#WomenDisruptors: A winning leader should be consumer forward - Prathyusha Agarwal

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Women Disruptors is Adgully’s special initiative to bring to the fore some remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising, Marketing, Communications industries, how they think, how they manage things, how they lead from the front and much more.

As Chief Consumer Officer at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, Prathyusha Agarwal is driving viewer led brand and business growth for the company. She has been a part of the ZEEL family since January 2017 and leads the marketing function for the Domestic Broadcast business while spearheading key strategic initiatives and driving marketing capabilities across the company. Agarwal has been instrumental in driving several multi-media communication initiatives and strengthening the cultural connect of the network by crafting the ZEE regional growth story through a ‘soul to screen’ approach of taking inspiration from the consumers’ lives backed by deep insights. This has resulted in overall growth in market share and brand perception in the regional markets, which the regional channels contributing significantly to the overall network share. 

Prior to joining ZEEL, she was Head - Marketing at Tata UniStore Ltd, Tata’s e-commerce venture, where she launched TataCLiQ in a hyper-competitive e-commerce market. As VP - Marketing and Analytics at HDFC Life, Agarwal the ailing brand by making ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ relevant to the new age males. Driving network brand strategy for Star India, she spearheaded the Star corporate brand revamp and portfolio brand strategy during her term. In her enriching career path, Agarwal was Founder-Director of allOK Tech Support, worked with MarketGate Consulting, and honed marketing skills at HUL over 5 years in different sales and marketing roles. 

How do you inspire and motivate your employees as a leader of your organisation?
People respond to people and not as employees to leaders. A leader is but a fractal, whose vision, passion and delivery needs to get replicated across all members to make an extraordinary organisation that’s coherent as a whole. We do this by creating an open and collaborative working environment, where not only you as a leader bring in the direction, but every individual can bring their best self to the fore and freely contribute and feel like their contribution matters. I learn from everyone and encourage them to put their ideas and opinions on the table, because in a creative business like ours, lateral leaps on ideas are priceless. Secondly, to stay ahead of the curve, it is imperative to encourage a culture of innovation, where we challenge ourselves and innovate with every project we take on. At ZEE, we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit amongst our people, which helps people create their own innovative paths to business success. 

Your three important tips or guidelines to become a winning leader?
A winning leader should be consumer forward, anchoring decisions in the stakeholder that matters the most in any business, the customer and having the ability to convert great ideas into tangible outcomes for them. Humility – learning from everyone and respecting each other’s contribution, irrespective of the source/ so-called level from which the idea or solution came from is critical in creating not followers but owners for the task at hand. Lastly, commitment and passion – I believe if you as a leader are not committed or believe in the work you do, nothing can drive your people to showcase their best. 

A role model that you can think of as a great leader to follow? 
As clichéd as it might sound, the consumer is my biggest role model. In this socially and technologically connected world, every individual has the power to exert their influence on the brand and when the consumer talks, we need to listen. From my foundational stint with HUL to my current role in the M&E industry, I have always been guided by the consumer. At every stage of decision making, I have realised that sticking to this true north and maximising consumer value helps in making the best choices. 

How do you nurture and train your people to become a leader in the future?
While some people are ‘born’ leaders, I sincerely believe that the three things that help people grow into leaders are vision, capability, and accountability. I try and demonstrate this and call out the positive behaviours every day. A vision comes from a clear understanding of the end goal and an orientation towards action to get there. Without capability, ideas will stay castles in the sky without the foundation and pillars to hold them up there. I encourage and actively drive skill and capability building that makes our people future ready leaders, while accountability helps people to treat every piece of work as their own babies and brings in an orientation towards outcomes. I see these traits in action across the floor and it just reinstates my belief when I see stories of individuals rising through the ranks to become leaders across functions, businesses, and teams. The proof is in the pudding! 

What would be your approach to manage a crisis as a leader? 
Decoupling the situation from the operation and detaching self from the equation helps me usually look at a crisis as an objective chess player and not one of the pieces on the board. Putting together a multi-dimensional taskforce that brings the capability to think the problem through from multiple angles is at the core of solving it comprehensively, with minimal fallout or collateral damage. Lastly, but most critically, transparency with your people and over-indexing on communication is crucial to ensure that as a collective you are ahead of the crisis and not chasing it.


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