‘To make good returns, you needn’t shop for investment products, you just need to be an investor’

‘To make good returns, you needn’t shop for investment products, you just need to be an investor’
Wealth Management platform ET Money is on a mission to break the notion that investing is a complex, tedious task, and convey the message that managing money need not be a struggle, and that it can simplify the process for you and make it fun, rewarding and easy. Its marketing campaigns are aimed at creating a connection with the customers and establishing the message.

In an interview, Santosh Navlani, COO, ET Money, discusses more about the company’s branding philosophy, vision and future plans.


With a successful association in FIFA 2022, and now a standout ad campaign in IPL, what objectives do you aim to achieve with this marketing campaign?

In the FIFA campaign, we actually came on TV after a gap of two-and-a-half years in a very big way. It was a very different campaign compared to what possibly TV advertising has become these days. When we see a newspaper or TV ad today, most of the time it is some kind of promotion by an online company—some kind of cashback or some kind of prize, some kind of discount, like a Big Billion Day, so on and so forth. So every time the ad asks the customer to buy something. Connect in today’s world is completely missing in terms of building a brand association or a connect with the customers.

Our entire campaign was about how we build a connect and unlike a lot of communication we see, our’s was a campaign where we did not even promote a product. We did not say come and buy this on ET Money—a mutual fund, or a fixed deposit, or open a retirement account through NPS or subscribe to ET Money Genius. None of this was talked about, it was just a connect with the consumer.

Investing in today’s world is becoming such that I need to get more and more involved. At times, the involvement is so great that I forget my job. We all know what happened during the pandemic, the trading activity and the speculation in the market had hit the roof completely, and there were stories that work from home had actually become trade from home!

We came to a situation where people got into a habit of tracking the markets, reading the news, reading what investors were talking about, how people are managing money, and looking at tips on YouTube from influencers to make some quick bucks some way or the other.

We came in and said that because of this, they were always tracking some form of risk—what was happening in the markets, what is happening in the economy, what does the Fed think about interest rates, and so on. If all these things trouble you and you are doing them because someone else is doing them, then you do not need to worry anymore.

When we use an iPhone or Android phone, we don't need to learn electronics engineering. When we move into a new home, we do not need to learn interior design. But why is it that when it comes to investments, we are supposed to learn a lot about investments? Why can’t it be made simple?

We thought that if you have to learn all these things to manage your money better, then come to ET Money, because we will take away all these pains and tell you when and where to invest. Whether you come and invest in mutual funds or fixed deposits, it does not matter, what matters is whether we can create good returns for you. In the FIFA campaign, for the first time, we did not promote a product, we promoted a ‘brand thought’ that people actually struggle to manage money because money gives them so much work. We are taking the thought forward in this IPL and manifesting how money actually keeps us busy in many ways.

Has handling money become more complex than it is supposed to be?

It is about multiple problems people face. Many times, what happens is when you invest and don't make good returns, you actually blame the market. You say, my timing was not right, I chose the wrong stock, or I actually entered at the wrong price. Sometimes, if the market is too volatile, you end up possibly exiting, or sometimes you might basically invest because everybody else is investing and you fear missing the opportunity to make money. So, there are various emotions, various situations that as investors we come across, and those situations sometimes can create positive outcomes, sometimes negative outcomes, and sometimes they just make us feel very bad about ourselves. So the idea is, can ET Money play a role in making investing simple, fun, rewarding, and easy? This is what our proposition is. Whenever you see those films or any kind of brand thought around that campaign, we only want to establish this thing in a bigger way.

I don't think we are wanting to make people realize that they need to invest. What we need to make them realize is that to make good returns, you don't need to be a shopper of investment products; you just need to be an investor in investment products. What happened in 2020, and in 2021 and even in the first few months of 2022, in my opinion, is that everybody wanted to buy the next big thing — people wanted to buy the next IPO, people wanted to buy the next cryptocurrency, people wanted to buy some NFT, people also wanted to dabble in real estate, people wanted to buy stocks, and they wanted to buy a NFO a mutual fund company was launching, without wanting to think what role the product was playing in their overall wealth, overall savings, and overall financial plan. People just wanted to add product after product to their portfolio.

And what has happened is that people have possibly accumulated a lot of junk in their portfolios. It is like what we do every year when the Big Billion sales day happens, we buy things even if we do not need it just because there is a sale, because everyone else is buying something. Lot of people have exhibited the behaviour of buying things without thinking, be it shopping or their investments as well. We want to tell them that you need to be purposeful, you need to have an objective, and you need to basically take a step back and evaluate the need for the product in your financial life. And if you do that, then finance becomes simple. Most people only need five financial products in their lives —- they need to have a good SIP in a mutual fund, they need a term plan to cover their goals if they are no more, they need to ensure their spouse or their kids or their parents have a good life, they need to have a health insurance plan, and a retirement plan, and they need an emergency fund.

What message does your TVC convey, and how is it deeply rooted in ET Money's vision?

We built the thought that managing money should not be a complex, tedious task that forces you to sacrifice life, or always be engrossed in researching markets, or getting your emotional control right, or always hunting for the right price. So we wanted to break that notion. We want to continue breaking that notion with the TVC as well. The key message always remains singular in our communication — better returns are basically an outcome of you investing in the right product based on corresponding economic conditions.

We tell you when and where to invest. And if you do that right, half the problem is solved. Let me give an example. In 2008, if you bought the world’s best equity funds, you would have made negative returns because the entire world fell apart. In March 2020, it did not matter if you bought US markets, European markets, or emerging markets, you would have made negative returns. It did not matter what fund you bought in 2021, you would still have made positive returns. But what mattered in March 2020 and in 2011-12 was if you had gold in your portfolio. So it's about different asset classes; different kinds of investment products perform differently at different points in time, so you need to build a diversified portfolio that suits your requirements. And basically, you can earn better returns by knowing when and where to invest and ET Money only gives you that outcome, and we guide you in that as well via ET Money Genius.

If you get your process right when investing, the returns will follow. Most people lose out on compounding because they fall prey to these market events. ET Money Genius helps you solve the problem by extending your time in the market. Everybody says do not time the market, but there are no solutions for that. But ET Money Genius basically gives you tools, products, and benefits where you get an experience of returns in the marketplace, due to which your tendency or likelihood to stay invested becomes longer.

What are the future plans of ET Money?

We exist to help people make informed investing decisions throughout their lives. I think one of the good things that ET Money as a business model has is that most people who start SIPs and tend to have good experience, actually become lifelong investors. We are sharply focused on catching people early. We are focused on an audience cohort of 28-40 years of age. Just two to three years into the job, you have some kind of disposable income, and some kind of savings coming in.

So if we can acquire these people and build a product and scale it to make them stay longer, for an entire working life for the next 30 years, and if they can stay invested, then the relationship between money and the consumer becomes very strong. At any point we exist to help the customer with the four or the five things we talked about. If you have an emergency fund, a term insurance plan, a health insurance plan, and a retirement plan, and you manage all this money really, really well, you can basically do a very good job and retire as a multi-crorepati.

We have all these products that play different roles at different times. When you build a financial plan for yourself, you are essentially solving for three risks: risk that you will stay longer than what you plan for, and it has to be hedged by planning your investments well. The second risk is that of dying early. If you do not have a term insurance plan, then your family’s lifestyle may get compromised big time; the educational goals for your children may get compromised big time; and the third is the risk of falling sick often and landing in the hospital. These three risks exist in life, and ET Money’s product proposition is always about whether we can help our customers in such a thoughtful manner that these risks are covered. That’s what continues to be our plan for many years and we plan to build on this in a big way, post-IPL.