India's Top 100 Digital Stars 2023

Building a brand has become democratic, which wasn't the case 15 years ago: Piramal Finance's Arvind Iyer

The head of marketing talks about his learnings, taking inspiration from D2C brands and why hiring candidates with tech and marketing background has become a new trend

Published: Feb 24, 2023 05:46:16 PM IST
Updated: Feb 24, 2023 06:37:36 PM IST

Building a brand has become democratic, which wasn't the case 15 years ago: Piramal Finance's Arvind IyerArvind Iyer, head of marketing, Piramal Capital & Housing Finance

Arvind Iyer, head of marketing at Piramal Capital & Housing Finance, calls himself a "deep generalist" owing to his diverse background. Iyer has worked across various categories, including FMCG (Unilever), automobile (Royal Enfield), and broadcasting (Viacom18). In his current role, Iyer is busy building a consumer-facing brand and reaching out to budget-conscious customers, as well as medium and small businesses in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns across Bharat. In an interaction with Storyboard18, he talks about his learnings, taking inspiration from D2C brands, and why hiring candidates with tech and marketing backgrounds has become a new trend.

Edited excerpts:

Q. What kind of insights are you bringing to your current role from your background?

My entire career has always centered around hardcore consumer businesses and brands, whether it's in the edtech, FMCG or automotive sector. The common starting point has always been on how we can use customer-backed design in everything that we put together. So, a large part of what I've assimilated over the years are a multitude of these kinds of techniques, which are housed in some of these great organizations. FMCG, for instance, does qualitative research practices and ethnographies really well. So, it helps in understanding the landscape of the customer's life. Whereas, an automotive company gives a great sense of delivering an experiential experience to a customer who lands up being with the company on a fairly long journey. The learning is how to manage the entire lifecycle of the customer.

The objective is to use a multiple of these techniques to really understand the customer as people. And then being able to use methods across the piece of marketing that can then bring alive the various touchpoints that we have with the customer.

Q. How do you see the D2C wave penetrate the finance sector?

A lot of the direct-to-consumer brands in the food, fintech, and edtech categories are doing really good work. Each one of them is forced to think of a customer-backed design because, at the end of the day, they're optimizing for first the discovery, second relevance after the discovery happens, and third is being able to fulfill and to be able to make a conversion in a way that eventually works in their balance sheet. There's a lot to take from there, not just as inspiration, but in the way they problem solve.

A lot of the legacy brands that are now starting to make relevant products and services are starting to emulate a lot of what maybe D2C new age brands are doing. But they have the inherent equity and muscle because, in today's day and age, building a brand has become democratic, which wasn't the case a decade and a half ago.

I'd say that I have never seen so many innovations in products that are happening in the D2C brands space. Brands that will stand the test of time will be those brands that are able to stay consistent with their promise.

Also read: Britannia's CMO Amit Doshi: Think like digital natives, don't bifurcate consumers between 'digital' and 'non-digital'

Q. What are some of the new age marketing tools that you are using?

When you look at a digital Bharat customer, you wouldn't actually think about how digitally penetrated they would be. But they are present on large social platforms such as ShareChat and MX Taka Tak. They are consuming all the entertainment or infotainment that they need using these platforms.

Even chat platforms are a big thing. Brands could use platforms like Telegram or even WhatsApp, for that matter. So, the way we do our innovation is again more content-focused. Need identified content, which is tailored for or rather which is delivered for a particular medium.

Q. What skills do you look for when hiring?

I think there's a whole new wave of careers that juxtaposes tech and marketing. We are looking for people who can apply their minds to being a well-rounded growth marketer when it comes to building both organic and paid channels. And within that, there are a lot of sub-skill sets by way of content, design, and things like that.

I'm seeing a lot more brands that have been doing a lot of interesting work bootstrapping some of these roles. I think that seems to be a big trend.

Also, the other thing that I think fits in beautifully with tech is the whole thing that GE once made famous by calling it a journey manager. Basically, a person who sits in no particular department but looks at the customer journey and how it can be made friction-free and seamless. I don't think there is a direct JD per se for any of these roles, but I think people are inherently building teams by assimilating a lot of this kind of think tank.

Q. How do you see the brand and agency relationship changing?

I think clients and agencies that are working together for a really long time have found that they have inherently been together in being able to be true custodians of the philosophy of building a brand and delivering on the brand promise. Such relationships are cosmic and centered around people. There are large agencies with certain teams which are preferred by companies. Sometimes there are people who move out of large agencies and start doing their own venture. Clients tend to gravitate towards them.

Then there are agencies which are being run by digital natives who natively understand social and digital platforms. I look at it as the tutelage of the senior advertising folks who kind of cemented it and the new age folks are learning a bit of that and applying it while also reverse mentoring some of our older chaps on digital.

Also read: Brand purpose and responsible marketing walk into a bar. They meet common sense

Q. What are the pros and cons of working with content creators versus celebrities?

A familiar face does work, whether it's a celebrity or a content creator. Both of them are influencers of some kind. And if they're inherently weaving into the plot of what the brand stands for, then I think it's a must-use. Some brands have been built leveraging celebrities so much so that the memory structure that the brand has in the marketplace is associated with popular faces. For instance, Boost or Lux are the kind of brands that are built on leveraging celebrities.

Q. What has been your learning so far on what it takes to be a modern marketer?

I'm forever in beta. I'm just fortunate to be a marketer in these times because it's such an ever-changing world. Every morning has a new "Aha" moment, and that's the reason I love doing what I do.

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