Ms. Singhal achieved managerial level at the early age of 20 at Computronics International, a pager and mobile phones company, then later at Scott Paper Products which distributes disposable paper products to local hospitals, schools and government departments. Her current role as the marketing director of Sirius Designs and Events specializes in the interior of luxury retail centres, with fully fledged project management for PMC for Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, amongst others. She is also a Director of Biotech International LTD, a company that specialises in the research and development of pesticides, fertilizers and bed nets used in the control of malaria. Bio Tech International LTD is the first Indian company to achieve ISI mark with bed nets (ITN).
Q: What are the most crucial things you’ve done to grow your business?
A: I live by the motto, never say die. I’ve been in marketing for about 15 years and all of my products have been very challenging to market. One of the first challenges I faced in business was having to market a mobile communication product with air time that was too expensive costing 15 Rupees a minute, that’s R2 a minute. My team and I had to overcome technical specification that has been around for 40 years and deal with companies who specialise in cable matters who were often very resistant to our approach to change. Success is not instant coffee, it doesn’t come overnight. It’s important to be persistent and consistent.
Q: What inspires you in business?
A: To be brutally honest, numbers inspire me but it’s not only about money. I believe that recognition and success is equally important and money is a part of it. When you’re working hard, money will come automatically.
Q: How do you generate new ideas?
A: I leave the box on the side. I also try and think like the common man and what he wants. Ongoing learning is very important. Common sense also has to apply.
Q: What strengths do women bring to business in comparison to men?
A: Women are great at multi-tasking and I believe women use their common sense more than men. Men can sometimes be like trained robots and after a certain time they don’t want to think out the box. There are no guarantees in business. You can try option 1 and if it doesn’t work you need to have option 2, 3 and sometimes even 4.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is starting a new business?
A: Don’t get disheartened. Everyone started from scratch. You also have to determine what is the rate of success for your particular business. I am involved in a variety of business types including leasing, manufacturing, consultancy, data-processing and real estate and each one has a different rate of success. For example with leasing there is a 20% in comparison to manufacturing where there is 10%.
Q: What effect has the global recession had on your business?
A: It hasn’t had an effect. Indians don’t believe in mortgages and loans. We don’t upskill so much that we have to downskill and therefore remain at a flexible state.
Q: How does your business give back to the community or society?
A: We manufacture mosquito bednets called Bilnet. As malaria is rampant in Africa we believe this product is the most cost effective method of protection from mosquitos and mosquito bone diseases especially for pregnant women and children.
Q: What are some of the challenging aspects that you face as a marketer?
A: As a marketer in India where there is so much diversity, I need to be able to market to many different demographic groups. My marketing strategy will depend on the human nature of that particular consumer. You also have to know how many consumers you want to target in terms of numbers. For example, I know that with my luxury products I target at least 100 000 customers. Your marketing tactic is also very important. If you have a high-end product, direct marketing works best as you want to create a personalised relationship with the client. If you’re marketing a retail brand, you need to interact with the media and make sure you receive press coverage.
If you’re marketing a product like Coca Cola where the customer doesn’t interact with the people behind the product, other areas such as packaging need to be looked at. It’s all about practical marketing and that is what I mean by common sense. At the end of the day, I want to know what type of marketing is going to make me money.
I also feel that people sometimes confuse PR and Marketing. Marketing is all about product development and once you know the features and benefits of your product you can create PR around this. PR bridges the gap between the business and the consumer. You also need to have a clear outline of your wishlist. Marketing and innovation never stops because you have to keep up with where the consumer is going. Generations are changing, mindsets are changing and therefore the consumer is also changing.