Dipika Sawhney: Amazon, Equality, and the Modern Phenomenon of Scaled Engagement

Sunetra Senior Thursday 01st November 2018 06:07 EDT
 
 

Dipika is a programme manager for Amazon advertising services. As an Asian woman working at the forefront of the technology industry, her success represents great social progress. “I lead a team at Amazon where we help tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses succeed with their advertising and marketing,” she commented. “Over half of everything sold on Amazon comes from third party businesses, so helping them grow and sell to customers around the world is key.”

Earlier this year, Dipika was awarded the #SheInspires award at the Inspiring Indian Women Awards at the Palace of Westminster, celebrating her contribution to the digital world alongside her volunteering work for social causes. In particular, she’s passionate about pushing for equality of women in the workplace. Indeed, whilst studying for her MBA at Cambridge University, Dipika was elected President of the institution’s Women’s Leadership initiative, “with a vision to build a collaborative and liberating society”. She also garnered the ‘Best and Brightest MBA award’ for her degree.

On what could be done to advance women’s career prospects within the technology industry, Dipika explained: “There are three important actions. First, we need to do a better job of encouraging young girls to visit manufacturing hubs, experiment in science labs and to learn about balance sheets and finance. Science, technology and manufacturing are all very cool and rewarding for young girls to try. Secondly, I believe that every company – big or small – should have clear and easily accessible policies on parental leave and flexible work options that can help to retain women who want to have children mid-career.” Dipika herself is the mother of two young children, also mentoring “young female leaders of the future” alongside her successful corporate career. She added: “Finally, I would like to see more support and encouragement for women who are keen to return to work after taking long career breaks.”

Dipika’s attention is on helping others through her professional and personal work. Most recently, she has created - and runs - a Europe-wide team that is responsible for helping thousands of small and new advertisers across Europe to succeed. Her team explores new ways to make Amazon an effective and exciting platform for SMEs to flourish – and her team works with the same entrepreneurial spirit as those they support, to bring success for everybody involved.
 Dipika explained: “My team at Amazon is working to provide opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to excel in the online space. Amazon’s digital tools and services aim to open up new opportunities for each business to showcase their products and obtain customer insights, so they can grow exponentially by reaching a global audience. Reviews and customer feedback are vital. It’s paramount to listen carefully to what your customers are saying and to always ask them for feedback.”

Working closely with the multitude of businesses attached to Amazon, as well as her own team, Dipika transfers that enthusiasm and personal energy to a diverse customer base, and vice versa. Dipika talked about the most rewarding part of her job as being, “how Amazon has changed people’s lives. I’ve heard some amazing stories: from a busy mother at the school gate, who uses Amazon Prime to get milk and last-minute birthday gifts delivered within two hours, to the taxi driver who sells watch straps on Amazon to pay for his son’s education. I love how we are able to touch so many lives, offering them convenience and a shopping experience they enjoy!” Thriving on this emotional reward was also why Dipika did so well in her first online business as founder of tech start-up Flat Club, now known as Benivo. The business yielded an impressive £1.2m turnover in its first year and had 30,000 members within two years: “I am passionate about customer experience,” she commented. “Making customers happy by exceeding their expectations when I ran my own start-up was definitely my favourite part of that work.”

Thus, Dipika is a committed driver of the fast-changing e-commerce landscape, one where customers are increasingly responding to new forms of interaction between businesses and consumers. Dipika has successfully scaled up two internal departments since joining Amazon in 2016 and has delivered lectures on the nuances of how e-commerce has evolved and how it will continue to adapt to consumer needs. Having been able to make an impact through meaningful work, she has also set out to be an influential female leader – and her success to date is testament to the cohesive approach to professional and personal development at Amazon.

Tell us how you feel e-commerce is principally changing?

Today, the digital age has given any business, of any size, many different choices for how to reach any customer anywhere, access to global cloud computing that enables flexibility like never before, and a number of global logistics operations that have democratised the ability to start and run your own business. As long as you have a laptop, internet connection and a great product or idea, you can be a local business but reach customers around the world, without the need for heavy capital investment.

What vital skills did you develop during your MBA at Cambridge?

I was able to hone my negotiation skills. The degree taught me to be ruthless when prioritising objectives and helped me to dive deeper and more efficiently into data. By learning new skills and how to use specific tools, I was able to make business decisions with greater speed and agility, while also evaluating risk-return scenarios quicker.

Amazon accepts ‘failure’ as a way of reaching success. Do you feel this is because those who are brighter tend to think bolder?

In my experience, bright people tend to take considered and calculated risks and they understand the consequences of their decisions. Emboldening employees to do this helps them to become owners and leaders of their business, so they learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. As Jeff Bezos says: “If you don’t listen to your customers you will fail. BUT if you only listen to your customers you will also fail. It’s not customers’ job to invent for themselves. It’s our job to invent on their behalf.”

Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s WW Consumer division, has said: “A one-way door is a place with a decision if you walk through, and if you don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back. A two-way door, you can walk through and can see what you find, and if you don’t like it, you can walk right back through the door and return to the state that you had before. Why would we need anything more than the lightest weight approval process for those two-way doors?”

What's a recurring mistake people make in starting a business?

Not having a detailed business plan. I would recommend detailed marketing, finance and market research plans, and a measurable plan of what success or failure looks like each week. A business mentor is also key – you will need support sometimes. I would also say that it’s essential to understand technology and the depth of insight it can generate.

Finally, what are two further tips for good business strategy?

Showcase your product effectively. That means using great pictures, easy to understand features and handy instructions that are informed by a deep understanding of the customer’s needs. Make sure you understand e-commerce. The most successful brand owners are those who listen to customers, learn about important terms such as keywords and search rankings early on, and take advantage of tools and channels to reach out to their customers.
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Today, the digital age has given any business, of any size, many different choices for how to reach any customer anywhere, access to global cloud computing that enables flexibility like never before.


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