Updated: Jul 25, 2018
Pranjalee Thanekar Lahri : a marketer, a mother, an obsessive compulsive decorator, a Digital Marketing loyalist with close to 10 yrs. of work experience, and a (m)Ad woman at heart.
An MBA (Marketing) and Engineer (EnTC) by qualification, professionally She has been a Copywriter before being a Marketing Head at UpsideLMS (currently).
From being a kid with self-esteem issues to becoming the woman she is today, her journey of 32 years has been an adventure-ride, with some failures, successes, learning, and losses along the way.
We are here with an interview with Pranjalee where she has brilliantly shared her life's story which is going to be a great inspiration for everyone going through this.
What are you most passionate about?
Off the bat - Raising my kid and Marketing, strictly in that order. But for the nature and context of this interview, I will talk about the latter here on.
When and how did you realize your passion?
My passion for Marketing budded from my love of writing. Here's the long and the short of it.
I wasn't a super bright student in school. And like every student in India will vouch, tuitions were an integral part of my life. For one such, I had a teacher with a rather unique way of helping us learn - though 'mugging'! Sad, but true. We had to mug every word of every answer until we could rattle it off in our sleeps too! After mugging came the 'speaking aloud' part. The student who could mug the fastest got the opportunity to say the answer aloud for the benefit of the entire class. And I, as it turns out, was the fastest. So I always got myself an opportunity to do a sort of 'public speaking'. While this kind of teaching did little for me in terms of increasing my fondness for that subject, it gave me a confidence in speaking and communication abilities, and I nursed a dream of becoming a news reader one day.
I came to Pune for my Engineering the very next year. Being born and brought up in Mumbai, Pune was a huge shock for me in terms of its culture, people, and places. With this 'new place, new people, no friends' syndrome, I took to diary writing - yes, a written diary; nothing fancy on the blog or MS Word even! And just like that 4 years flew by and I was officially an Engineer .
I was again at crossroads thinking what to do next when peer and parent pressure convinced me to get a degree in management. So MBA it was. CAT/ CET/SET etc. needed preparation (duh!) so I took a year's break and enrolled into a coaching class. It was here that one of teachers noticed my writing skills and pointed out that I could do well in Journalism.
So now along with news reading, I had another possible career option - Journalism. So I thought of using my study break to hone my writing skills. But instead of pursuing Journalism I interviewed for a position of Jr. Copywriter at an Ad Agency and cracked it. Here I was the voice of many brands, but the one that left its impression on me the most was Alfa Laval. More than the brand, it was the Markcomm Manager there - a lady in her late 40s or so who coordinated with me on the ads. She opened up a new possibility for me - a career in Marketing Communications. And this then became my life's agenda.
But before that came MBA, where I topped my college to receive an award at the hands of late. Vilasrao Deskhmukh. During the last semester of my MBA, I joined another Ad Agency, this time in the capacity of a Business Development Ex. In a short span of 6 months, I was promoted to Manager Client Servicing - the fastest ever for any employee in that agency, and went on to independently handle national key accounts of Wipro BPO and Symbiosis for a year and half when the need to focus my energies on a single brand started to creep in. A lucky coincidence, you may say, in the December of 2009 I came across an opening for Markcomm Executive for an eLearning company, and I jumped for it!
I knew the ins and out of Advertising, I had practically read all Marketing books there were - cover to cover, and so preparing for this interview wasn't much of an effort for me. And everything really seemed to be going easy for me at the interview with the company's Director, until he asked me 'What's your understanding of SMM?' I was stumped! My knowledge of social media started and ended with Orkut and Facebook. I didn't know if one could market on it, leave alone how. But I was honest enough to tell him that I didn't have an inkling of an idea about SMM and also promised that if he trusted me to hand his brand to me for all marketing efforts, I would do everything in my capacity to learn and do SMM. That was almost 8 years back. Not just did they hire me, but they went on to promote me to the Marketing Head position with all key functions (SEO, SMM, GD, Programming, Content Writing) being handled by me independently. Today, our company has a strong following on social media and has successfully increased its global footprint using digital marketing as its key channel.
This is precisely how I ended up be a part of something I have grown to love so much!
Are you satisfied by your position in life?
I couldn't be happier!
On the professional front, I have a job that allows me to do what I love the most. Every single day I am inspired to do new-er, do better.
On the personal front, I have a great support system - with my husband, my dad, and my sister backing every dream and ambition I have. And my toddler makes all my efforts and hard work worthwhile.
The worst experience of your life related to your career?
I wouldn't label anything as 'worst' as everything that has happened in my career (whether it be good, bad or ugly) has served me a lesson and made me a better (and a wiser) person.
The best experience of your life related to your career?
More than the best experience, I would like to call it the best career decision I have taken.
The most supportive person in your life?
Is a person who is not only my friend but my sounding-board of ideas, my critique, my well-wisher, my motivator - all rolled into one.
Your biggest struggle in life?
I have not one, but many. Most on the personal front that have had massive implications on my professional life as well:
1. Coping with my mother's death
2. Learning to (re)walk on my feet after an accident that fractured my right tibia into 10 pieces
3. Overcoming Post Partum Depression (PPD) after the birth of my child
4. (Self)learning English and overcoming self-esteem issues
How do you define success?
For me, it's a state of mind. A happy place. It cannot be stated as a cut-and-pasted definition and certainly cannot be measured in monetary terms. It's far and beyond, encompassing the tangibles and the intangibles.
Whom do you idealize and why?
No one but myself. Not because I lack humility or I am boastful, but because I know that ONLY and ONLY I have the power to either make it or break it.
When you get stuck at something, what steps you usually take?
For me, 'sleeping over the matter' - for clearing my mind and De-stressing is the mantra. Whatever it is, it too shall pass. Nothing in life is too difficult or impossible. It's just about setting your heart and mind to it. The rest will follow.
Your advice to younger generations?
Don't stress. Do things. Life is too short for regrets. Just live and learn every moment.
Plan. But remember that sometimes the best laid plans will not pan out the way you want them to. So be ready to adapt and change.
Aim for success. But remember that a failure will teach you more than success ever will. So be open to failures.
Aim for the best. But remember that there will be losses - personal (your loved ones) and professional (your job, your money, etc.). So be strong emotionally and physically. They will be your greatest strengths.
"It's ok to fail. It's ok to fall. It's ok to falter. But it's not ok to accept defeat. You need to pull yourself together, rise (above challenges, problems), and keep going." Few Lines for Free Idiots? Two words - Great initiative! We live in a world that's a series of contradictions -
we have everything (material) yet lack peace.
we are connected (through mobile phones and Internet) yet seek connections.
we have money to spoil our kids yet fail to see what they need the most (love and support).
we have natural, organic food produce in abundance, yet adopt the junk ways of life.
And facing the brunt of all this is the younger generation. The generation of the future. In today times of Blue Whale, date drugs, and homicides, what we need are people that believe, that can provide the support, that can lend a patient ear, that can guide from darkness to light. In one word, someone like Free Idiots.
Her journey is truly a adventure-ride. Isn't it? Share your thoughts in the comment below.