Himanka Das
Shashank Sinha
Head Marketing – Direct Sales, Eureka Forbes

Shashank Sinha graduated in Economics from Nagpur and went on to specialise in marketing from Pune (1996). He joined Eureka Forbes in July 1996 as a management trainee and rose up to be its Head Marketing - Direct Sales.

Some of his experiences include brand management, involving brand extension and repositioning as well as management of national sales and marketing programmes. His 13-year journey in Eureka Forbes has taken him from marketing to business development to sales operations and back now to marketing. In this journey, Sinha has been a member of the prestigious 'Dream Team' of Eureka Forbes - an exclusive group of high achievers charged with the development and initiation of turnkey assignments that have a crucial bearing on the future path of the organisation.

Though Sinha does not have any engineering degree, Eureka Forbes gave him the opportunity to set up their own vacuum cleaner manufacturing company and today, Forbes Aquamall Ltd is one of India's largest manufacturers of high quality vacuum cleaners.

As Head of Eureka Forbes' Marketing function in the Direct Sales Division, Sinha looks after iconic brands like Aquaguard Water Purification System, Euroclean Vacuum Cleaners, Euroair Air Purifiers and Eurovigil Electronic Home Security Solutions.

"Most professionals may wonder 'why such a long stint in one organisation?', I know why. Eureka Forbes has ensured I enjoy each moment of this journey. The pride of running 'my own company'; earning well to support my family; learning together while growing and I say with immense pride? I am a Eurochamp," says Sinha.

The scent of a challenge is what drives him. Having been nurtured in the vibrant and aggressive environment of Asia's largest direct sales company, Sinha's pursuit has always been new and loftier pinnacles of performance, which continue to spur him on.

What was your breakthrough moment in the media and advertising industry?
I’ve had the privilege of working throughout my career in a direct marketing company, where the biggest brand to market has been the salesman of Eureka Forbes, often referred to as ‘Eurochamp’. The theory behind this has been to get this brand visible and known to the consumer so as to get a ‘door entry’ into the home. It was then left to the ‘Eurochamp’ to win the heart of the consumer through the magic of his demonstration.

We continue to follow this philosophy (and it still works for us), and knowing that direct marketing is about creating a need in the mind of the customer about a product he or she would not walk into a store and buy, we created a new story. In the early 2000s ‘dust mites – the disease and allergy causing invisible germs present in fine dust’, the new RTB for Euroclean vacuum cleaners made a huge impact in the market. Not only did it improve the usage of vacuum cleaners, it gave Indian consumers a new insight in cleaning. I would term this as the breakthrough moment for me.

What has kept you going in this industry for so many years?
As I said earlier, Eureka Forbes and direct marketing is a completely different experience that what most of us learnt while in B-school. It makes you reach out to prospective customers in the comfort of their homes; it gives you a chance to know them, their habits, tastes and preferences closely. In most cases, the person would have never thought or decided to purchase a water purifier or a vacuum cleaner, but the sheer ability to create this need and convert them into your consumer is amazing.

While I would have lost count of the number of homes across India I would have visited with the ‘Eurochamp’ from Eureka Forbes. I have also lost count of the different towns or markets that I have worked in, but this experience of knowing the Indian consumer from such close quarters is what keeps me going.

Where do you see yourself five years hence?
  Five years is a long time. At this moment, all I can say is that in five years, I would surely have interacted with at least 500 more new consumers and understood them well.
Who are some of the people from the industry that you think have played a role in shaping your experience here?
A majority of your young readers and my colleagues from marketing, media and advertising fraternity may not relate to what I say, but for me, in the 13 years that I have known this industry, one person who has taught me the most is the ‘Eurochamp’ or the sales/ post-sales representative of Eureka Forbes.

Not one, but many of them together have played a critical role in making me understand the little that I know about the Indian consumer. The experience of being with them in their interactions with consumers is humbling. No wonder, he is a living example studied widely at the Harvard Business School and referred to in the India edition of Philip Kotler’s book on ‘Marketing Management’.

You are amongst the industry professionals who have seen the industry in absolute boom to this present slowdown. What were the first signs of slowdown that you noticed?
I have been fortunate to be part of a company and business that did not witness a slowdown. It is probably the unique business model that we follow and the products we deal with – health, hygiene and security solutions. Be it absolute boom or slowdown, most homes do not take a chance.

Yes, as a marketing professional who keeps a tab on the market, the reduced footfalls in stores and malls, and the vanishing ads from the dailies were the first signs of the slowdown.

What are some of the steps that you are taking now to help your agency brave the situation?
  While we were lucky not to face the slowdown, together with our agency we did keep a tab on the spiraling costs. While we did not have to cut down on our spends like many others did, we monitored (and continue to monitor) the ROI with a magnifying glass.
What do you attach most importance to?
Numbers - Viewership - readership
Quality - Environment
Impact ? Buzz
  Neither numbers nor quality nor the impact can be viewed separately. In my mind, all of these are intertwined and one cannot look at them in isolation. However, the objective of the communication often determines the weights you may want to assign to each one of them. For instance, a new launch or announcement is where you would like to create a buzz at the same time to reach the audience effectively. Hence, a close study of each of them is imperative.
Your views on growing the advertising pie…
While the world speaks of recession, we have been fortunate not to be severely affected by it. While in our unique business where we get to meet, interact and keep in touch with the consumers, I see people earn more and also spend more. The economy may not be booming currently, but the mood is surely but steadily coming back to the pre-gloom days.

In days to come, as more and more companies explore non-conventional medium of advertising and reaching out to the consumers, the overall advertising pie will grow significantly. While some medium may grow faster than the others, because of the sheer options and avenues available, spends of companies are only going to increase. There’s no reason why one should lose because another is gaining.

What will surely matter in days to come is the measurement metric. Efficiency of the media (ROI) and suitability of the message shall surely determine the advertising pie. The fragmentation of media and media consumption, not to forget the inflation and the growing ‘new’ marketers and the markets, will enable growing the advertising pie.

What are some of the biggest changes that you have seen in the advertising and media industry in your time spent here?
  In early days of my career as a young marketer, the choices were few. You had the choice of limited print and electronic media. Often, the decision on the vehicle to carry your message was simple. Today, you are faced with the option of plenty.

Fragmented media, consumption of media and the crowding of space makes the choice more complex. One of the biggest changes that I have seen is the emergence of digital media and other new age mediums. The out of home space that I often refer to as non-conventional media is just amazing. The only limit to the avenues and options is in your mind.

Any experience that you really would want to go back in time and change?
  Not really, since it goes against my belief of looking ahead always. But very often, in absence (if I may say) of credible information and measurement index, the choice of the medium (with reference to advertising) is based more on hunch and the noise levels created by people than any science. I wish we could do better here.
What would you say was the most proud movement for you at work?
  Picking up the Consumer Superbrand citation for two of my brands – Aquaguard and Euroclean – and my interaction with students and professors of Harvard Business School, before they chose to put together a case study on Eureka Forbes. .
What is the motto or the guiding principle with which you lead your team?
  The ability to take decisions quickly or quickness is not wisdom, but it is a great advantage. A quick start wins many races. To survive and win one must plan. It is a must think. However, being absorbed in reflection is the greatest crime.

Experiment, be ready to fail, but quickly learn from a mistake. Leadership is a thing by itself. It requires far more than ability. You can acquire and learn leadership skills, but you must invite yourself into it. You are not born with it.

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