It’s an exciting responsibility to manage Communications, Public Relations and Digital Marketing at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, one of Asia’s finest B-schools. We got in touch with Deepak Bhatt, a communication, media engagement and publications professional. I am happy to present his career journey.
How were you able to transform from being a HR professional in various organizations to your current position at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad?
It may sound clichéd, but it’s more about working with people and understanding what value each of us can bring to the table. Looking back, I can connect all the dots and see that my experience of working with people stands me in good stead today.
My previous HR roles required me to understand and value human resources and human relationships. And ultimately how do we all build, maintain and enrich our relationships? It’s through our various acts for one another, our contributions to the organization and the communication we build with one another.
At a deeper level, I sense the common denominator in my previous role in HR and my current role is about people. I was fortunate enough to work with some really outstanding organizations with some fantastic people who have nurtured a sense of value and commitment in me.
I have come to realize fully that any organization is only as good as its people, and people are only as good as their output and communications.
In HR, we follow standardized, proven processes to ensure each of us gives the best and each is happy with the way the organization treats her in return. In communications too, you need established processes that can best showcase what people within the organization are building.
So rather than seeing HR and Communications as two different, unrelated functions, I have grown to see them as complementary.
You have implemented few Communication and Digital Marketing strategies within a short period at IIM Ahmedabad. How’s the response so far?
When I decided to take up my current assignment at the IIMA, I was aware of the huge responsibility this great organization was placing on me. When you work for such an illustrious organization, your performance should be in sync with the amazing work happening here.
The IIMA gave me a lot of freedom. It put a lot of trust in me and I believe I have not let them down.
I started with a very long-term vision. On the one hand, the digital platform today is exploding with opportunities and I needed to ensure the IIMA would make the best of it. On the other, the IIMA, being so pro-active was already planning to take the digital route in its distance education programs so it was imperative we build our strength in social media platforms too.
When I started out at the IIMA, the follower-base on our Facebook page was 6,800. In three months, I have been able to bring it to 290,100+. Our twitter followers too rose from 64,000 to about 84,000 in the same period. So the potential of engagement was always there, it just needed to be better utilized.
Internally too, I have been able to bring about numerous changes that are the IIMA deserves. For instance, I was instrumental in establishing and putting in place the Communication policy for the institute and each of our stake-holder: professors, students, staff…everybody. The objective is to send out a well-formed, cohesive message, no matter who sends it out.
So, while the numbers have been impressive, I am happier with the fact that we have been able to make some really strategic improvements that fully reflect the amazing IIMA.
How’s your experience in Business World group helping you now?
BW Businessworld is one of the top business magazines and I have been lucky to have worked with such an organization.
Today, while no business can survive without marketing, at BW we stressed two things:
1. Build lasting value and you will have loyal customers.
2. Respect your customers; offer the best and the best will come to you.
My role exposed me to the entire spectrum of integrated marketing: sales, marketing, advertising, branding and customer service. Sales helped work with channel partners, understand their point of view and offer them solution at the retail level. For instance, sometimes our channel partners required help with visibility so we helped them there. At other times, they were looking for help in logistics or distribution.
When it came to corporate events, the whole focus changed to branding. We were the top business magazine so all our branding had to be sync with what we were and what we stood for in business journalism.
I could also understand pain-points of the end-user, the reader. For example, some readers may be facing issues of timely deliveries, and some factors would be beyond our control. Yet it would never make sense to wash our hands off the problem and tell the reader that these things are not our control. We had to sit down and explore some solutions there too.
All in all, it helped me understand everything from the ground-reality at the end-user (reader) level to the overall vision of the top brass of BW when it came to marketing and branding. And yes, I have been able to build an awesome network of some amazing people.
You seem to believe in continuous learning as you have done several courses. How should professionals take effort to enhance their skills and knowledge?
Oh yes, I firmly believe in keeping myself relevant. And now it has become a passion. I feel so excited when I learn new things.
Thankfully, I have been able to develop a certain level of self-discipline that helps me keep learning. In some of my previous roles, I was required to travel a lot and my schedules were often erratic. In spite of that, I kept learning. I am not saying I’m perfect, but yes, I am happy with the way I am improving.
As for the several courses,
I try not just to obtain a certificate; I try to understand how I will be able to apply it in my professional life, and how would my organization benefit from it.
Some things are immediately applicable while others take a longer time to put into practice. Some show immediate results, others need patience. I thoroughly enjoy what I learn and perhaps that’s the secret.
Your favourite books?
I have always been fond of reading and my previous role at BW and the current role at the IIMA encourages that hobby.
Different books have influenced me differently at various stages of my life. Some were helpful with the basics while others helped me understand what business vision really meant.
Some of my current favourites are The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins, Playing to Win by Roger Martin, Game Changer by Ram Charan, Judgment by Noel Tichy, Being the Boss by Linda Hill, Becoming a Manager by Linda Hill and so on. I enjoy learning management and leadership lessons from such awesome books and try and see what all can be put into practice.
Your future plans
Well, as you see I have been evolving my expertise over time and in different roles. I have enjoyed taking up diverse challenges and am actually thriving on them. I am increasingly fascinated by the power of the digital platform. It is going to be perhaps as amazing as the Industrial Revolution! The kind of empowerment the digital platform can bring about is simply awesome.
I see myself going further in Digital Marketing and Business Communications. My vision is to leverage the digital platform to build sustainable communications solutions and value for my organization. And yes, I have built a good rapport and trust across various media. I understand the importance of Public Relations a lot better today than I did a few years back. So that’s one area I am counting on to build my strengths.
All in all, I expect to keep adding value to myself and my organization and stay relevant.
Good luck Deepak.