Adobe roped in Anindita Veluri as head of marketing for its India market four months ago. In a career spanning over two decades, Veluri has held various leadership roles across sales and marketing in organizations like Deloitte, IBM, and TNT (FedEx). Veluri joined Adobe from Deloitte, where she was responsible for building the Adobe alliance and scaling the company’s business in India.
After having spent the past few months understanding the brand, business and marketing ecosystem, Veluri came away with an important learning. In a hyper-digital age, Veluri thinks, “The focus on empathy coupled with creativity is clearly a skill” that future-ready markers must have.
In an exclusive chat with Storyboard18, Veluri shares her views on India - a market of opportunities and challenges, metaverse, web 3.0, game-changing marketing campaigns and more. Read on.
What is it like being a marketer in today’s hyper-connected age?
It is challenging and rewarding at the same time. I feel that marketing is no longer a siloed function in an organisation but one that plays a strategic role in contributing to business growth. I see the marketing function as an orchestrator across all functions within an organisation which holds the power to create a common fabric of co-creation as we all strive to meet our goals. With the marketing department on the frontline of digital transformation today, what matters most to me as a marketer is to stay relevant and ahead of the curve. I strongly believe in changing with the times and keeping pace with the fast-evolving technology landscape. That’s not all; one needs to be agile, have a results-driven mentality and foster a strong community of like-minded leaders. The focus on empathy coupled with creativity is clearly a skill that we all need to develop if we wish to be a marketer of the future.
As a marketer, how do you think the events of the past three years - from a pandemic to socio-economic disruptions, have affected the relationship between brands and customers?
The many disruptions of the past years have changed how we interact, work and play. With a profound shift to all things digital, relationships have become more value-based and purpose-driven, with consumers expecting personalization and sustainability in everything on offer from a brand. Given this, brands are not only trying to live up to the responsibilities of delivering experiences that are real-time, relevant and engaging, but also increasing efforts to honour customer preference and privacy. Trust has become a fundamental expectation of customer experience. Findings from Adobe’s recent Trust Report prove how important a role trust plays in boosting a brand’s reputation, customer loyalty and the bottom line. Moreover, with the third-party cookie landscape soon to become obsolete, brands need to quickly shift their focus to first-party data strategies to earn customer trust, building more direct and personal relationships based on data customers willingly share.
What do Adobe India’s customers want these days and what efforts are being made to meet these new requirements?
People yearn for deeper connections and authentic relations. Likewise, our customers are constantly looking for long-term partnerships with in-depth interventions and consistent engagement throughout their digital journey. They are expected to deliver digital-first customer experiences that are both contextual as well as personalised, and therefore are looking for partners who can help simplify the entire process with the least amount of friction. At Adobe, we are concentrating our efforts on establishing personal engagement with our customers, providing them with solutions to enhance the digital experience for their customers across every phase of the lifecycle, with additional ability to integrate better with existing technology and scale effectively. So be it about suggestions on the appropriate tools, the ability to future-proof and scale their IT requirements or enhance the experiences they deliver to customers using intelligent data points - we are working with our customers to empower them with the wherewithal to deliver experiences that stand out.
How would you define India as a market for Adobe? What are the major highlights and some of the challenges here?
This year is special, as we celebrate 25 years of our operations in India. As a key contributor to both intellectual property creation and business growth, India is undoubtedly a strategic market for Adobe. With around 7,000 employees, it is also the second-largest establishment for us after North America and home to over 1/3rd of Adobe’s innovation. It has seen a solid track record of growth across the enterprise and the consumer business backed by our strong team. Our customers range from financial institutions (including HDFC Bank, ICICI Home Finance Company, Tata Capital, Bajaj Allianz, AU Small Finance Bank) and retail innovators (Nykaa, Tata CLiQ, Titan) to leading travel and automotive players (Vistara, MG Motor, CEAT) and more. India is a unique market, leapfrogging between several generations of technology and adopting digital technology at record pace. The young talent population is another strongpoint for this market. However, with opportunities, comes challenges. Despite an increasing internet penetration and connectivity, digital maturity and literacy continue to be key issues for India. This renders our population wanting for more when it comes to adequate skilling, upskilling, and reskilling, required to be future-ready. Additionally, the mindset of the citizens is very conventional and far from establishing trust in all things data and technology, such that they want to evaluate the product or solutions post sampling only. I prefer calling India a sachet-style economy for this very reason.
In your view, what are the major trends changing the way marketing is done and will be done in the future?
With web 3.0 and metaverse creating chatter worldwide and organizations monetizing these ecosystems, digital experiences will only become more immersive in the times to come. A cookie-less future will help build customer trust with brands implementing consent processes and being transparent about how they use customer data. At the same time, data democratization will become fundamental for other departments in the organization besides marketing. I also feel that the future will demand an amalgamation of CXO roles, and one will need to become a generalist rather than a subject or domain expert, to lead holistic development of the organization and optimized operations of the business units within.
In the last couple of years, customer experiences have been at the core of brands' marketing strategies. How is technology going to disrupt CX further?
With the pandemic accelerating the shift to digital, there’s no question that being digital-first will continue to drive business success in the near future until digital-everything becomes the norm. While customer experiences have always been a key differentiator in conventional times, the outburst of technology has only helped enhance it with real-time insights for customer satisfaction. Deep tech has made this possible with data at the core. Big data has also helped transform and up the customer experience game in the last few years. As technology evolves and innovation comes to life, it is vital to understand that today, customer experience is not about and dependent on technology but on what we do and how we leverage technological advancements to derive insights and value.
Realistically, what's the next big thing coming down the line in terms of technology?
With immersive experiences growing in prominence, metaverse and web 3.0 are definitely the big bets for the future. Another would be a unified technology platform which will support in providing a single suitable source of truth not only in times of customer profile evaluation but also for end to end experiences. For businesses to succeed in leveraging these, the focus would largely need to be upon integrating technology advancements within a set framework because the two most critical factors driving business success will continue to be data-rich personalisation and delightful customer experiences across the board.
What is a benchmark piece of work, initiative or innovation by others that was a game-changer for the industry, in your view?
As a marketer, I feel like a piece magnet that is attracted to game-changing innovation irrespective of the verticals. For example, Nike's deployment of technologies like outdoor 3D billboards to attract eyeballs stood out for me - the experience it created was unmatchable. The CRED IPL campaign series is one of my favourites in recent times as it uses the power of nostalgia to build a higher brand recall. High on entertainment value and full of our favourite cultural icons in their most uncharacteristic selves, the fintech player’s series of ads over the last two seasons have definitely got conversations going on how brands can unlock innovation and differentiated means of storytelling to engage more effectively with their consumers. I also think the way FSI players accelerated their digital journeys during the pandemic to service their existing users and onboard newer customers was exceptional. For instance, during the pandemic, Nippon India Mutual Funds ensured end-to-end digital onboarding and touchless paperless experiences for its consumers. They executed this by tapping into digital consumer culture, scaling personalisation, enhanced targeted messaging and continued customer engagement by connecting people with relevant investment opportunities. They could scale it country-wide within no time by creating cross-channel experiences that wow Indian youth and get them excited about saving, investing, and building new wealth. Another remarkable work that I can recall is from Max Bupa, which established its digital presence in 2020.However, despite the convenience of an online platform, consumers continued to rely on intermediaries such as agents or tele-callers for assistance and almost 100% digital sales were driven through the tele-agent model because the company’s digital platform was not focused on customer experience.