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The amazing Geetanjali Kirloskar

Monday, April 09, 2012

Geetanjali Kirloskar, Granddaughter–in–law of the late doyen of Indian Industry S.L. Kirloskar and a part of one of Pune’s oldest and most prestigious business families “Kirloskar”, is a dynamic achiever on her own standing.  Wife of Vikram Kirloskar, who is Chairman and Managing Director of Kirloskar Systems Ltd., and Vice Chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, Geetanjali is unlike most industrialists’ wives. She is youthful, energized, amazingly multifaceted, very attractive and a dynamic personality.  Roop Karnani profiles this impressive business woman…

She has the singular achievement of pursuing with great success a career in advertising, outside the family business, and then engaging back within the family business to set up diverse businesses for Kirloskar. The first among them being Toyota Tsusho Insurance Broker India Pvt. Ltd., which is a JV with Toyota Tsusho Japan for insurance brokerage, the second, where she is Chairperson, being Kirloskar Technologies Pvt. Ltd., where they have the sole distributorship of high-end Medical Equipment, and the latest addition, spearheading their major Healthcare Project, in collaboration with a large Japanese company.

Rewinding back to where she started from, Geetanjali Kirloskar proved to be an outstanding entrepreneur, when she built up an Advertising Agency of the Kirloskar Group ‘Pratibha’.  She involved herself in every department of advertising, including training programs at a large MNC Ad Agency in London.  “I had to work harder, both to gain enough knowledge and experience and also to get source credibility and respect from the fraternity and clients, being a Kirloskar”, she recalls.

In 1998 she sold 50% of Pratibha to a large international partner, the world’s second largest Ad Group; Interpublic Worldwide Group (IPG) called Quadrant Communications Ltd, and was appointed President and CEO of the new Ad Agency. IPG had the option of getting any other top professional, but they made an offer to Geetanjali Kirloskar because they believed that she was top class advertising professional.

“It was a terrific achievement for me at that time to actually drive and be successful in getting this Joint Venture for the Ad Agency with the world’s second largest Ad Group, and also heading it as President”, says Geetanjali.  She made her mark here too, leading it from Rs.10 Crore to over Rs.80 Crore in less than 4 years, that too, through the industry’s worst recession at that time, with profitability that exceeded International norms.

Not only this - under her leadership, the creative product peaked, and Quadrant won several National and International Awards for creativity for its Ad campaigns.

She was thus a recognized as a competent professional who came on the Chair on merit as appointed by a worldwide company and not by the family credentials.

She also later set up “Lintertainment” for the large Ad Agency “Lintas” in India – for promoting of brands in Hindi movies, of which she became President.  This division promoted brands for placement in movies.  

In 2003 she decided to leave advertising and entertainment marketing for applying her consumer insight, communication, and brand building skills for a much larger canvas - One that would allow her to now contribute to the Kirloskar Group, in a more supportive and larger role.  Already the Kirloskars have had very successful relationships with Japanese businesses and hence Geetanjali conceived of a unique venture that would promote India Japan ties – yet another example of her very creative and vibrant mind. So she started a first ever, unique non-profit venture to bridge the cultural gaps between two large countries – India and Japan, called the India Japan Initiative (IJI), heading it as Chairperson.

“The objective of IJI was connecting minds between the people of India and Japan.  She drove several initiatives for the business community enabling the understanding of the Japanese work culture and business practices, as also driving several people to people efforts to understand each others lifestyle and cultural ways.  This went a long way in catalyzing business exchanges. The brand building, communication, consumer understanding experience gained over the years helped in driving this effort”, explains Geetanjali.
As it grew in stature, large Indian and Japanese companies joined as Charter Members. Besides Kirloskar as founder member, Infosys, i-flex, Sona Steering, Bharat Forge, Motherson Sumi, Toyota Kirloskar, Sansui, Toshiba, Mitsui, Mitsubishi Corp, Citizen Watches, Asahi Glass, Tasty Bite are all core Charter Members. This core group of top Japanese and Indian companies drives this initiative with their successful experience in doing business with Japan.

