Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Alumni in Spotlight - Mahesh Madhavan

To those who have been following the remarkable turnaround of the business of Bacardi in South Asia, Mahesh Madhavan is fairly well known. From the popular ‘Nothing is as nice as finding paradise’ jingle, to some tough ‘right people for right job’ HR measures, Mahesh has been instrumental in setting a vision and strategy for Bacardi around ‘people and brands’. A product of the 1988 batch of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), Mahesh confesses that life would have taken a very different turn, had he not invested his family savings in a PGDM from SPJIMR way back in 1986.

“After completing my Engineering, I quickly realized in my first two jobs (building oil rigs at Mazgaon Docks and working at Tata Electric in Trombay) that this was not the career that excited me. The days were predictable and there was no zest in me to continue. SPJIMR was responsible for giving me a new perspective on what was out there and then equipping me to face those challenges. What was exciting was understanding this whole new world of Marketing, Finance, Law, Production and a bunch of other things that I was not even aware of."

His first job after passing out of SPJIMR was as a Management Trainee with Wipro, selling Santoor to kirana shops, from Malad East in Mumbai to the rural interiors of Maharashtra. While some might look upon this as a fall from his pre-SPJIMR ‘Engineer’ status, Mahesh describes those as some of the best experiences of his life.

“The job with Wipro was a fantastic foundation. The company was a great one under the leadership of Mr. Premji. Also, I was fortunate to have some very talented bosses who drove me hard at that time. Those few years of living in the interiors of Maharashtra, and travelling in state transport buses and trains, showed me the ground reality of how our sales team had to endure daily hardships along with meeting their sales targets.”

Mahesh Madhavan confesses that he gets an itch to move on to refreshing new challenges every three years, once he has accomplished what he needs to in a job. He believes this stops him from slipping into a comfort zone of mediocrity and getting a mindset that he has “achieved it all”. It is a trait he displayed very early in life. After acquiring grassroots basics through sheer hard work for 4-5 years in the FMCG industry, in 1992 he shifted to a domain that attracted him more.

“I had an interest in Marketing and the advertising industry fascinated me from the outset. With FCB Ulka, you understood the thought process of brand positioning and the details that went into making it happen. It was a fabulous time with a great team. The years there provided me with a great respect for agency folks, which continued years later when I went back to the other side.”

Mahesh has come a long way, but sees an even more exciting path in front of him as the Managing Director of South Asia and South East Asia, Bacardi. His target customers are growing younger by the day, and spend less time on traditional media like TV & Print. This, to him, is a wonderful new challenge posed by a brave new world.

“Our target consumers watch their favorite television programmes on the net, they talk on Facebook, and use tools like viber and skype to keep in touch. If you try to reach out to them using traditional media, it will come with a lot of wastage. Their news comes from the net. They hang out at some of their favourite bars and pubs. Over the years, we have invested in properties around music, like Bacardi NH7 Weekenders, the ‘Dewarist’ (TV programme) that we kicked off for our Scotch brand ‘Dewars’, the Grey Goose IIFA Rocks, etc.”Clearly, Mahesh believes in ‘staying loose’ and breathing in the times, something he learnt a long time ago in SPJIMR.

“SPJIMR has come a long way from the one-floor institute that we had way back in 1986. Today it is a school that is recognized and admired. A lot of the credit for that goes to our Dean, Dr. M. L. Shrikant, the faculty and, of course, the alumni who have made their mark through their contributions over the years.”

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