Storyboard18 | BharatPe to spend Rs 200 crore on marketing initiatives

In an exclusive chat with Storyboard18, Suhail Sameer, CEO of BharatPe, talks about the brand's focus on sports, getting 200 influencers on board, and marketing postpe in a way that redefines credit

Updated: Nov 10, 2021 10:02:15 AM UTC
Suhail Sameer, chief executive officer of BharatPe; Image: Madhu Kapparath

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) products are not new to the Indian market. So when BharatPe launched its BNPL offering postpe, they wanted to change the entire narrative around credit.

The fintech company, founded in 2018, wants the new narrative to not be all about the money.

In an exclusive interaction with Storyboard18, Suhail Sameer, chief executive officer of BharatPe, explains: “We want credit to be more about time and convenience, and less about money.”

BharatPe’s new campaign ‘De Dena Aaram Se’ was launched to do exactly that—change the way people look at credit. The campaign is live across TV and digital channels, and is playing throughout the ongoing ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021.

So what’s this new narrative around credit? According to Sameer, a large part of the population that uses credit is actually the savviest consumer.

“Historically there is a negative image around credit. We want to change that. We know those using BNPL are buying time more than credit. Our campaign is to educate users about the convenience of BNPL and, with postpe, it is not just about calculating EMI, it's more about using it anywhere and everywhere, which includes the local kirana stores,” he tells us.

From Bollywood to cricket 

To help change the narrative, the company has roped in sports and influencers to be its ambassadors. While the brand launched its first campaign with Salman Khan in 2019, it soon realised cricket works better than anything else when it comes to reach and access.

To spread the word about the convenience of its new product postpe, the fintech startup has decided to go big on sports and influencer marketing.

Earlier this year, BharatPe signed a three-year deal with International Cricket Council (ICC) to become a lead sponsor where they’d be promoting the association across formats that would include initiatives on television and digital platforms, as well as in-venue brand activations at all the ICC events until 2023.

“Using Salman Khan for the first campaign had its benefits but then Bollywood is not as popular in the south or in the north-eastern market," says Sameer, adding, "Cricket is the best way to make inroads across markets."

“While all our initiatives with ICC are expected to bring in the attention we are looking for, we will be investing in buying ad inventory, engaging with our top merchants and customers by sending them to watch matches across the globe, and referral programmes,” he tells us.

The company also has its own 'Team BharatPe' that has 11 players from the Indian cricket team on board as brand ambassadors. The list includes the likes of Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul, Mohammed Shami, Shreyas Iyer, and others.

Increasing marketing spends 

The digital payments startup typically spends up to Rs 40 crore annually on marketing initiatives, but this year the plan is to dial it up to Rs 200 crore for maximum visibility. Alongside referral programmes and advertisements, a part of the marketing budget would also be diverted towards influencer marketing.

According to Sameer, celebrities can be used for “awareness building and clutter breaking”, but it is the influencers that help in “trust building”. BharatPe plans to engage 200 influencers across platforms to advocate for its new product.

The issue of Pe today 

The company is also in the midst of an ongoing row with competitor brand PhonePe over the issue of a common suffix in the name. While there has been a lot of to-and-fro over trademarking issues, Resilient Innovations Pvt Ltd—the parent company of BharatPe—has filed six cancellation actions towards the end of October, against multiple registrations held by PhonePe Pvt Ltd. for the “PE” device mark in Devanagari script before the Intellectual Property Division of the Delhi High Court through its counsels SIM AND SAN, Attorneys at Law.

While Sameer declined our request for comment on the matter, a company spokesperson shared that the brand “believes in healthy competition.” They said, "Resilient has filed these cancellation actions so as to provide a level-playing field to all stakeholders in the digital payment space once and for all. Resilient decided to nip the issue at the bud by filing these cancellation actions. Currently, Resilient is aware of more than ten digital payment products in the market in India, a number that is ever-growing. It is desirable to promote healthy competition in this space, and not merely look at personal gains."

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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