Saurabh Bajaj

Executive Vice President Marketing - Prepaid at Vodafone Idea

From Pure Sciences to Marketing Mastery: Saurabh Bajaj's Inspiring Journey

We had an engaging chat with Saurabh Bajaj. He is the Executive Vice President at Vodafone Idea. He is also the Vice President of Prepaid Marketing. Saurabh has a lot of marketing experience. He has worked with many famous brands. These include Wipro Consumer Care, Cadbury's, Diageo, and Britannia. He has had important roles in their growth and success.

We talked about the changing digital world. It has had a huge impact on Saurabh's work and personal life. He has used this change to grow his brands. He also grew his personal following on LinkedIn. This talk is important for businesses and marketers today. They need to adapt to the changing digital world. They must know how to handle new trends and challenges. This helps them stay relevant and succeed.

1. Can you tell us about your professional journey? How did it begin? How has it evolved?

My professional journey started with a love for pure sciences in school. In school, I used to score high marks in physics. However, I ended up studying civil engineering in college. But I soon realized that it wasn't my passion. All of a sudden, I felt a little constrained as to where I let my imagination flow. I kept thinking through what is it that I want to do. Then I stumbled upon my love for marketing. I joined IIM Indore. I was the Marketing Club Secretary, I founded the Marketing Fair, and I was the poster child of marketing on my campus. I started my career in the FMCG industry with Wipro Consumer Care. Then I moved on to Cadbury's. I spent a decade working on various campaigns and roles, including sales. I probably did some of my best work there. I then moved on to Diageo. There, I was the Innovation Head with premium and luxury spirits. Also got the chance to launch Captain Morgan Dark Rum. Love my rum and coke. Then I wanted a detox so I went and joined Britannia as the marketing head for their international business. Throughout my journey, I've had the opportunity to work on various marketing projects. This includes influencer marketing in the Middle East to digital initiatives during the pandemic. Lastly, I moved on to telecom. I'm now in my stint at Vodafone Idea, as VP, of Prepaid Marketing. So I would say that my learning journey continues.

2. A lot of social media and digital platforms have emerged a lot over the last few years. How have you seen the marketing landscape change over the past 15 years?

The marketing world changed a lot in the last 15 years. Platforms like Orkut and Facebook came out of nowhere. I was among the first to make a Facebook page for a product. Today it seems like a cliché but those were the times of organic growth. I was able to create a playbook that took Cadbury Celebrations to almost a million fans organically in 6 months. Digital platforms kept growing. Brand managers had to make viral content for YouTube.

E-commerce grew in importance. Age-gated content was needed for industries like alcohol. That's where I saw the power of pull. Influencers played a big role in reaching target groups. The pandemic changed consumption habits. Marketers had to adjust their strategies. We had Bollywood celebrities who were trying to stay relevant. And that allowed us to create Britannia Cheese Star Chef. So overall, I have had a pretty exciting journey so far.

3. How has the evolving digital landscape impacted your professional and personal life?

Quite a lot, to be honest. Professionally, I've been able to witness and participate in the growth of digital commerce and content. Personally, during the pandemic, I started creating content on LinkedIn. I grew a following of 40,000 fans. I now enjoy creating content for myself as much as I do for my brands. The journey has been both exciting and rewarding. This has been caused by the opportunity to witness and be a part of the growth of digital marketing from both a professional and personal perspective.

4. Can you shed light on the evolution of marketing strategies from the early days of Facebook and influencer marketing to now in 2023? How do marketers decide which trends to ride on and which to avoid?

In the early days, around 2009, marketers were experimenting with brand Facebook pages and influencer marketing. Over the years, the industry has evolved. Marketers now have more options and platforms to work with. This has made it a challenge to decide what to experiment with and what to ignore. As marketers, we must embrace curiosity and run towards ambiguity. I feel this is the only way that leads to innovation. To succeed in this environment, it's essential to set aside small budgets for big experiments. One must not rely solely on efficiency metrics.

In 2023, marketers face a lot of challenges when engaging with their audience on social media. One big challenge is the huge amount of content and information available to users. The number of brands and influencers on social media has risen a lot. This has made it very difficult for marketers to capture the attention of their TG. It has also become tough to stand out from the crowd.

To address this challenge, marketers must focus on creating highly relevant and engaging content that resonates with their TG. This requires a deep understanding of their TG. It also involves a continuous effort to track emerging trends and preferences. What's more, marketers must use advanced analytics and insights driven by data to optimize their campaigns. This will ensure that their messaging reaches the right audience at the right time.

It's essential to set aside small budgets for big experiments. One must not rely solely on efficiency metrics.

5. How do you integrate various marketing aspects and strategies to drive innovation in your campaigns?

The key to driving innovation is to break down walls and foster open and transparent communication. Great ideas don't come from working in silos. Instead, they come from bringing together diverse participants who may not be directly involved in your specific job. You need to bring on board passionate individuals from various backgrounds. That is how you can spark creativity and unleash new possibilities. One way to achieve this is by putting digital at the center of your strategy. This can be achieved by integrating different marketing aspects like social media, PR, and creative partnerships.

Great ideas don't come from working in silos.

6. What are your thoughts on the trend of generative AI in marketing? Are you actively using or exploring this technology?

Generative AI has the potential to revolutionize the way marketers create and execute their campaigns. By using content generated by AI, marketers can create highly personalized, engaging, and contextually relevant content for their TG. This leads to increased engagement and better campaign performance. Generative AI can help marketers analyze vast amounts of data. This in turn helps to identify patterns and generate content tailored to specific user segments. Ultimately, it makes it a lot easier to deliver the right message to the right TG at the right time.

However, there are some drawbacks. One concern is the loss of the human touch in marketing campaigns. For sure, AI can generate content that is contextually relevant and personalized. But it may lack the emotional connection and creativity that a human creator can bring to the table. This could result in content that feels robotic. It might also lack the authenticity that consumers crave.

AI content can also turn out to be repetitive. Algorithms may use existing data patterns. This can lead to a lack of innovation and differentiation between brands. Which makes it challenging for marketers to stand out from their competitors.

7. What do you think are the top trends or predictions for the next few years that marketers should focus on?

Focus on three things: consumers, conversations, and communities. First, marketers need to know their consumers. They should learn about their changing needs and likes. Second, talk to consumers instead of just promoting brands. Use chatbots and AI to make it personal. Finally, create real and fitting communities. Find what the brand and consumers both care about. Then, help that space grow. These factors will shape the next 10 years more than any tech or platform.

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