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A journey of a lifetime begins with the "not knowing." How, you ask? Because that makes you eager to know what lies on the other side, ultimately pushing you to venture into the depths of the uncharted waters and give it whatever it takes. 

FLAME alumnus, Yash Merchant, has always been up for trying his hands at new things, and getting a flavour of corporate life before jumping into it full-time, made it to the top of his must-try list. So, while pursuing his bachelors at FLAME, he took a couple of internships to figure out his way forward. As it turned out, he bagged an interesting opportunity to work with Nike, "an aspirational company to work with considering the love I had for the brand," as he puts it. He was assigned the task of revamping their in-store branding and, to his surprise, the creative team at Nike was on-board with his ideas. This led to a total of 12 stores across Mumbai and Pune implementing his work, and helping him figure out that his interests lie in marketing and brand management. Yash thoroughly enjoyed his time interning at 3M, where he was fortunate enough to work with the brilliant minds in the marketing space for the company’s Cleaning and Workplace Safety Divisions. He was elated as 3 out of 5 of his recommendations submitted in the project report were actually implemented. He goes on to add, "the empowerment, freedom of work, and clarity of expected outcomes I received from both Nike and 3M is something I can strongly attribute my present success to." So, when asked what the main takeaways from his interning experiences would be, he points out, "More than the technical skills I took away and the vast network of professionals I interacted with at these brands, I learnt to enhance the importance of 3 critical skills – collaboration, consistency, and resilience." 

Yash always made sure he invested all his energies in whatever he pursued. This was especially evident as he took up the entrepreneurship elective during his graduation days, and ended up building two amazing ventures on the campus, with a great bunch of peers by his side. "Through this elective, we were able to run businesses on or off campus based on a problem we identified," he says, sounding thrilled. So, with "lack of food variety" being identified as the target area, Yash set up Bottom’s Up (BU) - an on-campus café, right from scratch, along with his group of friends, and pooled in around INR 3 lakhs. He proudly goes on to mention, "To date, Bottom’s Up remains one of the highest grossing and most popular businesses on the FLAME campus." Another enriching experience that Yash reminisces about is that of building Gold Standard, a business that started off as a project from Prof. Sajith Narayanan’s class, and went on to expand its ties with a UK-based luxury gold plating service to customise gadgets such as iPhones, Blackberry's, and iPods, finally moving on to everything metal.

The learning from these practical ventures only deepened for Yash once he went on to pursue the Executive Global Immersion Program at one of the top 20 universities in the world, Nanyang. Of course, learning from world-renowned professors such as Vijay Sethi (awarded the world’s best business professor by EIU) and Joo-Seng was an experience Yash feels honoured to have had, but it was the presence of over 40,000 students present on the campus at the same time that expanded his horizons. "It was the peer-to-peer learning that really accelerated my journey here," he says. His journey at Woxsen too was nothing short of magnificent, for there he got to build an excellent network and had greats such as Piyush Kumar from Wharton and Charles Antony, a corporate executive and former chief at one of the Tata group's companies, teach full-credit courses.

Yash has been a marketing guy for 9+ years now, planning, strategising, and building brands, all while learning his way around the workings of the marketing field, which seems to be changing as mysteriously as a Hogwarts staircase. So, how exactly does Yash stay on top of his game and compete with a faster-evolving younger generation? Well, for him, it is all about mastering the art of upskilling. "If you’re happy where you are and think that everything is going to be the same 5 or 10 years down the line, you need to read more and analyse trends closely. Unlike a financial accounting function, marketing changes drastically from industry to industry. Marketing in FMCG and marketing in a B2B SaaS space are completely different. The only answer to staying on top of things and having know-how about the functions across industries is upskilling," he says, letting us in on the tricks of the trade. When asked about his personal approach to marketing, he informs us that marketing should always contain 3 critical aspects:

  1. Emotion & Story-telling: Whether you’re marketing a product, service, or an individual, having a story to tell gives you a chance to emotionally engage with your customers and take their interest in association to the next level.
  2. Experience: Indian customers' value affection, attention, and warmth. I ensure that my team and I provide an extraordinary experience to every customer — one who is already associated with us, a new or potential one, and even a customer who may have rejected us for the time being.
  3. Consistency: Doing something great once will erase your effect in a customer’s mind. Doing it aggressively, every day will make your customers hate you. But doing it subtly, on a regular basis will have the best impact. Consistency in everything you do – a customer acquisition campaign, a quality check on your product, or even exercising and eating healthy – is super-critical.

Currently the head of the brand management, public relations, and external communications functions at the Great Lakes Institute of Management, Yash successfully juggles between analysing brand positioning, consumer insights, monitoring product distribution and market trends, overseeing advertising activities, and much more. His is a role that always keeps him on his toes, constantly pushing him to explore and grow in the process. He talks of challenges being a part and parcel of the marketing field, while also revealing a way to find a way through the maze and stand out. "Focus on dominating your fundamental communication skills—that’s the first step in building a better personal brand," he advises. "Once you figure out what your personal brand stands for, you can separate yourself from the competition by specialising and socialising." According to him, the real secret lies in creating content for other industry blogs, working on portfolio pieces to add an edge to your profile, volunteering your marketing skills with an NGO to polish your pieces, and the likes of these initiatives might not just help you gain the needed experience, but also help you make a difference in the world and your career. 

Yash began his career with "not knowing" and eventually discovered what drives him. From taking up courses that intrigued him, encouraged him to think differently, sparked his creativity and helped him understand different perceptions, to experiencing everything first-hand by taking risks, Yash truly has done it all, and continues to make a name for himself and his alma mater in the ever-changing dynamics of the marketing world.