After passing out from IIM Kozhikode, Anusha Rani stepped into the world of Tatas. As a TAS officer, she worked in Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Sky, and Tata Trusts in her stints as part of the TAS programme. What followed is an experience that Anusha will cherish forever. She got the role of Business Development Manager at one of the most coveted Titan brands; Tanishq. Entry to the jewelry segment of the business was a challenge initially because Anusha had taken up a sales role, which very few female candidates had taken up before her. In this podcast, Anusha opened her heart in a candid conversation about her role, how she is handling her territory as an Area Business Manager now in the big bad Delhi and more.
Belonging to the southern part of India and spending all her life so far in the south, it was a cultural shift for Anusha when she moved to Delhi for her stint with Tanishq. From understanding the patterns of her customers’ buying habits to that of taking up the P&L responsibility of Tanishq outlets in Delhi, Anusha took up one responsibility after the other, effectively in her journey.
Anush talks about the highs and lows of the jewelry business, the preparation that goes behind in coming up with a new store, the importance of customer data and analyzing them and how the customers differ based on geography.
Contrary to the norms where not a lot of women take up sales roles, Anusha proves that if you can build that trust among your peers and believe in yourself, you can sparkle like a diamond.
1. Taking up challenging roles in revenue functions and organizations is key to doing well in your career.
2. In a service business gaining the trust of every single person within the value chain, right from the franchise owner to the last mile salesman is the only way to ensure customer success.
3. Gone are the days when sales was the job of this charming guy who would smooth talk you into buying anything and everything. Today, sales is a very data-driven job. And hence, having very good data analysis tools is very important for any sales manager.
4. Taking success and failure on the chin during your career is very important. There is no way that you will always be successful, no matter how good you are at your work in the real world.
5. Nothing succeeds like success, like Anusha if you can deliver great results despite the tough odds you will gain respect from your most traditional and conservative colleagues.
Can’t listen to the Podcast? Read the entire transcript below
Kunj: Ask a father, what he will buy for a newly born daughter. Ask a brother what he would buy for Rakhi for his sister. Ask a mother what she would buy for her son who is getting married soon. And everybody will give you one answer. And that is jewelry. We are a country that is obsessed with jewelry. We buy jewelry for festivals, for weddings for births, sometimes even around death. In this jewelry obsessed country, one brand for the last 25 years, has captured the consumer’s imagination like no other. And that is Tanishq.
After spending 25 years in the south of India, Anusha was thrown right in the middle of action in the market of Delhi by the Tanishq team. And we are going to talk to Anusha about her journey with Tanishq in today's episode of the InsideIIM career podcast.
Kunj: Engineering from Anna University in Chennai, going into TCS, working at Tata Consultancy Services for I think a couple of years?
Anusha: Two years.
Kunj: Yeah, two years and then do your MBA from IIM Kozhikode and then joining the TAS program. So, are you in love with the Tata’s or what is it?
Anusha: Of course I'm in love with the Tata’s. Tata Consultancy Services was my first experience that how a Tata company works and what kind of an experience I will have working with the biggest giant in the Tata Group. I fell in love with our Consultancy Services. The work was challenging, and I had a very good team that kept me motivated, post that when I went on to do my MBA and at MBA people get into different specializations and some people want to do marketing, some people want to do operations. So I was one of the people who’s interested in marketing, but I was more prone to trying different things. That's when I was introduced to Tata Administrative Services. TAS gave me the opportunity to try different things in the first year and then probably choose what I want to do next.
Kunj: Right now you're working with Tanishq, which is one of the sexier Tata brands because it has its consumer facing people see its ads people see it stores within the Titan stable. It has got its own legacy. It's what 25 years old?
Anusha: Yeah. 25.
Kunj: So how does it feel working for a brand like Tanishq?
Anusha: It's been two years for me with Tanishq to two and a half years. And it has been quite a ride for me. At MBA, you'd hear different things about sales being a career path for people, theoretically, you get a lot of things but once I came to Tanishq, I got a real picture of what it entails. It's not just about driving some number at sales. When I joined tannish I learnt that key to sales in any business division or any industry is if it is a retail outlet. It is three S so it is Staff, Stock and Store.
Kunj: Staff, Stock and Store?
Anusha: So these are the three key things that will drive retail and sales manager just have to run behind these three things.
Kunj: How is your work here at Tanishq? What is the area of your responsibility? What is your scope of work?
