In a first, Indian appointed on Google's panel

Prof. Shilpa Sawant is a faculty member with NMIMS University, she spoke about the Google Online Marketing Challenge, which is a unique opportunity for students to experience and create online marketing campaigns using Google AdWords. Over 110,000 students and professors from almost 100 countries have participated in the past 9 years. During her interview, she explained how her team was able to be the winner of the competition for two consecutive years

This is the second time in a row your teams have won this competitive? What factors did you concentrate on both the occasions?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: There were three factors...
i.              Team members. We need a blend of competencies and a synchronised effort.
ii.             The choice of business. We really brainstorm the most for this.
iii.            Unconditional commitment
If I expect commitment, first I have to be committed. I believe in leading by example. I am always available at any point of time day/ night…working/travelling/ vacation. (Sometimes, I fear my family will disown me) ; And I get extremely affectionate of them.

Just to share an example, when my winning team was about to close the campaign on last day, there was something in me that made me anxious during dinner time. I just wanted to be with my students working in the library. I just rushed to college in my tracks and sat with them till the closure of the campaign. And when we closed it…I somehow knew or was very sure that we will win. I am a person of instincts.  

You have been appointed on Google's panel, kindly elaborate on it.

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: Yes and with all modesty, I want to say that this makes me first Indian national to be on the Global Academic Panel of Google and I am really honoured.
So, Jamie Murphy, Global Academic Lead wrote me an email asking me to be on the panel to represent India and he also emphasised the fact that I will be a female representative…(maybe they know how difficult it is in India for women to excel beyond a point).
Since my teenage, I dreamt of representing the country in intellectual capacity and I just couldn’t say no.

In which category did your team win the award?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: In the year 2015, we won the Global AdWords Business Award, while in 2016 we won in three categories: Asia Pacific AdWords Business Award, Asia Pacific Google+ Social Media Marketing Award and 2nd place for AdWords Social Impact Award.

What were the criteria for selecting the team members who entered the competition?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: As a matter of principle, I never say no to students who come to me for anything that is constructive, of course, it kills me with work ;). But I always have 1 team that I create which comprises of students that I have taught at some point, as I am sure of their competencies.
Student’s trust in me is very important as the amount of time and energy invested is immense.
The winning teams of 2015 & 2016 comprised of students that I had taught. Each member has a unique strength and way of working. I make sure the blend is perfect.

How did you prepare your team to face the challenges posed during the advertising campaign?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: A couple of things that I try to do:
i.              A lot of foundation work that is required before the actual competition starts. I make them understand the nuances, put them to study concepts and do research for about 6-8 months. Things have to be on fingertips and GOMC is something that is always at the back of their mind for almost 10 months.

ii.             When there is less pressure of competition, I ask them to focus and take control of their routine academic commitments and studies…so that they can juggle later. The competition at times overlaps with their tests and exams. And I don’t want their academic performance to get affected.

iii.            As said earlier, I have a major role in the choice of business and ideating. We spend hours and hours together doing this. I am very connected and we can brainstorm any idea at that very moment whether it is by sitting together, over chats or con calls.

iv.           I also try to keep a close track of personal whims and fancies, team dynamics, role allocation. The accounts during the campaign period need to be monitored 24x7. I keep a close check on how this work is divided.

v.            The success of the campaign needs to be monitored. If it is not giving results, it has to be changed immediately as there is money invested in each campaign. I also train them to capitalise on events, incidents…anything that is making news. This is a huge task as one has to be updated all the time. An eye for detail is crucial.

Did your team face any challenges while choosing the client for whom the advertisement was designed?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: Finalising on the client as I have said earlier always taken the best of effort. But when we approached the business we eventually finalised on and won …they were absolutely cool and supportive. I think once the client understands that eventually, they benefit…it is prudent on their part to cooperate.

Tell us about your overall experience during the process of designing
It is just amazing and adventurous.  The roller-coaster can make you anxious. I am all the time thinking of it, strategizing about it and looking for something new and unique… The Ace Card. Audience and market analysis need a lot of work and designing campaign have put this analysis in communication framework. I have always been a close observer of human behaviour and treating communication as a strategy comes naturally to me. Campaigns survive on this.

On which key areas did you focus on while designing the advertisement?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: Marketing, Psychology, Social dynamics and communication

How important is this competition for students’ overall development?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: Oh, they taste the real business world…collaboration, cooperation, competition, success/ failure, team dynamics, observation, leadership and the ability to take instructions they may not like…this is what they need exactly for survival and they learn it all here. It opens a whole new world of opportunities for students. Once they win they get to learn a lot more through travel, recognition and applaud. 

How does one prepare for the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC)?

Prof. Shilpa Sawant: One has to start preparing at least 10 months in advance. This is because they have to juggle with their academic commitments also. Otherwise, 6 months is good. They need to understand marketing as a conceptual subject thoroughly and then spend equal time understanding the client’s business. A lot of teams get disqualified because they miss on one or other basic requirement of the challenge. So a thorough understanding of rules is mandatory. AdWords certification can help a lot.


  1. Feeling proud.....keeping going with your good work

  2. Cheers Congratulations Prof.
    U make all of us connected with U very proud.
    Questions were apt & ur responses were engrossing.
    Wishing you many more Wonderful Returns

  3. Proud to be a part of MPSTME. As a student of MBA(Tech), we've been taught by ma'am, and she is excellent and approachable. Congrats ma'am and to the MBA(Tech) students who've made us proud!


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