Big-league Branding - Seema Kumar

An MBA in marketing from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Seema Kumar has handled brand profiling for a wide range of products, including readymade garments, cocoa and chocolate products, bulk agri commodities, vaccines and biopharmaceuticals, and education. As Chief Marketing Officer of Sreenidhi Institute of Science and Technology, and as Director Admissions & Administration of Sreenidhi International School, she was instrumental in establishing the brand both nationally and internationally. She has worked with multinationals and Indian corporates like Hindustan Lever, Nagarjuna Fertilisers, Lotus Chocolate, and Bharat Biotech, to name a few.

As an independent education consultant, she provides thought leadership, high brand recall, and strategic impetus to educational institutions, and helps to create centres of excellence in the knowledge industry. As consultant advisor on the board of the Rachnoutsav Academy and The Events Company, she facilitates strategic alliances, builds passion driven programs and nurtures talent.

What got you interested in branding?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with a range of organisations and corporates across various segments. I think what really got me interested in branding and marketing was the idea that I could work with people to understand a market need and drive the growth of a product or service to fill that need. Any product that an organisation wants to sell to a customer should connect with the customer on multiple levels. And that’s what I’m interested in. I have always been fascinated by how a brand can create meaning and shared value for something so simple as chocolate, to something as important as an educational experience.

With the increased awareness of digital marketing, do you feel that the conventional methods are gradually being dropped?
Although I don’t think that conventional methods are being dropped, I do see them gradually declining in use. But to be honest, that gradual decline – at least the way I see it – is due to two key reasons. The first is the changing needs of the market itself, where for certain products and segments, the target audience is more receptive to digital marketing. The second is that there’s so much more we can do with digital marketing – videos, graphics, colours and images – all working together to create a picture that a customer can recall at an instant.

Brands, however, are not dropping conventional methods altogether. They’re combining both mainstream marketing and digital marketing to maximise the impact they have. I think digital marketing has a long way to go before it replaces conventional marketing. And especially in countries like India – where the rate of internet consumption is so high – there’s still the challenge of achieving complete market penetration when it comes to digital.

What are some of your challenges at work?
My biggest challenge is defining the scope of my work. I’ve always found that with branding and marketing, and even in my role as a consultant, there’s always the need to do more than just what my role demands. And frankly, while I see it as a challenge, it is actually an opportunity to support the growth and development of an organisation and its values.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful colleagues over the years and if it weren’t for them, I would still be struggling to manage my priorities. I’ve faced challenges when it comes to working with clients to define a vision together. But because I lucked out with the people I have surrounded myself with, I’ve always been able to overcome barriers and make meaningful work happen.

What motivates you?
Meaningful conversations, good energy, and things that driveimpact.

Tell us a bit about how you give back to society.
I do my small part in various ways. I give back through organisations like Rotary, Innerwheel, and the Girls in Tech Foundation. These organisations help me reach out to the underserved in Tier 2 and 3 cities, with the main focus being literacy, health, hygiene, and education by helping girls in STEM and strengthening entrepreneurship. So far, I have impacted over 50,000 lives directly and over a lakh, indirectly.        --- as told to Sumana