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Rising Star: Madhura Sabnis Ranade, Group Head, Client Servicing, Isobar

From wanting to join a culinary school to working as a client servicing person in advertising Ranade talks about her journey in the ad world. Ranade has worked on various brands like Google, Max Life Insurance, Amul, Maruti Suzuki India and many more

Madhura Sabnis

Madhura Sabnis Ranade is the Group Head, Client Servicing, Isobar. A Mumbai girl, Ranade moved to Pune quite early due to her father’s professional commitments. Even though she was interested to join a culinary school, she ended up choosing Commerce and completed her studies from Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce. Ranade then earned her BBA degree from MIT School of Management in Pune.

Her parents were not comfortable with the idea of taking up cooking professionally. “At that time my parents thought it is such a male-dominated area and even today you won’t find many women chefs in five star hotels. But the numbers have become much better today,” said Ranade.

Along with BBA, she started working with her father in his construction company where she started dealing with the company’s digital agency. It was when she developed an interest in marketing.

In the second year of BBA, Ranade decided to study abroad and convincing her parents for this was not an easy task being their only child. “After much persuasion, I decided to go to the University of Birmingham in the UK for M.Sc. course in marketing because they had the kind of modules that I was looking for. That one-year course had a mix of cross media, digital and a good focus on brand management. It was also one of the top five Universities in the UK. I secured a much coveted scholarship, something that gave me an edge at the time.”

After finishing college, Ranade decided to take up a job in the UK. “I was one of the few in my batch to get a job back then, considering the poor economic climate and tough UK job market,” she said.
Her first internship was with a boutique marketing agency Cloud 9 where her role was client servicing and business development. During her internship, she managed to bring on board Kodak, Givenchy and World Vision charity as clients for the agency.

After working for about a year at Cloud 9, Ranade joined Epic Media Group, the US-based media agency with office in London. “This job was very different from the previous one. This was hard-core client servicing role involving affiliate marketing where all the affiliates were based in the US. It gave me a chance early in my career to work remotely with teams and understand the importance of managing time and communicating well. With this role, I was exposed to digital marketing in a big way. The kind of exposure that I got there is very different from the way we do things around here in India,” she said.

Ranade moved back to India after working in the UK for 1.5 years and joined FCB Ulka Interactive as an account executive where she worked for a year and a half and handled clients like Amul, ICICI bank, Trent Hypermarket and Tata Housing.

“It was actually one of those jobs where you need to be really pushed in the deep valley. I was handling a diverse portfolio and different responsibilities simultaneously in each account,” added Ranade.

She moved to Delhi after marriage and joined Webchutney and handled the Google account. “Client servicing for Google was a lifetime opportunity. Interacting with Google gave me a deep understanding of their products. I was a part of two big campaigns in which Google India was involved. One of their campaigns was helping women get online as the penetration rate of women coming online was very less. That year also witness the launch of Android On, Google’s first phone in India,” she explained.

Ranade’s next destination was Indigo Consulting as Senior Client Servicing Manager where she got an opportunity to service the agency’s most valued account Max Life Insurance. “It was an interesting account because by then I have worked on FMCG, real estate and others but not insurance. The role was largely about maintaining their huge website. Another account was PayU Money,” she said.

“The best experience at Indigo was falling in love with the ‘user experience’. I genuinely got involved in discussions that happened around user experience and got a chance to revamp the Max Life Insurance website too,” elaborated Ranade.

After working at FCB Ulka, Webchutney, Indigo Consulting, she went back to her real love in life that was cooking. “While all of this was happening, I wanted to start my own blog. A few of my friends were having a party at home and asked me to cater their party. The party was for 30 people. I met a lot of people at that party who then wanted me to cater more parties.”

It was when she started living with her passion and was catering events and parties almost every two to three days. She also named the catering company as ‘The girl with a spoon’. “It was amazing feeling because this was something that I always wanted to do. I also created a website and a blog by the same name,” said Ranade.

But Ranade soon started missing advertising. “It was very incidental that I came to Isobar. I came to know about this opening through a friend and thought to give it a shot.”

Ranade was particularly hired for the Maruti Suzuki account and just three months into the system, Ranade was managing the 10 brands portfolio of Maruti for Isobar. She now manages a team of seven in Client Servicing itself. Isobar manages the overall digital mandate for the existing channel of Maruti Suzuki.

On her life’s philosophy, Ranade said, “In general I am a very patient person and remain calm even in pressure. So ‘Keep calm and carry on’ is what I follow. I do believe in taking one day at a time, but I have also set my priorities and where I am heading to.”

Ranade starts her day early at 5:30 am and practices yoga. She also makes it a point to meet her team during the day. A travel enthusiast Ranade tries to take at least three holidays in a year.

Ranade wants to work on Ralph Lauren. “Ralph Lauren has got a very good offline and online integration globally. They use technology in their offline outlet as well. I would also like to work on the luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Givenchy as they create good online content.”

She believes her strengths lie in her people skills, her organised nature and her ability of multi-tasking. “I think without these you can’t be in client servicing. Having a calm head over your shoulders is the key to being a client servicing person who gets things done.”

Ranade is over attached to her work and feels that could even be termed as a weakness. “I can’t get detached when I get too involved. Even while sleeping, I remember that I have to respond to some mail. I am not able to take out time for myself,” she said.

While it was not what she had always planned, Madhura’s heart lies in marketing. “I love being in an ad agency. With time, the madness becomes organised and somewhat a part of your everyday life.”
She has been in digital for six years now and does not plan to move anywhere as this is what she is passionate about and the dynamic nature of digital keeps her going.

“Digital is not just about banners or YouTube anymore. People will move into direct channels too and those experiences need to be connected digitally. It’s all about connected experiences. So organisations need to start understanding who is the customer, what do they want at different points in their life, and how they would expect those services to be delivered to them.”

“It’s good to see that organisations are embracing digital. It is obvious you will struggle as an organisation if you don’t find a way to make digital a relevant part of every piece of the customer experience. But then again, it is not always understood exactly what you need to do and that is where we come in as consultants – it’s the fact that we get to change the way organisations now look at digital and its role in their business is really exciting.”

Ranade’s retirement dream is to own her own restaurant but for the time being she wants to have a very successful advertising career. “In the next five to six years I want to be in a leadership position in an agency. I don’t want to move to the client side because I enjoy the pressure here,” she added.

When asked about her first love, Ranade was candidly to accept it was cooking but her heart now lies in advertising.

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