“The  IJI  in that sense is a complementary function to that of Trade Association and Diplomacy, as it focuses on understanding the softer aspect of doing business with Japan on one hand, and cultural nuances that create higher comfort levels between the two peoples on the other hand”, she adds.

Naturally, the IJI has grown in these last 8 years as a solid organization driving several initiatives across India to bring Indians and Japanese businesses closer. 
Additionally, she is on the Board of the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) of the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India.  She is also Vice President of Karnataka Sate Lawn Tennis Association. 

A Fitness and Adventure Enthusiast...
Geetanjali focuses on fitness and believes success comes with a healthy body and a healthy mind.  She is a keen sportsman, golf being her favourite.  She plays golf in the morning before 10am, then has a hectic routine through office until 6.30pm, after which she gyms for an hour, 5 days a week.  Jogging and lawn tennis are also included in her schedules. She also writes regularly for leading magazines and papers on brand related issues, general issues and her adventure travel. 

A keen traveler, she enjoys both travel for historical sightseeing and adventure travel like rafting, mountaineering, hiking.  “In the last three years Vikram and I did a driving expedition from Manali to Ladakh and a tough hiking expedition up to Dzongri, the Base Camp of Kanchanjunga at Sikkim, and Base Camp Everest in Nepal. It was awesome”, beams Geetanjali.  In fact, she is now planning to write a book on her Travels through India! 

That’s not all - she has the energy for many things – loves to act, enjoys theatre and cinema and has even acted in Girish Karnad’s Hindi feature film “Cheluvi” 15 years ago, and later in “Samay” with Sushmita Sen.  

An amateur photographer, Geetanjali has taken outstanding pictures of the sprawling landscape, rocks, and rivers and has also shot a beautiful half hour film as she was going through the journey!  “I believe it is important to enjoy and experience nature and the rugged outdoors, if health permits, as it strengthens the mind, gives determination and a chance to connect with yourself”, says Geetanjali.

Besides sports, acting, outdoor travel and adventure, writing – Geetanjali is an Art Connoisseur too.  She is a collector and frequents Art Galleries and Museums worldwide!

Family Comes First: Proud mother Geetanjali with daughter Manasi and husband Vikram

Geetanjali looks far below her years.  Tall, attractive and with a charming disposition, she is highly creative and abundantly energized.  She has an amazing zest for life, making friends easily and developing close and long term relationships.  Always cheerful, she spreads a strong positive attitude, drawing people to her.

Her primary belief is that there is no substitute for hard work and continuous learning.  She can multi task with amazing efficiency!  From her recent India Japan Initiative to writing, adventure travel and hiking, rafting, art collection, playing the role of a supportive wife to a leading Industrialist, proud mother to highly talented daughter, Manasi... She partners her husband with ease and grace in all their social commitments including dinners, banquets, delegations abroad, hosting some of the most fabulous dinners and evenings. And her ability to remain multifaceted with ease only grows by the day!  In quick succession she answers nine questions which tells all…

When you look back today, do you feel proud about your beginnings?

Of course. It’s been a wonderful journey, with its successes and downsides, but never any regrets.

What does success mean to you?
The ability to give back.

What does womanhood mean to you?
The ability to create and nurture.

Being a woman in male dominated industry do you think you have to work twice as hard to prove yourself?

I have never experienced the great gender divide that we all debate ever so often. I believe most often we build it up in our minds. It’s always about ability, hard work and focus, once you are the best at what you do, the gender does not matter. We have to rise above these things.

Your role as a woman...
To be an involved parent first and foremost, a concerned partner to the spouse, sensitive and nurturing, warm and caring, and balancing a hectic career to give one's best to it, yet maintain harmony in the home.

What has been your learning experiences, both professionally and personally?
To always separate the issue from the person, to not involve too emotionally in work, to judge people right, nothing beats sheer hard work, the best strategy is useless unless implemented efficiently, always stay positive through failures, maintain good health and above all,  train yourself to multi task.

Do you have any other passion?

Several - I believe in not being one-dimensional, but in being multidimensional. I enjoy mountaineering, nature, golf and other sport, classical music, and writing is a great passion with me.

Advice to new woman entrepreneurs?

Persevere and focus, but always balance the home front.

About your family?
My strength and my sentiment

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