Rupen Desai | Influence 100

Rupen Desai 

Chief Marketing Officer 
Dole Sunshine



Urbane, curious and fiercely passionate about the role of brands, Rupen Desai’s unique blend of experience includes more than two decades at advertising powerhouse Lowe Lintas, followed by two years as part of Edelman’s transformation. All of which adds up to his self-described role as an ‘accidental marketer’ at Dole, where he has reinvigorated the company’s role in society, via an ambitious brand promise to make nutritious foods accessible for one billion people, move towards zero fruit loss and zero fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025, as well as net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Desai’s progress at Dole, where he serves as one of the few global CMOs based in Asia, is worth watching, not least because he harbours few illusions about the classic brand advertising model. But he surely recognises the enormous influence they can wield, illustrated through ambitious campaigns to tackle LGBTQIA+ rights and malnutrition as he rebuilds Dole’s brand purpose platform.  

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance
Attention and trust are the new currencies of the future, for brands. They come from the heartland of the PR world. The creative effectiveness Grand Prix at Cannes for Nike is an amazing example.

What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
Focus on the core. I find PR agencies try too hard to reinvent themselves and fail, at both the core and the new stuff.

What have you most admired about this industry over the past year?
The resilience of companies that acted on their beliefs.

What has most disappointed you about this industry over the past year?
Companies that went back on promises not to fire their staff.

How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
Meditation has helped me tremendously.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
Calvin & Hobbes. They seem to have all the answers to the problems of the world. If not the answers, then the needed perspective.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
An architect.

Sum up 2021 in one word.