We are Symphony: A conversation with Vandana Prabhu

Suddhaloke Choudhury
Global Content and Social Media Manager
Rakuten Symphony
May 10, 2024
minute read

Vandana Prabhu, Senior Director of Intellectual Property, sits down with us to discuss her journey, hobbies as well as her role at Rakuten Symphony, which involves developing and executing IP strategies to enhance the company portfolio.

Tell us about your journey to Rakuten Symphony.

My journey to Rakuten Symphony began after completing my Masters in Biotechnology, a field where I sought to expand my horizons beyond the conventional. This quest led me to pursue a law course specialising in Intellectual Property Rights at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. The unique combination of technology and IP law equipped me with a diverse skill set, propelling me into the world of intellectual property.

I started my IP career at a prominent technology company, which I joined through campus recruitment. My initial role involved working closely with inventors, helping identify potential inventions that highlighted the organisation’s innovative prowess. The experience not only deepened my technical knowledge beyond life sciences but also enriched my capability to handle diverse technological innovations and to manage IP portfolios for multiple large business units.

My Rakuten Symphony journey started in 2022, marking a significant milestone in my career. After being approached for a leadership position within the company's IP department, I engaged in thorough discussions with Rakuten’s management. Their vision aligned with my aspirations for growth and challenge. Accepting the role of Group Manager and Head of IP for Rakuten Symphony India was a natural progression, offering me a platform to leverage my skills in a new and dynamic environment.

Vandana at the Finish line of the 2022 Bengaluru 10K Challenge run.
Vandana at the Finish line of the 2022 Bengaluru 10K Challenge run.

Can you share a bit more about your current role?

In my capacity as Senior Director of Intellectual Property at Rakuten Symphony, I oversee a diverse team spread across India, Singapore, and Japan. My primary responsibility is to manage the day-to-day activities of our team, ensuring that we consistently meet the organisational IP goals of enhancing our global IP footprint and maintaining a competitive market strength.

Central to my duties is the development and execution of comprehensive IP strategies that not only enhance our portfolio but also align perfectly with our corporate goals. I spearhead initiatives aimed at improving processes in IP management, which include contract drafting and support during negotiations. This is pivotal in maintaining our high standards and operational efficiency.

Additionally, my role encompasses coordinating with external stakeholders, including law firms, to ensure that the quality of their services meets our high standards. This external collaboration is crucial as it helps maintain the integrity and quality of our IP management.

What was your best day so far since you joined?

One of my most memorable days at Rakuten Symphony occurred in 2023 during an IP harvesting event we call the Standards and Implementation Patents League (SIPL). This event marked a significant milestone as it was one of the first major initiatives our team undertook independently. The event was further bolstered by the presence of our leadership team from Tokyo, who flew down to India to participate and support us. Their involvement underscored the importance of the event and added a layer of excitement and motivation for the entire team.

Witnessing my team’s capabilities in real-time was profoundly inspiring. The success of SIPL not only showcased our team's talent and dedication but also solidified our resolve to make this a yearly event, each time striving to surpass the previous year’s achievements.

That day remains vivid in my memory as a testament to what we can accomplish together.

Do you have a personal motto?

A personal motto that has guided me both in my career and personal life is, 'You cannot have a million-dollar dream with a hundred-dollar work ethic.' This saying encapsulates the belief that high aspirations are achievable only through equally high levels of commitment and effort.

In the context of my role at Rakuten Symphony, this motto serves as a cornerstone for fostering a culture of integrity and excellence within our teams. I advocate for this principle in every aspect of our work, encouraging team members to not only dream big but also to match those dreams with diligent, focused, and ethical work.

Embracing this motto helps me and my team maintain a competitive edge and drives us to continuously innovate and improve.

Vandana at an IP conference called GIPC held in New Delhi in January 2024.

What are some hobbies you enjoy pursuing to recharge from your busy work life?

While I wouldn’t typically classify it as a hobby, but I make it a point to hit the gym at least five days a week as a big part of my routine. This consistent physical activity not only builds strength but also fosters mental resilience, helping me refresh and stay positive amidst the challenges of my professional life.

Beyond the gym, I have a deep passion for travel. Exploring different cultures enriches my life in profound ways. I often travel solo, which has taught me self-reliance, adaptability, and the joy of serendipitous experiences. During these journeys, I love to engage deeply with local communities, savouring offbeat cuisines and learning about their histories.

How would you describe your experience at Rakuten Symphony?

My experience at Rakuten Symphony has been incredibly enriching and fulfilling. I deeply value the opportunity I've had to develop intellectual property strategies and processes that strengthen our IP portfolio.

One of the core company values at Rakuten Symphony that resonates strongly with me is 'Always improve, always advance.' This principle mirrors my own professional ethos and motivates me every day to strive for excellence. It's inspiring to be part of an organisation that encourages continual learning and growth, both at an individual and corporate level.

Do you have any advice for people looking to join Rakuten Symphony?

For anyone looking to join Rakuten Symphony, my advice is to embrace the company’s ethos of continuous improvement and advancement. The environment here is incredibly dynamic, with a strong emphasis on innovation and strategic thinking. If you’re someone who thrives in a fast-paced setting and is always ready to learn and adapt, you’ll find many opportunities to shine.

It’s also important to be proactive and open in your communications. Collaboration across various teams and regions is a key aspect of our work, so being able to effectively communicate and network within the organisation can greatly enhance your impact and success.

Lastly, bring your unique perspectives and ideas. Rakuten Symphony values diverse thoughts and approaches, as these are what fuel our innovations and drive us forward. Show initiative, be ready to challenge the status quo, and contribute actively to our ongoing projects and goals.

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