Working his way to the top

Praphul Misra.

In a little more than 10 years, Praphul Misra, MBA ’91, went from washing dishes in a UB cafeteria to data entry for PhD students to the corner office, as CEO of a company with clients throughout the world.

While that might seem like a meteoric rise, Misra experienced many highs and lows on his path to the corner office. He credits “networking like crazy” as one of the keys to his success.

Misra arrived at the UB School of Management to study for an MBA after earning a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication from the Indian Institute of Technology (then known as the University of Roorkee), and working in marketing support and sales at an Indian company.

He first used his networking skills to leave dishwashing behind and get a job in the Jacobs computer lab, using the knowledge he gained in his undergraduate days.

After receiving his MBA in 1991, Misra landed a position with M/A/R/C Inc. in Dallas, a leading market research firm, where he worked on brands such as Pizza Hut, Dell and HP in ad tracking and product development. “The work was stressful,” he says, “but not as stressful as the pink slip that came 12 months later.”

Once again, he drew on the power of networking by joining the local chapter of the American Marketing Association, which led to a job with Publicis/Bloom Advertising. He went on to become a junior partner at The WorldMark Group Inc., working with Fortune 500 clients, including Microsoft, JCPenney and ElectroCom Automation, on projects such as image and brand equity measurement, international research and customer satisfaction.

Misra returned to his home country in 1996 to work for Result: McCann, India’s third-largest direct marketing agency. While there, he was instrumental in delivering integrated communications solutions to key clients, spearheading new business efforts, establishing strategic alliances with vendors and leading a national team to provide strategic direction to the IT plans at McCann-Erickson India.

In 2001, he was named CEO of NetCarrots Loyalty Services, a specialty consulting company that designs and manages customer relationship (loyalty) programs to help clients form profitable relationships with their customers. Misra has piloted the company through the ups and downs of the 15 years of e-commerce.

“I felt like a paratrooper landing in a warzone. I had to hit the ground running and start firing,” Misra says of coming on board during the dotcom bust of the early 2000s. “We went from being one of the few successful dotcom startups to witnessing first-hand the ‘dotbust’ to reinventing ourselves as a white-label loyalty solutions provider.”

Initially a business-to-consumer company, NetCarrots shifted to a business-to-business model and began creating loyalty programs for companies. Among other innovations, NetCarrots launched India’s first loyalty programs for quick-service restaurants, malls, tolls and condominium residents.

“The first thing you, as an entrepreneur, have to learn is how to move with the market,” he says.

Today, NetCarrots is a global player, powering programs for such brands as ACC-Holcim, Preferred Hotels Group and TRW Automotive. In addition, it is beta testing employee rewards and recognition programs, developing analytics solutions and retooling its technologies for mobile devices and the cloud. The company has branch offices in Mumbai and Bangalore, with its head office in New Delhi.

In 2014, Misra again drew on the power of networking when he became a founding partner in the Consumer Strategy Network (CSN), a global network of leading practitioners in customer acquisition and retention strategy, who share best practices and referrals.

“Through this network, my clients have access to the best brains in loyalty worldwide, from developed and developing markets,” he says.

Misra lives in Gurgaon with his wife, Sukanya, and their two children, Manjari and Arjun. Sukanya, also a UB alumna, is senior vice president at MasterCard Advisors, leading the South Asia region, and is a director on the board of MasterCard India.

Their children’s many interests keep the Misras busy. “While Sukanya is the true mom, involved with all the kids’ activities,” Misra says, “I play the role of their cheerleader, much to her chagrin, jumping up and down on the sidelines.”

Written in June 2011 by Jacqueline Ghosen and Cathy Wilde. Updated in January 2016 by Matthew Biddle.