‘Career in Marketing? Up your Data Interpretation Skills’ – Deepali Naair


Gunjan, MDI Gurgaon-As a student, I am curious to know that during your college and as a young professional, did you fantasize about your career, did you have a long term dream and a plan? Or did you build it along the way?

Deepali–  ‘Gunjan, I did have a plan and it all came true in about 15 years so on a lighter note I can say that  I did not pitch high enough. I strongly believe that one must have a vision for one’s long term career. It may not turn out to be exactly as you want it but it motivates you to be ready. This vision makes you ask yourself why would your future employers hire you and what skills you bring to the table and this vision therefore ensures you keep on learning and growing. And yes you also build it along the way. 21 years ago there was nothing called digital marketing but 10 years ago when the trend was new, I focused on it and it is turning out to be a right decision. This same vision prompted me to also pursue my dream of teaching/mentoring – a hobby that I have simultaneously pursued for last 2 decades.’


Deepa Shekhar– I am a working professional. I am the only woman in a 12 member team. The guys have a group and chat about cricket, football etc. I am not inclined towards those topics, so I don’t take part in the conversations. I have a feeling that because of this, I will be sidelined professionally. What should I do? Should I just concentrate on work or should I take part in the conversations?

Deepali – Very good question. I was one of the first two management trainees hired by TATA Motors and there just were not any women around. So I can empathise with you. I know of many women who are actually passionate about sports and I would recommend that cricket maybe an interesting thing to participate in and if you pick up football, you would be a Goddess but you have to concentrate on work too.


Sreeja Bhowal, IIFT DELHI– How important do you think it is to sensitize the male workforce towards their women colleagues

Deepali– I recommend a gender agnostic workplace rather a chivalrous workplace


Prerna, MDI Gurgaon- Women are stereotyped with managing households. Even working women are expected to do most of the household chores unlike men. (Today’s Times of India report suggested that Indian men spend only 19 minutes on housework contrasted with 298 minutes spent by Indian women) How have you tackled such stereotypes to bring in more equality?

Deepali- This one you cannot win at least in my lifetime but if you are a woman with financial resources, hire more household help than required. In India that is possible.


Tanya, MDI Gurgaon- Being a woman leader, what is the one trait that women often neglect or undervalue in themselves?

Deepali– I am quoting Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and COO of Facebook; and I agree with her that women just undervalue themselves all the time. They find other reasons for their success and not attribute it completely to themselves

Tanya- Thank you for answering my question. And I think what you say is true. Women are conditioned from childhood to think in a certain manner and undervaluing themselves may be a product of that.


Sonali, MDI Gurgaon–   My question is on what do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Deepali– I recommend that you read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. My personal point of view is , work harder, show more initiative, be positive, have a personal vision and have very very high self-esteem. It is also important to add new skill-sets, therefore learn new things


Sonali– Yes Ma’am. I did read the book. In fact, I liked it so much that I bought my own copy. Just wanted to know your opinion. I also have one more question. What three things or roles or people have contributed most to your success?

Deepali– Sonali, these would be my parents and specifically my mother whose focus on my education and my career was unwavering and exemplary. That was required in an era that I grew up. Second would be my husband and brother who think that ‘nothing is impossible for me to attempt’. That is a constant source of confidence. Third is all the experiences I had while working, with friends, what I read and a special mention here of the hours I spent preparing and teaching at B Schools.


Priyanka, IIM Shillong–  I wanted to know what will be the biggest challenge for women leaders in the times to come ?

Deepali– I think women are going to have it easier tomorrow than yesterday but they need to embrace technology and acquire new skill-sets faster.


Ushashree, IIM Shillong– As women, we bring in a different perspective on table. However in an all men team sometimes it is difficult to get your point across. How do you think we can overcome this?

Deepali–  Back ur ideas with logic, data and costs. Do not hesitate to repeat them in formal and informal forums


Krittika Chakraverti , IIM Shillong– I wanted to ask that do you think we are giving way too much importance to social media marketing without any significant returns from it for the business? For e.g. the whole craze about the no. of likes and shares and getting paid likes which is not really meaningful in my view.

Deepali– Krittika and one more person asked about social media. I think most marketers are learning how to use social media best for their brands. Some get it right lots of time but no one gets it right all the time. This is on account of the fast changing scenario in the world of social media itself. For me the important thing is that my consumer is there (on social media) so i have to catch the consumer where he/she is but the smart CMOs have moved on from the “likes” race


Krittika- Thank you ma’am for answering my question. Can you please share one significant incident from your professional career that you learnt a lot from and has stayed with you all this while.

Deepali– Krittika the incident from my professional career has to be my sabbatical. It taught me humility. It taught me how to look at my career objectively and brought about the need to add new skill-sets. It also reinforced the value of reading and “writing well”. I have always been a voracious reader but the assignments from US during my sabbatical forced me to read at another level altogether and the editor I worked me truly taught me how to execute ‘brevity’ in my writing.


