Marketing Maverick: Dhruv Shanker, APAC Head of Marketing, ofo #APACLeaders

We interviewed Dhruv Shanker for our series on #APACLeaders. Dhruv heads Marketing for the Asia Pacific region at ofo – the world’s largest bike-sharing company. He manages a team distributed across 10 countries, and is responsible for increasing ridership, revenues and brand awareness for ofo. We asked Dhruv how ofo was adapting to disruptive innovation and rising customer expectations…

With innovative disruption changing the digital economy, customer expectations are on the rise. How have you changed your digital marketing strategies to deal with rising customer expectations?

Brands today can no longer talk to their customers just for the sake of talking to them. The average user has 60 – 90 apps installed on their phone. We’ve realized that if we’re going to compete with so many other products for mindshare, it is vital that we personalize and send out highly relevant communication that actually matters to the user.

Millennials make up a large segment of ofo’s customer base. Our users in this demographic are young, tech-savvy and perpetually connected. We’ve found that they are not actually bothered by multiple notifications as long as they remain short, relevant and direct. ofo has revolutionised the last mile of your commute, and MRT stations are popular places for people to pick up and drop off bikes. Using geo-fencing, we are able to detect when users enter or leave a particular MRT station, and send them a notification telling them how many bikes are available around that station. User reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, and we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in rides resulting from our push marketing.

We’ve gone from being an app that sent a user one generic push notification every morning, to a product that triangulates a user’s location, infers intent, scans available bike inventory and sends them an intelligent and timely message.

As the consumer evolves, so does our strategy.

How much impact does your social media strategy, and mobile app marketing have on your ROI? What are the online platforms that work well for your organization?

Let me address these two separately-

Social Media Strategy
At ofo, social media acts as a brand channel and a customer support channel. We invest in social when there’s a brand campaign or a partnership that needs to be amplified, but largely use it to educate the market about local guidelines and responsible biking behaviour.

Mobile App Marketing
ofo is a new brand and is still in ramp mode, so Mobile App Marketing is a huge area of focus for the company. ROI is measured by the quality of user acquired, rather than the quantity. Not all installs are the same, and we put some serious effort into analysing the downstream value and payback on every user acquired from each marketing channel. In terms of channels that work well – Google UAC has been driving positive results for us.

Influencer marketing, AR/VR, chatbots, hyper-personalized marketing are the growing trends of today. As a modern marketer, what is your view on the use of martech in your marketing strategy?

We are in the age of marketing tech. No doubt about it. I’ll talk primarily about personalised marketing, because that’s the biggest use case we have for Martech at ofo.
The ability to hyper-personalise marketing, attribute and track spends to the very last mile, and to finally orchestrate omni-channel campaigns at scale is something marketers have dreamed of for a very long time. The innovations in marketing CRM in the last few years have been huge, and there are some excellent solutions in the market today. I strongly recommend buying automation tools instead of building them because every Welcome / Replenishment / Churn campaign you don’t run while waiting for your tools to be built, leaves money on the table. We’re already seeing technology doing the heavy lifting, while marketers double down their focus on brand strategy and campaign construction.

Influencer marketing is definitely a trend, but I think it’s less Martech oriented than others. We’ve used it quite a bit at ofo, but it remains a tricky channel to track and attribute success to.

In what ways do you think AI, data and machine learning are transforming the way we are approaching marketing today?

Technology has transformed the way we manage the customer journey today. The ability to deploy tools that monitor, respond to, and improve every interaction you have with your customer, simply didn’t exist until fairly recently. In a former role selling automation solutions at Blueshift, I found that regardless of industry, marketers struggled with the same issues – multi-device engagements, channel fatigue, and the inability to gently nudge a user down the funnel. We were able to set up “listening” for several brands and help them execute marketing strategies on the basis of the signals their users were sending them. Machine learning tools like Blueshift and others, help marketers lay the foundation for an intelligently managed CRM channel that continues to get smarter with every bit of data it ingests.

I’ve also often looked towards AI solutions for help with Predictive Analytics. All businesses see users churning, but we’re now able to look at signals to predict and curb that churn rate. It’s the same thing with users on the cusp of making a purchase. When does this person go from being a Window Shopper to an Actual Shopper? Can I look at signals that indicate Likelihood of Purchase, and then use those signals to send a timely message that pushes them over the edge? With AI and Machine Learning, a lot of this is now possible. It’s exciting stuff, and is flipping many a marketing strategy on its head.

How do you describe a modern marketer of today?

A successful marketer today, is someone who strikes the balance between the creative side of marketing, and the analytical. Someone who can weave a beautiful brand story yet be deeply rooted in the fundamentals of data driven marketing. This person is constantly evolving, and is not shy of using technology to achieve their marketing goals.


Dhruv Shanker, Head of Marketing, ofo

Currently, Dhruv is the Head of Marketing at ofo. Prior to ofo he led the international business for Blueshift – a marketing automation startup leading the way in programmatic CRM. A strong believer in the power of data, Dhruv is an internet veteran and has worked at brands like Groupon, Google and Yahoo. As a a part of the founding team at Groupon India he spearheaded award winning campaigns such as the Groupon Onion Deal and was responsible for launching the Groupon brand in India. He has 14 years of experience overall and is frighteningly passionate about all things digital. He is a former professional chef and loves marketing as much as he does, cooking a good biryani.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.