Features

How I got here…Finastra’s Smita Gupta

In our new feature exploring career trajectories, Finastra's head of marketing and strategy for APAC Smita Gupta traces her journey through technology marketing, from its fledgling days in India to the digital boom of today

Education

Growing up in New Delhi, India, I was privileged to attend the best schools and encouraged by my parents to excel in everything I did. My father was very open-minded about letting me choose my own path in life. I remember him saying ‘do what you believe is right – go ahead and live your dreams’ and this has been a bedrock for me throughout my career.

Back then in India, career choices for advanced students usually focused on engineering or medicine, neither of which appealed to me. Around the time I entered university, the Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to Indian economist Amartya Kumar Sen, igniting my interest in economics and its beautiful combination of art and data-driven science.

My start

I kicked off my career in a software company as very early on, I knew that the technology was where I wanted to be. From a marketing aspect, the industry was perfect in bridging my academic background with my curiosity for people and the psychology of consumer behaviour.

Although technology was booming in India during the mid-2000s, it proved to be quite a tough time as there were very few technology marketers and the discipline was seen as a support function with major strategies driven from North America or Europe and then repurposed for the APAC region.

However, I saw this as an opportunity to build marketing credibility from APAC and became one of the first marketers in the region to develop customer-centric campaigns and content messaging. More than 15 years ago, my teams and I started crafting and refining the elements of what is now known as persona-based marketing.

Approach

I am passionate about treating each customer as an individual and make it a priority to assess customer satisfaction at many points along the customer journey. If you can understand what matters most to your customer at each point in the lifecycle, then you can predict behaviours and needs more effectively. Our approach is built around customer-centricity; assessing personas and crafting messages and communication that appeals to a customer’s unique thinking, behaviour and psychology.

I believe that marketing is most effective when it functions as the ‘headlights’ of the business and is a product of collaboration with the customer, the sales team and the business. Everyone in the business should come together to uncover needs, listen to different perspectives and use this information to add value to the business.

The internet and the rise of social media and mobile have been the most transformative technological developments of the last 15 years of my career. I’ve had to adapt to some quite remarkable changes to how marketing campaigns are designed and produced. The increasingly digital world has forced our work to be more intricate to root out ways to tap into the changes and deliver results for brands.

Data mining, virtual collaboration and search technology were just some of the major innovations impacting the marketing industry. Today, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things dominate our discussions. Even the word ‘digital’ now means something different. It used to be synonymous with the IT department but now a brand’s digital strategy practically drives the roadmap and goals of many departments, from marketing to sales to customer service and delivery.

Highs and lows

Highs

I’m lucky enough in my career to have received the recognition and guidance to help me persevere and progress to the next level. Some of my career highs and achievements focus on the satisfaction of knowing my efforts have contributed directly to my brand’s success. I led the development and implementation of Tata Communications’ APAC GTM strategy and analyst relations to help get the brand to a ‘leader’ position in Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant.

One of my strongest beliefs is that the biggest roadblock to success is a lack of collaboration between marketing and sales. I’ve focused on overcoming this throughout my career and am gratified to have been trusted within a number of organisations to accelerate revenue growth in APAC and build marketing teams that have led the business.

On a personal level, I’m very proud to have been elected to the Global Next Women 50 in 2015, a high-potential senior executive accelerator sponsored by ‘World 50’. This was the first time a marketing executive was admitted to the program.

Lows

Previously in my career, it has been quite a challenge trying to bring disruptive transformation in to an organisation. New ideas can be perceived as a threat. Hidden biases can surface and create resistance. Be ready to go the extra mile to help people understand the benefits. Keep the big picture in mind and keep focused on your goal.

Breaking through traditional mindsets and perceptions of people has been a struggle at times during my career. As a female executive within a traditionally male-dominated technology sector, I had to go the extra mile when it came to gaining confidence in certain business decisions and getting a seat at the executive table.

Do’s and don’ts

Do

Learn something from every person you meet.

Approach challenges with a positive mindset.

Embrace what makes you different.

Own your own work-life decisions; there is no pre-defined work-life balance equation.

Be willing to take risks.

Admit mistakes.

Don’t

Lose sight of your values.

Compromise your honesty.

Doubt your inner resilience and willpower.

Create negativity in yourself or others.

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