Neha ,MDI Gurgaon– It’ s a real pleasure talking with you. My question is your profile says that you are a “Marketer, Teacher, Mother, Shopaholic”. How do you really manage to juggle between so many roles, especially since being a mother is as time consuming as being a successful marketer?

Deepali–  I have a secret weapon – mere pass maa hai. I think younger women need to forge fantastic relationships with aunts, mothers, mother in laws, sister in laws and share household burden. Sheryl Sandberg of course says train your husband well. She has also said “choosing the right partner is the best career decision you make”. But my social life is non-existent. So there are minuses. My friends complain that I am a workaholic and I hardly watch any movies after becoming a mother which used to be my first love a decade ago, so some sacrifice.


Neha– Thanks for the answer Ma’am. I would agree too that the value of close family ties is really undervalued by our generation. Ma’am, it’s very true to that you need to sacrifice something in order to gain something else. Still after doing hardwork, there are a lot of invisible barriers and prejudices to woman’s ascend to success. How did you go about handling them and being as a successful to receive “Indira Super Achievers Award” in 2010?

Deepali– Be positive and if for a long period of time you do not see yourself being successful, find a mentor who can talk to you. a mentor should have minimum 7 to 10 years of experience. What helped me was that i have inculcated two kinds of mentors over the years. People who are at least ten years older are who I take career advice from. And second digital mentors but friends who got into digital and technology industry much earlier, in the late nineties and these are my go-to people for tech/digital advice.

Neha– Thank you ma’am. The point about having industry mentors who can be your guides and friends is indeed a value addition


Ishita, MDI Gurgaon– What sort of impact will a woman director on the Board will have on other women in the company?

Deepali– Women on boards have a remarkable positive influence on all women and on the organisation as a whole. I strongly think women should be on boards.


Saumya Tuteja , XLRI– You have worked across domains- FMCG, the insurance sector before Mahindra. Do the fundamentals of marketing hold true across all sectors? How different are the challenges you faced designing marketing strategies for such diverse industries?

Deepali–  Marketing across industries is interesting. Your fundamentals need to be very strong for the application of true marketing principles, that’s my forte and teaching at B schools also helps. I use live case studies form my work and students’ brilliant questions help me reshape my thoughts too. Win-Win!


 Kevin, XLRI– My question for you is a slightly bit open ended.. How do you envision the future of Digital Marketing especially in the Indian context ? Can it be applied to any business segment & Do you have any particular plans for Mahindra Holidays on the same ?

Kevin, XLRI – Its seems you might have missed my earlier question.Though a slightly bit open ended.How do you envision the future of Digital Marketing especially in the Indian context ? Is the adage of it being applied to any business segment true & Do you have any particular plans for Mahindra Holidays on the same?

Deepali–  Please read the link


And also listen to the 40th minute on the following webchat



Shiwangi Sahu, IIM Lucknow– Dear Ma’am, I am an IIM L Alum, how much do you think the skill set demand of the industry has changed from the point you stepped in the industry till now. Also, do TOP Schools of India have been able to provide those skill sets to the students or is it the company training that makes them ready?

Aditya, XLRI– I have a question regarding what Chris Anderson describes as Long Tail Sales – he says that infinite retailing space online will redefine the way that conventional marketing and distribution is carried out. What is your opinion on this?

Deepali– The world of online is not just impacting marketing it is impacting all business processes. Please watch my comment on the 40th minute of this webchat link http://www.et-digiforum.com/webcast.html aditya and shiwangi therefore the new skillsets that need to be learned have to be for data analytics orientation along with currently taught marketing courses for marketing specialisations and yes long tail impact is here to stay


Ayushi Rohira, IIM Shillong– I wanted to know more about what your job responsibilities involved as a Strategy/Account Planner at Draft FCB Ulka. Could you elaborate on the kind of literature/case studies we should look at in order to understand this profile better?

Deepali–  Account planning role in an advertising agency is about an agency’s philosophy of how they run it. FCB in India is one of the best places to learn because they want their account planners to be like client brand managers and that makes for fantastic learning. If your college can subscribe to WARC case studies, it would be brilliant. but in the new world agency role itself is changing


Tanya, MDI Gurgaon–  Another question that often comes to my mind is what changes should women in leadership positions should make to ensure that the next generation of women do not face the same barriers that you might have faced in the workplace?

Deepali– I am quoting Sheryl Sandberg and I agree with her that women just undervalue themselves all the time. They find other reasons for their success and not attribute it completely to themselves. The current generation of women should ensure that they stay on and go on to become leaders as role-models for the next generation of women.


