Tell us about yourself, your current organisation and role, and your professional journey before joining PGPpro.
I have been a market research professional for over 11 years now. My journey in my career had kind of hit a plateau where I wasn’t feeling quite stimulated by my job. There comes a time in everyone’s career, where you tend to feel that you are not learning or getting new things to do or try out and explore newer paths. When I hit this plateau in the 8th year of my career, which actually happened quite early in my career, I began looking at re-educating myself through a postgraduate. ISB was a dream institution for me, so I checked, and I stumbled upon PGPpro.
What are the goals or expectations you had from the programme before joining, and how much did the programme live up to it on a scale of 0-10, 0 being extremely disappointing and 10 being most rewarding?
Before the programme, I was seeking to learn and expose myself to the concepts of ‘leadership and strategy’.
The strategy was something I wanted to focus on in my education. My expectations from the course were that it would help me understand business as viewed by multiple stakeholders and how diverse business conglomerates are built.
I would rate the course with an 8/10, only because the course was so extensive, however, it wasn’t enough time to take action on and practice all those things.
Were you exploring any other executive learning programmes as well? Why did you choose ISB?
I was searching for courses both abroad as well as in India. So, my comparison was between HKUST in Hong Kong, IIMB Executive MBA, London School of Business, and Melbourne Business School.
When I was looking at the curriculum across these courses, I found that ISB ranked 28th in the World, and ranked 6th in Asia, which gave me the confidence it would be worthwhile to help me set myself in India as well as abroad (in case I was willing to relocate). I spoke to a few alums and they recommended ISB purely for its natural learning style which boosts an entrepreneurial mindset instead of mere theory and advocated its practical case studies and discussions with professors.
One of the most amazing aspects of the course at ISB is that renowned professors from across global institutions come and teach in this course. This enhanced our learning and is a major differentiating factor.
What was the one subject you studied in PGPpro that is most relevant to you in your work?
There can’t be just one subject; I think competitive strategy, negotiation, strategic innovation management, marketing services, new product development were some of my favourite courses.
However, there is one case study that has stayed with me: Incorporate strategy we discussed the use of technology and how Samsung zeroed in on which technology to adopt. They were mapping what their competitors do and then they decided to go the other way. This is relevant because a similar situation happened to me when I was coming up with my online platform for online channel research. I went back to the case study and picked up the parameters Samsung chose to make the decision and applied the parameters on my situation.
Also, I all praise for the Singapore immersion. That one week was a capsule of learning and the SMU professors added new ideas to our repertoire and refined our thoughts about the ASEAN market.
What are the 3 skills or learnings you received from PGPpro that makes you “recession-proof”?
I think exposure to various possibilities, a toolkit to devise our own list of checks, and taking decisions based on facts and gut in uncertain times like we are facing today, are essential. These challenging COVID-19 times, recession or not, are truly testing our abilities and learnings from the course.
Change management, 2. Adopting a comfortable leadership style, 3. Managing teams and upgrading changes within the organisation.
Tell us about some challenges you faced as a leader/ while leading a team before joining PGPpro, and how the programme helped you overcome these challenges.
Before PGPPRO I had a team of 5 direct reportees. Since the team was small and as my career was still budding, I would micro-manage much more because I found it difficult to trust others. During PGPpro, I started my own company and have a much larger team now: We are 19 employees in India, 2 in Indonesia, and 1 in Singapore. I am able to handle cross-functional teams with greater élan and ensure synchronisation between these teams while overseeing their work.
It wasn’t easy and I learnt with practice. Initially, work was grappling with my personal life as I would end up putting over 16 hours of work in the first 2 years post the inception of my company. The course definitely helped me to gain an understanding of various business angles and provided me a fair boundary of rules to play within and ensure smooth functioning of an organisation.
Did the idea of your own venture come to you during PGPpro or were you already thinking about it?
I was thinking about it since 2015, but I couldn’t make it happen that time. I was feeling stuck and wanted to expand, and while I didn’t want to fritter away my expertise and my skills in market research, I did want to move vertically – to look beyond what I was doing, which was qualitative research, and also dip my hands into quantitative research. So the idea was that if I can start my own company, I can experiment more with the kind of projects we picked up and what we specialized in.
While this was on my mind for a long time, being in a certain network of people, and getting the energy from the professors infuses confidence into taking a leap. I credit the eco-system of PGPpro for helping me take a plunge. Else I would have perhaps been more risk-averse and waited for my course to get over, and repaid my loan before starting a venture of my own.
Can you share instances where the ISB alumni network has benefitted you? (Please share specifics or an example)
At PGPpro, we learnt through creative methodologies. One such instance was the ‘Shadow an alumnus for a day’ event which turned out to be 3 hours one on one meeting with an alumnus matched with us based on our profiles. That’s where I met Rahul Jain, the co-founder of Hockey Pokey and Epigamia, and he truly mentored me and I discussed my entrepreneurial ideas with him in-depth. I also interacted with Aditya Gupta, who owns an AI software that helps retailers identify ideal locations for their stores. We identified synergies in our businesses and have now moved to collaborative discussions.
One last question: As a woman leader and entrepreneur, do you feel it is more difficult for women? If yes, what are your tips for future women leaders?
Gender equality is evident. We all know it, and we all face it. And this is not just in India; I have worked globally and seen this everywhere. Some people are willing to accept it; some are willing to fight it; while others put a blind eye to it. A positive way to handle this inequality is to make some friends on the way, create a gang of people who support your idea, and stand behind you. Which is what I had: people who had my back and it did push me forward and reduced some of that inequality. I think when faced with such roadblocks, women should do what we do best: Collaboration, vs. competition.
– Divya Juneja, PGPpro Class of 2018, Director- Research and Strategy, Divergent Insights