Surina Sayal

Profile - Madhuri Sapru: "I'm the Balancing Factor"

Sapru, who turned entrepreneur recently by investing in the creative agency Encyclomedia Networks, shares her learnings from her two-decade long career and how they now plan to take this agency forward.

Not too many people know about Madhuri Sapru's secret passion. The Edinburgh-born co-owner and the woman-in-charge of the creative agency Encyclomedia Networks wants to start a dog farm someday where people could leave their pets for an extended period of time while off on a vacation. But, that is for later.

Profile - Madhuri Sapru: "I'm the Balancing Factor"
Sapru completed her schooling in Chandigarh. After a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, she later went on to receive her MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), University of Delhi. Today, after two decades, she is one of the few women at the top in the advertising and media industry.

Sapru started off her career at HCL in sales, where she did a short stint, before moving on to Engineers India Limited. After getting her MBA, she joined Nestle and spent four-and-a-half years looking into functions like logistics (which included Nestle's launch of chocolates in India) and imports, till she left the company in 1994.

She cites what she learnt early in her career from Mahendra Swarup (the then head of personnel, logistics, purchase and export) of Nestle. "It was a simple enough concept - all credit would go to the team, but all critiques would stop at the boss. Addressing that criticism - and learning from it - was the job of the boss, and his or her team. The boss acted as the shield for the team. That's how I've always handled my teams as well," she says.

She later went on to work with Blow Plast in the luggage division for 18 months. This was her first step in marketing. At that time, Ajay Baijal (then vice-president, luggage) of Blow Plast taught her something important that she has carried forward with her over the years. When she made a proposal to him to go in for a certain media deal because it was priced at a discount, he made her understand that there was value only in something you need, not otherwise.

Sapru also worked with BPL Mobile (now Loop Mobile) where she was part of the launch team. After five years with the telecom brand (between 1995 and 2000), she worked on multiple assignments at the Tata Group for six years. The first three were spent with Tata Corporate, where she worked on the implementation of the group's corporate identity, marketing the Tata brand and also set up the Tata Group AoR - at that time the second largest AoR operation in India. The last three years were spent at Tata Indicom where she worked in marketing and customer care.

It was here that Sapru realised that she had a true passion and understanding for customer care. She says, "It allows you to hear what your customers have to say about your brand. If your customer is not satisfied with your product or service experience all that you may say or do through paid communication has gone to waste. The customer service function helps convert a corporation into a live entity."

Crossing over from the marketing side to the media business in 2006, Sapru went on to join GroupM's OOH arm, Kinetic, as the managing partner handling Kinetic and Dialect, South Asia, a role that she was to live and breathe for the next five years till she chose to invest in Encyclomedia Networks, which started out as an OOH agency in India, but is now a full-service outfit.

At Encyclomedia Networks, Sapru says that the sky is the limit for them. She will explore new markets, revenue streams and business models. "We are working on creating an impact with what we deliver. Each person in the gang has a distinct role to play. I'm the business manager, the balancing factor, where I let the gang dream and also act as a buffer and a check when needed," she smiles.

(Profile is a regular column which peeps into the career path of senior advertising, media and marketing professionals, who are currently in the news.)

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