Ajeet Sharma, the author of the novel Three Marketeers (published jointly by HarperCollins India and Black Ink) is a marketing expert, a business school professor, and a keen follower of trends and action in the business world. He holds a Ph.D. in Marketing and a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management. In his career, spanning more than twenty years, he has also worked as a copywriter on several international advertising projects and mentored many young professionals along the way. Ajeet developed interest in literature and music in school (he studied at Mayo College, Ajmer) and believes that in many ways marketing too is an art form, and the world of business its stage. Three Marketeers is a strong reflection of his own experiences and observations across different phases in his career. Excerpts from a quick chat with him:
Tell us a bit about the genesis of your book, Three Marketeers.
One often ends up writing about his or her immediate environment and Three Marketeers is a strong reflection of my observations and experiences in my career as a marketing pro. The challenges of the business world and the action within led me to write this book.
How long did it take you to write the book and what were some of the challenges you faced in the process?
This was a ten-year project, which included building the outline, writing, rewriting, and self-editing. As a busy marketing pro, one challenge that I faced was lack of time … reason why it took me so long, though writing a book in such a long span of time certainly makes the content rich.
Which writers did you read in your growing up years?
I have read books (though not all) by John Grisham, Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follett, Arthur Hailey, among others. In my school days I took special interest in some of the works by Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, and G.B. Shaw.
In what ways has your writing been influenced by some of the writers you admire?
I have been more influenced by my own emotions and thoughts about the happenings in my environment. Such an influence develops a writer’s own and unique voice.
What’s your preferred cure for writer’s block?
A sound sleep, listening to my favourite music, or even a heart-to-heart talk with a close friend.
Where do you write? And tell us a bit about the writing schedule you followed while working on Three Marketeers?
I write in my study at home. Three Marketeers is a night project and I feel that’s the time when I am more creative. There was no schedule as such.
Entrepreneurship and marketing is the backdrop for the story. As a professor of marketing, what’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who’re looking to build and sustain long-term brand building?
Almost all major firms today stand at the same level in terms of product quality, performance, customer care, etc. Brand-building via effective promotional programs – advertising, sales promotion, sponsorships, or PR – is where they can make a discernible difference. My advice to the aspiring entrepreneurs: understand your consumers well – they are human first and then buyers. A good understanding of human behaviour and, therefore, consumer behaviour, will enable the entrepreneurs to devise more relevant and effective programs for building powerful brands.
Tell us a bit about your all-time favourite marketing campaigns for any Indian brands.
Oh, it’s a long list! Most of my favourite campaigns convey a special message related to a cause. Undoubtedly, the Tata Tea Jago re campaign has been very effective in doing so and positioning the brand at the top of the consumers’ mind. The theme – ‘change the nation’ – has worked for the brand. Lifebuoy’s Help a child reach five is also a very strong message related to HUL’s life-saving mission. Havell’s Winds of change is another bold campaign on bringing about a societal change in India. The recent Nestle India’s Educate the girl child is a powerful anthem creating awareness about the issue.
What’s more challenging – teaching or writing a book? Why?
While writing a book has its challenges like writer’s block, in teaching there lies a challenge in establishing a two-way communication with every student in the class. That means a professor has to fine-tune his or her lecture according to the different understanding levels, in a limited period of time. But that’s what makes a lecture more interesting. There is enough room for creativity here.
Three works of fiction you’d recommend to aspiring marketeers?
I suggest everyone in the world of business, and not just marketeers, to read The Rainmaker by John Grisham, Wheels by Arthur Hailey, and The Fourth Estate by Jeffrey Archer.
Three works of non-fiction you’d recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs?
There is one non-fiction book, Kosen Rufu by Daisaku Ikeda, which comes to my mind and every business person should read it. The book is about a journey to realise world peace, which should be everyone’s objective in every sphere, including business.
(Three Marketers is now available in bookstores. You can buy it online here: http://amzn.to/2ppO7Wu)