At the age of 28, Shikha Monga Kapoor has cut a niche for herself in the marketing field, a career she joined at a very young age. She tells WANGARI MWANGI how she navigates this demanding career.
Shikha Monga’s life has been somewhat calculated with each step meticulously planned and closely connected to her achievement. As we settle down for this interview at the Samsung Head offices in Westlands, Nairobi, it dawns on me just how focused this young woman is.
Born in Kitale, Shikha is the last born of three siblings. Her parents valued education and were keen on their children getting quality schooling. My parents decided to send me to India because they felt the standards of education of India are rated highly and I would be more culturally ‘connected’. In addition my sister was also pursuing her higher education in India and this would help me settle down well,” she explains as we settle down for this interview.
At home in the marketing field…
Up until the very end of her high school education in India, Shikha was inclined to join the legal profession; her peers often told her that she would make a good lawyer. However, the constraints of practice being bound to the law of the country of study discouraged her. I was edging closer to making a choice on a profession when I realised that the business field was very exciting and had scope for growth worldwide,” she explains how she ended up eliminating law as her professional choice.
She found her footing in the business field and settled for a Business Administration degree at the JIMS in New Delhi, India. “I found marketing, which was one of the subjects in my course, to be very interesting especially the service and international marketing sector. I would read books on marketing psychology, which was not part of the course, just to delve deeper and enlighten myself with consumer beliefs and trends and how they react towards products and services. This affirmed my liking for the marketing discipline,” she says.
So fascinated and engrossed was she in marketing that she attained a gold medal for scoring 99 per cent in one of her quantitative analysis modules. She decided to pursue it to the greatest extent possible. Besides she is also inclined towards the creative field and wanted a career that could blend well with the two.
Upon completing her studies in 2006, Shikha returned to Kenya where she worked with East African Growers Limited as the Key Account Manager, initially handling the Middle East market and later promoted to handle the European market which is more mature and demanding. Her position gave her good experience, which prepared her for the next step as she embarked upon the journey of her Masters education in 2008.
Towards the end of 2008 and having worked for the dynamic horticulture industry, Shikha felt the need to advance her knowledge in the Marketing field. She says that her expertise could be further developed to cope with the surging number of competitors, the changing markets and she wanted a new challenge. She applied for a Masters degree in Marketing and Strategy. She was granted the admission and later qualified for a partial scholarship to pursue the course.
“The learning opportunity created a perfect avenue for me harness the experiences from all my course mates who besides having vast experience in the marketing field, also came from different parts of the world,” says Shikha of her postgraduate studies at the Warwick Business School, UK.
By the time she had completed her Master’s degree, Shikha had honed her skill and was ready to put it to practical use. “After travelling across Western Europe, I was fully recharged with energy, enthusiasm and to kick start world journey of working life,” adds Shikha.
Shikha secured a job at LG Electronics. At LG her scope of work became bigger. She was part of the Corporate Marketing and Communications team, which required her to come up with apt communication techniques between the consumers and her company. “We were a very small team with high levels of responsibility and multiple tasks. This made work a bit more challenging yet dynamic and we were all motivated to think broadly. Whenever my ideas were approved for implementation, I felt great and was motivated to do even better.
At 25, she received the first prize for the best marketing idea during the LG MEA Marketing forum in Dubai in 2011. Her expertise was recognised again in 2012 for good PR Crisis Management. During the Regional Marketing Conference held in Bali, Indonesia she was presented with award for her outstanding performance.
At the end of 2 years with LG electronics, she decided to take a break for a year as she was getting married. LG offered her an opportunity to continue working with them this time in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, but she wanted to concentrate on her family. “I was newly-wed and settling down with my husband, Karan Kapoor. I relocated to his hometown, Mwanza, Tanzania and I wanted to channel my energy on my new family,” she says adding she felt it was important to focus her attention towards their young relationship.
In November 2013, Shikha got a job offer at Samsung Electronics East Africa where she now works as a Marketing Manager in charge of the consumer electronics portfolio based in Nairobi. She oversees the East and Central Africa region, which has widened her scope of operation. Her responsibilities cut across public relations, advertising, marketing communication, product launches and sponsorship evaluation among others. She says,“it was only possible to take up this challenging and high responsibility role because of the support and encouragement from my husband and family.”
Under her thrilling and short stint at leadership, the Samsung brand has become a force to reckon with. “I am in charge of several dockets but at the end of it all, we must come up with ways of making consumers understand Samsung products and derive value and satisfaction through every sale,” she says adding that she attributes part of her success to teamwork and collaborative efforts.
For Shikha everyday is a learning experience. She purposes to start each day with a blank slate and is ready to jot down the new ideas that she comes across. “I don’t come to work with the mentality that I know this or I know that. I come looking forward to learn from the good and the bad experiences that I go through and the encouragement from the people around me,” says Shikha adding that in all these, humility has been an important value that has brought her this far.
Shikha believes that no matter how good an offer is, if it lacks the right communication it won’t have the perceived value. Through a calculated marketing strategy, you can reap the desired output. It is a belief that she has picked up from working as a marketing communicator. “Marketing is all about thinking of your customer’s needs and addressing them. I often prefer to think like a consumer and walk in their shoes. Your marketing strategies must therefore be geared towards offering the most accurate information about the product; customers must get justified value for their spend,” says Shikha.
Looking into the future…
Shikha acknowledges that the marketing field is diverse with many areas yet to be tapped. From her analysis of the local consumer, she says there is still a need for direct communication. “I often tell my creative team that the consumer expects us to clearly state the offering. An emerging trend is preference towards brands that give back to society not just being in business to make money, it is the next generation of Marketing,” she says.
As for her future prospects Shikha hopes to rise up the corporate ladder in the field of marketing. Her list of personal growth initiatives also includes studying for a PhD in Psychology which will help her understand how customers reason and the triggers that influence a purchase decision.
Shikha’s personal ambition is to give back to society by helping autistic children through their daily life challenges by understanding child psychology. She feels that autistic children are often misunderstood and left out because society fails to understand their expressions. “I have worked with autistic kids from my school days, I want to continue helping these autistic children, in a more meaningful way” says Shikha alluding to the fact that she is passionate about work, family and giving back to the community. [email protected]
Published in September 2014