Ms. Sukhm Pannu is a marketing specialist, currently the marketing manager of Lush Hair, a growing hair brand in Nigeria. She told FLORA ONWUDIWE her experiences in Nigeria, Indian cultural beliefs and much more. Excerpts…
How long have you been in Nigeria?
I have been here for 18 months but have been working with Lush Hair for six months now.
I hail from India and I moved to Nigeria after my MBA. Prior to that I had worked in different sectors across various locations.
What does it take to be marketing manager of a new product like Lush in Nigeria?
My focus has always been in the idea industry, I specialized in Marketing in my MBA programme. It is a lot of responsibility and that is what makes it very exciting, makes it challenging. It gives young people like me an opportunity to learn and broaden our knowledge and skill set. It has given me an opportunity to understand the consumer and to interact with people on a daily basis to understand consumer needs and then work towards providing them with the best quality leading to their satisfaction and happiness.
Women are in love with imported natural and synthetic hair. But what makes Lush Hair different from other brands?
I think the key to any successful marketing strategy is understanding the consumer. So the more time one spends with the consumer, the more time one knows what the consumer expectations are from the products. Once you have that understanding, then you strive to make sure that your brand meets the consumers’ needs and aspirations. Lush Hair is different from other products in several ways. It comes with a promise to fulfil every woman’s desire for beauty by providing the most exotic, fashionable, smooth and glossy hair extension. Lush Hair is of very high quality and women prefer it because it is shiny, light in weight with good texture. So, we incorporate the consumers’ expectations while developing the brand. We know that hair is the most beautiful asset of any woman and Lush comes with the promise of enhancing that beauty. That is why response towards the brand has been very great among Nigerian women and girls.
What are the major challenges you experienced while moving from food-based brand (Indomie Noodle) to hair-based brand?
I believe the major challenge was moving to a new industry. It required me to start from scratch to understand the consumer and target audience as it was very different from the previous industry. However that is what made it more exciting; to be able to interact and understand an industry and a market that is one of the largest industries in Nigeria.
How do you get the raw materials in producing Lush?
It is a mix of local products and imports.
Your best food?
I am a foody; I like to try different cuisines. I’ve tasted a lot of Nigerian dishes and I would say pepper soup and moimoi are my favourites.
Your best designer?
I don’t follow designers. I like to experiment and would go with what I feel would look good on me.
What’s the role of Indian government in the girl-child education? Is it something that would improve in the future or you feel that they have done so well in educating girl-child?
Women’s education has been an integral part of the Indian Society. During the British Era we had various reformers who were proponents of female literacy. The Indian government has taken various measures to promote and support education for women as a result of which the literacy rate for women has grown sizably. From the Right to Education, which provides free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years to measures focused on female literacy and development like Sakshar Bharat Mission; measures have been put in place to support girl-child education. There are also programmes which give incentives to parents who facilitate education for their daughters.
What was your growing up like?
I had a very simply childhood just like any other child. There was a lot of focus on self-development and focus on education. I was a serious child; I spent my time mostly reading, studying and I also took up dancing, painting and swimming as hobbies.
Who has influenced your life the most?
My parents have been the most influential people in my life. They have been there as friends and guides. They have guided and supported me through the paths I needed to take and shaped me to be the person I have become. They gave me wings, allowing me to experiment, make mistakes and thus realise my potential and live my dreams.
Many women in India have been protesting against the plights of raped young girls. How is the issue of rape being handled in India?
Despite the fact that rape is regarded as heinous and criminal in nature, the number and the level of inhumanity of this crime has been on a rise. Rape is regarded as a heinous crime, yet the number of rape cases has been increasing. The anti-rape laws in India were strengthened post 2012, which resulted in higher reporting of rape and sexual assault incidents, yet a lot of work needs to be done in the enforcement of these laws and provision of support services to the victims. Rape is still construed as women’s shame and there are so many social barriers for women to talk about it. Thus, it is extremely important to strengthen the implementation of anti-rape laws, make support services for victims available and reduce barriers to their access to justice and healthcare. I also feel that a better understanding of the motivation behind rape might help us to undertake some measures to prevent it.
How do you unwind?
I practice Pilates and Yoga, which help me relieve stress and relax. I also like to read and paint. Over the weekends I catch up with friends.
When someone dies in India, the remains are often cremated?
What happens after cremation and why cremation? It is again a case of customs and traditions. People belonging to different religions, tribes and regions have their own cultures and traditions and hence different practices when it comes to cremation. We are a country with a diversity of cultures and hence diversity of practices.
What did you hear about Nigeria before finally taking up the appointment in the country?
Well, nothing different from what most expatriates are told. That there are safety issues, kidnappings etc. But I feel each place has its own issues and problems. One needs to build their own experiences.
What is your advice for young women out there looking up to you?
Fear is one of the biggest reasons women don’t go ahead and try new challenges. We need to believe in ourselves and challenge the pre-established order. Women need to support other women and thus open doors for all of us. Be yourself, be confident, and listen to your heart. You are very powerful and nobody has the ability to take that away from you.
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