In the Bag: How Urna found her dream role with a French designer brand
For American Urna Biswas, a career with a Paris-based luxury brand was a lifelong goal – albeit not one that she thought she'd achieve so quickly. That would change in the space of one exciting week.
Having spent a number of years in the field of business development, Urna joined ESSEC’s Global MBA cohort at their Paris campus in 2020. She opted to pursue the Luxury Brand Management major, in the hope of securing a job with one of the glamorous, iconic brands she grew up admiring.
“It was always an industry I wanted to make a career in, and that dictated my choice to study business and French. The goal of working in Paris never left my head for over a decade, so eventually, I decided to swallow my fears and enrol in the ESSEC Global MBA.”
Urna enjoyed coming to grips with new ways of thinking and doing business in Europe as part of the challenging programme, and was soon learning from some of the luxury industry's top talents. She also relished building a new life in France: mastering the language, finding an apartment, making new friends and exploring all that Paris had to offer.
"While I studied French at university, it was also another thing entirely using it constantly for the first time! The French you use to get around Paris is completely different to the French you use in a professional context, and to develop your networks."
One of Urna's favourite elements of the MBA were the 'case competitions' – competitive team problem-solving events, drawing on a vast library of business case studies. These competitions were designed to immerse students in the real-life workings of famous brands and were often judged by senior executives.
“Nobody’s travelling. What do we do?”
One of these case studies involved luxury luggage brand Delsey, which was facing a Covid-19-related quandary.
“This was as the pandemic was impacting everything and they told us, ‘We’re Delsey, we make luggage. Nobody’s travelling. What do we do?'", Urna remembers.
“Luckily, I was able to spend a week with my team preparing non-stop, all hours of the day. We were incredibly focused! There were lots of coffees and late nights.
“We created profiles for four different types of pandemic consumers, and this helped us to identify how Delsey could refocus their line of products to appeal to the market. More backpacks, for example, and luggage designed for those who needed to keep travelling, despite delays and reduced checked baggage allowances.
“We were all able to bring our separate talents in strategy, presentation and design together to create a really strong digital plan that we presented to Delsey Chief Marketing Officer Miriam Hendel.”
So impressed was Hendel that she awarded Urna's team first place for their presentation at ESSEC, noting that it was better than many pitches by established agencies,
Hendel also kept in touch with Urna and when hiring picked up as the pandemic eased, she brought her on board as Marketing Manager and Media Planner – an astonishing feat, considering the competitive nature of the luxury brand space.
Urna says: “I'm so lucky to be at Delsey, I really love my role. I still have a close bond with Miriam – a strong female director who kicks ass – and I really enjoy the trust she places in our team. It’s a small team and we’re able to support one another and share ideas all the time. We also spend a lot of time together outside of the office.
"It’s so different from corporate environments in the United States. We work hard here, but there's a lot of time for discussion and finding a better, or more effective way of doing things. It's a good balance and I find it really rewarding."
Understanding the DNA of luxury brands
Beyond the case studies, Urna says the ESSEC Global MBA programme as a whole gave her the skills she needed to succeed in working for a luxury brand.
“We simply don’t employ the same kind of marketing strategies in the United States as we do here in France. We have fewer luxury brands and fashion houses. It's a different world, in some ways. The MBA was crucial in helping me understand how luxury brands in Europe really operate.
“The ESSEC Global MBA was also so structured and focused, in such a way that we could really analyse the 'DNA' of luxury brands and apply what we learned to changing market trends. I also developed the ability to employ strategy, rather than just my own thinking. This really helped me, as I’ve always valued taking a qualitative, analytical view of things.
“I also have to stress how valuable it was working in really international classes. We had such diverse teams, with so many different experiences and points of view. My cohort taught me so much about the luxury brand space in places like Asia, and this helped shape a truly global point of view.”
An experience that doesn’t fade
While she's now busy in her dream role and with enjoying life in Paris, Urna hasn’t let her time at ESSEC fade into the background.
“Although we’re all over the world, I still connect with my class – a group of girls in Korea, for example – and we continue to share our experiences and learn from one another all the time," she says. "It's an incredibly valuable resource.
“I’m also keen to help new cohorts establish themselves in Paris and get settled in. Who knows what they could achieve, with the lessons and skills they learn at ESSEC?”
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