Upamanyu Acharya's Profile:
Sales and Marketing Management Trainee at Reckitt. I did my MBA in the PGP 2021 batch from IIM Ahmedabad, where I interned at Procter & Gamble in the Brand Management function. I was Head Boy at both my schools, and did my undergrad in BMS (Marketing) from Jai Hind College, Mumbai. I held leadership positions as the founding president of my undergrad college's consulting club, and the Entrepreneurship Cell & Incubator. I am passionate about marketing and cryptocurrency.
At IIM Ahmedabad, I had various choices in Management Consulting and Finance, but chose a career in FMCG Sales & Marketing at Reckitt instead. This is how it happened, and what you can take away from my experience.
The Road to IIM Ahmedabad
I was always confident in my communication skills, both written and verbal. In both 10th and 11th grade, I was given to opportunity to be Head Boy of my school, which solidified my self-confidence and gave me the chance to lead teams from an early age. However, in 11th-12th, with low scores and struggling for motivation, despite being fond of technology, I realized that the traditional Engineering route wasn’t for me; I needed a career with more freedom and the ability to express myself.
Being open to the idea of management, I joined the Bachelor of Management Studies program at Jai Hind College Mumbai, and undertook many extra-curricular activities and PORs. It was during this period that I got acquainted with the management consulting career track, as I was regularly interfacing with consultants from Big4 and MBB firms for various competitions. I also founded my startup which was involved in digital marketing in cryptocurrencies, and went on to join a crypto-exchange in the marketing function full-time.
After this, I was faced with a few career choices:
1) Continue in the blockchain industry, which I enjoyed because of my startup and wonderful work experience, while seeking product management roles
2) Aim for consulting, knowing the strong exit opportunities and quick career progression
3) Become a top marketer by trying to enter FMCG marketing, which has always been a dream of mine
At this point, I was not sure about any of the above, but I knew an MBA was required for all, and I started preparing for CAT alongside my work. My first choice was IIM A because of its diverse student profile and unparalleled alumni network. Thankfully, I converted all my interviews and made it to IIM A.
IIM A and Brand Management Internship at P&G
The first term at IIM A was a whirlwind of mixed stimulus from the onslaught of courses, clubs and CV-prep. Through the extremely brilliant, competitive, and self-assured, environment that’s omnipresent in Louis Kahn’s hallowed walls, I made friends who helped me get through the rigorous courseload and tumultuous preparation period. However, like many of us in the same situation, I was unsure about Consulting or FMCG as my first choice. Initially, I struggled with Cluster 1 shortlists, which I now know was because of my very unique profile which didn’t reflect my strengths in the CV (non-engineer crypto startup guy who’s only worked in digital marketing? I’m surprised I got recruited at all!). However, I made it through most of the FMCG companies and landed an amazing opportunity as a Brand Management Intern at Procter & Gamble.
My internship project was on influencer marketing across P&G’s spectacular selection of strong brands. This 2-month experience was my first real glimpse into how global FMCG firms operate. Here’s what I learned:
1) In FMCGs, the structure of work is very process-focused, data-driven, and result-oriented.
2) Every action would have to answer to the inevitably proceeding “So What?” This meant that you would have to analyze the ROI of every action taken by the brand.
3) Only maybe 1/10th of brand management is actually about advertising. A brand manager really is the CEO of a brand, aligning everything from strategy, sales, supply and commercials to the regulatory aspects of the brand.
With more marketing and strategy courses in PGP2, and the P&G internship experience under my belt, I was a lot clearer on my career path. I realised that I immensely enjoyed my time as a brand management intern in FMCG, and this was a long-term career I wanted to pursue. My team leadership and communication skills reflected what FMCG companies looked for in candidates, and combined with my passion for the industry, it was a natural fit for me. As a result of this clarity, I was able to create better CVs and was offered many more options in our Final Placements. I converted companies in management consulting as well as finance, but was able to “Dream” for the role and company I was most passionate about – Sales & Marketing at Reckitt.
Anyone interested in marketing knows that the global FMCG firms are at the top of the ladder: they are the inventors, the innovators and torchbearers of the marketing profession, and a career in FMCG is highly respected across industries. Experienced leaders are often poached by startups and tech companies, as FMCG experience is valuable for executing product-market fit.
FMCGs are the largest advertisers in the world, and in many ways invented the concept of modern marketing and sales distribution. Therefore, from a learning and best practices perspective, they are second to none. If my long-term goals involved being a CEO of a multinational company, the combo of operational and strategic experience gained at an early stage with sales and marketing stints is unmatched. This on-ground operational experience is something that Consulting does not provide.
I knew that long-term careers at FMCG firms are very viable as the work-life balance is much better on average than other post-MBA choices. It is also an evergreen industry that is historically immune to macroeconomic shocks. FMCG will keep growing, especially in India.
1) Reckitt has a very strong selection of well-known brands that are often category leaders. Dettol, Harpic and Mortein are all legacy brands and category creators.This is unique because you can experience marketing in FMCG (usually in low-involvement categories) against a host of different local and global competitors.
2) It has a great balance of global exposure with a solid Indian foothold – the Indian teams interact with global counterparts while having the autonomy to apply Indian context-specific interventions. This pans out in global career opportunities as well.
3) Sales experience in the Management Trainee stint or as the Area Sales Manager provides important insight into the on-ground reality in India. You can’t effectively model an Indian brand strategy by only ever setting foot in a glass-enclosed head office in the posh parts of Delhi or Mumbai!
4) The work culture and employee friendliness reflect Reckitt’s global reputation as being one of the best places to work in FMCG. Before joining, I heard that the company is very supportive of personal goals and always ready to adapt to support employees, even compared to other FMCGs.
Some tips when considering FMCG careers:
You don’t need prior marketing experience. As a marketing major, I already knew the concepts espoused by Kotler and Porter many decades ago. At an MBA institute, that isn’t a differentiator. I had some functional knowledge in digital marketing as well, but neither of these are qualifiers for FMCG firms to recruit you. It indicates interest in the field, but the rest of your profile determines whether you make the cut. There is really no distinction or preference between engineers and non-engineers, or any undergraduate streams.
FMCG firms look for good leaders. Since the early career at FMCG firms revolves around team leadership, any indication of this on your profile is a bonus. PORs such as sports captaincy, college fest president, student council positions, case competition wins and work-ex in startup or front-end roles is a plus.
Align with the values of the company. Understand the brands, what they stand for, and what the ethos of the company is about. It’s not just about looking at the company website and regurgitating the points in an interview, but ask yourself, what is the work environment like? Will you be able to spend 20-30 years in a company like this?
To sum it up, I believe FMCG continues to be an evergreen industry where leaders are made, and fruitful long-term careers are built. The combination of operational, strategic, and on-ground experience is unique to this career track, which is why it continues to be one of the top choices for graduates like me across the world.