“Teaching is all about academic discipline..” These are the words of Prof. R. T. R. Varma, who is also the HOD of the Marketing department at SCMS Cochin School of Business and one of its most senior faculty members. With over 25 years of industry experience in Senior Management positions in Marketing and General Management in both the public and private sector, he is able to offer students a wide range of knowledge in important marketing concepts and business trends.
Prof. Varma believes that industry experience for academics can go a long way in helping bring students a corporate perspective on things they learn in the classroom. “It’s particularly true in areas like Marketing where your experience in the industry setup can be brought to the classroom to make things relatable to the students”, he explains. “I constantly try to do that at the institute because I want the students to understand how they can use their classroom learning in the real world when they become professionals”.
Clearly, Prof. Varma has a lot of insight into the world of marketing, while also seeing it evolve over the years. So, he strives to help his students keep abreast with the latest trends in the industry: “IT is changing just about everything in the industry. Recently, we had a seminar on how it’s even transformed a creative area like advertising as the whole process can now be digitalized. In fact, digital is the way forward because that’s the demand of the consumer – you just cannot avoid it.”
He further elaborates on the importance of digital by saying that it works because it has made things easily accessible; in addition, it enhances value by reducing cost. Prof. Varma is also of the belief that the profile for marketing professionals is changing in today’s times. According to him, it is due to the changing demands of the consumer: “Today, it’s all about the orientation of the customer and not just marketing to him or her in the traditional, age –old ways. Therefore, the roles in the industry are changing dramatically. This is exciting in many ways, including the fact that it offers a new scope for future professionals.”
But of course, those who want to make a place for themselves in the dynamic marketing domain need to have certain skills and competencies. Prof. Varma sheds light on these skills, saying, “The first thing is that you need to be information-savvy to make the most out of marketing. Since customer behavior is changing a lot, you need to try and understand it to build trust and, above all else, loyalty. That’s the reason the emphasis should be on long-term approaches and tactics rather than crisis management.”
Prof. Varma, self-admittedly, is not a “conventional” academic and doesn’t like the use of the chalkboard in the classroom environment. Over the years, he has devised his own strategies and gotten into a comfort zone with PowerPoint that effectively replaces the conventional chalkboard. “I would never want my students to think that anything I am telling them is from some heavenly waves. I work hard to source and prepare my material as I present it to them,” he says with a smile. Given his popularity amongst students at the institute, his methods are clearly working.