“We made a lot of progress over the last year and just happy to be part of this transformational journey.”
Shyam Ananthnarayan is the Chief Marketing Officer of ITC Infotech. He holds over two decades of experience in global enterprise marketing leadership. He has worked with brands like HP, Tata Elxsi, Ness digital. Before joining ITC Infotech, he was the Chief Marketing Officer of Marlabs. Shyam is a highly qualified and passionate marketing leader. He shared some insights into how the marketing industry has evolved and has been continuously evolving even in the pandemic and keeping up with this dynamic space.
Q: It’s been about a year that you’ve been associated with ITC Infotech. How has the journey been so far? Take us through some of the nuggets.
R: It has been great. I joined when Sudip Singh, our new CEO, started taking the company on a multi-year journey of transformation with the ITC board’s support. With the strong domain and industry capability of a legendary brand like ITC, building and marketing a global brand as part of ITC has been exciting. The most exciting part has been combining the two significant minds of the company, the CEO and CMO to construct the strategy. So, it’s been exciting to see marketing, in that sense, be at the forefront of driving this transformation. ITC Infotech is customer-centric, driving the marketing narrative in exciting areas like persona-based automation, data-driven planning, and simulation. So, industry 4.0 has been great and fun, working with Sudip and being part of it; we made a lot of progress over the last year and delighted to be part of this journey.
Q: Could you tell us about the change you have seen in marketing over the years, enterprise marketing in personal. How has that transformed over the years? What are the changes that you have seen?
R: I have been fortunate to be a part of this era of hyper-growth, and I would say the Indian technology industry, from a marketing point of view, especially B2B marketing, over the last two decades has evolved exponentially due to globalization as one of the fundamental levers, and digitization, automation, AI, as some of the pillars, driving this paradigm shift. And today, marketing is more accessible than ever before. It’s more global than ever before. So, Sudip and I keep talking about how marketing is gaining its place on the table now. B2C marketing is part of the CEO’s essential toolkit. We see that with several firms now, and I think that’s exciting. I would say evolution in its most real sense.
Q: How do you measure marketing? from your side? What do you think is the best way to measure enterprise marketing?
R: We’ve put in a lot of hard work towards innovation. I started that journey with Tata Elexi and then studied this whole thing, moving on to Marlabs and now with ITC infotech. Over the last few years, I’ve seen that B2B marketing is a lot more measurable than it ever used to be. One of the reasons for that is that there’s a lot more data today as most of the marketing today is digital, and I would say post-COVID-19, it’s going to transform even more and rapidly. So I would say when you have a lot more data and there’s a larger digital component to marketing, I think there’s a lot more measurability that comes in.
Q: COVID-19 I think it has affected almost all businesses across the world, and tell us something about how have your marketing plans pivoted because of that, and what generally has been your experience of people working from homes more from a marketing front? In this scenario today?
R: I think when COVID-19 hit us in March 2020, we were like others, just going through that shift, figuring out what and how the new paradigms are going to look like. Marketing has been one of the functions that have led our transformation with COVID-19 in dealing with this pandemic situation and communicating internally and externally. A couple of examples are, we have round the clock, 24X7 dashboards, a boardroom construct, and something called an info wire, which goes out every day to all employees. It’s the organization’s pulse, the heartbeat of the organization, and that’s run by marketing. This innovation was an opportunity presented by COVID-19 because I think some of these folks have realized that this is the way you do it digitally.
Q: It’s been 20 odd years in the journey, and hypothetically, let’s say you restarted your career today. Knowing all that has happened in the last few years, what would you do to change the velocity of marketing? What do you think you would do, maybe one or two things?
R: When I started as a marketer, B2B marketing was mostly a support function. If I had to start all over again, one of the things I would do is, invest in hybrid marketing and technology to drive business value. I think that was missing in the way we looked at marketing many years back because we looked at the domain through a communication lens in a non-digital era. It was primarily driven by personal relationships with sizeable B2B constructs. I think marketing has changed a lot. I would say synthesis is a lot more. If I had to start all over again, I would focus a lot on the synthesis between different cross-functional disciplines.
Q: Do you think you can think of any brand that is trendsetting today? Any brand that you can think of that is doing exceptionally well?
R: If I look at it globally, I find it difficult to look past Apple as an evergreen brand. I’m not an Apple user, but as a marketer, I admire Apple as a brand, the reason being they’ve reinvented themselves and found a way to stay relevant in changing times. One of the reasons for that is they’ve always kept their customer community first. They have tried to give primary importance to user experience, and that’s been consistently the paradigm. I think that there’s a great lesson for everyone, that is, the way they’ve redefined the market in multiple ways multiple times and continue to do that over and over again and reinvent themselves. The great marketing lesson to be learned there is simplicity. I think that’s the crux of great marketing.
Witnessing the changes in the marketing practices in the digital era-
- Persona-based automation
- Data-driven planning & stimulation
- Changes evolving in enterprise marketing
- B2B marketing is data-driven and there is easy accessibility of the data
- Introduction of Digital components in marketing is providing more measurability of performance
- Entrepreneurs are concerned about the experience and not sales in B2C marketing
- Covid-19 pandemic situation has changed the way we market products, virtually