Name: Balaji Raghavan | Company: TELUS | Place: Canada
(May 08, 2023) Born and raised in the sleepy little town of Sankagiri in Tamil Nadu, Balaji Raghavan lived a simple life. Hailing from a lower middle class family and being a mediocre student in school meant that nobody expected him to do well. Except for one thing: he played various sports professionally and this led to him honing the mindset of sportsmen, which is to never give up, make winning a habit, work hard, strive to excel, help others. It was this mindset that led Balaji to pursue a career in marketing and today he is a senior product manager for TELUS, one of the largest telecom providers in Canada.
“My father used to work for India Cements in their factory in Sankagiri. We resided in the employees’ quarters provided by India Cements. I used to play cricket professionally. So, my father took voluntary retirement and chose to move to Chennai for the sake of my career. I was in Chennai since my undergrad and continued to work and stay there along with my family,” says Balaji, who moved to Canada in 2014 after his marriage and joined my wife in Toronto, eventually earning his citizenship in 2019.
Having done most of his schooling in Sankagiri, his went on to do his BA Economics from Vivekananda College in Chennai and then a PGDM in Marketing Management from Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship in Bengaluru. “I started my career with Tata Tea as a sales officer managing sales and distribution in Chennai urban markets. I aspired to become a brand/product manager which was usually a position held by MBAs from schools such as IIMs or XLRI. I had the opportunity to work with them closely to plan brand promotions for my markets,” he says.
However, when he got into the XIME PGDM program after working for five years with Tata Tea and Unilever, his decision was met with a certain amount of scepticism. “I was my family’s breadwinner. However, I was so determined to achieve my dream that I ignored all the discouragement from my colleagues, superiors, and relatives,” says the Indian origin executive, who earned an MBA from Schulich School of Business, York University, a couple of years ago.
After graduating from XIME, Balaji went on to join a Swedish cosmetics company as their regional manager for TN and Kerala regions. “While it was a step up from my pre-MBA career, I still wasn’t doing my dream job in Marketing,” says Balaji, who worked with the company for five years before moving to Canada. “The first thing I did was to publish a book titled ‘Awakening the Genie from Within’ which is currently selling in Amazon, Barns and Nobles etc. However, I’d always wanted to be a marketer. That dream was finally fulfilled after my second MBA from Schulich School of Business in Canada. I currently work in the marketing department leading the customer experience strategy and overseeing customer life cycle communications.”
In his current role, Balaji leads marketing projects, governing all the service marketing communications that goes to customers. He also develops the strategy and communications around product life cycle management and cross functionally leads a team of marketers, product experts, data scientists, and campaign teams.”
Incidentally, landing a job as a marketing professional in Canada was no mean feat. For instance, marketing jobs are usually assigned to locals. “That is because, marketing is a domain that predominantly employs native Canadians to this day. You can say there are hardly 5% -10% of people of colour (POC) in the segment, with most of them being locally born individuals. This is majorly because the field requires one to have native level communication/ top business education and a strong understanding of Canadian culture. It’s not easy to master these as a new immigrant. Most immigrants tend to be in IT, finance or accounting fields,” he says, adding, “Even after my second MBA, it took me 10 months of vigorous job hunting, networking, numerous coffee chats, and interviews to finally land a job of my liking.”
As he continues to assimilate into his Canadian lifestyle, Balaji is all for rolling up his sleeves and wearing multiple hats. Aside from his day job, he is also a licensed mortgage agent, AirBnB host, a landlord and an active investor in stocks. “I mostly work from home, so balancing these different roles becomes slightly easier. I also volunteer as a mentor for younger marketers and new immigrants,” says this marketing professional, who credits his wife for supporting him to achieve his dreams. “When I decided to pursue an MBA, she put a roof over my head and encouraged me to pursue my dream. She always encourages me to be the best version of me. You will be able to overcome a million haters as long as there is one genuine soul that is willing to trust and support you unconditionally.”
When he isn’t striving to succeed or doing one of the many free courses offered by his organisation, Balaji loves planning trips with his wife. The couple loves to travel and try new experiences during their time off. From planning cottage stays and road trips to snorkelling in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Zip Lining 400 feet above Costa Rica, horseback riding to explore caves, driving an ATV on a frozen lake, to making cigars in Cuba, the duo has tried it all.
Mindset matters. It doesn’t matter what your beginnings are, what matters is your intent to succeed.
Don’t be afraid to learn; even if it means taking a career break to further polish your knowledge and skill sets.
Stay focused. Know what you want to do and work towards getting that dream job.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Plan alternative and passive sources of income.