We are probably the only player that straddles the perfect balance of trust and innovations in the category: Vishal Subharwal, HDFC Life
Vishal Subharwal, Head-Marketing, Digital Business & E-commerce HDFC Life HDFC Life
Vishal Subharwal of HDFC Life tells us how the brand navigated the pandemic and what lies ahead
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We are probably the only player that straddles the perfect balance of trust and innovations in the category: Vishal Subharwal, HDFC Life

Vishal Subharwal of HDFC Life tells us how the brand navigated the pandemic and what lies ahead
  • While a lot of brands cut down on their marketing budgets during the pandemic, HDFC Life continued to communicate with its consumers, to maintain its connect with them.
  • We speak to Vishal Subharwal, Head-Marketing, Digital Business & E-commerce HDFC Life to understand the brand's marketing strategies through the pandemic and what its areas of focus will be going ahead.
The experience of the last year and a half has made people more careful about where they invest, how they invest and how much they invest. More and more people, especially the younger population, is keen on researching on financial products, and opening up to investing to secure their futures.

During the last 21 months, many sectors cut down on their marketing spends. However, the Banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector put in a lot of money in marketing, because there was an appetite among consumers. The challenge for these brands has been to come up with strong, engaging communications that would help establish trust.

We recently spoke to Vishal Subharwal, Head-Marketing, Digital Business & E-commerce HDFC Life to understand their marketing strategies through the pandemic, their recent marketing campaigns and what their future strategies will look like, to build a stronger connect with their audiences.

While a lot of brands cut their marketing budgets during the pandemic, HDFC Life invested consistently. It recently came up with a campaign #RetireOnYourTerm. The goal of the campaign was to highlight the importance of timely financial planning to live a comfortable life post-retirement.


After the pandemic led to a massive consumer behavior change and more and more people became comfortable buying online, HDFC Life came up with a digital campaign, ‘Ye Sahi Toh Life Insurance Online Kyu Nahi?’ earlier in the year starring Manjot Singh to encourage audiences to buy insurance online.


Speaking about the recent campaign, Subharwal said, “Our retirement campaign was based on the insight that a lot of people were deferring the creation of their retirement corpus because they wanted to spend on other priorities like their children’s education, marriages etc. The entire focus of a lot of Indian households is on getting the children to stand up on their feet, which is a very important element as far as their financial and economic independence is concerned. However, in doing so, they were ending up compromising their own. While there is an intent towards building this retirement corpus, very few people work towards this goal. Through this campaign, we wanted to tell people to start planning for their retirement so that by they could reach financial independence and retire on their own terms. We did not even speak about a particular product in the campaign. People already recognize the brand and the campaign was aimed more at encouraging people to think about their retirement corpus and think of us as a vehicle to make that happen.”

The last 1.5 years has been unprecedented, to say the least, and most brands had to recaliberate their marketing strategies. So how did HDFC Life navigate those tough months? “We still stand for our tagline, Sar Utha ke Jeeyo. Fundamentally, not much has changed in the way we communicate with our consumers. What has changed is, we're now trying to become more contemporary and topical,” explained Subharwal. Last year during the pandemic, the brand came up with awareness campaigns talking about the importance of wearing masks. After the second wave stuck, the brand shone the spotlight on good Samaritans helping people with their good deeds. It had then come up with some short Facebook thumbstopper videos. It later also did a campaign where the message was around bouncing back from the pandemic’s impact.

The pandemic also led to an increase in the emphasis on digital. With new consumers coming on the internet, and also getting comfortable with online purchases, the campaign earlier in the year was aimed at ensuring the brand is where the consumers are.

On what gives the brand an edge over other players in the segment, Subharwal said, “We are able to straddle two segments very well. People see as innovative and ahead of our peers technologically. We are seen as an innovative brand that is investing in the future, investing on good products. Secondly, we have the advantage of being a part of the HDFC group. We therefore have the consumer’s trust, our claim settlement ratio and the way we design our customer service processes, goes into creating a trusted consumer brand. So this ability to manage this duality, of being an innovative insurer at one end and being a trusted financial services player, part of an organization that is usually trusted for its ethics and governance gives us an edge. Most of the competitors will fall in either of these category, we are probably the only player that is able to straddle this balance of trust and innovations in the category.”

HDFC Life has done a lot of brand campaigns over the year which has helped build awareness both of its products as well as it as an important player in the segment. But going ahead, what will his broad areas of focus from a marketing perspective be? Subharwal said, “Going ahead, you will see more product-led campaigns from us, in addition to the brand campaigns. Our Sanchay Plus plan is pretty well-known among the distribution ecosystem. Our aim would be to make Sanchay a consumer brand as well. We will try and achieve this through our advertising. On the marketing side, we are focusing a lot on consumer experience. We've revamped our website, made it very clean and simple. So whether you're coming to research a product or understand a category, we are there to serve. Similarly, on the CRM side, we're investing on a dynamic CRM solution to improve customer experience. We have invested on the Adobe campaign management tool so that our communication is consistent. We've also moved to a platform that is scalable because we see a lot of demand coming in from consumers and we want the experience to be great. Building on all of this will be our focus going ahead.”