Asha Talwar is both an outstanding businesswoman and an important part of the development of the American Ballet Theatre, of which she is a a junior council member. Professionally, she is a creative marketer with experience launching global beauty brands, and is currently the Marketing Manager of the Fine Fragrance division at Symrise, a leader in the global flavors and fragrance industry, with clients including Avon and Batallure. She has extensive industry-side experience, and has previously held roles at Estee Lauder, Coty and Clarins. She has an eye for innovation, and drove development for successful product launches like the Vera Wang Princess fragrance in 2006 and Estee Lauder’s 2011 breakthrough skin serum, Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator.
As a former Radio City Rockette, Asha has a fervent passion for the arts. She is a member of ABT’s Junior Council, a patron program for young professionals. Since 2005, Asha and fellow members of the Junior Council have raised vital funds to provide scholarships for dance students at ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. In addition to working with ABT, she is involved with many cultural institutions in New York City, including the Asia Society, the Frick Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design, MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum and the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. Professionally, she is a founding member of the Young Executive Committee at Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW).
Regarded as a trend hunter, strategic marketer and beauty enthusiast in the industry, we thought Asha would be the perfect subject for this week’s Executive Suite. We managed to chat with her a bit about being a professional trendsetter, a former Rockette and not needing a mentor.
Did you picture yourself in a career like this growing up?
Like most little girls, I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up! I came very close, having studied with American Ballet Theater and danced with the Radio City Rockettes in college. My career (Marketing for Global fragrance house Symrise) is a natural progression from my artistic childhood as it marries two of my greatest strengths – discipline and creativity.
What is the hardest thing about your work?
What I find most challenging – and most exciting – is developing innovative concepts. The fine fragrance and personal care markets are extremely saturated, so I strive to develop products that will break through the clutter to surprise and delight consumers.
How do you deal with the work life balance struggle?
I find that keeping an extremely detailed agenda helps me keep balance with a busy schedule – from business meetings to yoga classes to social events. Having all my appointments in one place helps visualize and plan for the week ahead. In the hectic environment of New York City, I think it’s important not to over schedule. I always make sure to have a least one “zen” night to myself.
How does one become a trendsetter? What is your process?
My role requires me to identify trends in addition to being a trendsetter. I analyze shifts in trends over time and forecast years into the future. I take a multi-faceted approach that looks at innovation across all categories including the arts, design, food, fashion and beauty. I focus on geographic regions that are a representative sample of the global market – from established cities like New York, London, Paris and Milan, to emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China. A passion for traveling fuels my creativity and helps me keep my pulse on trends worldwide.
Do you feel like the beauty industry gets unfairly labeled as a woman’s job ghetto?
Having been exposed to the beauty industry for over 10 years, this is the first time I’ve heard it referenced as such! So many of the beauty industry’s founders were visionary women. I feel it’s a place where women are empowered and celebrated for their accomplishments.
Can you tell us about things you have done you considered to be a failure in your career and how you learned from them?
Everyone experiences failure large and small in their career. When I’m faced with a challenge, I take an introspective approach where I evaluate what went wrong and develop solutions to turn around the business issue. Going through this process helps me to refine my analytical thinking to avoid future pitfalls.
What advice do you have for young women who want to get into this field?
I always recommend getting into the beauty industry through networking. Industry organizations such as the Fragrance Foundation, Fashion Group International, and Cosmetic Executive Women have “young executive” memberships and volunteer opportunities, which opens the door to meeting people in this business.
Do you think having a mentor is important?
Having a mentor is a great but not essential. A mentor relationship can be extremely rich – they can serve as a sounding board for new ideas, share their experiences with you, give you advice…but at the end of the day, you are in charge of your own path and have to be the driving force towards your goals.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love working on product categories where I’m already an engaged consumer. I also enjoy working closely with the international markets because it gives me a broader perspective on the world and exposure to diverse cultures and people.
Why do you feel it is important to serve on boards (like ABT’s) and various others?
American Ballet Theater is close to my heart as it was part of my childhood. Serving on ABT’s Junior Council is is a way for me to continue to be active in the dance community.
Being involved in young patron groups allows me to support causes I care about while meeting dynamic, vibrant peers. Many of my closest friends are people I’ve met through my charity involvement. I love that we have diverse backgrounds yet share a common link – our love for adventure and the arts.