Curiosity is a key quality needed to succeed as a marketing professional, says Tata Sons brand custodian Harish Bhat in his new book The Curious Marketer

The 50-odd articles featured in The Curious Marketer, each of which draws on his keen sense of observation and desire to delve into the why and wherefore of the people, places and things he encounters in everyday life, convincingly prove that his mantra works. In a career spanning 30 years of rich experience in building brands, Mr Bhat has held several very senior positions: he has been managing director of Tata Global Beverages, chief operating officer of the watches and jewellery business of Titan Company, and is currently brand custodian of Tata Sons.

The very interesting insights he presents in this book have been gained in the course of his journey as a marketer — a curious marketer, to be precise — and were originally carried in his column for The Hindu BusinessLine.

Mr Bhat explains why he believes curiosity, along with empathy and business acumen, is an essential ingredient in the secret sauce that goes into creating a great marketing recipe: “I am convinced that curiosity is one of the greatest virtues that any marketer can possess, because it encourages us to learn. New knowledge provokes and stimulates the mind …On the other hand, lack of new learning can result in gradual mental stagnation and even atrophy — never a pleasant prospect for a marketer, whose agile intellect is often his greatest asset.”

For all those young marketers setting out to build a successful career, Mr Bhat has the following advice:

  • Be aware that you do not know it all.
  • Ask questions all the time.
  • Listen extensively, without judgement.
  • Observe customers with a keen and fresh eye.
  • Seek new experiences, meet new people.
  • Embrace the unexpected.
  • Read, read and read.

A word of caution: Before you enthusiastically start following Mr Bhat’s sage advice, read the caveat his daughter Gayatri has to offer in the epilogue of the book: She admits that being a ‘curious marketer’ improves one’s professional life significantly, but she says it also “completely ruins your personal life”. To quote her, “I urge you to be aware of this unavoidable consequence before embarking on your voyage of curiosity.”


Socked — by all that colour out there

Bhaskar Bhat is the managing director of Titan Company, one of India's most successful lifestyle companies. He is greatly respected in corporate circles for having led the enterprise with distinction over the past several years. If you meet him, you will notice his large sparkling eyes, his thoughtful responses and how attentively he listens to what you say. You will also notice his sober and dignified dress, which is often a checked shirt with formal trousers and elegant black leather shoes.

Recently, however, I noticed one small but significant change in his outfit. He has begun wearing brightly coloured socks. Sitting next to him at a meeting, I saw that he was wearing bright pink socks with turquoise stripes on them. This struck me as highly unusual, so I asked him the reason. 'I got bored of the same old, plain grey and black socks,' he responded. 'So I walked into a neighbourhood showroom, where I loved the colourful socks they had on display. You know, these socks add a nice, bright touch to my long days in the office.' He also shared with me some very interesting insights into why coloured socks have begun increasingly appealing to him, which I will narrate later in this article.

Coloured socks everywhere

In the meantime, I have started noticing coloured socks all around me. Many more of my colleagues have begun wearing socks which are bright red, yellow or orange, and, in one particular case, also a shade of silver. These are regular corporate people, if you know what I mean – executives who like their dull grey suits and blue shirts, and who have always had a somewhat conservative, formal style of dress. They still wear these muted and formal shirts and trousers, but their socks have changed completely – to being bright, loud and colourful. Why on earth, I wondered, have many colleagues changed their socks?

Then, quite suddenly, this intriguing subject entered my own life. Normally, I like wearing socks that are just black and blue in colour. In fact, for many years, I have worn just these two colours with complete satisfaction. Two months ago, my wife went out shopping on my behalf and came back with a triumphant smile on her face. 'Look at what I have bought you,' she said. 'Coloured socks! I think they will make you a less boring person.' One pair of socks was bright purple in colour. The other pair had three marvellous colours on a single sock – blue, yellow and red. A third pair had pink and green stripes. With some persuasion, I began wearing these socks. Now, I must confess, I am loving them.

— Nithin Rao