Know Your Jury: Rahul Kadavakolu- Digi 100 APAC

Rahul Kadavakolu is Director of the Global Marketing Supervisory Department at Rakuten, Inc. He joined Rakuten in 2016 to help lead and drive Rakuten’s global brand and marketing function including all sports and entertainment partnerships.

By identifying innovative concepts and best practices that can be applied across multiple markets, Rahul is responsible for strategy and execution of marketing and branding for Rakuten’s extensive global business portfolio.

Rahul has been instrumental in Rakuten signing the global sports and entertainment -led partnerships with FC Barcelona, Golden State Warriors, NBA, Spartan and Shakira’s El Dorado World Tour, to name a few.

Rahul has over 16 years of global marketing and branding experience across various industries with a focus on the IT, internet services and technology sectors. Prior to Rakuten, Rahul held leadership roles at Wipro, Ogilvy & Mather and Hakuhodo. He received a Bachelor’s in Commerce from Loyola College, Chennai, India and is an avid cricket fan.

What are the top three traits that a Futurist Digital Marketer must have?

Receptibility, ability to ‘story-tell & do’, and digital literacy would be my pick.

  • Receptibility

Consumers are more well-informed than ever in today’s connected society, where they can pull any slice of information they want in a jiffy. It’s important to stay agile and adapt to ever- changing consumer needs and how you stay receptive to those needs will either make or break your brand.

  • Ability to ‘story-tell & do’

How you present your brand to the consumers in an honest way is crucial, especially when you’re trying to get to a discerning audience like the Millennials and the Gen Zs. Coming up with a storyline that’s honest and one that resonates well with the audience is key. Creating experiences that reflect the story is the other part of the puzzle that is super critical – after all, actions do speak louder than just words.

  • Digital literacy

Simply said, one cannot be or claim to be 100% literate in today’s world. I cannot stress enough the importance of digital literacy. What we are seeing today is not incremental change but exponential change – be it a solution, platform or technology. The ability to continuously evaluate, evolve and elevate solutions/platforms, as well as understanding how each of these can support your brand’s transformation journey is key.

What according to you is one trend that is defining the digital landscape in the APAC region?

The role of influencer marketing is certainly one area that is defining the digital landscape, no matter the region. From what we have seen in APAC particularly, it is very clear that people tend to be more comfortable picking or buying a brand that is recommended by a reliable source, or they buy based on closed circuit reviews from people they trust. In a services world, this becomes even more important, as it has been for Rakuten. People particularly look to influencers for personal and emotional connections.

With access to too much data what do you think is the biggest challenge that digital marketers are facing today?

Too much of anything is bad – data is an exception. One of the biggest challenge with access to too much data lies in separating a signal from all the noise out there and how quickly a digital marketer is able to react to that signal. Too much data can hinder productivity and decision making. I’ve learned that the easiest way to deal with information overload is to stay focused on core business objectives/goals and ask yourself whether the data you have in front of you answers questions that help you reach your goals.

Too much data can also derail digital marketers and create hurdles that make it difficult to maintain a good balance between real-time and right-time marketing. Real-time marketing is all about creating and capitalizing on trends, whereas right-time marketing provides relevancy. Balancing the two can create a lasting impression for your brand.

As a jury for Digi 100 APAC, what is your advice to people applying to be on Digi 100 APAC: the list for top 100 digital marketers in the APAC?

In the ever-changing digital era, it’s only going to get more and more exciting for us digital marketers. The success of a digital marketer will depend on a number of key qualities. Here are my top 3.

  1. Acceptance of the ‘digital’ word

It’s no longer a case of whether you are a ‘digital’ marketer or not. It’s all about how ‘digital’ you are and to what extent you are able to demonstrate this skill to beat competition.

2. Adaptability for the win

Another deciding factor for a successful digital marketer is how quickly and skillfully they can spot obsolete strategies, and have the ability to adjust wherever and whenever necessary. In a crowded and vocal business landscape, simply shouting loudest isn’t enough—relevancy will always win.

3. Honest stories will eventually strike a chord

Today’s consumers want to buy from the brand they believe in, not necessarily the one that is in front of them the most – a digital marketer plays a key role in conceptualizing and delivering the voice of the brand.


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