There is a lot in common between a quizmaster and marketer, says Sai Ganesh Dunzo’s former head of brand. For both the roles, “one has to be always curious about the lesser known stories, lesser known artists, trends before they become trends, the next-big-thing before it becomes the next-big-thing.”
While he was still working with logistics and grocery app Dunzo, Ganesh also put together India Wants To Know – country’s first panel quiz show with his friends. 'India Wants To Know' was born as a passion project over numerous rounds of drinks and with the ambition to make quizzing more accessible and fun.
Prior to Dunzo, Ganesh worked with companies like Zomato, AB InBev India, Hanes, and TVS Motor. After a fulfilling stint at Dunzo, Ganesh decided to pause his marketing journey and wear the hat of a quizmaster and a community builder with his friends at #Team9 Productions.
In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Ganesh shares how the world of quizzing is keeping him on his toes. He also shares marketing lessons from Dunzo and more.
Storyboard18 wants to know what inspired you to set up ‘India Wants To Know’?
Our vision as an organisation (Team#9 Productions) is to make India smarter and more empathetic, one fun fact at a time.
To be honest, it is our love for quizzing, trivia and stories that made us create India Wants To Know, and making this so-called “mindsport of quizzing” more accessible, fun and inclusive for everyone.
My personal story: I never quizzed in school because it always felt like an exam (“what is the capital of…?”). It was only in my college days that my cofounders and I encountered the cult of “open quizzing” (where anyone irrespective of age, background or affiliation could come and participate in quizzing. In Bangalore, open quizzing was spearheaded by KQA (Karnataka Quiz Association) and they created this form of quizzing where it wasn't just boring facts but interesting stories being discussed in quizzes, with interesting people from various backgrounds. They had journalists, CXOs of companies, writers, musicians, RJs, professors, students, even families, etc. That’s where my co-founders and I found our love for quizzing. My friends and I never won too many quizzes, but we loved quizzing nonetheless.
For decades, the quiz culture in India was driven by Bournvita Quiz Contest. Do you have any BQC memories?
Yes, of course, BQC was the very first show I remember that me, my father, mother and sister had as a ritual. Sunday morning, 11 am on Zee TV. Just after breakfast, before lunch. We were glued to the TV. For me as a young boy, Derek O-brien was up there in terms of pop culture heroes with James Bond and Captain Kirk (from Star Trek).
Do you think there is a potential to build a property like BQC in India again?
There is an even bigger opportunity today than before because of technology and social media. There is also a huge shift from rote learning to lateral thinking and holistic learning. I think the pace at which children are learning, and especially beyond the textbooks, there is a huge potential for a quizzing show or a platform that is in the space of knowledgetainment content” - questions on stories and interesting facts, rather than just plain vanille Q&As. Rewarding interesting wrong guesses, encouraging humorous or witty answers, and not just the right answer as has always been the case.
What we are building with India Wants To Know is what is known as Panel Quizzing in the UK. It is where the focus is not the answers being interesting and entertaining without necessarily dumbing down the facts and stories that people come to quizzes for. Given the current content consumption trend, Panel Quizzing is the best form of knowledgetainment that can reach the masses. Given that panel quizzing is a booming content bucket in the UK, USA and Europe, there's no reason why it won't work in India too.
Coming back to India Wants To Know, how are you scaling up? What are the marketing plans in place? Do you plan to work on it full-time?
Yes, for now I am working on this full-time, and the plan is to grow India Wants To Know into a content-led quizzing platform.
Quiz Show: We have released one season of our India Wants To Know - India’s First Panel Quiz Show, and that is now on Rana Daggubati’s channel - SouthBay. We are currently working on Season 02 with some big names. We are also building other panel quiz shows, in vernacular languages which is where we see a huge opportunity.
We have also scaled up our online events, having hosted 63 open quizzes with over 7,600 plus participants and 100 plus influencers as panelists. We are also hosting quizzes for corporates both in India and South-East Asia / Bay area, primarily in areas where we have an Indian expat audience. We have also been hosting quizzes to promote book launches, and even ran a series of quizzes last year to promote Clubhouse, with Kumar Varun.
Over the next year, we plan to host more offline events with what we call as “revenge quizzing” coming back in a big way, in not just big cities, but also the smaller cities.
We are also building a trivia-based game (either a board game or a digital game), that is still in the planning stages.
So far, we’ve built a strong community on social media, with 20,000 plus followers combined from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Newsletter. Our followers include prominent journalists, actors and social media influencers. Our reels content on IG, Twitter trivia threads, and our weekly trivia newsletter have gotten somewhat of a cult following, and we plan to double down these three platforms this year.
Not too long ago, you moved on from a full-time marketing job at Dunzo. What made you do that?
I spent the last four years building brand Dunzo, and it gave me the opportunity to do something different and very fulfilling. Dunzo will always be a brand close to my heart.
After four years, I felt the need to do something different, build a unique community of like-minded people who want to know more about our rich country and the world we live in. Know more Bollywood and entertainment, about Cricket and other sports. For example, did you know that before Sachin Tendulkar played for India in 1989, he fielded as a substitute for Pakistan in a friendly match in Mumbai in 1987? That fact should not just make us laugh, but also make us more empathetic to our neighbours.
What's the hardest decision you have made in your tenure as the marketing lead at Dunzo?
We’ve had different challenges over time at Dunzo, but the thing that was toughest was the pivot from being a “pick and up drop delivery service” to a “quick grocery delivery” brand. Building a brand positioning in the consumer’s mind is hard enough, but changing it yourself is even tougher. Because it goes against the traditional wisdom that positioning becomes stronger with communication being consistent over time. So repositioning Dunzo to a grocery service was the most challenging task.
What is the most important thing you've learnt from your competitors?
Every competitor has something new to learn from, that’s what makes startups so exciting - everyone is doing something new. Swiggy has a fantastic product experience, Zomato has also led the way in social media marketing and even how to optimise on performance marketing and personal branding. All this helps raise the bar for everyone else.
Do you see any similarities between been a quiz master and marketer? How has being both helped you personally and professionally?
This feels like one of those “entrepreneurial lessons to learn from Iron Man” type things. To be honest, being a quizmaster means you are always curious about the lesser known stories, lesser known artists, trends before they become trends, the next-big-thing before it becomes the next-big-thing. So it definitely helps in marketing because these first principles of staying ahead of the curve, helps in brand marketing as well. And at the end of the day, the best form of quizzing and marketing are at their core, “content marketing”. So yes, there is a lot that feeds into each other.
Fun fact is that some of the rejected ideas from India Wants To Know did make it to Dunzo’s social media content and vice versa.
Do you have a dream brand that you would like to work with as a marketer?
It’s a tie between working at Netflix and working as a Marketer for a politician.
If you had to give one candid piece of advice to your fellow marketers and agency partners, what would it be?
In marketing, try to create works of art that work for your business. You will then see the impact of your marketing work on business metrics, brand love, and your personal happiness. The trouble is when we optimise for just one of the two things - either too artistic or being just tactical.