Ashish Deodhar

Country of origin: India

Brand Strategy Director, R K Swamy BBDO

I have always been interested in brand management and after reaching a certain level in the advertising industry, I knew that there wasn't anything new to learn and experience there. For me to switch from a purely advertising career to one in brand management, I felt I had to have a wider understanding of the business – and that doing an MBA was the best way to get that.

I strongly believe in learning by doing, and I was looking for an MBA programme that would give me opportunities to apply my knowledge and experience to practical situations. The Lancaster MBA stood out as an obvious choice. I was also very particular about the faculty on the programme, and some star attractions like Gerry Johnson definitely made the choice easier for me. Value for money was also important for me. I had neither the time nor the money to invest in a more expensive two-year programme.

I liked the action learning the most on the Lancaster MBA. The three live consultancy projects gave me a great opportunity to apply my knowledge and experience to real-life situations. I also very much liked the Mindful Manager module. Doing an MBA is not only about learning processes and models but is also about learning to manage, and the Mindful Manager definitely helped develop my Emotional Quotient.

Over ten weeks in June and August 2009 I did my summer internship at Holiday Extras (HX), which specialises in UK airport and airport hotel packages and related services. I wanted to get some international work experience, and working in HX's head offices in Kent meant that I could actually get a taste of the work environment in Britain.

My project was to audit and suggest improvements to the online customer experience. As part of the audit, I reviewed the entire online booking process, conducted quantitative and qualitative customer research, interviewed key internal stakeholders and ultimately suggested a framework for the booking process optimisation based on my analysis.

New learning for the company

I had considerable understanding and experience of online and offline advertising as a brand management tool. However, this project gave me a whole new perspective on online brand management. Brand experience is a rapidly evolving concept and I got first-hand experience of dealing with it here at HX. I learnt a great deal about a topic that is currently being hotly discussed and debated, both in the industry and in academia.

The best part was that the company didn't have any answers/solutions to this problem. They were as new to the concept of customer/brand experience as I was, which meant that it was as much learning for them as it was for me. So I believe this project added quite a lot of value to their knowledge base. Besides, I could manage to prove statistically that there were definite potential increases in revenues - an important financial benefit for any organisation.

The project also gave me a great deal of access to the top management – and eventually led me to a full-time job with the company. After finishing my MBA, I joined HX as Brand Manager, where my role was to manage and grow the Airparks brand, part of the HX stable.

I have subsequently returned to India where I am now Brand Strategy Director at R K Swamy BBDO.