Leaders need to understand what their employees are going through, to address their concerns best. Being empathetic becomes a very important part of this processIshita Singh
Ishita is C4 Projects’ Chief Marketing Officer. With a background in the sciences, she explains how she found herself in the marketing space and explains why companies need to do better to avoid employee burnout, especially during the pandemic. Welcome to this segment of Women In Marketing
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
My childhood has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. I was born in Uttar Pradesh, India and I was raised across 5 states of the country. Later, when I left home to attend college, I travelled to the 6th state in the series and I’m currently living in a completely new city altogether. In addition to that, my love for travelling has taken me to many other cities and small towns in India. The diverging experiences I’ve had while in transit and the kind of people and cultures I’ve witnessed have greatly shaped my personality today. I’m truly grateful to these experiences because they’ve strongly shaped me.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
Though I’ve been a Science student all my life, I’m highly inclined towards language and lexicography. I feel incomplete without words. As soon as I see any picture, my mind starts weaving captions and poetries around it. This is because of my love for words and rest, because of the creativity I hold within myself.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I’m a highly finance-oriented person. So if I win that kind of money, I would hardly spend it on materialistic pleasures. Rather, I’d invest some part of it in the charitable causes I support and invest the rest in some productive options that keep on giving recurring returns.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
I am fond of the sea-food that is cooked in Kochi, a beautiful port city on the south-west coast of India. In addition to that, I have a sweet tooth. I cannot share sweets!
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
“We all wanted to be doctors growing up.” – Never happened with me. Very early on in my life, I knew I do not have to pursue a conventional career. Nevertheless, I still landed up in an engineering college in India. However, the zest to ‘do something different’ is still alive. This led me to explore marketing, management, business analytics, and such fields in my career. I took up a hobby or writing as a side-hustle. So, I’m still in the game. I haven’t settled for one.
Marketing came to me out of the blue. Just like analytics or business problem-solving, marketing was an experiment for me during events at my university. Later on, I discovered this field had so much to give me and hence, I’m here.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
I’d be a honey-bee. It’s because they always keep busy, within themselves. They don’t harm anybody in general, they’re good to others. But if you trouble them for nothing, they won’t spare you!
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I love photography. I am not a pro yet but I have a fair sense of the art.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
Yes! #TeamTea here! The perfect cup of tea marks a good start to my day. I generally try to remain in solitude at the beginning of the day and hence, books can be my only companion during that time. Apart from that, it could be work emails, communications to be sent/received, and so on. It’s only until 2-3 hours that I start interacting with the teams.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I have always tried to do a lot of things altogether. I am a multipotentialite, a generalist. I need to try multiple things and then set my foot into some of them. This often puts me into trouble because I have the same 24 hours as any ‘specialist’ person doing just one thing in life has. But I believe, when you want to do something, you eventually end up doing it anyway. Those 24 hours make enough time for you. They say work expands to fill in the time available for its completion. And this has been my lesson forever.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BTECH IN ELECTRONICS AND COMMUNICATIONS ENGINEERING FROM THE VELLORE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (GIRL YOU FANCY!). ACCORDING TO GLASSDOOR, IT HAS BECOME SEEMINGLY EASIER TO APPLY TO WORK FOR COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE, APPLE AND STARBUCKS AS THEY DO NOT REQUIRE APPLICANTS TO HAVE A DEGREE. HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEMSELVES PARTICULARLY IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO OBTAIN A FORMAL EDUCATION?
The world belongs to the people who know how to use the internet for their benefit. Young women are unstoppable today. Having closely observed many in my network, I know young women who are more empowered than ever. Formal education is necessary, but at the end of the day, your skills matter and I think that’s what the internet can truly help them with. Young women can make a place for themselves in the niche of their choice, all by themselves. They do not need anybody’s helping hands or shoulders to hang upon.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
Sticking to one organization, one mission, and one team; growing it from the basics to bounties – this has a different pleasure. I don’t think this kind of satisfaction can ever be achieved from any other activity. However, one can have different priorities in life and well, that’s what is the deciding factor in the end.
FOR OUR INTERVIEW WITH YAEL TAMAR FROM SOLIDBLOCK, SHE REMARKED THAT WOMEN ARE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUPY THE CMO ROLE AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. WITH WOMEN CONTROLLING OVER $20 TRILLION IN GLOBAL SPENDING, WHY HAS IT BECOME INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE FEMALE CMOS IN YOUR OPINION?
I am happy to find that women are occupying the C-suite more than men these days. But I believe it is out of their sheer capacity and capabilities that they can achieve this milestone. It’s not that female CMOs are an essential ingredient.
A male CMO might be equally qualified as the female. It is all about personal expertise and skills that decide the fate of the position. However, having women in leadership positions certainly brings a completely new perspective for the horizon which I believe is important to have. Women are more capable as leaders and multi-taskers which makes them a great fit for CMO positions as well.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
The changing horizon of the digital era has been disruptive. We’re observing newly born unicorns in the startup ecosystem whereas we find many startups finding it difficult to survive the economic downturn. One of the major reasons for the struggle is the absence of digital transformation. A ‘good-to-have’ suddenly converted into a ‘priority’ for most organizations. I feel large companies were able to survive this shift and were able to invest in a digital transformation. But small and medium businesses suffered a huge loss.
