Mokutima Ajileye: Creating Solutions Through Ingenious Thinking
A highly experienced marketing and business leader with over 17 years of vast accomplishments across Africa and Europe, Mokutima Ajileye’s appointment as the new Managing Director of Procter & Gamble Nigeria comes as no surprise.
She has consistently delivered revenue, profit, and market share growth while developing the capabilities and talents within the organization.
Comfortable with ambiguity, Mokutima Ajileye’s entrepreneurial mindset has enabled her take on start-up roles and build the organization from the bottom up. The Guardian Life had a chat with Mokutima Ajileye about her progression as one of P&G’s first female Country Managers in Africa, her passion about gender equality and creating more inclusive economies where both men and women can succeed.
What has your greatest motivation been throughout your journey?
Throughout my career, my greatest motivation has been the desire to show the world that Nigerians can build lasting and sustainable businesses. I want to demonstrate with real tangible results, that despite the challenging economic environment, organisations can succeed in Nigeria. This does not mean ignoring the challenges surrounding doing business in Nigeria. I acknowledge that these challenges are very much present while also admitting that they are not insurmountable. Creative solutions through ingenious thinking will enable us to build sustainable business models.
With 17 years of experience in Marketing and business, what are the things you have done differently in the business sector?
I pushed to further incorporate cultural nuances into advertising. For advertising to be effective, it must convey the intended message, considering the underlying cultural codes. That is the only way mass communication will ever be effective.
A recurring theme in the market today, seems to be organizations developing products that they think meet the needs of their consumers without taking the time to do the research into what the consumers really wants or needs. With the introduction of Ariel Ankara, I successfully led the team to rely first on consumer insight throughout the product development cycle – from identification of market opportunities to the product launch. I strongly believe that the consumers have the final say. They know what their needs are and all we have to do is listen and let insights guide the development of our products.
How has your background and education influenced your journey?
I was raised by a strong woman, and this has deeply influenced my outlook on life. I lived and schooled in Nigeria throughout my formative years which has made me even more passionate about making a success of businesses in Nigeria. P&G took a chance on me, allowing me to move from manufacturing to marketing without any previous experience. I want to be able to give others a fair chance at success, I want to pay it forward.
I realize that not every girl or woman has the same opportunities that I’ve been blessed with. This is why I am proud to lead a company such as P&G – an organization that truly believes in gender equality. Initiatives such as the Always Keeping Girls in School program, amongst others, places emphasis on uplifting the girl child and empowering her with the requisite tools to take over the world.
Being one of P&G’s first female Country Managers in Africa, I hope a girl hears my story or reads this interview and is inspired to dream bigger than her current status because dreams really do come true if you put in the work and I’m proof of that.
As a woman making waves and smashing goals, how have you contributed to the growth of women leaders in your sector?
I am deeply passionate about gender equality and creating more inclusive economies where both men and women can succeed. I actively mentor and coach women, offer training, and advocate for women in the workplace. Those who came before me paved the way which I have followed, and I am excited to hand over the baton to the next generation helping them build successful careers.
As the managing director of P&G, what do you plan to do differently?
I intend to do a few things differently some will be radical changes from the existing structure while others will be an improvement, building on what exists right now. I will focus on localization where possible and support the diversification efforts of the Government as we speak of backward integration. I also want to grow the pipeline of Nigerian talent and tailor a strategy to reach the bottom of the pyramid amongst others. All these will be announced in due time.
How do the goals of P&G align with your personal goals?
The firm’s purpose and my personal goals are in alignment. I would say we make the perfect couple. P&G’s purpose is to improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come, focusing on creating more inclusive economies – these are all in line with my values and aspirations as a person. Leaving the world better than we found it.
What are the things you do to cater to your mental health?
For me, it is all about balance. I never skimp on my vacation, I embrace flexible work, I keep a journal, stay connected with my family and friends, and make time for the things that matter to me. Being balanced serves all aspects of my life – it enables me to be present for my family and friends and deliver at work as I need to.
Question: How do you relax and take your mind off work?
Answer: I have several ways of doing this. Sometimes I hang out with friends trying out new restaurants or spend a day at the spa; other times I am curled up reading a good book, most likely, fiction. I am currently reading “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah. It has been the perfect way to calm my mind from the busyness of life. Recently I’ve grown to love the fresh perspectives of the new crop of Nigerian and African writers. I just finished a novel called “Welcome to Lagos” by Chibundu Onuzo.
If you are to change anything in your journey so far, what would it be?
Take courageous steps much earlier – I say this with regards to my international assignments. I learnt so much from my time abroad. I also would have gotten a mentor or sponsor for my career earlier on. This would have helped me be more intentional about my career journey. I’m so happy with how things worked out – but if any young professional is reading this now, this would be my advice to them.