Venkat Kotamaraju

Executive Leadership Program - Amsterdam Class 06

Venkat Kotamaraju
Board Member/Design Thinker/Consultant
My experience and deep interests:
I am based in: Amsterdam


Feeding into my need to not follow a predictable career trajectory, I gave up a cushy role at Universal McCann (UM) China at the end of 2011 to reinvent myself. While looking for an inspiration and a purpose to life (brought on mostly by a near-death experience in 2006), I became a student of Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing), traveled across Europe for a couple of months and spent time adding to my repertoire in cooking (inspired by his idols Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, who I believe are unapologetically honest chefs).


I am as much a product of my failures as of my wins. Among the proudest moments in my professional life is leading my team (as Country Head) in Vietnam to multiple golds in APAC and Global brand building awards for strategy, innovation and consumer segmentation on a leading global FMCG business. My team was also rated as one of the Top 2 country teams in the region (among 9 countries) - improving on previous years' client ratings. – all this, just 3 months after the client's ultimatum to take the business elsewhere. My wins are on the back of my resilience and belief in inspiring a shared vision of possibilities. My move to Vietnam was my first international assignment and first in a leadership position.


In my last full time job, as Client Services Director for UM in China, I led the Strategy & Business Development functions for China and was part of a crack team of 29, which made up UM's Global Product Council tasked with shaping and defining the global strategy product.


In the last year or so, I have been an independent consultant, advising and mentoring startups and early stage companies mainly in B2C segments operating in the digital, mobility and consumer products/services. My engagements vary from helping these outfits by drawing up strategic frameworks for the future to developing tactical ideas to helping them structure their product and service offering.


While currently looking to line up my next job, THNK is my inspiration. THNK cohort fits perfectly into my reinvention phase (professionally speaking) - part search for inspiration, part love for travel & meeting new people, and part need for extraordinary experiences.


I'm currently pursuing a course in Strategic Marketing at Stanford. While I come to Cafe Venetia (University Avenue at Palo Alto) for my daily caffeine fix, my fix for inspiration is perusing through the profiles of the amazing Class 6 - I'm incredibly inspired and equally humbled to be in your presence.
What I bring to the table is a 'never give up' attitude, a healthy appetite for risk, a proven track record of turning around under-performing individuals and teams, and at my best with my back against the wall. Collaboration and leading/being part of interdisciplinary teams excites me. The insignificant part is my 14+ years of experience (incl. 8+ in Vietnam & China) with an MBA in marketing (from India) to boot.


While a part of me wants to be global CEO / Chief Strategy Officer in 5-7 years time, I'm a believer in engineered serendipity and knows that a change of track is just round the corner. I love music, traveling tattoos (3 & counting), am always up for a road trip or a beer/scotch. I'm work in progress (apparently that’s a good thing) and the biggest challenges on my bucket list are getting to learn how to swim and dance.