In conversation with Mr. Ritesh Ghosal, CMO, Croma (Infiniti Retail Limited).
Please tell us a little about your professional & academic background. What responsibilities does your designation entail?
Let us start with the academic background – after all it’s where we come from that defines who we are.
After 13 years of schooling where neither party made a big impression on the other (laughs), I took up economics at the undergraduate level in Delhi University (Kirori Mal College). I found the absence of one correct answer to every question liberating; the discipline of questioning answers, debating solutions, critiquing policy, etc. are intellectually stimulating for me.
This was a particularly interesting time to be studying economics – communism was in global retreat, India was feeling its way into the world economy with eminent economists occupying important positions in the government of the day. The three years spent in DU equipped me with tools of analysis, the confidence to formulate and air views, the ability to absorb new perspectives and above all, the opportunity to listen to some of the great minds of our times share their perspectives.
I took the principles of micro-economics – the understanding of how individuals behave in response to stimuli – with me to my MBA at IIM Bangalore. This, plus 3 years of hard-core quantitative research at IMRB Delhi have defined me as a professional.
I am a student of human behaviour and its various manifestations in the economic arena. In my 22 plus years as a working professional, I have occupied all possible chairs in the world of marketing – market research, advertising, brand manager and now, CMO.
In my current role as Chief of Marketing for Croma, I take care of all aspects of demand generation and revenue maximization – from generating trials and stimulating repeats to deciding locations and formats, developing private labels, exclusives and forging win-win alliances with brands which have complementary goals.
What is the best marketing move you’ve initiated in your career so far?
Marketing in my view can not be reduced to a set of moves. Assessing what people want and giving it to them is a very linear and over-simplified definition of marketing. I have never been in an assignment where this was even an option. I see marketing as the creation of a conspiracy to make people re-evaluate their current choices and act in a manner contrary to their instincts and conditioning.
Some of the successful ‘conspiracies’ I have played a role in – making people switch telecom operators (Tata Docomo), restoring people’s faith in the quality of colas (Thums Up and Coke), projecting mango drinks as juices rather than soft drinks for kids (Maaza, Minute Maid).
(Very precise and to-the-point advertising done by Croma)
What according to you makes a good marketer?
A few characteristics I look for when I am evaluating a person in a marketing role :
- Insight skills – to make sense of data from different sources.
- The ability to visualize a picture of success and put together a set of programs to lay a path to this goal.
- Program building skills – ability to work with internal and external teams to deliver marketing programs.
- Communication skills – oral and written, structured and unstructured, formal and informal.
- Appetite for risk – marketing is about creating new revenue streams for the organization therefore, it needs people with a healthy risk appetite.
- Ability to manage risks – A good marketer will never shy away from taking a risk but will never repeat the same mistake and will put equal effort in learning from success and failure.
(The #JunkIsGood campaign)
Name a well marketed product in any industry that caught your attention recently and why? Any marketing campaign which you felt was well executed?
Actually, I believe the last decade has seen some of the best marketing programs of my life-time. Facebook and Whatsapp stand out for establishing a dominance in our lives without ever spending a rupee on advertising. It is interesting how some of the biggest spenders on advertising and the biggest media owners have just given away visibility and relevance to these brands – a truly successful ‘conspiracy’.
What role, according to you, does marketing play in the success of a product?
Today, the best marketing minds are occupied in the start-up domain – doing exactly what they were doing in their MNC jobs. The only difference is the size of the canvas for innovation – from structuring of the business to the market-oriented strategy, marketing minds are engaged in creating ‘conspiracies’ to convince investors, vendors, customers etc. that their idea is unique, relevant and on the threshold of success.
(Another marketing master-stroke from Croma)
What does a day of yours at office look like?
The day starts with checking mails and the sales of the previous day. From here on, every day is a new day and I move between meetings, reviews and jamming sessions with the buying, operations and marketing team. The good part is that I leave behind enough unfinished business to look forward to the start of the next day.
Can you tell us about some of your marketing strategies which set Croma apart from its competitors?
Our biggest competitors are actually the mom-and-pop stores that rely on cutting prices and margins on a case-to-case basis to close sales. From the time the first Croma outlet opened 10 years ago, we have pulled business from this channel by giving (a) live demos of the latest models of the best brands (b) access to the latest technology at affordable prices through our private label sourcing (c) transparency and great prices minus the haggling and (d) a promise to stand by in case of any product issues.
What drove you to choose a career in marketing? What motivates you to go to work every day?
Like I said, I am fascinated by micro-economics. Marketing as an area of applying the principles of economic decision-making attracted me. The alternative for me was a career in academics, which we all know is not suited for someone like me, with a restless temperament.
The challenge of an unfinished agenda energizes me at the start of every day. When the challenge runs out or the organization loses the inclination to chase the agenda, I usually move to a fresh assignment – which explains why I have been in 10 odd organizations during the past 22 years of my career!
Describe working at Infiniti Retail in one sentence.
It’s like playing a game of hockey – people pass the ball trusting in the skills and intent of the others.
Playing and following various sports – cricket, badminton and table tennis, to name a few.
If not in the current profession, you would have been?
A failed academic!
Favourite/most relatable movie character and why?
Aamir Khan in 3 idiots – I find his character’s maverick views inspirational. I often use the phrase “School jaane ke liye uniform chahiye hota hai, fees nahi” to urge my team to chase new ideas or question conventions.