Secondly, our human resources are not accustomed to working in an isolated environment. We have open-office cultures or cubicles in India. Most companies adopt the culture of open discussion, deliberation and networking during the working hours. The pandemic had raised expectations in terms of employee productivity since ‘sitting at home and working’ is considered to be easy and casual. But ironically, very few businesses have been able to establish a smooth sprint after the remote working conditions were imposed.
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
As I mentioned earlier, employees are facing burnout due to this ‘always on’ characteristic of remote working. To address this, I think communication is key. While I manage and work with my teams, I always try to be in touch with them, as personally as possible. Micromanagement can be time-taking but in the end, it is your people who make your business.
Leaders need to understand what their employees are going through, to address their concerns best. Being empathetic becomes a very important part of this process. Moreover, I feel the employees should be given full flexibility around their work hours. That can surely reduce the burden.
MARKETING OBJECTIVES WILL MOST LIKELY CHANGE DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW HAS YOUR ORGANISATION PIVOTED WHERE MARKETING IS CONCERNED, AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY AMID THE PANDEMIC?
While a lot of organizations have cut down their marketing expenditures, I believe the pandemic is exactly the right time to invest wisely into marketing. Gone are the days of offline campaigns that yield no data or results. It’s the digital age and digital marketing is to reign the world in the upcoming years. Digital marketing in the upcoming times has to be more customer-centric than ever.
The end-user has to be kept in mind while creating any campaign or building any experience. There are numerous resources available on the web that can be utilized to generate excellent engagement on products and services. This needs the right implementation by the digital marketing teams. Every implementation needs to be tracked down and the metrics need to be studied thoroughly. This generates the foundational feedback for the next campaign execution. At the crux, one needs novel and creative ideas for any marketing team to succeed.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT C4 Projects?
Ever since its inception, innovation and ideation have been critical at C4 Projects. Our team spends ample time on generating new and better ideas of executing several initiatives before actually implementing them. Where there is research, innovation is sure to follow. Brainstorming bolsters innovation thereafter. With this ideal, we focus on rich research and innovation activities throughout our team’s structure. Since our team is still growing and it is easy to manage, we do not miss out on any single individual’s idea.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
Absolutely true! Influencer marketing has just started growing and there’s still a long way to go for it. But there’s a very interesting point to notice here. Influencer marketing is slightly shifting in the favour of micro-influencers these days. Reasons? Better connection with the target audience. Local reach. A better understanding of the local people. Feeling of relatability amongst the audience. All these reasons are enough to promote micro-influencers in the industry today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has just strengthened this phase for influencer marketing. I’m sure we’ll witness amazing trends ahead.
HOW IS C4 Projects CHANGING THE APPROACH TO MARKETING, GROWING BRAND AFFINITY, USER ADOPTION, AND ENGAGING CONSUMERS LIVING A DIGITAL LIFESTYLE?
At C4 Projects, we always try to add a humane, personalized touch to everything we do. That is something which builds the brand affinity and user adoption for us. We are focused towards mentorship for amateurs in the tech domains.
We are working towards their benefit and their careers. Our users see our dedication in our innovative strategies and initiatives that we have rolled out in the past few months and these have been instrumental in shaping up to our consumer journeys. Marketing is just a small part of business, we believe in adding value first.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
I deny the notion of ‘early-risers’ and ‘late-nighters’. Human productivity is at its maximum limit when all the conditions around him/her are exactly as he/she wants them to be. No chaos. Just perfect order.
This is what I follow in my daily life to maximize my productivity. I don’t have a regular stringent rule as to waking up at 4 AM or working late till at 3 AM. The best hack is to work when you feel like. Nothing can beat your potential at that moment.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
I am a proud Indian and for ages, we have followed only one form of greeting – ‘Namaste’ (slight bow and hands pressed together), meaning ‘I bow to you’.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
It’s been long since I’ve connected with a few of my old friends. I hope they’re doing good.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Talk about ideas, opinions, and strategies during casual conversations. Things would grow significantly if we stick to this. Often the most unique marketing ideas are lying beneath our regular conversations.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Try and explore everything while you still have time. You don’t have to seek external validation.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
Professionally, I’m trying to utilize this time to grow in terms of skills and abilities. I’m trying to regain the discipline that COVID-19 has taken away from me.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
I admire Ms Anamika Sirohi, VP-Marketing, Amway, for her incisive insights on brands and the art of storytelling.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Professional: Interview startup founders who turned their side-hustle into a profitable business and further a unicorn.
Personal: Document and share the stories of as many people as possible who have never experienced any form of success in their lives.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
I take inspiration from almost everyone I come across, I have a habit of finding the best in people. There’s no single specific hero for me, I’d rather want to be my hero someday.