Tapping into the massive yet rising user base across non-metro cities will be key for us this financial year: Rahul Jain, Hero Electronix
Rahul Jain, CBO & Brand lead of Hero Electronix shares why the company decided to completely discard traditional marketing approach
How Hero Electronix has changed its marketing strategy during COVID-19
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Tapping into the massive yet rising user base across non-metro cities will be key for us this financial year: Rahul Jain, Hero Electronix

How Hero Electronix has changed its marketing strategy during COVID-19
  • Marketers have been closely observing how the pandemic has turned the market upside down and altered the way consumers are communicating, sleeping, working, consuming content or making any purchase calls.
  • ‘What next?’ is a question that has been on their minds for a while now and is commonly discussed in group meetings.
  • However, very few brands have been successful in closely listening to their consumers, making notes, evolving with the changing behaviour and finally tweaking their marketing strategies accordingly.
  • Rahul Jain, CBO & Brand lead of Hero Electronix shares why the company decided to completely discard traditional marketing approach and switch to newer forms of marketing during the on-going pandemic, new product launches, upcoming trends in the consumer tech industry and goals for this quarter.
Hero Electronix, the electronics venture of the Hero Group, has completely changed its marketing strategy due to the on-going pandemic. It has navigated through the past pandemic year by enhancing consumer shopping experiences online, pivoting its focus from traditional marketing vehicles to digital channels completely to increase its engagement with consumers and expand its reach in non-metro markets. Within digital, Hero Electronix has taken the content marketing route to build consumer trust and is also looking to tap into Instagram Reels now.

Hero Electronix has also been focusing on expanding its presence in the market by acquiring new, emerging businesses in the consumer-technology sector. It acquired set-top box brand MyBox in 2015. A year later, it acquired Tessolve, semiconductor chip design company and in 2018 it further expanded its business by acquiring Zenatix, a company in the enterprise internet of things space.

Rahul Jain, CBO & Brand lead of Hero Electronix is now optimistic about seeing steady growth at an industrial level. He talks to Advertising and Media Insider about the company's rapid growth in e-commerce and building direct-to-consumer presence simultaneously, altering marketing strategy during testing times, increasing adoption of connected devices in our lives and more in this interview.

Excerpts:

Q. How did the second wave affect your brand? What are some of the challenges that you are facing?
Amidst such uncertainty, it is difficult to predict the exact rate of growth or revival of the economy right now but I predict a positive rate of recovery as increasingly people rely on digital tools and technology to stay connected. In the consumer technology sector, I do foresee a wider adoption for connected devices in our daily lives as people increasingly work from home and businesses implement new solutions to safeguard their consumers. I am optimistic that in a year's time, the industry at large would have not only recovered but will continue to see a heightened demand for connected products and services.

Q. How has your communication changed during what is probably one of the worst calamities we've faced in recent times? What is your B2C communication all about?
With the lockdown, we have focused more on innovation and re-strategizing our business priorities which is reflective in our communication as well.

It's no longer enough to just keep channels of communication ongoing with consumers but also being relevant to their needs not only presents a big challenge but also an opportunity. The concept of one size fits all doesn't work anymore and neither does an inside out communication approach. It is evident that different consumer segments have different needs. Various members of the household from young ones to the elderly consume communication differently hence brand communication must be aligned to their needs. In order to tackle this challenge we tailored our communication approach to showcase real life use cases and benefits of our products across various life problems our consumers may be dealing with.

For consumers working from home we communicated the benefits of our products for work from home use cases through our Qubo Video DoorBell which lets them view individuals waiting at the door without having to check on them in person. This also enables them to maintain social distancing and reduce their contact outside the safe confines of their homes. For business consumers we showcased use cases of our outdoor security camera and how it enables them to safeguard their shops/offices/clinics remotely to ensure business continuity for essential services.

Overall our core focus has been to shift from conventional ATL/BTL activities to content based advertising. During a pandemic, consumers are shifting their focus to products and solutions which can safeguard their well being proactively rather than providing them with a sense of perceived benefit. It's extremely important for any brand to ensure that their brand communication mirrors their actions in actively helping or benefitting consumers to address their anxiety or concerns during a crisis such as this.

One example of this was our partnership with Kareen Kapoor for Qubo Baby Cam. We leveraged her persona as a parenting influencer to communicate the salient benefits of our Baby Cam product to help parents alleviate their stress of managing household chores, work from home duties and taking care of their kids.

Q. How has your schedule changed as a CMO during the second wave? What are some of the new tasks that you are doing? Can you draw a comparison between last year's lockdown with this year's?
Last year just like the entire consumer technology industry, we were taken aback by the sudden impact of the COVID induced lockdowns. All of us were trying to understand and grapple with the dynamic situation of the pandemic we were witnessing for the first time in our lives. As a CMO, the 2nd wave has been far more challenging and relentless than the first one both on a professional and personal front for me. If I were to look at my role between the 2 waves then the 2nd wave enabled us to step back and rethink our strategy even more. It also allowed us to connect with more of our customers to gauge the impact of our products and solutions in their daily lives. Some of them have even become our friends now. Talking to them has enabled us to understand and improve on many problem areas, bridging any communication gaps and using this feedback to improve our products and services on all fronts.

