There Was A Time I Thought My Career Will End: Subhrangshu Neogi

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In an era that has more entrepreneurs than ever, there are those who continue to define life by their old-school beliefs and are successful at doing it. Subhrangshu Neogi, Director, Group Marketing & Brand, Religare, is one of them.

He’s a seasoned marketer and an eternal optimist who found his calling in corporate life and is proud to acknowledge it. He’s someone who doesn’t play the ego card, is easy to reach and “likes to help to make a difference.” And that quality makes him a natural mentor to a number of startups & those who have chosen to take the unconventional path, unlike him.

Subhrangshu has no regrets so far and he shared much more with me #InTheLounge. Excerpts:

You started your career with Dabur and have worked with several corporates since then. You’ve crossed a decade with Religare, what has made you stick around?

Professionally, it has been a very rewarding and enriching journey so far and this has been on account of multiple reasons. As you know it is often said, “You don’t change your company but you change your boss.” I was reporting in to the same person for almost 9 years out of 11 years at Religare and fortunately we had a very good working relationship. More importantly, I think I have been fortunate that culturally this place believes in empowering its people and the culture flows right from the top. Hence, this has essentially enabled me to work like an entrepreneur within the corporate frame and has given me a beautiful opportunity to build something truly meaningful over the years. Further, I believe we have ended up doing exciting new initiatives every year and it has consistently added variety and flavour to the role. It has been enjoyable and fulfilling.

What has been your greatest learning in these 11 years?

Not just at Religare but during my entire 22-year professional stint so far, I’ve realized people are the most important aspect of any journey in life. So, I think you need to value people and if you’re able to work seamlessly and effectively with a diverse set of people across different environments, no task is impossible.

So, would you pick up a lucrative offer with an organization that isn’t people-centric?

To answer your question it would be a No. However, it is difficult to judge culture from the outside. You only realise and feel the culture when you are part of the operating fabric of an organisation.

Why haven’t you dabbled with entrepreneurship till now?

May be I never got the right opportunity.

But, did you seek one…

Proactively, no. There have been times when I have thought that I should, probably, become an entrepreneur and do something of my own. But as mentioned, I believe I am fortunate to be part of an entrepreneurial platform within a corporate environment.

Subhrangshu & I catch up for a no-holds-barred conversation at Khan Market, New Delhi

Isn’t that playing safe?

Why would you say that? There are people I know and I’m sure you know them too, who have been working in the same organization for more than 20 years. Are they playing safe? No. They are doing what they are doing and delivering to the best of their abilities. They are, am sure, consistently adding value. Whether you are in a professional or an entrepreneurial role, you need to keep learning, add value to yourself, to the society you live in and have a mission in life.

Your Linkedin bio, it says, “with strong entrepreneurial management style”. What does it mean?

It means somebody who’s not afraid to take chances, has a strong sense of intuition and the one who “doesn’t plays safe.” (Smiles)

Would you hire someone who has been an entrepreneur and wants to shift to corporate life?

Yes, depends on what role I am hiring for. And if someone who has been an entrepreneur and has successfully done it for herself/himself, I don’t see a reason why s/he won’t do it for the organization.

Would he/she have an edge over an experienced corporate professional?

Entrepreneurship gives one life learnings which possibly a corporate life cannot. S/he is better placed to appreciate a certain situation which a normal corporate employee may never be able to.

On what grounds do you rate employment better than entrepreneurship?

Employment is a safer bet because you are taking your chances while having an assurance that the organization will back you up. So, in a professional environment where there is an entrepreneurial culture, you get best of both the worlds. But, if you are an entrepreneur, you don’t have such safety nets and have to take life as it comes. It’s challenging!

How have markets evolved over the years? What is the sentiment amongst the investors in India?

The sentiment is very bullish. The markets are on an all-time high. However, retail participation in equity markets per se and, even in financial sector as a whole continues to be low. It is still grossly under-penetrated as a category. But I guess therein also lies a big opportunity for brands & service providers to kind of up their game and deliver the goods.

Talking of bullishness, is that the scenario in your personal life as well?

(Smiles) Yes, fundamentally I am a very positive and forward-looking person. I’m very optimistic about life. There are moments when you are down but you need to shake yourself up in the morning and say, “Hey! You know what? Today is a new day.” That’s the spirit I have always lived with and would want to live with.

But has there been an end-of-everything moment in your life…

There have been times when some of the professional decisions in my previous stints made me feel that it’s the end of my professional life. There were such situations and it happens to all professionals. The learning has been immense. I have always told myself to hang in there and I eventually, sail through. But, that short span is something I would want to forget.

Do you think one needs to hold on to the pain to learn from it?

No, I disagree. Pain and positive experiences give you learnings. You need to keep the learning as the baggage and not the emotions or thought processes. If you hold on to emotions or thoughts, then you remain stuck. Just keep moving.

Is Modi’s India helping businesses of financial services? What has changed since he has taken over?

The biggest thing is that we are seeing a lot of optimism. The mood is changing. People are very upbeat. At one point of time, there was actually a situation when people had lost hope but now I think there’s a sense of direction, professionalism in everything that the government is doing and a sense of innovation in whatever is being envisaged. Execution will be critical.

Would you call Narendra Modi a good marketer?

(Instantaneously) Oh! I think I have always shared that Mr. Modi is a classic example of what a brand should be doing to amplify itself in the right fashion. So, from being a no brand to a regional brand to national brand to global brand, that’s who he is!

I know you like to read. What do you pick up generally?

From Sports to Lifestyle to Current Affairs to Fiction to Technology, I read almost everything. Trend spotting is something I enjoy.

Do you share that with your sons, Vedanta & Sidhantha, as well?

I do.

Family time in Monte Carlo

What is the father-son conversation usually like?

We ask each other how we spent our day. I always would want to add value and at least teach them one new thing every day. It could be either a fact or life lesson or nugget of information. If I like something, I jot it down and narrate it to them at the end of the day.

You are a Delhi boy. Tell me about your secret hide-out?

When I was studying in St. Columba’s (school), Connaught Place, Khan Market and Yashwant place were our pet places. Then DU, Hindu College happened and there’s nothing that can beat North Campus! Our favourite was the college lawns in Hindu. Also, during my MBA days at IMI, there used to be a nice little dhaba at Qutub Institutional area and it is still there, by the way. We used to hang out there, spend nights or drive down to Surajkund.

Where do you vacay?

Our annual family holidays could be within the country but largely, it has been outside over the past few years .This year it was the UK and the South of France.

Family time in Monte Carlo

One thing you have never understood about life.

(Thinks hard) Why do people have to waste time in small squabbles? It’s a sheer waste of time. I also don’t understand the unexpected twists and turns. You feel you have everything planned and suddenly, life has this habit of taking a U-turn. The result can be positive or negative but it is still strange. You think you are in charge but actually you are not.

What do you do in such situations?

Live in the moment and do my Karma and not worry about the result.

Do you believe in Karma?

I do. I try to live in the moment. It’s difficult and easier said than done. I would have become a saint or a monk if I could do it every time but I try hard and practice.

Passion or money? Please don’t make it stereotypical…

Money (Both share a laugh)

What is that one passion you can give up money for?

Tough one! (Smiles)

Interview was originally published in The CEO Magazine.

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There Was A Time I Thought My Career Will End: Subhrangshu Neogi