Charu Kishnani

Executive Vice President of Marketing at Car Dekho

Navigating the Automotive Industry with Data-Driven Insights From Charu Kishnani

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving automotive industry, gaining a competitive edge has become increasingly reliant on harnessing the power of data-driven insights. As technology continues to transform the way consumers research and purchase vehicles, the ability to navigate this complex landscape requires a deep understanding of consumer preferences, market trends, and the impact of emerging technologies.

Join Kunal Bajpai - Senior Associate Program Management at Pepper Content and Charu Kishnani, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Car Dekho as they discuss the trends shaping the strategies and decisions of automotive businesses.

Here are some excerpts.

1. Could you share how you transitioned from being a developer to a marketer, and how your journey in marketing kickstarted?

I'm thrilled to share my journey from being a developer to diving headfirst into the world of marketing. My career began in 2008 when I was primarily a developer and coder. Back then, we were engrossed in building websites, both for clients and ourselves. It was an era where we had the technical know-how to create websites, but the challenge was attracting traffic to them. This marked the turning point of my transition from a developer to a marketer.

In 2008, we launched CarDekho, and the landscape was drastically different. Google was still relatively new, and the concepts of SEO and digital marketing were not as well-defined as they are today. It was essentially the Wild West of online marketing. My colleague, Amitan Andra, and I embarked on a journey to decode the Google algorithm, understand the intricacies of SEO, and figure out how to draw organic traffic. Through dedication and hands-on learning, we managed to achieve the remarkable feat of becoming the number one auto portal in the country within two years. This journey marked the inception of my marketing career, which has been an ongoing learning process, as marketing is an ever-evolving domain.

Our marketing approach was characterized by constant adaptation and learning, primarily because there were no experts to guide us during those early days. We had to figure things out ourselves. Even now, our commitment to hands-on learning remains intact as we continue to explore new avenues and stay updated with the latest trends. The journey from developer to marketer has been a rewarding one, with its fair share of challenges and triumphs, and it's a journey that keeps evolving as we strive to provide valuable insights and assistance to our consumers.

2. Could you highlight some key milestones in CarDekho's marketing and branding strategy that you consider major accomplishments?

CarDekho's journey in marketing and branding has been marked by several key milestones that have played a pivotal role in our success. One of the most significant accomplishments has been our unwavering focus on consumer centricity. We recognized early on that providing mere specifications and data was insufficient to assist consumers in making informed decisions about their vehicle purchases. This realization led us to a vital turning point – the shift from being a data-listing website to becoming a content marketing powerhouse.

"Content emerged as the cornerstone of our strategy. We delved into producing high-quality articles, reviews, and engaging videos, all centered around the world of automobiles."

By doing so, we aimed to empower consumers with the information they needed to understand what vehicle would best meet their needs. This transition wasn't just about marketing; it was about building trust and establishing authority in the automotive domain.

Furthermore, our journey involved staying at the forefront of technological innovations. We recognized the digital era's rising prominence and the shift towards consumers conducting online research before venturing to physical dealerships. This realization prompted us to embrace technology and adapt to the changing landscape, ensuring that we remained in sync with the evolving trends in the automotive industry. These milestones collectively shaped our branding and marketing strategies, positioning CarDekho as a leading and trustworthy resource for consumers in the automotive world.

3. Given the competitiveness in the automotive industry, how does CarDekho approach building and maintaining a strong brand presence?

In the fiercely competitive automotive industry, maintaining a strong brand presence is an intricate endeavor that demands a comprehensive and strategic approach. At CarDekho, we faced intense competition as the market leaders, and our position attracted numerous players vying for the same audience base. Recognizing the importance of staying relevant, we adopted a multifaceted strategy.

"Our primary focus has always been on understanding our target audience. We constantly seek to unravel what our audience is searching for, their needs, and the pain points they encounter during their car-buying journey."

This knowledge allows us to tailor our offerings to meet their goals effectively. By consistently engaging with consumers, reading their emails, and valuing their feedback, we not only provide value but also build a strong connection with our audience. We understand that without our audience, our existence has no meaning, so they remain at the core of our approach.

