People Profile: Nitin Kalra, Head of Brand Licensing for MEC (Al Faisaliah Group), Saudi Arabia
The global licensing community is powered by an incredible group of professionals whose diverse backgrounds and creative energy drive innovation and excellence. Each week we’re profiling one of these professionals in this ongoing series.
How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find you)?
I was quite literally pulled out of my sleep and put into licensing! One day, while I was taking an afternoon nap, I received a call from my mentor who had joined Star TV India to start the licensing vertical. She asked me to join her team and while I had no clue of what licensing was all about, I loved her passion for the business. I jumped in blindly with no prior experience in licensing (though I had ten years of media experience as a journalist and as a public relations professional).
What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
What fascinates me about the licensing business is that no two hours (let alone days) are the same! There is a huge variety of interactions, including talking to licensors, pitching to licensees, working on product development, marketing campaigns, event planning, and traveling to meet industry friends at tradeshows.
What’s your biggest personal and professional accomplishment?
My work with Doraemon in India from 2010–2020 is one of my most cherished achievements. The fact that what I inherited as a small business with eight or nine licensees grew to include hundreds of licensees in that decade, many of whom continue to be licensees, is immensely satisfying. Today, when I see people who trained under me in places like Disney, Mattel, Cartoon Network, and other agencies, I feel proud and responsible to continue giving back to the industry that has given me such a fantastic career!
What are the most significant trends or changes that you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
The biggest change is that the consumer has gotten smarter! Consumers want to experience brands and be in their world, and if the experience touches them, they would take a piece of that back home in the form of merchandise. It’s no longer about selling the product—it’s about touching the consumer through brand experiences!
What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest challenge these days?
What keeps me up is not a challenge but the opportunity! I recently moved to Saudi Arabia and after joining Al Faisaliah Group, I realized that the market is brimming with opportunities. Businesses are wanting to get into licensing but don’t know how. The people are hungry for brands and licensing provides the perfect opportunity for this.
In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
“Never say no.” I never say no to meeting anyone, no matter what line of business he or she is from, because at the end of every conversation, a possible licensing business story can emerge. Every meeting may not convert instantly, but once the germ of licensing enters someone’s mind, it remains there forever. I’ve had people coming back after eight years of our first meeting and sign up as licensees!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or what is your favorite quote?
“Listen, understand, repeat.” Listening carefully is the first step, understanding what is being said is the next. But if you don’t understand, that means you haven’t heard properly. So, repeat the process until you get it right. I use this in my life all the time. There is no shame in asking someone to repeat if you haven’t understood. It’s better than doing the wrong thing.