Anisha Motwani

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Anisha Motwani
The Stormer

We first met over a phone call that was set up for us by the COO of an insurance MNC who was keen on Anisha Motwani leaving her job as the CMO of General Motors (India) to lead his company’s fledgling category creating venture. He requested me to speak to her as she had requested him to find her someone who knew the initiative like an insider but wasn’t one. I was the innovation lead on the project, and fit the role perfectly.

She took the leap of faith and walked in.

She walked into a space that had start-up like energies – you wore the hat that the day tossed at you. She was now the leader who was expected to champion the concept and the cause it stood for with more enthusiasm than the people who had lived it since its conception.

Convictions within the company were high and so were the stakes – the company board was keeping a close watch on it. Big investments were being made on IT infrastructure. Uttar Pradesh, the prototype market chosen, was much larger and more complex compared to some countries this MNC was used to operating in. And to add to the thrill, we were dealing with a segment this industry knew nothing about – the unbanked.

For a CMO who prided herself at using her evolved instincts to spot patterns in the data deluge gushing in from the markets, Anisha found herself dealing with a team that had none. Only some hunches pulled out of their enthusiastic guts.

The team began getting used to her ways – ‘ask questions; the earlier the better; even fundamental ones that could give the concept an identity crises’. She too got used to the team’s charmingly infectious ways – ‘we’ll-make-it-happen-in spite-of-everything’. It was easy for her, after all she had lived this attitude in the decade and a half she had spent in advertising at McCann, Mudra, Leo Burnett and Euro RSCG; also, her time at General Motors, creating the Chevrolet brand in the country.

Led by her, the team put the project on a grand course that saw everything from trying to coin a name for the new-to-the-world category, to getting Piyush Pandey to bring it alive in his unique style, to signing up Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador, to a launch that triggered a lot of goose flesh, to receiving innovation awards, to eventually going through the pain of seeing it shut down. In hindsight, it was very fulfilling. The successes and failures had taught us how to run a start-up within a corporate, and at a time when start-ups weren’t even called that.

Post the project, we got busy with our respective new missions. I, with my innovation projects elsewhere and Anisha with a new challenge – add excitement to the way sombre insurance industry markets itself. She was attempting this at a tough but opportune time - the global financial meltdown in 2008 had had an adverse impact on the Life Insurance sector. The market suddenly shrank and then stagnated. This is when Anisha together with other leaders had an insight – ‘relationships in the industry were based on mistrust. Purpose, process and product transparency could inspire trust’.

Life insurance category needed a fundamental transformation. Just making claims of honesty and urging the customer to trust them would not work. This led to a very successful initiative that involved reengineering of the product portfolio and repositioning of life insurance. The impact was felt by the industry and her brand Max Life’s True Loyalty rank went from No. 5 to
No .1

After years, she and I began bumping into each other again. This time in the lecture circuit – talking innovation. She, as a practitioner who had been there, done that and seen it all – exceptional failures to even more exceptional successes, and I, as an innovation specialist and a new-born writer.

In 2015, we decided to team up again. To conceive a new innovation method. We felt that the old innovation and insighting methods that the corporate world was using were way past their use by date. The vibrant start-up ecosystem which both of us were getting pulled into as mentors and investors, was using fresh new ways. Storm The Norm was born – a book that Anisha authored and I developed the innovation method for.

The quick print runs (seven already) told us the market wanted more of Storm the Norm. And we decided to set up our innovation consulting firm by the same name – one that would focus on the ambiguous yet exciting ‘fuzzy front end’.

Anisha continues doing it. Not happy with the norms, she keeps storming them wherever she is – our innovation assignments, World Bank initiatives and another area she is passionate about – women and their potential.

Here’s to more storms Anisha.

Co-Founder & Managing Partner
Storm The Norm Ventures
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Exceptional women and men who have helped shape and grow our industry.