In this segment of ‘Chai Break’, we talk to Apurva Chamaria, VP and Head of Corporate Marketing for HCL Technologies (HCL), a 7 Bn US$ global IT major.  Under his leadership HCL became the fastest growing brand in the Interbrand top Indian brands league table for 2 years in a row (No. 18 in 2015) and debuted in the Brand Finance Global 500 2015 league table at No. 497 with a brand value of 3.1 Bn US$.

What makes a Good Marketer?

Below are some of the characteristics of a good marketer:

  • Deep Understanding the 3 C’s – Company (Products and Services), Consumer and Competition – Good marketers are passionately curious and always learning more about their products, consumer habits and competitive initiatives.
  • Make No Assumptions – Majority of the marketers like to think that they know the solution without asking what exactly their customers “think they want” that can solve their problems. Imagine a doctor telling you what’s wrong with you by just looking at you from a distance. Even if the doctor has the correct diagnose, would you trust their advice? Good marketers know that they don’t know what they don’t know. They ask questions and dig deeper below the surface to identity the pain, urgency and frustration of their customers.
  • Story-Tellers – Most marketers forget that people don’t engage with ads, they engage with stories and at times the stories happen to be ads. It’s always better to engage and entertain before offering your solution / service which could be the answer to the problems faced by the protagonist in the story.

Three things you look for when you hire people

  • Learnability: It is the ability to gain knowledge from experiences and apply them to new situations
  • Scalability: The ability to perform under increased work load and bigger projects and scale exponentially.
  • Being unreasonable and stretching beyond limits is another important quality of a good resource. I believe reasonable people make only reasonable progress.

Your favourite destination for business trips?

New York. Manhattan has the world’s largest central business district that include headquarters of world’s biggest companies totally make it a place for real business. The food, art, music, great architecture, people from all parts of the world are other things that excite me to visit this city again and again.

Your favourite book?

The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz. The author talks about building a business when there are no easy answers. He gives a reality check by telling his own story and explains how running a business is not always exciting but an extremely tough job

3 things I would never do a meeting without? 

  • My Sense of humour – We spend so much time in meetings which are dreary and often don’t help move the agenda forward. Humour helps break down walls and often helps resolve conflicts and often helps people gain a sense of perspective about the situation.
  • A pre-read sent 24 hours in advance – I prefer not to attend meetings where an agenda and pre-read has not been shared in advance.
  • Minutes of meeting and updates on action items from last meeting – I try to ensure that we follow through the meeting with the action-items sent out no later than 24 hours and the following meeting start taking place with a run down on progress.

When did you decide that Marketing is what you wanted to do?

When I saw the Liril ad. When Liril was introduced to the market, the toughest job was marketing a lime soap, which was the first of its kind. It was positioned as the soap for freshness. The girl dancing in the waterfall with the unique jingle made the audience experience freshness by just watching the ad. The communication was so strong that brand gained top of mind awareness. When I figured out that marketers are responsible for creating such cool ads and get paid to do it, marketing was always going to be my career. 🙂

Your most memorable advertisement that you still remember?

Apple 1984 – A build up on George Orwell’s novel 1984, Apple’s path breaking advertisement introducing Mackintosh effectively portrays that Apple products are the only way to stand out and be original. The entire setup of Big Brother brainwashing the drones and the girl with colorful sportswear throwing a sledgehammer makes this a truly successful advertisement.

Do you love data or hate data?

I love data. Data is the oil for 21 century marketers. Data helps us measure the success of any marketing initiative and data backed by MarTech helps us change course on the fly. Data gives us a better understanding of customer demands, insights on what worked, what didn’t work and necessary corrective actions can be taken thereby improving the customer experience.

One app that you cannot do without @work

My favorite apps @work keep changing. Right now it’s Slack- Slack brings all the data together at one place. It is a messaging app for teams and workplaces and can be used across platforms. For me time is of essence and this app helps me to be everywhere at anytime

What are your marketing priorities for the year 2016/2017?

Content Marketing – According to Content Marketing Institute, on an average, B2B organizations in the US spend 30% of the marketing budget on Content Marketing. With the increase in communication channels available to us to publish content and marketers understanding the importance of pull marketing – content marketing is truly becoming the single most important marketing trick to orchestrate not only positive brand association but to also drive sales figures.

Brand Authenticity – With the IT industry becoming more and more commoditized, it becomes very important to develop an original story and talk about a sincere commitment to delivery. Brand Authenticity is therefore one of my biggest focus areas for this and next year.

Profile: Apurva Chamaria is the VP and Head of Corporate Marketing for HCL Technologies. In his 11 years at HCL, he’s performed various roles including being CEO’s Vineet Nayar’s EA, Senior Sales Director at HCL America driving business development and leading Marketing and Strategy for Enterprise Applications Business. In the last 2 years the HCL campaigns have won 70 prestigious global and regional brand and marketing awards.

He has worked in various sales & marketing positions at Ranbaxy Laboratories, been a journalist and a client servicing executive at an advertising agency. In various parts of his career he’s worked in Asia-Pacific, India, Africa, U.K. and North America.
He’s also a regular speaker at international conferences and teaches a full credit digital marketing course at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) & Great Lakes Institute of Management. He’s a member of the advisory board at Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA), Ahmedabad. He’s a columnist for the Pitch and Digital Market Asia magazines. His book “You are the key – unlocking doors through Social Selling” (Bloomsbury) hit # 2 in the Amazon India Best-Sellers list* within 20 days of being launched in Jan 2016 and is also a best-seller on book chains like WH Smith.

He holds a double master’s in business management (PGP from IMI) and advertising (from IIMC, JNU). He completed his schooling from Mayo College, Ajmer.

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