In today’s episode, we have with us Jivesh Kaul, a freshly minted Management Trainee at Asian Paints who completed his MBA in Marketing from NMIMS Mumbai. He’s currently working as a Brand Manager at Asian Paints for one of the leading portfolios of the company.
Asian Paints has progressed to become India's and Asia's third-largest paint manufacturer. With each generation, Asian Paints has reinvented itself in order to reach the next level of growth and customer-centric innovation.
Find out how he prepared for his placement process at Asian Paints, his onboarding process, and his experience and learnings along the way.
What made you zero in on Asian Paints as your dream company?
Asian Paints is the largest paint manufacturing company in India and the market leader for more than 50 years now. The company has been a forerunner in innovation and more so, many of my alumni bases hold leadership positions at the firm. Naturally, it became my dream organization and I opted to apply for it during the summer internship season at NMIMS.
Tell us about your two-month internship program and what is something that stood out for you.
During my two-month internship program, I worked in the Sales division on a project on Mechanised Tools.
I believe the two-month stint during the summers exposed me to Asian Paints' open and inclusive culture, where your ideas and opinions are valued as much as someone who has worked there for a long time.
My efforts culminated in a Pre-placement Offer to join the firm full-time as a part of its Management Trainee Program, LEAP 2021.
Tell us about your current role and the key responsibilities.
I was offered a role as the Brand Manager for one of the largest portfolios – Ace Emulsion, Asian Paints Putty, and Primer – during my management trainee stint.
It is quite rare for a Management Trainee at any other organization to be given responsibility for portfolios worth approximately 5000 crores, and this is what's impressive about the organization – it believes in its people and provides them with all the resources and support they need to succeed.
What is the biggest challenge that you faced and how did you tackle it?
According to me, the biggest challenge and lesson is that the GTM (Go-To-Market) and advertising approach for each of these categories is distinct, thus it's critical to grasp the consumer thinking and requirements for each product independently.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of a Brand Manager based on your experience?
A typical day in the life of a brand manager entails interacting with a variety of stakeholders and teams.
A brand manager, for example, collaborates with the Supply Chain team on demand planning and understanding the timeline for the launch of new products, with the Research and Technology team on new formulation inputs based on customer feedback and market dynamics, and with creative agencies on marketing activities such as POS (Point of Sale) design, OOH (Out of House) advertising, digital interventions, and so on.
Other things that constitute a Brand Manager’s area of work include market visits to assess customer needs and expectations, regular meetings with dealers and contractors on product feedback, trials of new product releases, and rival activity evaluation.
What according to you is one of the most exciting aspects of this role?
One thing that’s fun about this role is that you get to travel across the country a lot, meet people of various cultures, and of course taste delicacies of all cuisines!
With the interactions with different kinds of people you meet, you get a varied perspective of things, and you start thinking differently!
What are some of the learnings that impact you in your role as a Brand Manager?
1. Be versatile – You must adapt to the changing environment around you, whether it's market dynamics, product/category changes, or the stakeholder groups/departments you work with.
For instance, since I handle three categories, I might have a meeting from 9.00 – 11.00 AM to improve putty sales, the next discussion from 11.00 AM could be to increase the penetration of Ace in a certain market via various ATL and BTL activities and the next meeting to understand what properties of Primer need to be modified basis customer feedback. You need to be able to think on your feet at times and be versatile in your activities, thought processes, and approach.
2. Decision-making is the key – Asian Paints gives you a lot of autonomy and responsibility early on in your career, which allows you to try out new ideas.
As a brand manager, you'd have a lot of data on your hands. The trick is to figure out which ones need to be used and what should be done with them. One small decision you make could have a significant influence on the company's bottom line. It could also make or ruin your relationships with contractors, vendors, and others. As a result, it's critical for you to be able to make an informed selection based on all relevant aspects. Your peers and the organization's leaders assist you in thinking and experimenting.
3. Brand management and people management go hand in hand – You need to collaborate with a lot of senior leaders and multiple teams internally, and external agencies and stakeholders to get the best product out in the market.
Asian Paints firmly believes in standing for each other’s success through active collaboration and this is quite evident in this role too.
4. Power of patience – There might be a couple of instances where you’d have to deal with complaints from consumers, dealers, contractors, etc. However, it is important to listen to them closely and they play a key role in ensuring your product is a success in the market. Also, it might take quite some time for you to reap the benefits of a new strategy – however, patience is key.
Have patience with all things. But first of all, with yourself,” Saint Francis De Sales once said. It's often difficult for me to fathom that I'm overseeing such a powerful portfolio, given that I'm a fresher.
In closing, tell us your final ‘imprints’ about your journey at Asian Paints so far and the road ahead.
I recognize that the steep learning curve will make the first two years difficult for me, but I will persevere because I see myself as a leader in this business, managing not three, but a whole vertical!
Is this the right role for you? If you're seeking a job that will give you a lot of opportunities to learn and improve your decision-making and leadership skills, this is the job for you!