Exclusive Interview Ms. Utsah Kohli

Learn strategic Communication and Leadership| Ms. Utsah Kohli

Expert interview with Ms. Utsah Kohli, a seasoned professional with a remarkable track record in business transformation, client relationships, strategic Consulting, media relations, and corporate Communications with diverse experiences spanning over two decades. Ms. Kohli has excelled in the finance media and entrepreneurial sectors showcasing her versatility as a multitasker and collaborator currently working as the head of communications for NatWest group in India. Miss Kohli has played a pivotal role in driving strategic Communication and Business Leadership to achieve business goals before her role at NatWest she served as the head of strategy and execution.

? Could you tell us a bit more about your journey and experiences? (1:26)

I’ve been a bit of a cultural Nomad, so my mother was a South Indian my father was a North Indian and they got together about five decades back when it was not the norm so I’ve had a very open upbringing. I have had an upbringing where women were treated as equals so when I finished my MBA, I was interested in banking so I joined HDFC Bank for a year. I did a lot of operational work and started the operations at the Defense Colony Branch we opened a new Branch. Then I moved on to City Bank in the wealth management role becoming a trusted advisor giving investment advice to clients from there I moved on to the Indian Express because a fantastic opportunity came into my lap to modernize a traditional company so I was going to work with the editor and Chief and the then CEO Shekar Gupta and it was a very exciting experience. I spent about eight years in Indian Express learning various kinds of things whether it was circulation marketing brand Revenue monetization even things about the presses whether it was just putting the blue blueprint of the book which was a brand handbook or the corporate guidelines it was it was an extremely exciting 8 years. I just said yes to everything that came my way and I was also made the youngest director on the board of the company at that point, so we did a lot of fun stuff.

I then wanted to take a break in my career for motherhood and while for one year I did work across Delhi and Mumbai I did take that break but after two years I was again getting itchy fingers and I needed to start something on my own and I started Sparkle so sparkle was a bespoke when planning and a Decor firm that started out of passion and to fulfill my creative side where I said that I want to do something interesting we did over 100 events we worked with some fabulous different people I was in Mumbai at that point of time and when it was time to scale up my husband moved back to Delhi so there was a lot of movements that happened so when I came back to Delhi there was this fantastic role at the print for audience development monetization and building voluntary subscribers and I was really kicked by it and two years just flew by the pandemic was there there were a lot of interesting things that we did there were a lot of interesting products that we started during that course okay and then the role at Natwest came and I think the common thread for me across my career has been people and has been Communications so I think getting something which was functionally aligned to something I absolutely love I just jumped at that opportunity so being in this organization with a fantastic culture very inclusive people we do a bunch of wonderful things it’s a learning organization so yeah I’m really excited to be where I am and I think the the thing that holds true for me is that every everything happened because I just raised my hand and said YES.

? How do you leverage strategic communication to align with and drive business goals? (5:03)

Yes, there are two kinds of communication – One is communication where you can litter people’s inboxes with emails you can keep saying different messages but what is strategic Communication is when you’re getting the right message across to the right person in the right medium right and you use different ways of getting the same message and the same narrative across so I think, thinking through what is the message that you want to land and what is it that the audience wants or what is it that your colleague wants or what is it that the media wants right there has to be a little what’s in it for them if they don’t see that then then they won’t even be amenable to the message so during my early days at City Bank and HDFC it meant being a trusted advisor to our clients it meant narrating certain messages to our clients so that we could help them achieve their financial goals. At Indian Express I modernized the traditional company right we did a lot of change management that was changing the people the processes the presses products so with that massive change management we also did a Demerger and merger of the company and raised about 500 crores and this would not have been possible if we hadn’t kept our stakeholders aligned and engaged throughout the journey

I think strategic Communications helped a lot here at the print the pandemic strike and just like every other organization overnight we have to move to remote working correct so that would not have been possible had we not communicated with our colleagues told them what is trustworthy told our audiences which which are the sources that they can go for information and I think we were able to help our colleagues clients and audiences just by keeping them engaged now in my current role at NatWest we are communicating our history our progressive practices how we are an inclusive organization the culture of the organization we are embedding the strategy with our colleagues and ensuring that our colleagues understand that how each one of them is actually contributing to the delivery for the End customer and when we look at potential hires the reputation of the firm our Progressive practices the inclusive culture the flexibility to work remote I think if they just hear some of these things they would know this is the right place to be in so I think communication has been a thread throughout it all.

