Gaurav Joshi

Vice President of Marketing at Lohono Stays

The Experiential Journey of Gaurav Joshi through B2C Brands to Luxury Villa Rentals

In conversation with Madhusha Bhati, Ex-Senior Account Executive at Pepper Content, Gaurav Joshi, Vice President of Marketing at Lohono Stays takes us through his seamless transition from leading B2C brands like Asian Paints and Pidilite to exploring the world of luxury villa rentals. The conversation unveils his profound understanding of content marketing, his experiences in diverse markets, and the remarkable decision-making skills that helped him thrive in these differing areas.

An intriguing deep dive into his experiential journey, the interview reveals Gaurav as a leader who revels in the 'zero-to-one' challenge and balances creativity and business acumen like none other.

1. Please share your journey with us.

My journey has been a tapestry of experiences. It all began in the corporate arena with Pidilite Industries, where I embarked on a captivating journey with the iconic brand Fevicol. My path then led me to different corners of the country, still rooted in the Fevicol realm. Later, I transitioned to Asian Paints, diving into sales and marketing for about a year and a half. A pivotal moment came with the birth of JSW Paints, an entrant in the competitive paint industry. We revolutionized perceptions of paint costs through the "All Colors, One Price" campaign, giving customers the freedom to choose based on preferences rather than economics. The "Savalia" campaign featuring Ayushman Khurana and Alia Bhatt fostered lasting consumer connections.

From JSW Paints, I was drawn to the dynamic startup realm, joining Leverage Edu. Here, I witnessed the journey to becoming a unicorn through an agile marketing strategy, showcasing the hallmark of the startup ecosystem: rapid learning cycles.

My latest venture involves luxury villa rentals in the nascent Indian real estate landscape. Collaborating with Prava Vesta Private Limited, renowned for luxury villa construction, we're pioneering luxury villa rentals in a competitive market. This journey is about carving a distinct niche and driving transformative change through innovation.

2. When building a category as a marketer, what specific factor or range of factors do you prioritize?

Over time, I've realized that I'm genuinely drawn to the journey from zero to one. It's like hopping onto a rocket ship, where you invest your belief and embark on a thrilling ride to uncharted destinations. It's akin to being Spiderman—embracing power with a sense of responsibility. This dynamic involves aligning the visions of peers, stakeholders, and particularly the founders and finding that sweet spot where your aspirations merge. This alignment offers the freedom to manifest your marketing ambitions. So, the essence lies in this harmony, channeling energies towards set goals amidst the whirlwind of chaos.

Within the startup realm, the path to achieving objectives amid tumultuous circumstances stands as the cornerstone.

I derive satisfaction from carving out a space free of clutter, both for my team and myself. A strategic focus on objectives becomes paramount in this journey. Speaking specifically about marketing, it's a delicate equilibrium between the analytical and creative. Striking the right balance is crucial—applying creativity to achieve objectives while simultaneously delivering tangible business outcomes. It's not about leaning heavily on one facet; instead, it's about meticulously blending creative finesse with business acumen.

For a startup journey in a zero to one journey, focusing on the objectives within the chaos is important.

3. Given your experience with B2C brands like Pidilite and JSW that target diverse Indian audiences, how do you strategize marketing for such distinct societal segments in your current role?

The initial step is transparent communication with your founders. It's crucial to convey that while I'm familiar with marketing fundamentals and the B2B realm, this new venture is uncharted territory—something distinct and upscale. Establishing these expectations is vital. Recognizing this as a fresh challenge, the inclination to learn becomes paramount.

Once I internalized this shift, a natural curiosity emerged, driving me to delve into the unfamiliar domain. Yet, the core principle remained unchanged—delivering objectives. Despite the altered customer profile, the context is still centered around India, catering to both native citizens and global enthusiasts. Operational dynamics, too, revolved around assembling and coordinating teams, bridging the familiar and unfamiliar.

In this transformed landscape, the key lies in acute observation and empathy. Unlike my role as a paint marketing manager, where I could easily place myself in the customer's shoes, this required a more intentional approach. The transition demanded an increased focus on understanding customer perspectives, identifying their preferences, and then shaping strategies in alignment.

Navigating this shift necessitated insightful conversations, especially with figures like my founders, who personified the target audience. Engaging with customers, and grasping their preferences, interests, and aspirations, facilitated the development of a tailored marketing strategy. This two-fold approach, grounded in both customer interactions and strategic ingenuity, became the foundation.

