Vishesh Sharma

Chief Marketing Officer at Bajaj Financial Securities Limited

Vishesh Sharma on the Digital Ecosystem's Impact on Marketing

Companies that are successful in today's digital landscape must be able to adapt quickly to changes in consumer behavior. They must constantly innovate their marketing strategies to deliver value. They should use data analytics and AI to gain a deeper understanding of consumer preferences.

Also, a strong marketing strategy and engaging content resonate with customers across various digital platforms. So, those who pursue careers in marketing have the opportunity to be strategic while making an impact on a company's bottom line. 

Vishesh Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer at Bajaj Financial Securities Limited, shares his insights on the impact of the digital ecosystem on marketing. He discussed how the rise of digital channels has revolutionized marketing.

1. Tell us about your professional journey.

This is my 16th year as a working professional. I started off as a generalist and discovered my passion for storytelling in school. Despite the expectations to pursue engineering or medicine, I chose to study Mass Communication. Initially, my father encouraged me to have a backup plan and enrolled me at Delhi University. However, I followed my passion and joined Hindu, which marked the beginning of my professional journey.

From Hindu, I moved on to work for Progress Media Group's New Statesman Magazine and later joined the Street Investment Journal in Mumbai. At the Street, I was hired despite my lack of experience in the stock market because they needed someone who could transform research reports into engaging stories.

During my time at the Street, I had my first encounter with the digital world when I launched their website. This experience made me realize the importance of digital platforms and motivated me to join an agency to learn more about paid and organic ecosystems, running campaigns, SEO, and other aspects of digital marketing. I joined Tric as a content marketing manager and had the opportunity to work on building the brand Clean Max, one of India's largest rooftop solar companies.

Later, I joined Shehan when they were establishing their digital assets team. It was a chance for me to apply what I had learned and launch new websites, apps, and successful YouTube and social media campaigns. Angel was another significant milestone in my career, where I played a crucial role in setting up content marketing, social media, and PR strategies. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, we successfully launched the IPO and embarked on a rebranding exercise to strengthen our position in the FinTech industry.

During my time at Angel, I focused on strategy, team building, and acquiring startups for our incubation program. We achieved remarkable success, earning over 32 awards and launching industry-defining campaigns like Shagun Cashier. These experiences made me realize the potential of the digital ecosystem and the need to transform traditional businesses.

That's when I was approached by the CEO of ASE, a company involved in institutional booking, fundraising for startups, and retail operations. They wanted to digitally transform their business and change their perception of the market. I joined them as the first-ever CMO and dedicated my time to building the marketing infrastructure from scratch, including implementing lead management systems, app behavior tools, and social agencies.

Working at Ashika has been a fulfilling experience, allowing me to create a digitally-focused ecosystem and reshape the company's image that had been maintained for several years.

2. What are your top learnings from your 10-15 years of working experience?

The biggest lesson I've learned in my career is to never take anything for granted. You can't assume that what works today will work the same way in the future. The market, positions, and situations are constantly changing, so it's crucial to always think ahead and provide real value to your consumers and customers.

Gone are the days of brand loyalty and blindly following celebrities. Consumers now demand value and expect continuous improvement. It's important to stay agile and adapt to their needs. Additionally, when dealing with other stakeholders, it's essential to bring about tangible changes and transformations in their lives.

Digitalization plays a significant role in this dynamic landscape. It offers both opportunities and challenges as it constantly evolves. What works for you now may not work in a few months, so it's vital to plan ahead and anticipate future business prospects and growth. Therefore, it's crucial to never take anything for granted and always stay proactive. 

3. What is your advice to aspiring marketers?

My advice is to be open to listening and learning from various sources, including books and experts. However, practical experience is invaluable. Always be willing to experiment, taking care not to undertake anything that could have significant negative consequences for yourself or your company. Embrace the concept of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) and learn from them firsthand.

On the ground, you can gain insights that no book or expert can provide. So, it's crucial to keep trying out different things and ideas, even if on a smaller scale. When considering an idea, ask yourself two key questions: How will it improve the lives of my customers? If it doesn't add value or create positive change, it may be best to abandon it.

Consider scalability as well. Evaluate whether an idea that shows promise can be expanded and replicated. For instance, if a pilot campaign with influencers yielded positive results, explore the potential for scaling it up. Assess the feasibility and impact of scaling before making a decision.

After launching a campaign or activity, don't overlook the importance of post-launch optimization. Reflect on the learnings gained from each campaign to inform future endeavors. By leveraging hard data and analytics, digital platforms provide valuable insights for planning and decision-making.

As a beginner, prioritize these key aspects: learning from practical experience, experimenting with ideas, assessing customer value, evaluating scalability, and optimizing campaigns based on insights and data. Over time, as you gain experience, you will develop your own approach and adapt accordingly.

Try out your ideas, but they shouldn't have a negative impact on you or your company.

4. What are the current trends in the marketing ecosystem?

This question is repeatedly asked, and my response is that while the world is advancing toward AI, ML, and automation, humans provide unique value that machines cannot replace. As Indian marketers, we are emotionally connected to people.

Firstly, machines can support and enable the ecosystem, but they cannot lead it. Humans define leadership roles. Secondly, I have always emphasized the importance of an organic approach in business building.

An organic ecosystem gives sustainable and scalable growth.

With intense competition and thin margins for many brands, reliance on expensive paid campaigns will decrease. I believe that in the future, more brands will focus on building an organic-first approach.

The dynamics of marketing are changing. Previously, marketing focused on soft KPIs like brand awareness, while sales were responsible for delivering hard numbers. However, the role of a Chief Growth Officer, combining marketing and sales, has emerged. This role is responsible for brand, revenue, customer, and overall growth. Marketing teams are now expected to deliver hard numbers, merging the concepts of cost center and revenue center.

From a technological perspective, consumer privacy is gaining importance. Marketers need to be mindful of privacy when collecting consumer insights. Brands will move away from cookie-based approaches and adopt consumer data platforms (CDPs) to collect information through ethical means. With in-house tech teams becoming common, brands can build their own CDPs and prioritize consumer privacy.

From a marketing point of view, consumer privacy is going become slightly more crucial in the marketing ecosystem.

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