Prof. Dr Sanjeev Sadashiv Malage is a Professor of Consumer behaviour & Neuromarketing and Head of international and domestic linkages at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bengaluru. He joined NIFT in 2003 as an Assistant professor and worked at various NIFT centres and Departments. His current areas of teaching and research include Marketing Management, Consumer Behaviour, Neuromarketing and Strategic Management. He obtained his PhD from Gulbarga University in Advertising and Consumer Behaviour. He was the centre coordinator for the Department of Fashion Management Studies for two terms and Nodal Officer Admissions for 2 years at NIFT Bengaluru apart from being a member of various other committees. He served as International Linkages Coordinator, and Cluster Initiative Coordinator at different NIFT centres. He has presented and published papers across conferences of repute.

TEXTILE VALUE CHAIN has taken an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Dr Sanjeev Malage.

Tell us about your educational qualifications. What motivated you to complete your studies till PhD degree? And why did you choose this stream?

I am an engineer and MBA in marketing with a specialisation in consumer behaviour.  After completing my engineering, the options open for me were to continue my studies in the technical stream or to pursue management. I choose the latter because of my interest and the wide career options that were available after my master’s in management.  Working with a few organisations after completing my MBA was an enriching experience but my calling was something else, which pulled me into academics. What started as a pass time activity became my full-time work. I joined academics and started teaching Marketing and consumer behaviour at various business schools and enrolled on a PhD program.

As a part of being an academician, research is an integral part. How do you develop a research temperament or what motivates you to carry out research in your labs?

The shelf life of a management faculty is limited unless one keeps updated with current trends. The best way to keep oneself updated is to read quality research papers from the world’s top publications. The students these days are very well-informed and updated.  The information is made available at their fingertips.  Reading quality research papers triggers inquisitiveness and curiosity to know more, which eventually motivates us to take up research.

Would you like to share some interesting incidents/ instances that happened with you while working as a consultant to different industries or while teaching a batch of students…

Between my corporate career and academics, I ventured into consultancy for a very short period, wherein I was helping MSMEs to streamline their operations and increase their productivity, which in turn will have a positive impact on the bottom line. Investing in human capital was considered a cost rather than an investment. Convincing the management to invest in human capital was the major challenge. There were many interesting incidents, one of them was when the managing director was setting the benchmark for each department, I had to intervene and convince as how important it is to set a benchmark for, recruitment, training, and compensation. 

During academics, there was an interesting incident when I began teaching at NIFT.  Most of the subjects taught here are skill-based and the attention span of the student is short for a theory class. The biggest challenge for me was to hold their attention and transfer the knowledge. I have to learn new ways of transactions using different pedagogies. This is the time I learned how to be an edutainer than just an educator.

What are the major differences in the industries earlier and now? Tell us about the work ethics as well apart from the technological advancements.

Technological advancement is sweeping through industries across all sizes and structures. Charles Darvin’s principle “Survival of the fittest” perfectly holds good and can be seen in operation. The industries which realise this adapt quickly to survive and succeed. The ones who fail to adapt will perish, sooner or later. Professional ethics and values are on the decline and are a major concern for most organisations. Nothing much is going to work Unless the ethics and values are rooted in the culture of the organisation. The toxic work culture seen in a few organisations is detrimental to retaining talent and skilled human resources.  360-degree feedback may be one of the solutions to improve the work environment.

How do you teach/ inform your students about the latest developments in the industry and make them ready for working in the industry?

Preparing the students to be Industry ready is a challenging task. One needs to be in close connection with the industry and track the latest developments and practices.  At NIFT the curriculum undergoes a minor overhaul every 3 years and a major restructuring every 5 years to keep abreast with the industry practices.  The curriculum is developed keeping the industry requirement in mind and some of the industry bigwigs are involved during the curriculum restructuring.  Expert sessions and industry visits are incorporated in every subject as a mandatory practice under the industry engagement policy. Students are also encouraged to do Classroom projects in consultation with the industry.  The Expert lectures from the industry help in bridging the gap between academia and contemporary practices.  Student internships and projects with the industry will keep the students updated and make them industry ready.

How do you think the pandemic has affected the education system? Tell us both the pros and cons.

The pandemic was a challenging time for all of us, especially for academics.  The challenges helped to design new ways of transacting. The various online platforms helped us to streamline the lectures and exercises. Newer pedagogies were developed and experimented with. Transacting every subject posed new challenges, especially the skill-based subjects.  Eventually, everyone designed a way to address this and came up with innovative solutions.  The major cons of the pandemic were the classroom/ lab experience. Peer learning was completely missing.  There was a kind of disconnect between students and teachers in virtual classes. 

How are management studies important for Fashion/Textile students? How does it help in increasing productivity?

NIFT offers a flagship course in fashion management for postgraduate students.  The curriculum is designed based on industry requirements.  Management studies are very important for fashion and textile students to streamline operations, come up with innovative solutions and adopt best practices.  Creating value, communicating value and delivering value are the key ingredients for the success of any organisation. Doing it with utmost efficiency and effectiveness requires knowledge of management. 

Designing is an area in which there is a high chance of the designs/ patterns becoming monotonous. What according to you can help in bringing novelty and uniqueness to fashion designing/ textile designing?

The practice of design thinking will help in bringing novelty and uniqueness to the fashion industry. Keeping track of anthropological changes in the environment and designing products and services as per the changing environment is another way to beat monotony. 

What are some measures that need to be taken as a part of Quality Management in Fashion?

Quality is not something which needs to be checked at the end of operations or for the final product. Quality should become part of every workstation and each of the workstations should treat the next workstation as its customer. The quality inspection at the end of all operations is much costlier than incorporating quality measures at every step.

What is your take on Neuromarketing and Strategic Management? 

Neuromarketing is an emerging field in India and is at a very nascent stage. This is largely due to a lack of awareness about the benefits and the cost. At present only bigger corporations can afford to use the tools of neuromarketing due to the huge initial investments needed for it. Technological advancements may soon bring down the costs and awareness about the benefits of using neuromarketing tools is increasing.  The future is looking bright for this field. 

What would be your suggestions for start-ups in the fashion technology/ apparel manufacturing sector? How can these ventures grow, considering the immense competition that lies in this sector?

The intensity of competition is increasing in every field.  The start-up ecosystem in India is very encouraging these days. What the start-ups need to keep in mind is understanding what are the problems they are solving. What is their purpose of existence and how they are adding value to the quality of life.  Any product entering the market is bound to fail unless it correctly addresses the above-mentioned questions.  The creation of value has to be innovative, and delivering that value should be economical. Communicating these values should be creative. Coming up with a solution to an old problem or a new problem most economically and innovatively is the way forward for start-ups to succeed. 

What are the parameters that an apparel manufacturer must consider before launching a product? How can he/she tap the market and cater to the different variety of customers?

Effective segmentation and reaching the target market with the most efficient integrated marketing communications is the key.  Providing platforms for customer co-creation is another way to understand customer needs and serve them in a better way.  The rise of social media and influencer marketing is another opportunity to reach the target market cost-effectively.

How essential is marketing for a product? What are some innovative ways of marketing your products?

Many organisations can come up with new products but very few will succeed in bringing the product to the customer in a profitable way.  The differentiating factor here is the marketing element. Companies equipped with better marketing tools hold a higher chance to succeed in the marketplace.  Effective use of technology and marketing tools holds the key to success in the marketplace.