Business Today

Challenging act

Rahul Sachitanand        Print Edition: May 15, 2011

As a young management trainee, Kavitha Nair was thrown into the deep end at her first job when she was given the responsibility of opening and running six branch offices for Birla AT&T (now Idea Cellular). Back then, mobile services firms were just finding their feet - call rates were as high as Rs 32 a minute - and companies were in a muddle about this emerging opportunity. Nair went through multiple roles, including being a business analyst, and ended up at Hutchison Max Telecom.

She played a pivotal role, rebranding the service first as Max and then as Hutch. Nair speaks of the transition to the Orange brand fondly. "We went through six creative directors and both Ogilvy (the ad agency) and ourselves were finding our way," she says. After multiple brand transitions (most notably with the loyal pug and the Zoozoos), today it is Vodafone Essar.

Colleagues say Nair can be a patient teacher, but is a notorious workaholic used to 18-hour days and ready to unleash her temper. "I'm a very impatient person," she laughs. "I expect people to work long hours and deliver results."

She has moved from the consumer side to a new area for Vodafone Essar, enterprise services, which provides end-to-end communications solutions to companies. This unit accounts for a tenth of Vodafone Essar's business and could grow to a fourth in a few years.

But she does not allow her work to take over completely. She goes for an annual holiday with family and has rediscovered cycling and running. "I plan to retire early," she says, "and before I do that maybe I can take my dream vacation in Antarctica."

Kavitha Nair
37, Act VP, Enterprise Marketing, Vodafone Essar
Been there: Went from heading a single circle with a telecom firm to heading Vodafone's national marketing
Done that: Rolled out the Orange rebranding campaign in a week
A-ha moment: When the pug and young boy clicked and created an iconic ad series
Fitness: On a rediscovery of her fitness: into half marathons and cycling

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