Aditya, XLRI-What according to you is/are the best way(s) to measure or analyze the impact of a digital marketing strategy?

Deepali– Aditya, the measures of impact of digital marketing strategy need to be similar as other marketing strategy; the method of measurement could be different amd some of the interim measures are different which lead to ultimat impact/results


Satyavir, IIM Shillong– Can you please share with us the challenges that you feel that Indian domestic tourism sector is going to face in the near future. We see a strong correlation between the growth of entertainment industry and tourism industry. Do you feel that these two industries are converging?

Deepali– Both are related to discretionary income spends. If there is greater discretionary income and greater discretionary spends and positive outlook for future then entertainment and domestic tourism will do well. I must underline that “Holidaying” as a concept has gained phenomenal acceptability from where it was 2 decades ago.


Subarna IIFT, Delhi- Ma’am, even in digital marketing since there is really a lot of noise that the impact is much lesser than conventional marketing techniques. How would you propose to address this challenge?

Deepali- There is greater ROI visibility in digital when compared to other media however the benefits are also greater than brand building. One must constantly measure would be my message


Tushar Jain, IIM Shillong– I wanted to know how different is working in a marketing division of advertising firm as compared to a manufacturing firm?

Deepali- Advertising firms do not have a marketing division for themselves


Akshay ,XLRI– Going forward we see that digital marketing is the place to be and most of the cases the consumer is ahead of the marketer. In such an ecosystem how do you plan to go ahead and build capabilities at the company level?

Deepali– Best question so far. Consumers are indeed ahead and we just need to be at it, catch up, build capabilities and try harder. We need to be open to change and change at a much faster pace as organizations. Do watch my comment at the 40th minute of this Economic Times Digiforum in March 2014  http://www.et-digiforum.com/webcast.html


Asad Ali, IIM Shillong– What is the best channel in your opinion to market services?

Deepali- There is never one right. You have to look at every challenge/issue/business opportunity as a communication problem. Identify which is the best channel dependent on type of audience and level of information to be communicated and then decide. Sometimes TV is best. Sometimes SMS campaign will suffice


Ritesh, IIM Shillong*– My question is – There is a buzz that predictive analytics is an upcoming trend in digital marketing. What is your take on the role that it will play and what kind of careers will it give impetus to? Also, could you please elaborate on what predictive analytics involves as a profile? (*This was chosen as one of the two best questions of the day)

Deepali- Regarding the question on predictive analysis and its impact on careers. My advice to young MBA’s planning a career in marketing is to up your data interpretation skills and data analytics skills. Harvard has this article, I recommend you read.http://hbr.org/2012/10/data-scientist-the-sexiest-job-of-the-21st-century/ar/1

Fantastic second question today and wait for one more answer. Predictive analysis has one more trend adjacent to it which is micro-segmentation and this will change the complexion of marketing in years to come. It will also impact how businesses are grouped and may challenge the current organization structures.


Manish,XLRI–  Which companies do you think are the benchmarks when it comes to effectively implementing digital media strategies?

Deepali– I personally admire American express card work in US; Southwest Airlines work in social media out of US.


 Dibyajyoti Saha,IIM Shillong– How do you think modern trends in Marketing is going to impact the current business scenario and how does the marketing world cope with the informed consumers in today’s world?

Deepali–  Business world needs to genuinely offer competitive advantage to consumers and i would request you to look up what Professor Rita McGrath of Columbia School says that we are living in transient economy where competitive advantage does not last so companies will need to reinvent themselves sooner (maybe every 5 years). Watch her http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iK0P6tb4Qs

Dibyajyoti- Thank you Ma’am for your reply. I completely agree with you that a core competency for a firm no longer translates into a sustainable competitive advantage and the company needs to continuously evolve.


Nimisha, MDI Gurgaon– I wanted to know that what alongside hard work does a female need to put in to become successful? (e.g. networking, organization initiatives, etc.)

Deepali- I am posting a video here that u must watch Sheryl Sandberg at Ted Talk.http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/10/leadership/sheryl-sandberg-mpw.pr.fortune/ from October 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18uDutylDa4 video from 2010. I think initiative, proactive volunteering is as important for a gal as it is for a guy. I have already mentioned importance of mentors in a previous answer.


Nimisha– I also wanted to ask you about some qualities which make you different from other women and led to your career progress to where you are today.

Deepali-   Being positive helped. On a lighter note, I am quoting my husband here – he thinks I am a workaholic and financially very savvy. Lol. I think my experience in teaching has helped me develop a mindset where I make complex projects simple to understand for others. Another reason for me being here is also the one person who has continuously motivated me and that’s my mother. She does think ahead of her time and education. She is as dedicated towards my career as I am. She is also the one who encourages me to teach and right from childhood encouraged my hobby of reading. I was only 16 when I first entered a classroom to teach (middle school) encouraged by my then principal Mrs. P. Paul and my mother.’