Anusha: I handle five stores in Delhi NCR, two in Noida, two in Faridabad and one in Delhi. So, my colleagues jokingly say that I travel to UP, Haryana and Delhi like on a weekly basis, the people in my store have a direct reporting to me. So I kind of have to ensure that they meet the targets only then my targets get achieved. So keeping their motivation levels high, and ensuring that they also have a consistent growth path and the company is my key responsibility.
Kunj: The S that you are talking about right now which is Staff. Sometimes you get a lot of micromanagers. They are like, I wish I can stand behind the counter and I'll do better sales, but when you want to get someone else to do a great job you are dependent on someone else's skills, someone else's good mood, someone else's interest levels. How do you handle that?
Anusha: So when we recruit an RSO or a Retail Sales Officer, there's like in depth training given to him as to how he should greet a customer, how he should talk with the customer. So we kind of ensure that the service levels are standardized across all our Tanishq outlets.
Kunj: So that segues us very easily into the next S which is stocking. For the layman Jewelry buying is a very seasonal thing. You buy jewelry as you also mentioned during someone's birthday, or during a wedding or during the festive period. Now weddings are very nicely bunched in India between either in the month of May or in the month of January. Festivals or somewhere in October November. Beyond that, what does the jewelry business do? Like what happens in June July? Is there only the security guard chilling with the sales guys or is there more to it?
Anusha: You are right. Weddings and say Karwa chauth, Akshaya tritiya, Dhanteras are like the big bang seasons for us.
Anusha: But there are also certain dips when we experience. So what we do or what any jeweler will do is to kind of announce offers and promotions in certain categories that we promote. For example, in July and August, we kind of have a diamond sale where we give up to 25% off on, you know, studded or diamond jewelry. That's one way of handling the seasonality but as far as the stock is concerned, we kind of for every month or two months in advance to any month or we kind of have an analysis as to how many wedding dates are there in that month. And across India, we have a database of customers as to what how many birthdays or anniversaries do we have as for the data that we've collected. So based on those data, we kind of decide as to how much stock each store should hold. And we kind of do a sentiment study as well. Now, recent sentiment studies showed that this festive season there's going to be more likelihood of purchase of gold jewelry than diamond.
Kunj: So can you tell me a little bit more about the sentiment studies? Sounds like a very interesting term. It also sounds like a term that a market research agency would throw about.
Anusha: The marketing team, as well as the sales guys, are different across different geographies in India, kind of have a qualitative discussion with the customers to understand what is their point of view about jewelry of the season. Sometimes the jewelry buying becomes like, just to adorn a good piece of jewelry around their necks or your ring or a fingering just because they have a flair for it. Sometimes it turns out to be an investment. So this time, we had found that because of the economic slowdown and a lot of things that's happening in the economy, a lot of people want to buy gold as an investment.
Kunj: So the third S, as you mentioned is the Store. One of the most exciting things for a lot of people joining businesses after their MBA is to get a P&L responsibility quickly. And from what I understand the five stores that you are running, you handle the P&L responsibility for them. What does this mean?
Anusha: This P&L responsibility is the most important task for an ABM or a sales guy in any division. What that means is any store. As a sales manager, you will be managing the targets and the revenue that does at the same time. It's important that you manage the operational expenses. What are the fixed assets? What is depreciation? How the store is maintained? How much expenditure do you incur every month to maintain that store be it rentals, be at salaries? After all of that, the bottom line should be positive.
Kunj: Jewelry stores generally are really swanky, a little bit overbearing for me personally, I have not visited a lot of them. But I've seen a lot of Tanishq ads and the way the jewelry store look in them. It's like, my God, it's like a five star hotel in itself you know. What thought goes into, you know, designing the store of that sort?
Anusha: First of all, you should go and visit a Tanishq store. I think you've not done that. Secondly, if I have to talk about how a store looks at what goes into the planning of the store, I take pride in saying that Tanishq is one store that looks very different from the competition. We don't believe in stocking and showing maximum number of products. It's more of a boutique showroom where rather signature pieces are shown and all the other stock is inside so that the customer has like the best of the best to see when he or she enters the store. As far as the planning goes, when a store comes up this lot of for detailing even in that the first thing is how many counters are we going to display gold jewelry, and if it is gold, what is the color of the prop that we're going to use to display those pieces? Secondly, for studded or diamond jewelry, we have a different color theme for it. So where does it go? And if they are going to say display or diamond on the right what kind of lighting because gold looks good on yellow lights and diamonds looks good on white light.
Kunj: You did you undergrad in Chennai. You did your first job in Chennai at TCS. You went to Kozhikode for your MBA. Then for the first six months or so, you were in Hyderabad and Bangalore. So you basically focused on the south of India and you pretty much have seen a lot of South India now.
