Parth Patel, VP of Marketing at Kerry Group – APAC, Middle East, and Africa, talks to The Ortus Club’s Ali Noelle Sy about the top challenges most marketers have trouble addressing, including measuring ROI from marketing investments, retaining talented marketers from leaving for more “interesting” fields, and identifying the next big trend.
To watch Parth’s interview, you can subscribe to our Ortus Chats interview series on Youtube. You can also listen to the interview on Spotify or pour yourself a cup of coffee and read the full interview below.
Can you give us a one-sentence summary of your company?
We are an Irish organisation in the food ingredients industry.
Can you describe your role as a VP of Marketing in one word? Why?
Growth. The reason why I say that is because I work in the business-to-business industry, which is a bit different from the business-to-client industry. In the B2B industry, we’re talking about working with a fairly consolidated list of customers.
For me as a marketer and as head of marketing for the region, it’s all about understanding customer needs. It’s about the strategy that we have and the demand generation activities that we have linked to our strategy. It’s also about the customer experience. All of these factors should lead to one thing only which is business growth, especially in the market that we are in which is emerging market.
It’s all about ensuring that we are marketing to our customers the right way. That’s the role of marketing. So I would say that if there’s a word that would describe the role of a VP of Marketing, for me it would be growth.
What current challenges are you facing right now as the VP of Marketing? Can you identify a solution?
Two months back, I was in a roundtable and there were other marketers with me in that roundtable who were from different industries like travel, retail, food, IT, etc. I heard them talk about the key issues that they were facing. So I made some notes and I’m going to share my knowledge from that.
There are three things that stood out to me in that panel discussion. Number one, which I think is an old-age problem, is measuring ROI for the investments that we make in marketing. I was surprised to know that not only is it a problem for others in B2B, but finding out that it was also a problem for B2C marketers.
The second one, and more so now than ever before, is ensuring the retention of talented marketers. We all know that following the Covid crisis, the job market has quite opened up, and there have been plenty of opportunities out there, especially in startups. A lot of young people in my team find those kinds of areas much more interesting than working for an established organisation. So I would say retaining talented marketers is definitely a challenge.
The third one is identifying the next trend that can take your business to another level. What is the next big thing around the corner that is coming up but is not visible to everybody? If you as an organisation can know what that is and if you can strategise accordingly, it will help you win and grow, especially in emerging markets which are rapidly evolving like those in China, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East.
How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?
The success I’ve had so far is because of being open to learning each day. When I was much younger, 10 years back, that was something I never did. I thought I knew everything, but as you age, life humbles you down a lot more, and I think it’s clearly all about learning.
Things are changing so rapidly today than they were five or ten years ago, and if you don’t learn, you will stay stagnant. So if you want to move up and be successful, make sure you learn not only from your own industry, but also from the different industries around you. They may not be related to your work, but you’ll learn a lot. Always be open to learning from peers, your team, or your senior leaders. Keep reading books, being in panels, etc. Keep that up as much as you can.
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
There was a time I stopped working because I decided to go to business school. I basically took a break for 2 years while I was in my mid-career. It was tough because I wasn’t earning money. I wasn’t young. I was in my 30s and I thought that was the biggest risk I took because I was actually doing very well in my company.
I enjoyed what I was doing but I felt there was something missing, so I stopped working and went to business school. I got my MBA. It was a significant investment at that point in time. I had to take loans and I didn’t have a salary for 2 years. It was a huge problem. I would say that would be the biggest risk I’ve taken but also the biggest ROI I’ve had in my life. I would go back and do it all over again.
How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years?
My role has already evolved. I can clearly see the shift happening. For example, I can tell you what’s happening now with marketing. I’m also responsible for the external collaboration initiative in the region, which is so important now more than ever.
I don’t believe any organisation can be insular and win. You need to open up, to think outside the ecosystem. You’ve got to bring in partners and work together as one team. Sometimes, you even need to work with competition to get things done, and it’s absolutely okay. I don’t think this mentality existed even 10 years back.
Open up, look for the best partners, bring them into an ecosystem and make sure that you use that expertise and knowledge to identify the next big product, next big trend, or the next big set of customers. That will help you immensely.
In my case, providing sustainable nutrition to more consumers is the biggest evolution brought about by this thinking. We are now more open-minded than how we were a few years back, and I think the pandemic has played a huge role in that thought process.
“Open up, look for the best partners, bring them into an ecosystem and make sure that you use that expertise and knowledge to identify the next big product, next big trend, or the next big set of customers. That will help you immensely.”
What career advice would you like to share with other VPs of Marketing?
I would say careers are not linear and they never will be. Sometimes, you need to make different moves. I would say a move which is not promotion-centric, but allows you to learn a different skill set. That’s what I tell my team every time. We have a career framework which is basically a guide or a tool. I tell my people that this is not about you moving up every two or three years. It’s about what kind of experiences you are willing to take. What kind of skill sets you are trying to develop and to achieve them. Try new experiences no matter what it takes. That is what you should aim for.
I would say don’t have career-centric ambitions. For example, you want to achieve this or that in three or five years. Have ambitions in terms of learning new kinds of skill sets or experiences. I believe that will definitely help you more in your career than having goal posts like wanting to be the VP of something in the next few years.
Those things will just pass. Focus on looking at your specific skill sets and experiences. If you get that right, you’ll enjoy yourself and the promotions. Everything else will fall in place.