Charu Nathan: A Passionate Marketeer of the CREATIVE INC Kind

charu nathan
Charu Nathan

The passionate pursuit of excellence is the most fundamental and profound brand strategy. A brand that resonates with customer expectations, needs, and changing market demands is dependent on the brand strategist’s genuine compassion. It is heartfelt innovation. It enables them to build true value around products and services that not only solve consumer problems but also empower them to live a more vibrant lifestyle. A creative, holistic, and sustainable way of life.

Over her two decades in the industry, Charu Nathan, the passionate marketeer, has realized that what connects people to any brand is a ‘customer-driven marketing strategy’. This means shifting focus from a product or services to its user and basing your marketing strategy, plans and communication to one simple thumb rule… “What’s in it for them”!

Under Charu’s visionary leadership, CREATIVE INC, today, has emerged as a full-service integrated brand Management/brand marketing agency that helps organizations launch new products and services in the market and effectively build brand equity via innovative marketing approaches. Charu shares, “If innovation needs marketing, then good marketing needs innovation! But marketing is and should not be executed merely through tactical functions of acquiring and retaining customers, as many agencies practice it today. Understanding the category, audiences’ fundamental needs and drivers, identifying customers, and developing the entire go-to-market and usage ecosystem are the essential aspects of effective marketing. And this is precisely where CREATIVE INC comes in. We are insights driven, thrive on a robust strategy and follow through with compound messaging – all by being digital first!

Charu was sharing her opinion at an interview with CIO Look India, where she spoke candidly on her professional journey, milestones, goals, and future plans to take CREATIVE INC to the next level of brand marketing innovation. Highlights of the exclusive conversation are given below:

Brief us about your career path as a staunch woman leader up until your current position at CREATIVE INC. What were the challenges that you had to overcome to scale your progress?

I started this company at a very young age of 21. At that point, I wasn’t even sure whether it would culminate into a successful organization or just run as a consulting outfit for a few years only. If you ask me, CREATIVE INC’s success till date is more to do with the passion for good work rather than a business plan or numbers. I realized over time (as maturity set in) that the reasons I was successful were… pure unrelenting passion to do what it takes in marketing, never being on the other side of the table of the client (in fact being their biggest asset) and earning trust before earning the dollar. The journey so far has been a hurdle race and the challenges aplenty. CREATIVE INC transitioned from being a conventional creative agency to a digital-first marketing agency. The challenges in taking the company a notch up YoY were more to do with being the woman in the business and hence getting the client to trust my capabilities; understanding and picking the right talent and finally, keeping that fine balance of being a quality-driven organization as well as having the right number of clients to keep the balance sheet northwards.

Tell us more about your company, highlighting its mission and vision in the niche it is catering to.

CREATIVE INC is a highly sought after digital-first creative agency of the country. We are nimble, ready to adapt and adopt to any ‘digital next’ move. Our thinking & insight is our biggest asset or niche as we help brands move closer to their vision. The agency has three offices in India and initiated a global presence in 2015 with another three offices in the Middle East. We’ve taken the leap of faith and of distances to build a highly personalized and nuanced approach for the brands we work with.

Opening global offices isn’t just about crossing geographical boundaries for us. It is about taking what we do best to newer geographies, understanding new cultures and collaborating with some of the brightest talent world over.

Everything at CREATIVE INC is driven by the ‘customer first’ approach.

What do you believe is the significant factor for women in the business arena, and what is the most important aspect of your success, adhering to these fundamentals?

Hmmm, interesting question there and I do see that you want me to address this from a woman’s perspective. However, I would first address this from a ‘gender neutral’ perspective. The significant success mantra for all in business is, ‘Don’t stagnate. Innovate.’

Now if I may try and address this as a woman I’d say, ‘If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great. And, it is only hard till you’ve done it.’

Enlighten us on how you have impacted the modern industry through your expertise in the niche.

Let’s start by understanding our industry first. It is Marketing! Everyone and anyone in this industry knows that we help organizations launch/market products/services and eventually build them into strong visible brands. My expertise in the area is and will always be Brand Strategy – one that works to create, consolidate or change brand perceptions. Because ultimately, a strong strategy helps get out of the weeds of product features & USPs (that might be totally me too) and open up an understanding on how to ladder up to a bigger benefit and voice for the brand. This helps us create more empathetic, personalised and premium associations in the minds of the target audiences.

The result: stronger, more sustainable brands built!

What strategies do you implement to promote gender diversity for various leadership positions at your organization?

A diverse and inclusive workplace allows for different ideas and creativity which will improve performance, processes, and productivity. I am sure that you want me to write along these lines. But I am sorry, I have another version here. To the world out there, I’d say remove biases, fair play-fair pay and please focus on the results not the person.

But my very own personal piece of advice to all women, ‘of course there will always be parent’s pressure, husband’s needs, children’s demands… and what not. You know how to prioritise all that but not your career? Really? As women we are often marginalized when it comes to career opportunities. Ask yourself, have we not led the world to believe that we aren’t equal and hence need a diverse & inclusive corporate program to fit in? When the question is about who is better for the job, let the comparison be purely on capability… why is the employer forced to think otherwise? Some of us have forced the world to believe that somewhere we will fall short on delivering what it takes. Isn’t it time to prove them wrong? You will find equality if you behave like an equal.

What values do you incorporate to enhance the work culture at CREATIVE INC?

I am all about ‘Open House Sessions’. I encourage team members to speak face to face and not behind the back… definitely not to the line managers or the management. If something is bothering you enough to escalate it, resolve it with the person face to face – right there & then. The second value I always stress on is ‘Customer Centricity’. It is a simple concept. It’s a way of working that we use to put our clients at the heart of everything we do.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the modern business arena? How are you preparing for this transformation?

We have witnessed startups making all the hulla baloo around us. But what will stay in the longer run are sustainable, resilient businesses. Businesses will also proceed towards a fine balance of human intelligence integrated with artificial intelligence. And lastly, purpose in what they do. Today’s consumers are seeking a more meaningful connection with brands. And this need for connection has given rise to authenticity as a business trend. Authenticity helps to foster human connections – because, as humans, we like to see brands (and business leaders) display important human qualities like honesty, reliability, empathy, compassion and humility. We want brands (and leaders) to bring honest value and stand for more than just turning a profit. With these at the heart of everything we do, we are adopting Martech whilst making our services more & more personalized.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for your company?

I believe in the power of co-opetition and integration. The global business world has never been so integrated. And it’s a good thing, because the need to work together to learn more, do more is there. I see some significant mergers in the offing (more along the lines of Martech) with like-minded global organizations.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women leaders willing to venture into the modern business arena, especially in the niche that you are catering to?

Again, I will say the same thing that hovers on equality, “Firstly, don’t approach the marketplace as a woman in business but as a businessperson. Secondly, step up, speak up. Also please be consistent. Don’t overthink. It never helped anyone. Be a stamp. Stick to something if you want to go places. Lastly, take yourself seriously if you want the world to. Honour what you say and stand up for what you do.”