Q. Kindly brief us about your entire career journey that you have covered.
A. My career journey began with IIPM immediately after completing my MBA in 1995. I was initially entrusted with the responsibilities of corporate communications and placements of the students and yes, taking the mandatory ‘Executive communication’ classes, additionally.
I would identify the companies and keep the key HR person engaged before the actual placement season started.
These were the initial days of my career at IIPM before a big transition in 1996- the foundation of ‘Planman consulting’ , initially formed to offer corporate training and recruitment consulting to leading corporate houses.
IIPM was growing rapidly under the dynamic leadership of Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri. In 1998 he asked me to move to Mumbai and start the IIPM and Planman branch there. Mumbai offered tremendous opportunities and being the commercial capital of India, could not have been ignored for long. I agreed and accepted and my next journey started.
For the first few months in Mumbai, we operated from our first office from Navi Mumbai. It was an office cum residence to begin with. The struggle was inevitable and challenging. I knew, I had to get a footing in Mumbai’s corporate world and was ready for any amount struggle.
There were many exciting developments happening in and one of them was setting up of a PR division called ICPAR.
I started the Mumbai chapter of ICPAR in Mumbai in 1999 -2000. We pitched and signed some of the best brands in the Industry e.g. Mont Blanc, Cross Pens, Jabra, Standard chartered bank, Spykar, TNS Mode ,Zee TV, Nilkmal, Sagem, Rich Feel, Maya Movies, Columbia Tristar, HDFC standard life, Dunhill, Gucci, Bisazza and more..
IN 2004, we took a big step towards setting up of the international concerts division under Planman life. We planned and organized Planman’s Multi-city international concerts of rock bands MLTR and Air Supply. The concerts were a huge success and got an overwhelming response.
Q. Tell us something about how your association with IIPM began. What were the best memories during your college days at IIPM that you would like to share with our readers?
A. Though our batch was relatively small and we did not have the World class facilities that IIPM students enjoy today, but all of us were passionate, committed and fanatic about IIPM. We were also fortunate to have studied under Director Sir, it’s under his guidance that we learned the guiding principles of life, he taught us many valuable things and among them how poverty can be alleviated through small and systematic contribution from each individual.
We undoubtedly had the best faculty and it was a collective learning process be it from late Prof Bagga, Prof Aggarwal, Dr. J. K. Mitra, Prof. Kaimal, Prof. Shukla and many other renowned professors.
Q. What ways do you feel that IIPM have transformed you?
A. IIPM has shaped my personality and what I am today. I would say my entire outlook towards life changed once I joined IIPM as a student. It taught me the power of communication, self-belief, confidence, perseverance and making that first lasting impression. IIPM empowered me in many ways than I could have ever imagined. It has taught me to face any situation with grit and determination.
Q. Share with us the vision behind your own business venture and your current role pertaining to it?
A. We started a marketing communications firm called Global Consulting Corporation in 2008 along with my partner Deepali Sakhare with an objective to offer marketing communication solutions to the best of our abilities. We aimed at filling the gap between the top-most marketing consulting agencies and the bottom. The tremendous experience gained at IIPM and Planman came handy. We developed our marketing modules to ensure that we value add to the bottom line of our clients, make a difference to their brands and in the process build our brand. My role is hands on. From functional to strategic. We started in the time when the economy was slowing down and the talks of recession started to seep in. The cycle continued for quite a while. We had a great struggle period in that year, but nothing i had not seen before. We are still in the consolidating stage taking small steps towards our Goal. And determined to achieve it.
Q. What were the main challenges that you came across while establishing your enterprise? What ways did you overcome them?
A. For any business start-up you need capital and manpower. We were lacking in both and there was no back up or guiding force, so the office was set up at home with no support staff during the first few months. Also as mentioned earlier, the great recession talks were everywhere. But I had learned the power of perseverance and hard work. It was both a struggle and a challenge! Idea is not to give up in adverse situations and conditions and that is exactly what we did. We knew we had to put in more rigorous efforts and we just did that. We bagged our first client Fujitsu as they were contemplating of launching their products in India. Following this we got few more leading brands as our clients, some on project basis others on a retainer
But the turning point of our Company was, when we partly shifted our base to Navi Mumbai to save our expenses. My partner Deepali, who was now staying in Navi Mumbai, observed that Navi Mumbai lacked the entertaining options available to people in Mumbai. She suggested we approach the Maharashtra Govt Development agency CIDCO to offer some propositions for same.
