AN EPITOME OF DIVERSITY IN LEADERSHIP! – THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF MEDIA MONKEY (PVT) LTD, NIVRAN WEERAKOON

Reflecting on his career journey thus far, Nivran Weerakoon, the Managing Director of Media Monkey (Pvt) Ltd. Enlightens us on some of the
challenges he faced, how he navigated through such challenges and offers his advice to aspiring business leaders!

Being a qualified Management Accountant Nivran transitioned from being a Management Trainee to a young CFO at Lanka Bell Limited. As a management trainee Nivran was enthusiastic in learning the dynamics of the industry and the nuts and bolts of the business, this served him well in preparing him to conquer the challenges set forth on taking up the role of CFO. “That was an amazing experience! I delve deeper to steer the company through challenging situations, amidst massive price wars that erupted in the telecommunication industry”, he explains. Gradually, Nivran turned towards operational and sales centric roles at Richardson Outdoor (Pvt) Ltd. His success in leadership roles encompassing finance, operations and sales pushed Nivran to take on full P&L responsibility by taking up the position of Group Director/ CEO in a company focused on education investments, healthcare and value-added tea exports.

Continuing, Nivran states, “I became involved with Media Monkey (Pvt) Ltd. back in 2017. This company had been reinvigorated and rebranded from its previously known entity Wicks Advertising & Marketing (Pvt) Ltd., possessing a rich heritage dating back to 1958”. Nivran had been of a belief that the dynamics of advertising had evolved from what the former entity had been doing and reinvigoration was required to enable the company to cater to market demands. He also views the addition of young talent has helped the company grow exponentially by embracing change and being responsive to the evolution of trends! Making an intriguing confession, Nivran states, “I had no experience in running an advertising agency. All I had was a pressing urge to turn the company around, transforming it into a vibrant ad agency, delivering outstanding value to its clients”. He also goes on to express that despite the ups and downs, that he remained committed to succeed, regardless of the uncountable challenges that he had to face.

Nivran’s career has been nothing but illustrious with much diversity. Nivran has been a Board Member of state-owned Lanka Electricity Company (Pvt) Ltd. (LECO), which he refers to as ‘an insightful experience’. Being an active member of multiple boards as of today; Royal Ceramics Lanka PLC, Delmege Limited (Delmege Group Holding Company), Kasper Global (Pvt) Ltd., Fly Lankan Asia (Pvt) Ltd. etc. Nivran has maintained a prominent profile in diverse fields. As of today, he stands tall as a multi-industry business leader, further cemented by being one of the founding directors of an automobile assembly plant in the UAE, which is set to commence shortly. Contributing towards his flamboyant journey, Nivran possesses a strong list of qualities and goes on to state the following with much sincerity “I would like to be known for my honesty, dynamism and hard-work, whilst being an ambitious people’s person”.

According to Nivran, “Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is something you need to master if you want to lead an advertising agency or so to say even be in the advertising industry. Today, with the use of social listening tools or by being sensitive to what other people think about your brand and what they expect as solutions, brands can respond better”. He further goes on to express, “simply understanding what kind of pain points your audience faces every day and then determining what type of solution would appeal to both their intellect and their emotions, is what will drive success for brands!”

Nivran emphasises how EQ contributes to a larger portion of how one identifies and learns from their mistakes. Nivran uses ‘reflection’ to contemplate on the past, to further enhance the possibility of building meaningful connections with customers and partners. “To do that, you should stay in tune with your actions, emotions and the feelings of others”. Bringing depth and clarity to his clients and the respective brands as a whole is an assured practice according to Nivran. There may be times when a common consensus may not be achieved amongst the stakeholders and at times leading to human egos taking the better of those involved, Nivran states that at such times “EQ coupled with maturity becomes an essential trait to sustain business relationships and achieve the business objectives for the business or the brand”.

“Being sensitive to the importance of EQ combined with being cognizant to trends brought about by technological advancement, coupled with well backed research have definitely helped me strategize and most importantly execute emotionally intelligent business strategies”.

Nivran attributes the current economic crisis to be partly a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and says that he sees an impending risk in terms of advertising budgets being slashed and goes on to state, “Many companies are taking a closer look at their advertising budget. In this light when trying to cut costs, it might be tempting to slash your marketing budget, but that could be a mistake”. He goes on to explain, “Research has proven that there are many benefits of advertising during an economic downturn. And if you have the capacity to spend, you should even consider increasing your advertising spend”

Comparing his experience with research evidence, Nivran strongly believes that entities should pursue advertising during economic downfalls. Advertising during an economic downturn can be cheaper than the normal rates, with lesser competition in terms of media space occupied and thereby help fortify market share and return on investments. He reasons this to be, “Less competition means more exposure on media platforms, hence making media buying a buyer’s market as a result of cutbacks within the entire industry.”

Nivran views social-media advertising to be “the most effective form in a lean environment”. He explains how ads reach a larger audience across the globe at a significantly lesser cost, whilst enabling demographicbased targeting and goes on to state “I hope to see a shift of budgets to digital and an overall decrease in advertising spends. However, I hope that brands would adopt my views in their decision making and make the bold decision of continuing to advertise”.

Holding a diverse range of experiences from various industries, Nivran states that he is more of a generalist than a specialist. “I believe that you need to be a generalist if you are to be a business leader and provide leadership across diverse industries. This is essential as you need to perform multiple tasks, work with multiple teams, across departments and across industries”. Being a leader, well acquainted in leadership, Nivran believes that it is mandatory to maintain a clear understanding of “all the moving parts of the specific industry and ensure harmony amongst the functions within the respective organisations”.

Nivran continues to acknowledge the importance of grasping the dynamics of the specific businesses thoroughly, in order to navigate ‘stewardship’, whilst contributing to the success of all businesses holistically! “As a generalist and a business leader you need to ensure that the key positions in organisations are manned by the right specialists and that they work cohesively in order to ensure sustainability and evolution of the business”. Nivran, being an empathetic leader, attributes his success to being able to connect with people across the organizations he is engaged in.

In conclusion, Nivran advises the upcoming generations of entrepreneurs to get back on their feet every time they fall. He further explains the importance of this as, “In society today, the younger generation has
been provided a safety net by their parents. This has deterred them from going all out to take risks. It’s much better to fail fast and rise up”. He insists that young people should not run after a ‘herd mentality’,
but to follow what they are passionate about. “Just because someone makes it big in tech, that doesn’t mean everyone needs to pursue a career in tech. There are so many people in need of solutions and youngsters should try and find unique ways of solving these problems”.

To be very honest, I failed hard with Media Monkey and many people thought that I was swimming against a never-ending tide. But today I am glad I didn’t quit because it made me much stronger to become the leader and the person I am today. One thing any youngster should do is to believe in himself/herself and get the right people based primarily on character, to build a great team to execute and action the visions he/she sets upon themselves”, Nivran concludes!

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