Marketing professional and environmentalist-at-heart Manisha Lath Gupta has joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). afaqs! profiles the marketer-turned-party worker.
The AAP-recruit's first encounter with politics came when she was pursuing Masters in Biotechnology from Jawaharlal Nehru University. "JNU had a very vibrant political environment and left a lasting impression on me," she recalls. A management graduate (she did PGDBA from IIM Bangalore), Gupta calls herself a "fairly average student", to whom extra-curricular activities and making friends was more important.
After getting promoted to senior product manager in 2001, she worked with Vivek Rampal (the then skincare category head). "Under Vivek, I saw how one person could actually mould and shape a team of different people, with different capabilities and personalities. He brought out the best in everybody and could charge them up. He was a big believer of punctuality and till date I am very punctual."
At Lever, Gupta also learnt innovation. "I always felt that I was not a very 'ideas' person but Vivek broke that myth and insisted we all were creative people if we let ourselves be." She also started believing in cross-functional teamwork and feels that many of the things she learned at Lever are her building blocks.
When Gupta came back after her maternity leave after her second child, the globalisation of Unilever had started. The innovations-based job that she was handling was moving overseas. That's when she decided to quit and join Colgate Palmolive in 2004, where she was given the task of establishing a consumer innovation centre.
Gupta realised that Colgate was a far more structured and execution-focused organisation than Lever. Unlike Lever, where it was taboo, feedback was appreciated in Colgate. "Once my boss, Del Levin, had come to meet us from Hong Kong and he insisted on dedicating one hour to the feedback session. In those 60 minutes, he praised me for 50 and I was surprised. When you have such kind of experience, you prefer behaving the same way with your juniors."
At Axis Bank, where she joined in 2010, Gupta realised that there were many things still to be learned. "When I moved from FMCG, I thought I was the queen of marketing by then but I didn't use more than 10-15 per cent of that at Axis. I got to learn about database marketing analytics, internet banking and loyalty programmes."
For marketing the banking product, she wanted to rise above the transactional problems and solutions. "You cannot just advertise your service, you need to deliver it."
Gupta, who has just joined the Aam Aadmi Party, clarifies that she will not be standing in any election as a candidate. She is impressed by the marketing of the party and believes that it is a case study in itself.
AAP is a low budget party and Gupta is working towards raising funds for it. "My focus is to help build advocacy and outreach amongst the corporate community."
Gupta is also a big art collector. In 2005, she set up a portal for artists called indianartcollectors.com. She has also invested in land near Chandigarh where she has planted 3,200 trees so far. Gupta also runs a group on Facebook called Everyday Eco, where she creates eco-consciousness amongst the people in the group.