Kunj: And then you are thrown in the middle of the wolves in crazy Big Bad Delhi. With its pollution its loud people and lots of buttery Punjabi food. How did the consumer change? From childhood, whenever you must have seen jewelry buying habits of your parents of your relatives people around you, would have been way different from the kind of jewelry buying that happens in say a market like Delhi right?
Anusha: You are right. There's a lot of differences in consumer perspectives. As far as South and North is concerned, and especially in jewelry. I've seen that a lot. So I'll tell you my personal story. So if you ask my mother, like if we go to a shop or say Tanishq only, and if say she wants to buy a diamond jewelry or diamond earrings. She would have been very particular about what is the color or clarity of the diamond that she is buying, because diamond has different color clarity based on the inclusions that attached. She will be very particular that I want VVS. I want stone to being without any inclusions it should be the purest of pure stone. I've grown up seeing all my relatives and my parents buying that kind of a diamond jewelry. But when you go to the north, people really don't care about what is the color clarity and all. Does it look good on me that is all matters. If it looks good, and if I can afford it, I buy it people are more value for value conscious in the south. Here they more about what is more fashionable and what looks good-
Kunj: They are more image conscious.
Anusha: Yeah, I don't think either of it is bad. It's just a preference.
Kunj: During the festive periods Is there a frenzy at the stores the kind of purchasing changes? What kind of behaviour to consumers exhibit for example during the festive period?
Anusha: As far as jewelry is concerned, there are two big days for us. One is the Akshaya tritiya, which is very popular in the south. And the second is Dhanteras. On Dhanteras day, it is perceived or it is believed by people that their gold like doubles or triples if they buy even a small one gram coin on that particular day. So people go crazy that day. So I have a store that is 1700 square feet and I have a long queue standing outside to buy jewelry. And in my 24-25 years of living in the south, I've never seen anything like this. This is the first time because Dhanteras is very big in the north. So when I came here and I was handling that store, it was my store. I see people lining up outside the store that was like, I couldn't believe my eyes that day.
Kunj: Does it also give you a high this thing that as a 26 year old I am running a store which is 1700 square feet where people are queuing up outside and I am the master of the store and people are dying to get in and spend money and give me money.
Anusha: Of course!
Kunj: Anusha we very regularly go on campuses, we interact with students who are doing their MBA currently. Also students who passed out. And we see there is this stigma attached with sales with a lot of them. It comes from a very deep rooted Indian thing where, you know, sales is looked down upon when you got to know that you've gotten a sales role in the prestigious Tata Administrative Services Program? What was your reaction? How did you feel about it?
Anusha: I always wanted to do sales. Because I think doing sales and your initial phases of career kind of builds a very strong foundation as to how markets behave when you roll out something, how are consumers responding to whatever the company's decisions are, in terms of offer in terms of product. So that real time understanding comes only in sales. It doesn't come in marketing, it doesn't come in Merchandising. Probably the experience in sales, you will take those learning’s and probably apply it there later. But I think it's mandatory for everybody to go through two years or three years of sales stint in that initial phase of career.
Kunj: So where did this maturity come from? Where did this wisdom come from? For you to know that okay, sales role is something that is important for me at the beginning of my career?
Anusha: I've had the opportunity to interact with the who's who of like different group companies, say motors or Steel. If you look at most of the senior management that I've interacted with, or worked under, they've also repeatedly told me that something that they did during their sales stint has led to wherever they are. So interaction and observing people grow through their career, having sales as the first stint helped me a lot and understanding what it entails to be a sales manager.
Kunj: You had one additional challenge, which is unfortunate, because it's in the Indian context that this challenge comes up that, you know, we don't have enough women taking up sales, for example, because you know, the way the country is set up, if you're out on the road, it's not necessarily safe always. That is why a lot of women feel discouraged to take up sales and you still did, and you're doing a pretty good job at it. And it seems like You have a long term interest in sales. So what would you say to women managers who have a certain reluctance, and rightly so, a certain reluctance towards taking up sales?
Anusha: I had my own apprehensions and I had my own fears while taking up this role. While I wanted to do it, fear comes along with it because the geography is also unknown to me. I've never been in the north, as you said before, fortunately, or unfortunately, I was the first female sales manager in the north. So a lot of people who had to interact with me be it my store sales team, or my franchisees, for that matter, were kind of apprehensive as to who she is and she doesn't have too much experience. Because the people who were handling my stores were like, pretty experienced and were not female for that matter.
