Name: Ruchika Kalra | Designation: Brand Director | Company: Lastminute.com | Place: London
(October 26, 2023) Born in Delhi, raised in Abu Dhabi, educated in the UK and with a career spanning several countries across the globe, Ruchika Kalra considers herself a true world citizen. Working as brand director for London-based lastminute.com, the official travel partner for Tour de France, Ruchika has fond memories of all the places she’s been in and the journey she’s charted so far.
The giving mindset
Her family moved to Abu Dhabi when she was young, but worked to keep alive their connection to their roots. Her mother, a psychologist, and father a chartered accountant, also went the extra mile to help their daughters develop a giving mindset. “My sister is a wheelchair user and my father has an amputated leg. Back then accessibility was a challenge in the UAE,” Ruchika recalls, despite the WHO stating that one in 10 people had some form of disability. “That led to my family setting up Wings of Angelz, a non-profit that champions the cause of accessibility for the disabled, helping set up the right kind of infrastructure for them and helping them find the right kind of jobs,” she says, adding, “Even after I moved to the UK I’ve continued to support them remotely and I champion the cause of diversity and inclusion at the workplace.”
Abu Dhabi to Birmingham
After completing her schooling in Abu Dhabi, Ruchika moved to Delhi where she lived with her grandmother and attended Sri Venkteswara College for a degree in B.Com. “Life in Delhi was very different. It was great, but so different from Abu Dhabi where it was a more cushioned world. Delhi taught me to be street smart and build my negotiation skills. It’s highly competitive and it’s where I found myself.”
After her graduation, she enrolled at Aston University in Birmingham for a Masters in Business & Management. This was also where she found herself exposed to people from diverse nationalities and learnt to work collaboratively. “I realised the world was a bigger place,” she smiles.
A career in marketing
With a fairly creative bent of mind, she found herself leaning towards the world of marketing and landed her first job with NMC Trading in Dubai. “There was a lot of learning involved and I finally understood how brands worked. That led to my next job with Unilever, which changed how I viewed marketing. The company does a great job training people on the basics of marketing. For instance, I worked on launching toothbrushes in sub-Saharan Africa where people preferred to use twigs. It was not just about launching a product, but also about educating people,” she says.
Four years later, she found herself in her next role with Red Bull as its global marketing manager. For Ruchika this was a different ball game, given Red Bull was a young brand competing against big names in the category. “Their strategy was well thought through and taught me what marketing really means. I’d sit in front of customers and convince them to give Red Bull prime spot in their stores. I did intense analysis to find solutions to their problems,” she says, adding, “Eventually, I moved to their headquarters in Austria where I worked to help establish their marketing pillars. Interestingly, I didn’t know a word of German and found myself living in a village of just 2,000 people after having spent my life in big cities.”
She eventually moved to London with her husband for a role with Reckitt where she worked for three years before landing her current role at lastminute, a travel company. “The shift in industry was intentional. I currently head a 60-member team for one of the top travel companies in the UK. I’d been looking to work with a younger organisation and I find this role to be great. It’s much more fast-paced in terms of decision making. In the last 10 months, I’ve already implemented a lot of changes here,” she smiles.
On a typical day, Ruchika finds herself essaying her various roles with ease: that of a mum to a 14-month-old, brand director, wife and an individual herself. “A large chunk of my day revolves around my son. I like to begin my day with a workout – either crossfit or a walk with my dog – before I drop off my little one at the nursery and head to work. In the evenings after work I spend time playing with him before putting him to bed. After that, it’s usually dinner, reading books or watching something on Netflix before I wind down for the night,” she says. Weekends are usually spent outdoors either with friends or family. “London is a bustling city and there’s plenty to do. I love watching plays, attending new events, comedy shows etc.”
When it comes to work-life balance, she says that there’s no ideal formula for it. “There are days when you end up working more than focus on personal things and vice versa. It’s about setting your priorities for the week and month right. I am an extremely organised person and have everything blocked on my calendar. Weekends are focused on personal growth and family time. It’s just how it is.”
During their time off, Ruchika and her husband love to travel… either Europe, which is easily accessible from London or visit family back home in Dubai and India. When it comes to keeping in touch with her roots, she says that hers are so wide spread that she is connects with whichever place she’s in. “Apart from staying in touch with family via the internet, there’s our staple of Bollywood movies and festivals which are a big part of my life. However, I believe I’ve evolved to become a world citizen and home for me is an emotion; it’s not just a physical place.”