”. The author had a successful corporate career, he had diverse experiences in business, marketing, HR and in different domains like varnish-paints, chocolates etc. A professional should understand the concepts of good decision making and then implementing those. Different domains and functions give us a chance to apply the “concepts”. A person having experience in different domains can go deeper in her/ his understanding of concepts.
This has benefitted me in my agility, I am confident of quickly understanding new domains/ functions and hence new problems in my current role and providing solutions that are conceptual solutions rather than symptomatic cures. It gives me the confidence to launch new business verticals, extend the brands to new categories, the way ChaiPoint is attempting to enter Coffee market (Refer “The Ken” article in Sept’19)
Q3. What are some of the memorable learnings you’ve had while working with startups?
Most important was to remain confident and believe in the scientific approach to solutions rather than quick fixes. Having both a short term and long term view in mind is important to not lose hope
Another was more effective time management and much stricter process orientation. This is counter-intuitive as people say that big companies have a lot many processes so they want to join small companies to skip those processes.
Q4. Can you give the students some pointers about how effective marketing and branding strategies are made?
As I mentioned in the guest session, the better the product, the lesser is the marketing cost. So the primary focus must be product improvement. Next comes the marketing stage which can either be events based marketing or marketing that follows expansion into new markets. However the most important aspect of an effective marketing campaign is to ensure that the communication is in the best possible form to get to customers.
Q5. As Head of Marketing, what are some of the qualities you expect in the employees whom you hire in your team?
My team members need to be broad in mindset, frugal in approach, visionary in their expectations, specialist in customer behaviour and experience but generalist in solving business problems.
About Ms. Charu Gupta
Ms Charu Gupta is currently the Director at Chai Point and she has had a remarkable career, having previously worked at Medlife.com as Head-Marketing & Businesses and as Brand Manager and Head of OTC business. She has also been the marketing manager at BigBasket.com, Category Manager at HealthKart.com, and Assistant Manager at Bank of America. Ms. Gupta has been the Gold Medalist during her B,Tech (IT) tenure at NIT, Bhopal. She did her PGDM from IIM, Lucknow.