We pitched to the VC and MD CIDCO, just to explore the possibility and gauge their interest. Interested and impressed VC&MD was but not enough to give us a go ahead. He perhaps had his own way and methodology to check the merits of our company, promoters and the proposition. We were asked to study, research and come back with a presentation. This continued for almost a year with countless reports, presentations and meetings. Our coffers were again getting empty as we had not officially signed, so could not bill them for any activity. Finally in Dec 2008, we were asked to make a final presentation for the Hon’CMs and boards approval. The proposal for the festival was approved and would be known as the ‘Navi Mumbai festival’.
We conducted 40 events in a span of 4 days at ten venues; these included large scale concerts featuring sunidhi chauhan, Taufiq qureshi, Sonu Nigam, Usha Uthup, Pritam, Pt.Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Siva Mani, Mitali&Bhupinder, Roopkumar- Rathod and SunaliRathod and many more such events for kids, youngsters and citizens of Navi Mumbai. We received a tremendous response from public, media and CIDCO. Finally, the festival was announced as an official annual event of Navi Mumbai.
HARD WORK, COMMITMENT, PASSION, WILLINGNESS TO LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ALIGNMENT OF YOUR GOALS AND OBJECTIVES TO THAT OF YOUR ORGANISATION IS SACROSANCT
Q. Looking back at your career today, how would you define your success story? What has been your mantra through this journey?
A. My journey is still on!! Every day is a new beginning and a learning experience. Frankly, there is no mantra for success and I know for sure there is no shortcut to success either. Hard work, commitment, passion, willingness to learn from your mistakes and the most important alignment of your goals and objectives to that of your organisation is sacrosanct. The only way to achieve success is to work for it!!
Q. What are your views on an ideal leader? What is your personal leadership style?
A. Ideal leader is the one who leads from the front and makes his people believe in the every step he takes, every action he takes. A leader evaluates the performance of his team on the basis of merit. My leadership style is flexible; I am more of participative and at times situational. My grid scale would be more people oriented. I strongly believe a leader is because of his team, if the team rallies around you in the toughest and challenging situations, you are the best leader.
Q. Tell us something about Mr. Deepak Shah when he is away from work. How do you spend time at home with your family? Share some family details with us.
A. Away from work I’m a little boring person though I enjoy an occasional movie or a play in a theatre, an exhibition or a musical concert. My parents are based in Delhi and of late I meet them as often as I can. I have a little 3yr old niece and she enjoys reading stories and reciting poems to me, the other way round!
Do what you love to become what you have to
Ms. Aparna sounded very upbeat when we started our conversation stating that IIPM has always had a very important and as well as a very emotional space in her life. “Anything for IIPM”, she says with purpose, and yes, she means it! Ms. Aparna was an Apeejay School student and always had an affinity towards History and English, but she decided to take up English Honours from Kamla Nehru College. It was here were her first trysts with the ramp started. “I won the best female model in the first year of the SRCC Fashion Show”, she adds with joy. At that point, she was pretty focussed about growing up and being self sufficient. Ms. Aparna recollects that her family was primarily old school in terms of career of choice back then and her grandfather was also very strict. She adds, “I was really determined to get into the advertising industry back then.” Ms. Aparna then narrates a small story after which her modelling career kick-started. During her 2nd year at Kamla Nehru, she asked her dad to give her some money as she wanted to do a portfolio photo shoot. Her dad disagreed, but Ms. Aparna was determined and went ahead with the shoot by borrowing money from her friend. “The photo shoot took place on a Sunday, and when I showed the pictures to my dad, he like them a lot”, she exults. And thus began her ramp journey on a fast track. Subsequently she won the Best Female Model award for three successive years at the SRCC Fashion Show. “It was a pleasure, and I finally started to earn on my own. It felt that I was coming of age”, she adds. One of her friends, Ms. Gauri had joined IIPM and Ms. Aparna often joined her for hanging out at IIPM. That is how she once met Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri and Prof. Rajita Chaudhuri, and after taking up the entrance test, Ms. Aparna became part of the 1994 batch of IIPM.
