Upma Koul

Regional Director, Sales East Africa, Wärtsilä Energy Business

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

22 years at Wärtsilä

Originally from India


Be the positive energy you want to attract

In 1996, Upma Koul came across Wärtsilä's stand at an exhibition and got interested. She started to read about the company, and when a position was opened in Wärtsilä’s New Delhi office, Upma applied and got the job. Now, Upma is based in Dubai and responsible for sales and business development of Wärtsilä Energy Business in East Africa. “The journey has been a very gratifying one. I have enjoyed this role to the maximum thanks to the creativity it offers. There is freedom to decide how to create business and how to approach different markets. It is like starting from a blank canvas which is the most exciting side of business development,” Upma describes the freedom she experiences at work. “Besides the empowerment, I enjoy the open environment and pride we Wärtsilians feel over our company. I couldn't have asked for more from this career.”

There is clear positive energy that is inseparable part of Upma’s presence, and she does mention passion, customer centricity and realism as some of her strengths supporting her in the sales and business development tasks. As a firm believer of good manners, Upma believes that Newton's third law is applicable also when meeting people. “When you are positive and genuine, people react in the similar manner – whether you meet them over business or elsewhere. I claim this has worked at least for me since I’ve had excellent relationships with my customers who have believed and trusted in me,” Upma shares her experiences adding that also she receives energy from people – especially colleagues – who are positive, energetic and not scared of taking on new challenges.

Besides her built-in charisma, there have been few real-life cases that have taught Upma and her team something valuable about attitude. “Sometimes learning happens through failing. For example, when the cement plant market was picking up in Saudi Arabia, we lost our first project to a competitor due to our over-confidence. We took that into our heart and have ever since aimed to subsequently win all projects in the cement industry. It taught us to be humble and more alerted on the competition,” Upma describes the situation some years back. In addition, Upma recalls several cases when time pressure has made a team to step-up its cooperation into a brand-new level where out-of-the-box thinking, and entrepreneurial skills have been used to their fullest potential.

For a customer-centric person like Upma, the highlights of her days are normally related to delighting the customers. “Getting excellent feedback from a customer is always exhilarating. One very poignant moment during my career was signing the largest tri-fuel power plant that was at that time featured in the Guinness book of world records. The feeling was ecstatic, and I still feel very proud over the achievement,” Upma tells. “Another moment, that I would like to share with you, is the time when Wärtsilä was approved as an Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) Contractor for a photovoltaic (PV) solar plant in Jordan. The moment made me feel very proud for the company that I worked for as it showcased how we were able to establish high-level trust in our stakeholders and enter into new markets.”

Besides customer successes, Upma mentions Wärtsilä’s internal Growth Lab as a wonderful part of her career journey, something one cannot forget: “Working in our Energy Business, Wärtsilä Growth Lab was one-of-a-kind journey with my marine and service colleagues and through them, I got excellent insights into our Marine Business that was more unfamiliar to me. We had fun filled moments and got inspired by Nike’s statement ‘Just do it’.”

Make the most of your time

Upma is pleased to see how her workplace has changed throughout the years in accordance with the market conditions and changing business environment. She believes Wärtsilä is leading the energy market development in a unique way thanks to the power system modelling the company can do for nations. “This is something that didn’t exist 10 years back; now we are able to analyse the energy needs of each country and give advice for their optimal path to renewable energy. No other company has the vision of 100% renewable energy targets – but we do, even though we manufacture reciprocating engines. I think that shows our agility and ability to change with the market needs,” she states.

Even if Upma is impressed by the company’s direction and goals, it is hard for her to anticipate development of the next years when there are so rapid changes in the world. However, Upma has faith in the company’s progressive mindset and she is willing to take ownership on its sustainability goals. “We have been innovating for years and I think the establishment of the Smart Technology Hub is a testimony of us taking innovations to a new level. Looking at the way we’re evolving and striving for sustainable societies, I believe we will continue to be one of the most exciting organisations to work with.”

Being a true people person, Upma obviously spends her spare time most gladly with her friends and family. Still, she also appreciates some quiet time in the form of yoga – maybe it is this serenity where her positiveness stems from. “I look forward to every moment and believe in living life to the fullest. Uncertainty is the only certainty, but we can choose to be happy, positive and make the most of our time,” Upma ends.

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