Despite the stereotypical notion that every young Asian grows up aspiring to be a doctor, our career dreams are as diverse as we are, which is why we’re intent on inspiring you with our ‘Not A Doctor’ column. Each week we’ll be bringing you brilliant individuals with fascinating careers, from the corporate to the creative who tell us what they do and how they got there.

This week our ‘Not A Doctor’ feature comes courtesy of Maria Akbhani, an inspired young woman making waves in the world of international beauty.

Where I Started…

I come from a family of doctors, my dad is a consultant, my mum is a GP and my brother is currently in med school, but I was always interested in Law. My parents were incredibly supportive though, with a firm belief that you should do what you enjoy, not something you were forced into. I spent my gap year working with an international commercial firm in corporate law, 8am-11pm days, huge corporate clients, international transaction and I was the only 17 year old in the building, but I absolutely loved it.

I then went on to the University of Nottingham but I quickly became disinterested in Law and I realised it was the business element I really enjoyed. So I decided to pursue a Master’s in Business Management. My Masters was intense but I definitely enjoyed it more than law. I completed it with the highest marks in the year and a few months later I was approached on LinkedIn to have an interview with The Hut Group to be the Country Manager for Lookfantastic India.

To date, my interview was one of the most intense interviews I have ever had. I was well and truly grilled. But India was (and still is) on the watch list for the world in terms of markets that everyone wanted to conquer. Couple that with luxury beauty brands? I was there.

My job is Business Development for MENA (Luxury Beauty)…

Essentially my role has three parts – trading, digital marketing and business development. Business development takes up the majority of my life, but marketing is the fun bit – it’s working with bloggers and magazines in India to create brand awareness for Lookfantastic. I work with the brands we stock to help them with the international expansion into India and how best to go about it.

My typical workday involves never ending market research – not only in terms of the latest beauty trends, new brands, upcoming bloggers but also how, for example the demonitisation of the 500 and 1000 rupee note means that there is a push towards digitization – which directly affects my site. So as a result, I’m either always reading a beauty magazine or the financial news.

I speak to magazines such as Elle, Vogue and Grazia, bloggers, celebrities and other beauty influencers to arrange campaigns with them.

My role can be challenging…

It’s not easy working in Cheshire but focusing on the Middle East and the time difference can be a bit difficult in terms of arranging calls (oh the 6am calls I’ve received!) India is also one of the most challenging markets to go into as a foreign entity, and it’s daunting when you have international giants like Amazon and Alibaba fighting in the same space as you.

The biggest perks of the job are…

As a beauty addict, one the best parts about my job is the fact that I get exposed to so many international luxury beauty brands. Whether they’re incredibly well known, expanding their range, or smaller newer brands, it’s always great learning about their journeys, their target customers and their USPs.

I never thought when I was sat away learning tax law in the library at 3am that my future job would lead to working on digital campaigns with some of the magazines that I love to read or meeting international beauty influencers around the world!

On inspiring women…

I know lots of women who are successful through the media, but it’s the ones I see every day at work or my friends, who are overcoming challenges and hurdles, defying stereotypes and are overall kicking a** that make you feel very empowered!

And honestly, whilst not directly in my field – my momma is my number one inspiration. I genuinely do not know how she qualified as a doctor, had two kids, moved countries and has a social life, a clean house and a successful career. I’m too scared to even handle the additional responsibility of a goldfish at this point.

The best piece of career advice I’ve ever been given is…

Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you chose your life, you didn’t settle for it.

If you want to do what I do…

I would say it’s really important to put yourself out there and speak to people who are in the industry; you’ll be surprised how many people want to help you. Always think one step ahead and stay up to date with what’s going on in the news. It’s amazing how wider political actions end up creating a niche in the market that you specialise in, especially if you work in a reactive and proactive industry!

And if all else fails, my plan B is…

Marry rich? (I’m kidding!)



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