Trishla, MDI Gurgaon- You are somebody who has ‘been there, done that.’ So who according to you is an empowered women and who is the one person who has been your constant source of inspiration?

Deepali-  An empowered woman is financially independent and is an independent thinker. An empowered woman pursues her dreams and is courageous enough to stand up to her point of view irrespective of her being a lone voice. An empowered woman also knows that sometimes you have to lose the battles to won the war. Sheryl Sandberg, my mum and Indira Gandhi are my inspirations . I am also very impressed by Oprah Winfrey.

My inspiration when I was younger was Indira Gandhi, in the latter years it has been my Mom who kept me going and was very supportive and for the last few years i have become a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg. I have also had the opportunity of closely interacting with Naina Lal Kidwai in my HSBC days and her grace and intelligence has also inspired me.


Trishla– Thank you ma’am. I recently read Indira Gandhi’s biography and her attitude as well as style of addressing handling challenging situations has influenced me as well.

Manish Bindrani– Deepali Ma’am do you find any support system existing specialized to help women entrepreneurs. They still find it difficult to start up and bring their ideas to life.

Deepali – I think they find support at home. That’s been my experience. I know Nina Lekhi personally,she owns the brand “Baggit” and it is today the largest selling bag brand of the country and it was her family who was her greatest support system apart from her drive and courage. In the future though i think social media is a great tool for small entrepreneurs to use and that should make life easier for women. Google, Ebay are great places to get support. Google is running support groups for female entrepreneurs by the way, i was a speaker there last year


 Ankit, IIM Shillong- Why gamification is considered critical in digital marketing and are there any alternatives to it?

Deepali- Gamification – for brands which cater to young men, i think incorporation of gamification into their marketing strategy would be critical. However for other segments it may not be that critical. But we must watch the gamification trend itself. Is it becoming more popular or and penetrating other segments such as women, patriarchs, etc.


Sumit Sharma, IIM Shillong– Ma’am ,I feel that for most of the Brands, Marketing communications on digital media and on traditional media are actually not supporting each other but are rather divergent. Owing to the different cost structures involved, do you think it is acceptable if the communications are inconsistent? Also, many of the consumers are feeling annoyed with the everyday bombardment of Advertisements, what is your opinion on how Marketers should tackle this situation in their communications

Deepali–  Hmmmmm,  yes some of the efforts on digital may seem different but if they are not opposite but are complimentary to the brand’s values and core position then different messaging on digital versus TV is alright.


Sreeja, IIFT Delhi– Do you think that the effectiveness of digital marketing is same across all sectors or is it more effective for specific sectors like consumer durables?

Deepali- the degree of importance of digital media for a certain category or brand is related to the definition of its core target audience and their key influencers. If the core TG and their influencers have high consumption of digital media/information then presence and usage of digital is critical for that brand or category. Regarding consumer durables, usage of digital media is a must because ROBO/ROPO (research online and purchase/buy offline) is a strong trend and here to stay. And the degree of influence of digital as per a BCG study is quite large but not as large as it is in air-tickets as a segment. Page 4 of http://startupcatalyst.in/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/From_Buzz_to_Bucks_Apr_2013_tcm80-132875.pdf

There were many questions on Club Mahindra and their Marketing Strategy- Deepali answered them through this link- http://www.adgully.com/spirit-w-effort-is-to-make-every-moment-magical-mhril-s-deepali-naair-57031.html

For all questions on Sabbaticals – in India sabbaticals are not very popular unlike the west therefore it is difficult to come back for both mean and women. However the way I worked through a one year sabbatical and my return was that I sought out projects where I could work from home from my ex employers (we are knowledge workers, do not forget). I sought out work from the US where cutting edge marketing was happening and kept myself updated.

For all questions on Digital Marketing –   Books on digital are difficult to find but I am going to start reading a book called “converge” by authors who work with Razorfish.http://www.amazon.com/Converge-Transforming-Intersection-Marketing-Technology/dp/1118575520. Ray Velez, one of the authors was in India and I was ina  panel discussion with him and have an autographed copy from him 😉 I also strongly recommend reading the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” and Steve Jobs Autobiography. Also watch this video where Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were interviewed together in 2012 and look at the historical perspective on technologyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWaX1g_2SSQ


The Final Message from Deepali

It was wonderful to answer your questions. I hope you do read the links and watch the videos and read the books I recommended. I recommend that the young men also read the book “Lean In”. Its insights would make you better colleagues, better managers and better leaders. I hope young women are more confident of their abilities, celebrate their success and to quote Sheryl Sandberg, “sit on the table”.   I hope there are more women on boards and more women CXOs. Women do bring different points of view, different opinions and different reactions to work and that only makes an organization culture stronger and its business longer-lasting.


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