Q. As a company, how are you using your advertising tools to help out other people?
During times like these, it's important for brands not only to reassess their communication strategy but also ensure that instead of it being centered around the brand it must serve a larger purpose of helping people deal with the uncertainty around them.

Keeping the current situation and consumer sensitivities in mind, we decided to move away from traditional forms of advertising to a digital-first approach with a strong focus on content creators collaborations aimed at different consumer segments in order to build a more organic consumer engagement and drive top of the funnel engagement. We are tapping into our highly engaged base of 1000’s of consumers across India (metros and non metros) to drive product engagement, referrals and repeat purchase through CRM.

Our presence on leading ecommerce platforms has also grown substantially which has allowed us to strengthen our relationships with consumers. Using marketing tools on ecommerce platforms, social media and content collaborations to educate consumers about our products and how it can enable them to lead productive and healthy lives has been a key area of focus for us to help people emerge from the pandemic in a resilient manner.

Q. What is your goal for this quarter? How have your goals changed due to the second wave?
Our goal is to continue to focus on a consumer-centric approach to developing innovative newer products and solutions. I do foresee a wider adoption for connected devices in our daily lives as people increasingly work from home and businesses implement new solutions to safeguard their consumers and employees. I am optimistic that in a year's time the industry at large would have recovered to a great extent and consumers remain touch averse, the demand for products which enable them to minimise their touch points but also stay connected with it would sky rocket.

Q. How has your role as a marketer changed?
Marketing as a domain is getting more democratic and efficient with wide access to individual talent nowadays. Gone are the days when brands would need to spend large sums of money to run big budget campaigns on traditional mediums without any visibility on ROI. As a marketer and as a category creator brand, we have embraced a more experiential approach in our communications thereby doing away with traditional or conventional approach to marketing. In terms of communication, there has been a paradigm shift from a product-centric approach to a content-centric approach hence the role of content marketing, influencer marketing and a trusted content creator is much more pivotal for brands to help address the trust deficit between them and their consumers. Within the digital domain, the big trend has been a shift from static content to video based content, especially short form videos which are more engaging vs long form videos. Hence, we are looking to tap more into these emerging forms of content such as Instagram reels which are able to capture more of the consumer attention without overbudening them with long form content.

Q. What are your areas of focus for now?
Our focus is to expand our customer base across India, build brand awareness for a young brand like Qubo and launch more connected devices in the smart home space geared towards addressing various challenges faced by consumers in their daily lives. We were surprised to see that a majority of our products on ecommerce platforms are now being ordered by consumers across non metros. Tapping into this massive yet rising user base will be key for us this financial year.

Additionally, we are also focusing on our direct to consumer business via our website as an alternative to ecommerce channels. We are also doubling down our focus on tapping into enterprise consumers such as system integrators and even architects to enable wide scale adoption for our products across new or existing real estate projects.

The COVID-19 crisis has enabled Qubo to create more consumer-centric products to cater to such needs. Despite the lockdown, we developed a new feature called “Qubo COVID-Guard”. The feature uses artificial intelligence to detect if individuals are wearing a mask or not. We believe that new-age technologies like artificial intelligence which can help keep people safe post the lockdown. Innovation even during tough times is our company ethos. The pandemic has accelerated our innovation in-house, which will bode well for the business operations at large in the coming months.

Q. No communication or relevant/empathetic communication, which route should a brand take during difficult times like these?
Getting marketing communications right through the relevant content, reaching the right audience at the right time is more important than ever and so is the ability to step in your customers shoes by having a deep understanding of their pain and trust points. These are key building blocks to build an engaged consumer base to create content that is relevant and that people want to engage with. Keeping this in mind as well as the context in today’s time, I believe relevant and empathetic communication is key to reaching audiences right now.

Q. As a leader, how are you trying to be there for your employees?
Unlike the first wave the second wave was far more widespread and dangerous. Despite undertaking more precautions many in our team were impacted and unfortunately we lost a few talented team members to the virus. As a leader I have tried my best to be in touch and help all members in our team across all levels but honestly this was an extremely difficult phase to deal with.

We shifted to a work from home model during the early days of the second wave and our first priority was to ensure the adequate mental and physical well being of our team members. In order to strike the right work life balance we undertook many new engagement driven projects to keep the morale of the teams high. Team members were also encouraged to take leaves sans any explanation and reach out to anyone in the leadership team for any help or assistance. Keeping all team members apprised of the evolving situation in our business was key to ensure that we tackled the pandemic with transparency which led to our team members innovate and come up with new ideas in order to tide over the challenges. Nonetheless, I must admit that it hasn't been an easy phase but thankfully almost all our employees have recovered and most importantly have been vaccinated.