My UEA Story: Sonal Grover
Sonal Grover lives in Bengaluru, India, where she works at Project Eve, a start-up specialising in ‘experiential retailing’. In 2016 she took a career break and studied a brand leadership MSc at UEA, graduating a year later.
We caught up with Sonal in 2020 and discussed her memories of UEA, how her MSc helped her in her career, and her role as a senior manager of visual merchandising.
Hi Sonal. What are you up to at the moment?
I am working for a designer-wear rentals start-up. I am responsible for the look and feel of the stores including – but not limited to – merchandise, props and mannequin displays, lighting, store design, and focal point setup.
Can you explain how visual merchandising works?
Visual merchandising refers to the art of selling through visual medium. It’s generally applied to retail stores as they become the final point of consideration, evaluation and sale for customers. It comprises of vendor management, window display design and execution, merchandise display, fixture planning, point of purchase display, graphical communication, colour blocking, store lighting adjustments and budgeting. In some companies it could overlap with store design, retail management and marketing.
What does a normal day at work look like for you?
I deal with a lot of stakeholders. I have to interact with store teams, business heads, marketing heads, buying and merchandising teams and layout teams, too. I plan visual merchandising elements for all stores across India and the store teams report to me. I also create new guidelines, props and window designs for the stores.
What’s your biggest challenge?
It’s a start-up so the roles aren’t well defined and responsibilities are shared. At a given point of time I might be handling several different tasks, from dealing with commercials for payments of vendors to brainstorming a new window design. It is super interesting but takes its toll at times!
And the biggest reward?
Seeing a new store which attracts attention and is appreciated by customers, which finally leads to revenue growth for the business.
How has your MSc influenced your career?
It’s helped me gain confidence in myself and my abilities. Working in a corporate environment had taken away the enthusiasm that came from being fresh out of college and the course has vastly improved my knowledge in how agencies function.
What are your best memories of UEA?
The campus, and the beautiful people from 14 countries in my class who are now friends for life.
I loved Norwich as a city. The weather, the people, the greenery, the river – everything is welcoming and makes Norwich an excellent place to live. Besides this, the food is great and diverse. I do miss walking in the city.
Any tips for current students wanting to break into a career like yours?
Plan, plan, plan. Taking a break from career to study has to be a strategic move and well planned. Choose a field that really interests you and adds to your professional choices in the real world. Talk to fellow alumni, peers, educators and professionals before making a decision. And once that is done, enjoy your academic journey.
Sonal studied Brand Leadership (MSc) at UEA