Focus on not only communicating effectively but also listening actively: Anupama Chopra

Anupama, VP at TATA Teleservices, talks about her professional journey, key learnings across domains, initiatives by TATA Teleservices and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Jun 25, 2020 10:59 AM
Anupama Chopra

For brands, the importance of curating the right content and communication strategy in the pandemic cannot be overstated. At TATA Teleservices, driving this thought with zeal is Vice President Anupama Chopra.

With over two decades of experience in the communications industry,  Anupama has handled almost all aspects of communications business ranging like advertising, PR, events and direct marketing exercise with expansive tenure across consulting and in-house roles. She is a trusted name when it comes to Integrated Marketing, Crisis Communications, Strategic Planning and Media Relations.

She has worked for a wide range of telecom and IT players in the region along with other sectors in the industry like FMCG, Media& Entertainment, Auto, etc.

In today’s edition of “Women Achievers Series”, we talk to Anupama on her professional journey, key learnings across domains, initiatives by TATA Teleservices and more.

Edited Excerpts:-

How has your journey been in the communication industry? What was the most defining moment along the way?

I started my career in the aviation industry and gradually switched over to Public Relations when I joined leading communication group Mudra, followed by Rediffusion Y&R in the early 1990s. Indian economy had just opened and many global companies started their operations in the country. There was an imminent need to manage the cultural shift for these companies as they felt that having a well-managed reputation is very important for strategic growth and that it is also recessionary proof. After a decade, I moved to Emaar and then to Lintas before I switched over to TataTeleservices.

Over the years, I moved up the hierarchy into leadership roles and became counsel for C-Suite executives for their varied business requirements. Being able to manage diverse aspects of business and contributing effectively to building competitive brands is what I enjoy doing the most.  Earlier in my career, I realized that communication is a specialist function and helps in enabling all the functions to work cohesively in building a purposeful and impactful corporate identity.

You have seen the light from both sides, from an agency and a client. What were the key differences in the functioning and your key learnings across domains?

Working with a corporate or agency provides different opportunities depending on the brand or size of the agency. Just like everything else in life, a move from agency PR to corporate communications involve trade-offs. Working with an agency gives you the opportunity to work across brands, industries and industry bodies. It gives you a larger exposure in different sectors and multiple campaigns, giving you the experience to manage a diverse portfolio. While working with a corporate gives a comprehensive knowledge of a sector/industry and offers a chance to work closely with the brand, business portfolio and focus on how to better market them by getting right under their skin. My move to the corporate side gave me an in-depth understanding of the brand and business that freed me to be highly strategic and even visionary in supporting its communications as well as business goals.

Communication has been at the epicentre of discussions these days. Being the corporate communications head at Tata Teleservices, what have been your major initiatives to tackle these difficult times?

As businesses grapple with the effects of this pandemic, it is of utmost importance that we step up to the podium to take communication first approach; the role of corporate communications becomes even more pervasive in navigating challenges and managing the reputation with stakeholders. We consistently and empathetically communicated our larger narrative of enabling our customers in their business continuity at multiple levels. As a provider of essential services, our priority is to ensure that our customers get uninterrupted telecom services. We were in touch with each of our customers to provide them with service upgrades and round-the-clock support to all institutions like health that are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic.

 Despite restrictions on movement and supplies, we have had a team of 1500 plus employees – in-office, on-field and at-home – working dedicatedly and collaboratively to cater to the evolving business requirements of our customers.

Internally with employees, in the initial days of lockdown, it was very critical to inform and update them on pandemic-related company guidelines, make them feel reassured and keep the morale high. Safety and well-being of our workforce, partners and customers have been a top priority for us. The management closely monitors the health of each employee and his or her dependents on a daily basis, through a digital self-declaration form. The company has extended the ‘doctor-on-call’ and 24/7 chat facility to all employees and the wider partner ecosystem.

Working in such uncertain and turbulent times comes with its own set of anxieties, and we have extended support to our employees with SABAL, the employee assistance programme in association with one-to-one help. Employees and their dependents can get free consultations for psychological counselling and comprehensive wellness solutions that can help them deal with various work-life challenges during this period.

 What kind of campaigns have you been working on to leverage the digital platforms?

TATA Teleservices is the country’s leading provider of wireline voice, data and managed services. As a technology enabler, our objective is to provide products and services that significantly impact the competitiveness of our customers and enable them to do BIG. Our digital campaigns are centred on our initiatives during this pandemic and our technologically-advanced products and solutions that help small and medium enterprises embrace digital and become resilient.

We are ensuring that we communicate with our stakeholders across levels – from our customers to business partners to employees –  to share compassion, manifest responsiveness, and demonstrate strong leadership. To communicate effectively, we are ensuring the use of data analytics and diagnosis techniques to identify, frame and communicate the brand narrative in a manner that is appropriate for each stakeholder.

Through brand storytelling and driving action from the audience through data analytics, we aim to elicit the brand affinity and create positive influence across our campaigns.

How has the pandemic reshaped the way of communication? How have businesses and firm adapted to the changed norms?

COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we work and live; businesses will have to take their communication up by several notches, to not only communicate effectively but also be a very active listener.

Our focus at this juncture is to ensure that all our critical customer processes, including service delivery and service assurance, are running smoothly through a mix of remote operations and increased use of digital tools.

With most of the businesses moving their operations to a WFH mode, we have extended our suite of ‘Work from Home’ solutions that empower these enterprises with robust, end-to-end connectivity solutions with secure access, collaboration and back-office operations.

These solutions help them maintain ‘business as usual’ mode while improving their efficiency and productivity as their employees work remotely. In parallel, our solution experts are constantly holding interactive consultative sessions for our customers to help them smoothly integrate these solutions within their existing technological framework with minimum disruptions. In addition to this, we continue to engage digitally with prospective customers through our Do Big Forums to address their ICT requirements and help them chart their digital journey.

 Digital tools are taking centre stage in adapting to this ‘new normal’ to ensure business survival and growth; businesses will need to scale-up their digital footprint. Digital agility will be a critical factor for the new remote workforce to communicate and collaborate effectively and for employees and customers to have reliable access to applications and services that they need.

 What are the three adjectives that define you as a communicator?

 Three adjectives that define me are –Passion, Compassion and Dedication.

With my philosophy of ‘Keep Moving Ahead’ and ‘Learning is a never-ending process’, I am never hesitant to take on more challenges and take every challenge as an opportunity to grow.

 

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