4. How has the evolution of the marketing landscape influenced your approach, prompting you to embrace new strategies?

Looking back a couple of years, the focus was on brand building and numerical targets—a mass-centric approach. Digital media played a role, but mostly alongside ATL and BTL activities. Conversations about allocating 5% or 10% to digital were common. Today, the scenario has reversed. In my current role, traditional brand and category managers have streamlined into a digital marketing head, a customer success head, and a creative head. Budget reviews start with digital marketing spend and then move to brand and new initiatives.

The dialogue now transcends broad branding to delve into intricate customer profiles, emphasizing authentic human connections. This shift mirrors the transition from traditional ads to immersive experiences. The past few years witnessed resolute adaptation. Digital spending now holds a significant budget share, extending beyond performance metrics. It's about maintaining core marketing principles while embracing digital platforms. Content has taken center stage, accelerated by COVID-19's impact. Content consumption surged amid reduced physical interaction, affirming its marketing supremacy. This shift parallels fitness diversity. From short to long-form content, social media to videos, it's a disciplined journey requiring consistent input. Both content and fitness embody the value of persistent effort and eventual reward.

5. Are you currently experimenting with generative AI tools like chatGPT and others that have gained prominence recently?

Certainly, we've recently explored chatGPT, Fireflies, and Grammarly as reliable tools. Reflecting on GPT's impact, it's revolutionary; I once couldn't imagine such technology streamlining writing and homework. About three to four months ago, I focused on ChatGPT, integrating its capabilities into our practices for added insight. While ChatGPT is inspiring, I advocate blending old-school approaches with modern tools and infusing personal insights. This tool offers invaluable inspiration and course correction, akin to having a knowledgeable friend for guidance. However, it's vital to incorporate unique perspectives for authentic resonance.

Prioritizing the "old school" method, I emphasize the importance of infusing our thoughts and ideas into our work. Whether visual, textual, or audio content, establishing a human connection remains paramount. Despite advanced tools like chatGPT, this human touch is irreplaceable, which is where my expertise ensures authentic resonance with our audience.

Specifically for marketing, there has to be a balance between your left brain and the right brain. It has to be a sheer balance between how creatively you're working towards your objectives.

6. When crafting your marketing strategy, what key fundamentals do you consistently adhere to and recommend for budding marketers?

When it comes to crafting marketing strategies, the answer is remarkably straightforward—it starts with common sense. There's no complexity or rocket science involved; it's about setting the right foundation within your mind. Common sense forms the core, and everything else, from theories to models to experience, builds around it. However, the intriguing aspect lies in the fact that common sense isn't just a universally shared trait. It's a curated quality shaped by upbringing, experiences, and perspectives.

Emphasizing curated common sense is the first fundamental point I emphasize with everyone. Moving on, once you possess a well-formed strategy, loaded with models and ideas, the next crucial step is execution. Amidst numerous individuals with countless ideas, the pivotal factor is the capability to transform those concepts into action. It's about being objective and focused in your execution, even when faced with distractions or the influx of alternative viewpoints that tend to equate marketing solely with ideas.

I've always adhered to this balance in my journey. While creativity and ideas are significant, it's the execution that truly distinguishes an effective marketer. The ability to see the strategy through to its entirety, meticulously addressing each detail, and ensuring its successful implementation is what sets a marketer apart from being merely an artist of ideas.

7. How do you define a high-quality piece of content?

As a content company, I approach content creation with a few key principles in mind. Firstly, regardless of the format—be it visual, textual, or audio—I prioritize a human touch. It's crucial to engage with my target audience in a personal, relatable manner, ensuring that they feel understood and valued at every stage of their decision-making process. Secondly, I emphasize an "old school" approach to content. I lean towards fluent storytelling over listicles and quick fixes. This style fosters a deeper connection with the audience, encouraging them to engage and invest time in the content. It's not just about conveying information but creating an immersive experience.

Thirdly, agility and flexibility are paramount. In the ever-evolving landscape of content platforms, I adapt my strategy to suit the medium while maintaining consistency and meeting timelines. Decisions are based on available resources, bandwidth, and desired outcomes. It's about making the best choice for the situation and delivering the best possible content within the given constraints.

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