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Thu, April 18, 2024

'Whenever you start any business or do anything in life, it has to be very strategic'

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Pranaya Ratna Sthapit

Director – MX Business, Samsung Electronics - Nepal Office

Pranaya Ratna Sthapit, Director – MX Business, Samsung Electronics – Nepal Office, has a career spanning over two decades in sales and marketing. Sthapit has honed his skills to become an expert in the field having worked with some of the world’s biggest brands. In this issue of Business 360, Sthapit shares the five things that have impacted his life and work.

Life is an endless expedition

I decided to specialise in Marketing during my MBA though we had two other options, Human Resources and Finance. I have always been inclined towards marketing because, at the end of the day, it is about how you generate revenue for the business. That is the main thing for any business organisation. Yes, HR is also important and finance is like the backbone of any company but without revenue, we can do nothing.

During my MBA, I got the opportunity to do an internship with Unilever Nepal. It was in 2000 and I was assigned to a project looking into the marketing of Lifebuoy soap which was launched on the health and hygiene platform. We not only had to market the product but also get across a social message on why washing hands with soap frequently is beneficial for one’s health, and we had collaborated with UNICEF for the project. During the internship, I built a good relationship with the management due to my work and as soon as I finished my MBA, I was called for a job interview. I joined Unilever Nepal in 2001 and I am proud that I was the first Nepali to be chosen for their BLT (business leadership training) programme. I was sent to the company’s northern branch in Gurgaon for four months immediately after being hired. I still vividly remember those days when I had to travel to all the rural interiors of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. It was quite an experience as I got to learn about the basics of sales from the best people in Unilever which basically means the best expertise in India.

What we must not forget is that in any sphere of work, we must get our hands dirty right in the initial period if we ever want to succeed in our career. Once we have moved ahead, then there is no going back to gather that experience and without that, it will be difficult to relate to the ground reality and challenges and also the ways to get around those challenges. That was a very important chapter of my career; it literally built the foundation for my career. Within those four months, I had to work as a territory sales in-charge, sales officer and also as an area sales manager. After the programme was over, I returned to Nepal but again after a few months, I was sent for a marketing stint in the company’s head office in Mumbai where I got to work on the internationally renowned brand, Lux.

I was assigned to the brand team. It actually consisted of two teams – innovation and activation teams. The innovation team had to develop the product from scratch after understanding the traits and preferences of consumers whereas the activation team’s responsibility was to devise ways to take the product to the consumers. I also got the opportunity to work with the core sales and I would like to share an experience. Unilever has so many brands and SKUs (stock keeping units) and as a salesperson, I had to generate orders at the retail points. Even for the same brand of let’s say toothpaste, one consumer might want a 30-gram pack while another might prefer a 100-gram pack. There are various reasons why people want a certain SKU and depending on the consumers’ needs, the role of the salesperson is to make the product easily available for the consumer. For that, you have to make your products available at these outlets so that consumers have easy access to them.

Never stop learning

While working with the Unilever team in India, I got the chance to learn from the sales experts of India. Unilever was and still is a respected company and it is fundamentally known for its process-oriented approach. Process-oriented means that decisions are made based on a certain system and not on an individual’s ideas. When things work according to process then you will be able to deliver results consistently. If work is done as per an individual’s ideas, then in the long run it will be difficult for the organisation to have steady progress because the direction will keep changing with changes in personnel, and processes will also keep changing. Stakeholders will be confused then. Whenever you start any business or do anything in life, it has to be very strategic. It has to be process-oriented. That is one mantra I keep following in my work all the time.

I also got to know the answer to the role that a salesperson plays. Most often people think that the role of a salesperson is to just sell the product but in reality, there is so much more to it. Even to this day, I teach my team about those three vital roles of a salesperson. The first thing any salesperson must be aware of is availability; their product should be widely available. The second is visibility. If your product is properly visible in the outlet, then there are higher chances of it being picked up by the consumers from the shelf. Just making products available is not enough. And the third important factor that I feel most salespersons always miss out on is trade recommendation which is about building a relationship with your business partner. You should understand their pain points so that you can motivate and educate them so that they in turn will be able to educate the end consumer. Any person involved in sales must understand that they do not interact directly with the end consumer; it is always through the retailer. So, it is very important to keep your retailer or channel partner motivated and educated. These three things are the fundamentals that any salesperson must understand and fulfil if they want to be effective on the ground.

And of course, as you rise up the ranks, maybe you will be more into strategies. But even if you become the CEO, these three factors are the fundamentals one should not forget because at the end of the day for any organisation, the top line is everything – the revenue! In order to drive revenue, you have to understand the ground reality. My belief is that if your foundations are strong, if your basics are correct, then it is just a matter of time when you will start progressing and reaching higher positions. That is why I will forever be thankful to Unilever for teaching me these things. I have changed companies; in fact, I have changed the industry I work in but the fundamentals will never change.