Sonal’s Solo

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Variety rules Sonal Ramrakhiani’s life. She’s got a Gujarati name, but both her parents are Sindhi. And she was named after Odissi danseuse Sonal Mansingh.

When she is not in the Titan Industries office at Golden Enclave on Airport Road holding fort as brand manager, Tanishq, the 28-year-old can be found in her swimsuit at the Diamond District pool. “It’s one the best, beats even Asia’s longest pool at Golden Palms,” says she. “My best has been 120 laps (which is about two kilometres) in 70 minutes.”

Taking a dip is a ritual with her. “I swim for about a kilometre almost every day. And that’s 35 minutes of non-stop activity and uninterrupted nirvana,” she says. “Though I don’t lose weight by swimming, I feel rejuvenated and re-born. Just the thought of swimming relaxes me.”

And that’s something she can do with. She’s working from 9 am to 9 pm on most days. And she is in some ways unlike an Arian. “Arians are known to be short-tempered, but I have learnt to control it,” she says. “I would describe myself as someone who loves to laugh and live life to the fullest.”

And that usually takes the form of watching movies and plays. “The last play I watched was Tughluq and before that The Spirit of Anne Frank. Both were fantastic.”

Her immediate mission: to broaden the scope of Tanishq Solo nationally and also get it ‘far more mind space’. “I just want to take my brand closer to the customer.”

Enter Ramrakhiani’s three-bedroom apartment in Diamond District, and the first thing you run into is her bookshelf right at the entrance of her drawing room. Books by William Dalrymple and Douglas Adams sitting cheek by jowl with those of Ruskin Bond, James Redfield, John Grisham, Ayn Rand and Erich Segal. That’s her way of tripping on fiction, non-fiction, self-help and philosophy. “This is only one-third of my precious possessions,” says Ramrakhiani, “the rest are in my house in Ahmedabad.”

Born in Delhi, she lived there for the first ten years interspersed with a two-year stint in Rajkot/Gandhinagar. She’s lived in five cities before making Bangalore her home. After her bachelor’s in biochemistry and zoology from Xavier’s in Ahmedabad, she got to intern with the Essar Group in the city as part of her MBA from Nirma Institute of Management. “I was in the HR division involved with induction and an employee satisfaction survey,” she says.

Her first job, however, was in the management consultancy division of Tata Consultancy Services in Ahmedabad. And that meant working on business process re-engineering and organisation restructuring for clients.

Two years later, she got into Tata Administrative Service. “Surprisingly, my boss at TCS called me and urged me to apply to the TAS. I thought of giving it a shot and luckily for me, got through the interview,” says Ramrakhiani. “The first month was a Bharat Darshan where I was exposed to various Tata group companies and their functioning. Then I worked on four cross functional and cross industry projects for a year.”

First was Tata Teleservices in Hyderabad. Her job? A mix of customer care and finance. Next stop: Tata Management and Training Centre in Pune. Job: HR and road map for the centre. Bangalore happened next. She was put in the marketing wing of Tanishq in January 2002. For three months, she worked on the FQ collection. Then she flew to Mumbai to work on new business opportunities for Tata Chemicals.

After a year’s probation in various capacities in various cities, she went back to Tanishq in July 2002. And this time, she had a designation: brand manager. And she began her work with the brand. One of her favourites is the promotion of the Tanishq Solo collection priced between Rs 7,500 and Rs 68,000. “All women love to wear jewellery and I am no exception,” she says. “We launched Solo by staging a play set in a coffeeshop.”

The essence was on affordability and the tagline was ‘for you, from you’. “The range’s in 75 designs in pendants, finger rings and earrings.”

Ramrakhiani is also into regional marketing for Tanishq. And that’s usually the ‘celebrate with Tanishq’ promotions on festive occasions. There again lies the difference. “We come up with novel schemes that fit in with the festive mood,” she says. “Like for the Varalakshmi festival, we gave away silver kumkum boxes last year in Andhra Pradesh. We didn’t just hand them over to the customers. We gave them in the traditional Andhra style.”

And during Christmas time in Cochin, they gave away Tanishq candles at churches during midnight mass. Her job’s a lot more than just that. “Brand management is all about being able to juggle requirements and resources of various agencies… PR, creatives, visual merchandising, event management, field and boutique staff…”

The challenges are in meeting deadlines and driving everybody towards a common goal. And that demands people management skills and focus. “You don’t need to be aggressive, you can be assertive,” she says. And what has helped her? “Will power and the ability to make friends and relate to people and, the ability to smile a genuine smile.”

And how did she test her will power? “I went off ice creams and soft drinks for almost three years.”

I, ME, MYSELF
Sonal Ramrakhiani, 28 years
Brand manager, Tanishq
Bachelor’s in biochemistry and zoology, Xavier’s, Ahmedabad
Master’s in business administration, Ahmedabad
Was management consultant for Tata Consultancy Services for two years
Daughter of Sindhi parents
Her mother named her after danseuse Sonal Mansingh
Can’t tolerate negative aggression and hypocrisy
Smiles the genuine smile
Went off ice creams and soft drinks for three years to test her will power
Regrets that there no ‘wow’ movie halls in Bangalore; prefers multiplexes in Ahmedabad
Enjoys swimming and watching movies and plays

(Published in City Reporter, 2003)