Maintaining a strong brand presence also entails a commitment to consistency and transparency. We've consistently presented an unbiased perspective across all channels because we're a platform that prioritizes consumers over advertisers. Our content, coming from experts, is rigorously unbiased. Our editorial team, despite receiving test drives and exposure to various brands, is unwavering in delivering impartial assessments. This approach to consistent branding and unwavering commitment to our audience's best interests has been pivotal in solidifying our strong brand presence and helping us navigate the ever-evolving automotive industry.

4. With the rise of personalization and new technologies like GPT-3 and GPT-4, how has CarDekho incorporated these technologies into its marketing strategies?

We've been proactive in embracing new technologies like GPT-3 and GPT-4 to enhance our customer support and overall marketing strategies. As part of our commitment to delivering a better user experience, we've integrated these advanced technologies into our research platform. This integration enables us to provide real-time responses to user queries, meeting the evolving expectations of our audience.

One of the notable implementations involves the use of AI and chatbots. This combination has yielded positive responses from users at various stages of their car-buying journey. We understand that purchasing a vehicle is not a one-day decision; it involves extensive research and thoughtful consideration. In many cases, family members contribute their opinions, each with their preferences and emotions.

"While AI can't replace these emotions, it can certainly simplify the decision-making process."

For instance, our technology can assist users in finding the ideal family car within their budget.

Our experts also offer insights based on their hands-on experiences with different cars. This approach streamlines the research process, providing users with valuable recommendations and saving them weeks of sifting through content and videos.

Our early experiences with these technologies have been promising, and we're dedicated to refining and expanding their usage to make the car research and buying journey more convenient and efficient for our users. Our goal is to offer a unique and personalized experience, where technology serves as a valuable assistant in helping users make well-informed decisions. We anticipate that as these advancements mature, more users will benefit from the simplified and insightful experiences they provide.

5. How do use customer centricity to build out campaigns and strategies?

Customer centricity lies at the core of our approach at CarDekho, shaping our brand and defining our strategies. Our unwavering focus on understanding the needs, preferences, and satisfaction of our consumers plays a pivotal role in shaping our campaigns and initiatives. A key aspect of our strategies is personalization, a concept that we have wholeheartedly embraced. When a user conducts research on a particular vehicle today, we ensure that their journey seamlessly continues the next day.

The information they seek is readily available and tailored to their preferences. If, for example, they're interested in SUVs, they'll find relevant options in the same price range when they return to our platform. This personalization is our response to the consumer challenge of starting the research journey from scratch each time. We recognize that not every consumer is well-versed in every brand and model. Therefore, our aim is to provide them with the most relevant information, ensuring that their decisions are well-informed and confident.

Our approach is geared toward anticipating and meeting the needs of our consumers. We understand that they value convenience, and so our designs and navigation are geared towards making their experience as smooth as possible. We simplify their search and access to information, ensuring that they don't need to engage in excessive back-and-forth to acquire the information they need.

This commitment to consumer centricity extends to the core of our campaigns and product innovations. We ensure that each initiative aligns with our consumers' needs and preferences. We aspire to make the decision-making process easier, ensuring that our users are not left in the dark about brands or models that may suit their requirements. Our goal is to provide an experience where our users feel confident in their decisions, having the knowledge they need at their fingertips. We anticipate their needs and strive to offer them easy navigation and efficient access to information, minimizing unnecessary hurdles in their car-buying journey.

6. What advice would you offer to early marketers looking to enter the automotive industry, given its dynamic nature and rapid technological advancements?

For early marketers looking to enter the automotive industry, I have a straightforward yet essential piece of advice: prioritize consumer-centricity and data-driven approaches. In this dynamic and technologically advancing field, understanding your audience's needs and preferences is paramount. Utilize data as your guide, as it offers invaluable insights.

"Marketing in this industry isn't about gut feelings; it's about listening to what the data tells you and responding accordingly."

By being analytical and harnessing the power of data, you can build strong relationships with consumers and drive growth in a highly competitive market.

Get started with Pepper’s Content Marketing Platform.

Designed for winning teams.

Global Marketing Leaders 2023
Powered by

Global Marketing Leaders 2023 by Pepper Content is an exclusive curation of the brightest minds who have revolutionized the world of marketing. These visionaries have pushed the boundaries, disrupted the status quo, and transformed the way we approach content and marketing. Check out the full exhibit to be informed and inspired by the insights shared by these trailblazers.