Divya Gururaj

CEO, South East Asia

There is an African proverb which I like very much “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.”

Divya is currently the Global Account Director for Coca-Cola at MediaCom. Earlier she was CEO for South East Asia and Managing Director for MediaCom India. MediaCom is a global media agency providing media planning and buying services, ROI research, online/search engine marketing, consumer insights, media strategy and branded content. Divya did her graduation in Economics (Hons) from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and Business Management from Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow.

What sort of formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? Also, could you share with us the kind of internship or experience that would be helpful for a young person considering this line of work?

A post-graduate degree in maths, statistics, economics or business management. We have an internship program for fresh graduates. But we also look for people with experience in analytics, digital, marketing.

If you simply had to draft that elevator pitch for your profession, what would it be?

If you like spending millions of dollars, love brands and advertising, want to work with a cool bunch of people in a job that involves crunching numbers but also creating big ideas – join a media agency!

What are the new trends you notice that are changing the complexion of your profession?

With the advent of digital, consumers have the choice on which (medium of) advertising they want or not want to see (their brand). This was not the case earlier when an ad on TV was watched by everyone. Secondly, with the limited mindspace and attention span that people now have, advertising needs to be relevant. Else people have no need for it. Thirdly, you have to constantly keep innovating, as people are always seeking the new and the next.

Show me the money! How do you see this profession faring 20 years down the line?

Divya1Advertising has always been around, so I don’t see this profession ever becoming extinct. But it will evolve – it will become more dependent on data and technology. It will be about creating utility, providing engaging content and being purposeful. It will be about more personalised, specific communication – about billboards that talk to you, about how it’s hot and you – Mr. X – should have that drink now, or your refrigerator telling you that your bread is over and there are XXX brands available which you can just click on to order home delivery. Advertising is going to surround us in media and places that do not even exist today.

What do you do when you are stuck with a problem?

I go for a walk, listen to music, do something that relaxes me, so that I can think about the problem without feeling stressed about it. I also discuss it with my family, as I trust their advice.

When we’re in school, we’re told cheating is bad – ‘Don’t talk to each other, don’t discuss.’ And then as we come out of it, we begin to realize that there’s something called “collaborative thinking” and it’s not bad! What’s your opinion?

I believe collaboration is absolutely essential to our existence. The best ideas, work, projects are created when people collaborate. There is an African proverb which I like very much “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.”

How do you overcome roadblocks in your profession?

I continue to work at it till it is overcome. Every problem has a solution.

Did you ever want to change the world?

Yes I did, and I still want to change what I don’t like. With age, you get a little more patient and accepting, but the desire to make things and yourself better stays the same.

Describe a typical (business-as-usual) day and an atypical (screw-up-fairy-lives-here) day at work.

In my current job, I travel a lot. So a typical day would find me working very late hours, in some strange city of the world, with colleagues whom I don’t really know. An atypical day would be going to office 9am-5pm in the city that I live in!

What would your advice be to a young person at the start of his or her career and confused about pursuing passion versus being pragmatic?

Always pursue the passion.

If you could do some time-travelling and go back to meet yourself at 17, 25, 35, what would you say to your selves then?

Take some risks, try something new, do something different, explore, travel, don’t settle for less – wait and work for more.

The ability to listen can provide the best learning.

What is the kind of supplementary informal learning that will give you that edge on this job?

There are of course trade press/portals, which I read as much as I can. But my biggest learnings come from connecting with people. The ability to listen can provide the best learning.

What is most rewarding about your job?

I work on Coca-Cola, which is one of the most exciting brands to work on!

I get to travel to different places, I meet people of different cultures, there are different challenges & learning every day.

Do you still have days when you think, ‘What the hell am I doing with my life?’ How do you get over that, if you do?

Very often when I am having a bad day! Whenever it happens, I think of what else I could be doing and then what I am doing now, seems right for the moment.

What’s your advice for a resume that’s just about to enter circulation?

It should be concise and interesting in telling me what is great and different about you. It shouldn’t be long, tedious and an essay on your life.

How does one network in the beginning to get that initial presence felt, in this profession?

I’ve not felt the need to network. If your work is great, everyone will know you. So focus on learning more and doing more outstanding work.

Interview conducted by Pooja Pande.
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