Speaking more about IIPM, she feels that IIPM transformed her in many ways. “The biggest impact IIPM made was at the way you look at life and your confidence in dealing with situations”, she affirms. Ms. Aparna was studying all on her own in terms of fees and other expenses and believes that the support she got from Dr. MK Chaudhuri and Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri was unparallel. She adds, “IIPM was the most emotional journey of my life as it was always like a family for me on whom I can count on for helping me with all my personal issues.” On a lighter note, Ms. Aparna adds with a laugh that she was sometimes not the favourite amongst the Professors. “I was into modelling by the time I had joined IIPM, so some of my professors did not use to like my attire at times. But I actually enjoyed doing that”, she adds with a wry smile. On a serious note, Ms. Aparna dedicates all her success to IIPM. She says, “Whatever person that I am today is entirely because of the education and support that I received at IIPM.” At till today, she loves IIPM, and firmly believes that the sanity and comprehension in her thought process along with her inter personnel skills are treasured gifts from IIPM.
Coming on to her field – the fashion industry, Ms. Aparna speaks about the evolution of this industry in India. “When I started modelling, there were 3-4 iconic fashion designers like Rana Gill or Gaurav Gangmani, but today, it seems that everyone I meet is a fashion designer”, she adds. This paradigm shift according to her is largely because of the concept of Lakme Fashion Week. She believes that it was not just a fashion show but a phenomenon. She also highlights that Lakme back then had also started getting buyers from the International arena. However she is quick to admit the fact the industry has taken a beating in terms of change in budgets. “This has resulted in a dip of glamour quotient. For example, when I started my modelling career, there was hardly 5-6 ads made in a year. But today, owing to the extended markets and competition, the number of ads in a calendar year has risen up exponentially”, she ascertains. Ms. Aparna also feels that for any product there are counter ads like Pepsi vs Coke, Nokia vs Samsung, and so on. Because of these reasons, the budgets for the production house are now divided resulting in production quality, budgets, profits, model fees etc. getting sloshed.
But in terms of efficiency, she believes that the Indian industry has only got better and better. She adds, “Today we have foreign directors shooting in India and everything related to fashion and production is available in India. That way the industry has progressed immensely which even includes the post production of fashion shows.” Ms. Aparna then points out that overall in terms of fashion; India has truly gone global which is evident through the fact that the best of brand stores in Milan or Paris have clothes or fabrics that are produced in India. She feels that the finesse of garments coupled with eastern mythical outlook that India presents to the International markets will take Indian fashion industry to the next level. “So in some years down the line, do not be surprised to see Indian clothes, designers, and models scorching the ramps of global fashion shows in Milan or Paris”, she adds firmly.
WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, I ALWAYS BELIEVED IN THE GOOD OLD WORDS– ‘WORK IS WORSHIP’. SO, WHATEVER WAS THE WORK – BIG OR SMALL, I HAD PUT MY HEART INTO IT
Ms. Aparna holds some choice opinion on the young generation who according to her are really short sighted in terms of success. “The only thing I find perturbing about today’s generation is that they lack dedication and perseverance. Most of the youngsters feel that they have arrived just after a little bit of success. When I was growing up, I always believed in the good old words – ‘work is worship’. So, whatever was the work – big or small, I had put my heart into it”, she opines. Ms. Aparna advices the young generation to stick back to the same theory and keep working on as success or failure is ephemeral in nature and thus getting carried away by little success is not the right thing to do. “Carry no chip on your shoulders and always be humble”, she adds.
Getting nostalgic about her times at IIPM, Ms. Aparna says that there are loads of fond memories that she holds dear. “If I have to speak about my special memories, I need at least two hours to speak! Every day was memorable for me”, she adds with excitement.
Ms. Aparna at home is a complete family person as she believes that relations and relatives matter a lot. She adds that whatever success she has had in her life is because of the love and support from her parents and hence I am always there for them in thick and thin. On weekends, she visits her maternal uncle and aunt who live in Mumbai and hangs out with her sisters by going for movies, shopping, dinner etc. But she is quick to bring to our notice the exigencies of being in the fashion industry. “In my line of work, there is no concept of weekends and most of the time, I work on Saturdays and Sundays as well”