So they were kind of like reluctant in the initial phases. But what it takes to succeed here is gain that small trust that you are capable of doing things. Gain that trust as to how you are ensuring That the stores growth is your responsibility as well. So small small things that will help them gain trust on you will really help in the long term. I think people who are venturing or women who are venturing into sales I am sure it is it's not going to be comfortable in the beginning, but it's going to be one hell of an experience and one hell of a learning for them. And they would never regret this.
Kunj: Tell me How important is data for a salesperson?
Anusha: Data is everything for the salesperson. I don't think I've ever worked in a worth a day without like some minimum of 10 to 15 Excel sheets in my laptop. I am always with Excel sheets analyzing what is going wrong where, what is going right and connecting the dots. Basically how is the non conversions in a store connected to the ticket size, different connections. The part from what is happening in the store? How many customers have I lost? Who are the people who have become dormant. Who've been shopping at Tanishq but probably more to competition or not at all shopping jewelry, then why? Would the regular customers stop coming to us? What is the reason? So there's a lot of things that you can do with data and with the customer database that you have. Tanishq having like more than 300 stores across the country has a lot of customer database with it. And each store in itself has a lot of data to analyze and work on. We kind of find out where our customers are sitting and we kind of trigger them to come to our stores. And that requires a lot of data crunching and that is what I think an area business manager role at Tanishq entails.
Kunj: How do you deal with failure? So if in a particular month you have not met a target and yeah of course you have to answer to your bosses as well. But there is this personal standard of excellence that any top student from a top campus would put on herself throughout her career.
Anusha: Personally speaking, I'm extremely competitive. So I would want to be like that at that hundred percent each market the end of the month be 30th or 31st. But sometimes it's not always so easy. It's not so rosy sometimes. You just like are behind the rest probably understanding what went wrong and if there are mistakes on your end that you did not foresee not repeating them would be a good way to go about it. And there are a lot of macroeconomic factors also that kind of affect jewelry as a business
Kunj: When you sell jewelry, what is it that gives you the joy or the satisfaction of working in this industry?
Anusha: I think I can relate to the product a lot better than my counter buddies. When I am in the store, and I am kind of going across the store and people see me and they want ,if they're buying for their daughter, a neck piece or something. They will just immediately call me and asked me to wear and show them and it gives them instant happiness. They're like, Okay, it looks good on you. So I think it will look good on my daughter as well. Interacting with customers has been something that's eye opening and has been really making me happy in this role you know.
Kunj: I also have observed that a lot of TAS officers who’s have this they wear this badge with a lot of pride. What is it about the TAS program about Tata as a company that brings out this emotion of pride among people who are in the TAS program?
Anusha: The first thing is the kind of challenging roles that it gives to the managers that join this program. And the second thing is the moral values that Tata Group holds. Having worked in Tanishq for two and a half years, I have seen that the kind of transparency that Tanishq has, in terms of the purity that we display to the customer in terms of the making charges, it's extremely high. I do not even have the slightest hint that there's so much involved in jewelry as a category where people can default. Even if there's this point 01 grams of mismatch in the weight, they kind of highlighted to the customer and show that what they are entitled to they'll be paid for.
Kunj: Okay, so what are the key takeaways that we've gotten from our discussion with Anusha? I think the first big takeaway for me is that, you know, taking up challenging roles in revenue functions and organizations is key to doing well in your career. The second point, I want to talk about this In a service business gaining the trust of every single person within the value chain, right from the franchisee owner to the last mile salesman is the only way to ensure customer success. The third point I want to make is that Gone are the days when sales was the job of this charming guy who would smooth talk you into buying anything and everything. Today, sales is a very data driven job. And hence, having very good data analysis tools is very important for any sales manager. My fourth point is for the perfection is out there. Taking success and failure on the chin during your career is very important. There is no way that you will always be successful, however good you are at your work in the real world. And my last point is specifically for the women managers out there. Nothing succeeds like success, like Anusha if you can deliver great results despite the tough odds you will gain respect from your most traditional and conservative colleagues. I am definitely going and visiting a Tanishq Store sometime soon,
Anusha: You should.
Kunj: I am going to definitely check out the yellow lighting on the gold jewelry and the white lighting on the diamond jewelry. Really appreciate you doing this for us. I hope that our listeners or viewers learn something from your journey understood how sales are done, understood how a jewelry business is run and understood how Tata as a company runs. Thanks a lot.
Anusha: Thank you. My pleasure.
*This is a promoted feature.