Name – Vinod Kumar

Profession – Marketing

Age – 45

Gender – Male

City – Gurgaon

Industry – Manufacturing

LinkedIn – https://in.linkedin.com/pub/a-vinod-kumar/7/514/a65

Insights

  1. Be humble…you will never know everything and there will always be someone better than you
  2. I love travel, meeting people and understanding human behaviour & motivations. These interests have helped in tremendously in Sales & Marketing profession.
  3. While choosing a career, keep your mind open. If you develop new interests, then explore them. Don’t be fixated on one path.
  4. A well-rounded personality (academics, sports etc) prepares you better for this profession.

Early Years

Born in “God’s own country” Kerala, Vinod developed an interest in sales and marketing early in his life. His father was a sales professional and young Vinod interacted with the bright junior members of his father’s team regularly. The family moved around often.

Vinod studied in seven schools across the country and did his graduation from IIMC Hyderabad and post-graduation from Symbiosis, Pune. “The exposure helped me adapt to different environs quickly and learn new things faster” says Vinod.

With a keen interest in sports, Vinod spent time playing basketball and cricket in college and devoted a lot of time to Rotaract club activities. Years later, he would rekindle that interest by way of marathon running and high-altitude trekking. “I run marathons regularly and have also done the gruelling 2-week Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal” says Vinod, as he proudly showcases the innumerable trophies and commendations on his desk.

Marathon running and business strategy — what’s in common?

“To me, training for a marathon teaches you strategy, discipline, planning and sticking to the plan, adapting to different environments, how to play to your strengths & weaknesses, patience, perseverance, camaraderie, and target orientation” says Vinod.

His eyes light up as he talks about a parallel in his professional life — “I was Head of Marketing when CEAT decided to aim for the №1 position in 2-Wheeler tyres — this entailed quadrupling market share in 5 years along with the aim of being the most profitable tyre company in India. The team worked on a 360-degree plan encompassing new product development, expanding distribution network, capacity expansion, creating a compelling consumer story and great advertising, media plan and motivating the large sales force. CEAT is now breathing down the neck of the erstwhile undisputed market leader and is also among the most profitable tyre companies in India. And all this was done with the youngest and ‘least experienced’ marketing team in the industry. What the team did not have in number of years, they more than made up with their intellect, deep consumer knowledge & insight, dogged determination and enthusiasm & self-belief.”

A day in CMO’s life

As we chat on about his professional life, Vinod takes us through his journey and why he chose marketing and business strategy as his career. “I love travel, meeting people and understanding human behaviour & motivations. Hence my career so far in marketing, sales & strategy across different industries has provided me the opportunities to work within my interest areas. I am very happy with my choice of career. Meeting different people, travel, learning new things every time, competition which keeps you on your feet, market and consumer dynamics, the pressure of delivering market share & profitability — there is never a dull moment” says Vinod.

Well, all this sounds very exciting, so I ask him what a normal work day for a CMO looks like. “When I am not travelling, the day includes meetings, reviews, emails, phone calls and informal talks with team/colleagues. While travelling a large part of the time is spent meeting consumers, influencers & dealers.” says Vinod with a contemplative look on his face. He tells me that key challenges are to keep a sharp eye on competition & to consistently upgrade your knowledge about the consumer and others in the market you are serving.

According to Vinod, for a CMO profile — stints in marketing, sales, strategy, change management, transformation roles, handling complex business profiles and handling large teams, carry a premium.

Advice to students and early professionals

His advice to students and professionals who are starting on a similar path is simple and uncomplicated — “spend 3/4ths of your time with consumers, influencers, trade partners. Keep an ear to the ground. Learn how other industries reach out to consumers or develop their business model. Get exposure of working in different geographies or handling diverse product groups in the first 6–7 years of your career. When in doubt — ask the consumer. Read a lot.”

“My recommendation to others is that they must follow their heart while choosing their field, while using the head to build competencies in the chosen field. Keep your mind open, if you develop new interests then explore them. Don’t be fixated on one path. And please consistently upgrade your knowledge. There is lots happening outside your immediate work space. Read, attend seminars, and pursue a hobby where you meet people from different walks of life, take public transport and observe people.”

As we wrap us this interesting conversation, I cannot but help ask him, given a choice what would he do differently?

In his usual grounded, uncomplicated way he tells me “nothing…I am happy with what I have done and with what I am doing. I would like to spend more time interacting with management students, maybe teach.”