Dhiren is the Marketing Director of Kwik Fit.
He has had a varied career working across many different industries and countries: from launching a broadband business in India to launching a revolutionary heated ice hockey skate blade in Canada, from being Head of Strategy world-wide for BG Group, and as a strategy consultant advising Coca-Cola and other leading consumer retailers on their marketing strategy, Dhiren has done it all.
Dhiren is one of 2015 Digital Annexe University (DAU) speakers. And DAU is a free Innovation In Marketing conference that aims to explore the most exciting new innovations in digital marketing and the wider business world.
Dhiren, you are something of a global business and entrepreneur, having worked across continents. How flexible or adaptable do you have to be when approaching companies in different countries? Is this where having good ethnographers comes in handy?
Dhiren Master: When working in different countries and cultures, it’s not so much about being flexible and adaptable, rather it is about being open to alternative/new ways of thinking and behaviour. The result is flexibility and adaptability. These only occur if one is constantly open to different ways of approaching problems, and thinking about things. When you move to a new country, you realise that the people are different because they think differently. It makes one realise that there isn’t a “THE ONE WAY”, but lots of ways.
How important are the arts and sciences, such as anthropology and ethnography, in the business world these days?
Dhiren Master: Whether it is arts or sciences, the most important skill which is unfortunately not taught, or taught very badly is problem solving. Problem solving starts with determining a series of hypotheses as to cause and effect, then designing experiments to test those hypotheses – which will then tell you what is really cause and effect. Without knowing what is going on, you have no chance of fixing /improving it. Whether your background is in the arts or sciences, it is this particular problem solving skill that is critical to business these days.
Where would you suggest the most interesting place is to be starting a business at the moment and why?
Dhiren Master: I see opportunities everywhere. Customers are not 100% satisfied with the products and services they are getting in all sectors, in all countries. Having said that, the places where there are lots of dissatisfied customers, where there are few/weak providers, and there aren’t any significant barriers to enter (capital, Government legislation etc.) are the businesses which are the most interesting. The UK is such a place.
Is it possible these days to get to the top in marketing without having gone down the traditional academic route?
Dhiren Master: Yes it is. The key is the ability to see the world as your customers see the world, if you can do that you will be an excellent Marketer. That and the problem solving skills I talked about earlier. Neither of these require degrees, PhD’s or Marketing Diplomas, just common sense. Except of course, common sense is so uncommon.
Tell me about the heated ice skating? How did that idea come about?
Dhiren Master: The idea for Thermablades came from a chap called Tory Weber who lives in Calgary, Canada. He is an avid ice hockey fan. One day he put on his shoes to go outside into the snow/ice, the shoes had been on top of a radiator heating up. He put on the nice warm shoes, went outside, and promptly slipped on the ice. He realised that because the soles of his shoes were warm it was more slippery. He thought if he could heat up an ice hockey blade, it would be more slippery and go faster. I met him over a decade after he had, had the initial idea. We raised $14m from over 300 private investors and within a year 35 patents later had a fully engineered and working heated ice hockey skate blade.