Sashwati Banerjee : Marketing and Communications advisor CMS Project


Name: Sashwati Banerjee

Designation: Marketing and Communications advisor CMS Project, Futures Group, India

Sun Sign: Taurus

Educational Experience

Regular scolding from my parents saw me through graduation. Joined MA with good intentions but the thought of studying Chaucer and Silver Poets seemed too morose. Dropped out, did the usual vocational course in marketing and advertising, learned on the job and soaked up any and all kinds of information. I READ, READ, READ. My friends swear that I'm the ultimate TRIVIA QUEEN.

Professional Experience

In India, my company is the commercial market strategies project (CMS) division of Futures Group International. We're funded by USAID to provide technical consulting services on various reproductive health projects in India. Specifically CMS works with the private health care sector in order to increase their participation in public health goals.

To achieve this we design, manage, supervise and monitor programmes that include behaviour change campaigns, training, research, and other outreach activities. Currently CMS is managing programs to increase demand and usage of Oral Contraceptive Pills and Oral Rehydration Salts in north India. ICICI Bank is the fund manager of these programmes.

All my jobs have been a learning experience. My first one was handling the front desk of a newly opened 5-star hotel in Delhi. I learnt how to wear a sari well and also never to judge a book by its cover! Then I moved to work in a real dodgy below the line promotions company - learning? Bullshit works 9 times out of 10!

Then I moved to the UK and Hong Kong... retail promotions and corporate communications - learning - how to work in a multi-cultural environment and have a blast. Those were really fun days. The Brits really respect POETS (piss off early tomorrow's Saturday) DAY.

On a more serious note, Bombay is where I really learnt a lot about communication. What I brought to the table were ideas and experience that were being used outside India. What I got to learn here was how to translate those in the Indian context; how to accept that there are some things that can't change; and how to change the things that can.

At Contract I met some of the best advertising brains and to this day I think of Rohit as my guru! After a year at a company that launched a product well before its time and went under with a ssssss (the infamous Vaccumiser!), I was ready to leave the corporate rat race.

I started working with the development sector and consulted with various NGOs and funding organizations. Reproductive health was a field that interested me and I sincerely believe that health care in this country is a huge growth area. Coupled with my activist background from college days and feminism, I finally found the perfect niche.

I worked with CMS for 2 years and then moved back to Bombay. O & M was setting-up their Healthcare Division and I applied to head up their Bombay branch. It was most exciting. Almost too exciting!! Onset of ulcers and the NEED to be back to doing social development work brought me back to CMS.

Job Profile

PAPER and TRAVEL!! Seriously the amount of paper we generate in the form of contracts, reports, documents, research is not funny. I spend almost 45 per cent of my time traveling to my project areas - namely the BIMARU states in north India.

I manage and supervise two programs currently that look at increasing the demand and usage for hormonal contraceptives in north India, change behavior and have some policy impact in the long run.

Coordination with communication agencies, PR and Advocacy, working with the medical community and partner pharmaceutical manufacturers plus finding innovative ways to ensure that the sales chart keeps showing a healthy growth is the core of my job.

Social marketing as career choice

I can do a motherhood number here - like this is my calling, I was born to help others (sic!)

Well, social marketing is a bit like a big jigsaw puzzle, and you have to fit all the pieces in to make sure that everybody has the complete picture. I love big, complicated jigsaw puzzles.

I love working on issues that affect public at large and designing programs that bring about behavior change - to me that's marketing and communications at it's best! Health is an area that interests me and women's issues are close to my heart. Put the two together and wow what more can I expect?!!!

Current social marketing scenario

Nearly 25 per cent of India is below poverty line and supposedly can't afford basic health care. In reality almost 78 per cent of people access health care from the private sector namely they pay for health care from their own pockets and even the poor go to private doctors and chemists!

India's a highly segmented market. Basic health care is provided by the Government, social marketing firms like PSI and DKT cater to an SEC (socio-economic class) who can afford services and products but not pay the prices that the private sector demands and then the commercial or private sector catering to the higher SEC's.

However, that's all theoretical. This highly segmented market is also a highly subsidized market where all the above categories eat into each other and nobody gains. The programmes we run aim to grow the overall market and create an environment where the private sector feels motivated enough to provide quality services and products and help share the health burden of the country with the government.

Though social marketing has existed in India for a while, the growth of social marketing is very recent. It's only now that people are realizing the importance of private-public partnerships, corporate social responsibility and the glaring fact that subsidies cannot be an answer to long-term growth.

With burning health issues like population, women's health, child health, HIV/AIDS there is a strong need for the public and the private sector to join hands and promote services and products that can help to bring down the health burden in India.

Five years from now

Five years from now... the project will continue and be more dynamic, US won't declare war on Iraq or any other country, India will actually win a world cup or two, I'll be able to buy a house in Italy and make wine, learn how to Samba, find the courage to bungee jump, walk the streets of Delhi without fear of getting raped, half the population won't get wiped out because of AIDS… five years is a long time!!


Have a bag, will travel! Watching films irrespective of language, reading, music (modern jazz, blues and old Hindi film songs!)

What I hate: Liars, creepy crawlers, paying exorbitant rates for average food, haggling with cab drivers, late night horror movies!!

Idea of enjoyment

A glass of the very best single malt, jazz on the system, cold winter night, blazing log fire….heaven!

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