Meet the SHEROES: A QnA with Sunita Sapra, General Manager, Marketing Operations of Karam Industries
Tell us a little about your life…
I come from a simple, middle class family and was educated in a Convent school, this helped inculcate strong values in me. My father was very aspiring and he always gave us (me and my two brothers) the best in life. My mother was a brilliant house maker and she is still my idol. As a child I was pampered a lot by my parents and my two brothers. As a student, I was very hardworking and excelled in academics. Teaching was a passion since childhood, but before I could plan a career I was married off in my early 20s.
Left with just being a graduate, I was loaded with responsibilities after marriage like taking care of an ailing grandmother, solely running the house all by myself etc. Whereas I had never moved out of the house alone before marriage. At this time I was a big support to my husband in his career as he was setting up a business in partnership with my brother. While he was traveling the whole world, I was taking care of the house and my two boys.
The turning point in my life came when I lost my father in 2001. I was very attached to him and suddenly I realized I was going into depression. It was then that my husband forced me to join his office so that I could keep myself occupied. The old grandmother was no more by this time and both my boys had started going to school. I started working half day, so that I could be back home for the kids when they were back from school. I don't know when the half-day turned into a full day and even beyond that, as I was trusted with loads of responsibilities at work and somehow I was enjoying it.
Tell us about your current role and work at KARAM?
Currently I am heading the marketing operations for the Company. This includes HR, Finance, IT, Monthly reporting from Marketing offices, Business promotion and ensure support required for all Sales & marketing activities. Since my core area of focus is in operations, I have a keen eye for detailing.
My husband is a visionary and my job is to execute whatever he dreams of.
One company and one industry for 15 years - how has the journey been? What can you say have been your key takeaways thus far?
It’s been a great journey so far. My husband has been my mentor throughout and I owe all my growth & success to him. He has always given me the freedom to take decisions and risks at work. I like the freedom but at the same time I refuse to be called a trophy wife. We have both learnt to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses when working together. It doesn't stop us from arguing though, but that's what keeps things interesting.
I have learnt so much in these 15 years from the industry specialists & consultants during interactions. I studied a lot while drafting systems and policies for the Company, which enhanced my personality. I believe in leading by example. We managed to set up a huge network of marketing offices, Dealers and Channel partners across India to reach the customer. KARAM today is the no 1 brand in the industry.
In this field of work, what are your biggest personal driving factors and biggest challenges?
My passion lies in the pursuit of excellence. Can I do it very well, better than others? Staying calm in difficult times and focusing on the task at hand. I always look at the positive side of things.
There was a time when I was nervous to meet a stranger or talk in public, but with practice and perseverance, I overcame the fear of public speaking and enhanced my communication skills.
Tell us about a typical day at-work, how does it start? What is your normal working day like?
My day starts early with a brisk walk of 45 minutes. I still like to read the newspaper rather than getting notifications on my smart phone. I like to spend substantial time in office, as when at home I cannot concentrate on work. Once out of office, I don’t like to think about work. We never carry work home.
There is a queue of my reportees waiting to enter my room even before I reach. One by one, I call them and resolve their issues, or give suggestions, at times seek their advice also.
I carry my lunch from home, which is laid in office, and we strictly adhere to the lunch timings. Lunchtime is also a chitchat time with my senior management team and I feel it’s important to maintain a good personal rapport with them.
I reach home not before 7 pm. I love to cook for my family; in fact cooking is a stress buster for me. No matter how tired I am, I would never shirk from showing my culinary skills. That’s my way of showing love towards my boys (includes my father-in-law, husband and two sons). We make sure that we all have dinner together if everyone is in town.
I travel a lot for work and holiday. There was a time when I used to visit all my marketing offices across India once a month to take reporting. I used to do up down Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad in one day. Trust me it was very exhausting, but I was young and could handle it.
I’m not a big TV fan, but yes I do love to surf channels before going to bed. Despite my busy schedule, I found some time to learn singing; my husband encouraged me to go for it.
In terms of the "working woman" and work-life balance, after being a careerist for so many years, where do you feel the major challenge areas lie, how would you tell others to overcome them?
It is not easy for a woman to maintain a healthy work-life balance. It is a clash every single day for her, whether she wants to play a housewife, or a mother, a daughter-in-law, or a workingwoman. She cannot do it until she has complete support from the family, which luckily I managed to get in abundance. What do you do when anybody in your family is sick and you have an important meeting in office? You are in a dilemma whether to cancel the meeting or leave your loved one at home. There have been times when I have done this with a load of guilt in my heart.
The only way out is to train people around you to manage jobs with or without you.
Another challenge that I faced initially was being called the Boss’s wife. I had to work very hard to wash this label and become a leader by acceptance at KARAM.
I believe honesty is the best policy. It works for me at both work and home.