Shruti Bose | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Shruti Bose

Head of Communications & Public Affairs, Asia-Pacific
Roche Diagnostics 


Anyone can be creative but to grab attention without driving action is not industry-defining innovation.”

A firm believer in the power of integrated communications, Shruti Bose oversees programs that help to shape Roche Diagnostics’ reputation and thought leadership. Most recently, this has included Roche’s SABRE’-winning Freedom To Be #EveryWoman’ campaign, focusing the critical issue of women’s health in Asia-Pacific. These efforts, which also include revamping Roche’s regional corporate communications function across public affairs, digital communications and employee engagement, also helped Roche land In-House Team of the Year at this year’s 2023 APACD Awards, reflecting Bose’s relentless work to elevate the company’s reputation.  

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is simplicity at its best. Some of the greatest challenges facing humankind will not be solved because of a big idea, but a big idea that can be scaled, replicated and sustained over the years. That, to me, is the true test of innovation, because anyone can be creative but to grab attention without driving action is not industry defining innovation.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
This is like asking a kid in a candy shop what their favourite is. There are too many, but some standouts have been Dove's Let Her Grow campaign in Thailand which has such a universal message to not put pressure on kids to conform. Another has been Nike's Never Done Playing which goes beyond simply showing sports in the spirit of competition and instead as a shared love of playing.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Many brands are doing incredible work especially those willing to take on societal issues and raise the stakes. Patagonia's What Next campaign, Celebrate Life by Roche to commemorate 125 years of the company and to inspire the next 125, and UNICEF UK's "The C stands for Childhood"

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
It has to be the launch of Freedom to Be #EveryWoman, which is an extension of XProject, a long term commitment by Roche to close the gaps in women's health. You can have a grand idea that makes people jump on board or you can have a simple idea that makes people wonder. Because simplicity can be scary. And at the heart of it, Freedom to Be is a simple idea which seeks to drive recognition among women themselves about how inequities affect them and how deep rooted societal conditioning influences their health seeking behaviours. When a young girl sees her mother deprioritising her health needs because of other priorities, does the mother realise that she is signalling this as acceptable behaviour? The innovation came not in how the campaign was created but how we mobilised allies internally. This is work that I am incredibly proud of, but more so, because of the people who led it with us shoulder to shoulder. As a team of communications advisers across the region, we had to learn new skills and develop new capabilities - from the sensitivity we would need to have when drawing attention to a centuries old issue, to ensuring it was never seen as a women vs men movement to developing a measurement framework that could clearly show how we were delivering on measurable business outcomes, it was an incredible display of the sheer ingenuity that exists in our team. All it takes is an idea, and a group of people willing to give it a try.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
David Kelly of IDEO. If we think about how far we've come as an industry in terms of innovation and the technologies that we have to support us, then it also needs us to take a look back at those who really drove the innovation wave as far back as 1980. Davi'd work was instrumental in bringing design thinking to the forefront of human experiences and contributed significantly to the Apple's success as an innovation powerhouse. Another person that I know personally and admire is Barbara Schaedler, the Head of Group Communications at Roche. It takes a special type of person to swim against the tide and be willing to try a different approach instead of accepting that healthcare communication has to be traditional and conservative. At a meeting once, Barbara shared a quote by Greek philosopher Thucydides which has since become a favourite: "The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage"

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I am inspired by people. It's amazing how willing people are to help talk through a mind block or creativity rut, how generous they can be with their time. The beauty, I think, lies in not being the smartest person in the room but recognising who the smart ones are, and then buddying up with them :) So I actively seek the opinions of people who I know will help me look at things differently

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
We need to be bold in the risks we take and our willingness to up our game. No one person or industry owns innovation, and as the lines between marketing and communications merge it is already becoming incredibly important to create understanding at the C-suite level on just how intertwined reputational and commercial drivers really are.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I would be a confidence coach for young talents, particularly in STEM.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Adam Grant's Think Again, Deep Human by Crystal Lim-Lange and Dr Gregor Lim-Lange have been hugely transformational in how I think and show up at work. In terms of podcasts, the ones I always give me something to ponder are the Huberman Lab Podcast by Andrew Huberman who is a neuroscientist and professor at Standford School of Medicine, Feel Better, Live More which is a great podcast on health and wellness topics and Crystal's podcast called Comfort & Growth

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
The time has come to walk the talk. Diversity, equity and inclusion can remain buzz words or become central to business success. Innovation -- how we creative campaigns, shape narrative, measure impact -- can be the bridge to connecting these two seemingly different worlds. The focus on purpose and the why needs to ultimately be linked to commercial impact -- and this is where I feel today companies lack evidence and tracking mechanisms that show how DEI can be good for society and good for business; and not simply remain an HR topic. The PR and communications industry has what it takes to tackle this next frontier and firmly cement its position as a critical advisor to the C-suite.