? How do you foster team collaboration, especially in dynamic and diverse sectors? (7:54)

In today’s Hybrid work culture, it’s not possible to work with teams if you don’t collaborate there are teams across locations, and they are teams across geography so I think some of the key things are to have open communication to listen to each other to embrace diverse perspectives and leverage technology so when people establish common goals share ideas actively listen to each other celebrate wins and leverage each other’s skills I think magic happens. So when we are communicating with our teams globally and like we have function across the globe we use Slido to ensure that colleagues are engaged, we use breakout rooms and a note taker so that everybody’s perspectives are heard and then they replayed back in the meeting we learn from each other’s ideas we reuse we re-share so I think just being open is very very important to ensure that we are collaborating across teams.

? With over 18 years of experience, how do you stay updated on industry trends and continuously develop your skills? (9:01)

I think now more than ever it’s become extremely important to keep yourself updated so whether it is through Reading papers reading a book or listening to podcasts you have so many different channels that you can leverage I attend industry conferences I participate in a lot of conferences I go to colleges I deliver talks and I also listen to students and understand what is it that they are learning what is new I network with my peers so there are a plethora of things that can help you just to give you a little example before social media became the IT thing I have done a course of social IMC from one of the Skilling websites okay before AI became the buzzword.

I did a course on AI in fintech so before the became the IT thing by just doing these courses and keeping myself updated helped me track my career and ensure that whatever was relevant I knew it well in time and I could apply it immediately in my career as and when the opportunity came so I think having a learning mindset is extremely important and that’s one of the things I would emphasize for your students that have a learning mindset you don’t know what you learned when and that can come in use at any time.

? Are there specific skills you believe are crucial for professionals in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape? (10:34)

So I think there are four skills that I would say are key for a young professional – One is adaptability things are changing so fast. You need to learn to adapt to new situations new tools new surroundings everything will keep changing second is communication especially virtual communication so in a hybrid world how are you communicating across that’s very key because you don’t know sometimes the essence of what you’re trying to say gets lost in emails correct the third is a learning mindset you have to be willing to learn new things you have to be willing to take that risk if opportunities come knocking at your door just just raise your hand and say yes so I think that is extremely important finally digital literacy so you can’t succeed in today’s world if you’re not a digital literate

? What trends do you anticipate will shape the future of media relations and corporate communication? (11:34)

So the trends I think that would shape media relations of PR and corporate communication is definitely Aid driven personalization we will also see a lot of increased focus on the authenticity of content there are going to be a lot of messages that are going to be developed so you will develop the right message for the right medium. We will see a lot of strategic use of influencers in PR you’ve seen the growth of it and I think there’s going to be a lot of stuff and a lot of interesting things Brands will start doing with influencers there will be a lot more development of mobile-first interactive content. So the first thing is how do you view your content so all the content will be made in such a manner that it’s easy it’s crisp it’s relevant you can view it on your mobile or devices seamlessly and I think finally a data-driven approach to comms so comms will become far more data-driven we are going to take decisions even on messages based on the data we see and hear.

? What advice would you give to young professionals aspiring to pursue a career in communications, strategy consulting, or entrepreneurship? (12:49)

I think when you’re starting the advice is similar to everybody you need to navigate the corporate world so what are the few things that you can do so I think the first is take risks yeah Dare To Dream Big because if you don’t take a risk nothing will happen if Netflix hadn’t taken a risk and that they would start a streaming service today you and I would not be able to watch Netflix correct second is Forge strong alliances your network is your network and when I talk about Network it’s not just going and connecting with multiple people you don’t know on LinkedIn it’s about making real relationships connecting with people making real relationships and ensuring that you can contribute to them as much as they contribute to you so that is the second.

The third I think is treat your career like a web and not a ladder so all of us want to go up the stream we want to do XYZ and we want to go like this but sometimes you need to you might be a salesperson you might get some experience in product you might get some experience in finance brand sales distribution so move across because when you’re at the top all the things that you have learned in the first 10 or 10 years of your life will be extremely useful so if you work hard and you do diverse things in the first 10 years of the life you will thank yourself in the next 10 then is Embrace an entrepreneurial mind mind set you need to see that you become more impact and outcome driven and not process driven like you don’t start talking about okay how many hours have I put in this how much effort has been put in this so effort becomes irrelevant as long as the outcome is there so you become more outcome and impact driven I think that is lastly I think adaptability is your superpower what got you here is not going to get you you there so yeah I think this is what it

? What is the one quotation you live by in your life? (15:04)

I think the one quotation that I’ve lived by in my life and that’s been true for most of the of my life is trust the timing of your life if I was to look back at my career and look at the highs and lows and the decisions I took at different life stages I think just trusting the timing and being open to new experiences helped me build a vibrant and a multi-layered career so yeah trust the timing of your life

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