Discovering Post-COVID Insurance Dynamics with CMO Abhishek Gupta | The Growth Genius

Abhishek Gupta is an experienced Chief Marketing Officer with a strong background in the BFSI and retailing industry. He currently holds the position of Chief Marketing Officer at Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance, where he is co-creating a unique life insurance company. Abhishek has an impressive portfolio of articles and a history of successful leadership roles in renowned organizations. In

Discovering Post-COVID Insurance Dynamics with CMO Abhishek Gupta | The Growth Genius

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    Consumer evolution is a dynamic process that constantly adapts to changing market trends and consumer behavior. Abhishek Gupta, an expert in the field, provides valuable insights into this phenomenon. He emphasizes the importance of understanding consumer preferences and expectations to stay ahead in the competitive market. Gupta highlights the significance of data analysis and consumer research in gaining insights into consumer behavior. By leveraging these insights, businesses can tailor their strategies and offerings to meet evolving consumer demands. Gupta also emphasizes the need for businesses to embrace digital transformation and leverage technology to enhance the consumer experience. Overall, this article provides valuable information on consumer evolution and the strategies businesses can adopt to stay relevant in the ever-changing market landscape.

    Key Take Aways

    1. Understand the evolving consumer behavior: Digital marketers need to stay updated with the changing consumer behavior and preferences to effectively target their audience.
    2. Embrace data-driven marketing: Utilize data analytics and insights to make informed decisions and optimize marketing strategies.
    3. Personalization is crucial: Tailor your marketing messages and experiences to individual consumers to enhance engagement and build stronger relationships.
    4. Mobile-first approach: With the increasing use of smartphones, digital marketers should prioritize mobile optimization and create mobile-friendly experiences.
    5. Leverage social media platforms: Social media plays a significant role in consumer behavior, so digital marketers should utilize these platforms to connect with their target audience and build brand awareness.
    6. Video content is king: Incorporate video content into your marketing strategy as it has become a preferred medium for consumers to consume information and engage with brands.
    7. Voice search optimization: With the rise of voice assistants, digital marketers should optimize their content for voice search to ensure visibility and accessibility.
    8. Continuous learning and adaptation: The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving, so it’s essential for marketers to stay updated, learn new skills, and adapt their strategies accordingly.

    Read Transcript

    Kaushal Thakkar:- Hello everyone. Welcome to The Growth Genius podcast brought to you by Infidigit, an organization focused on search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization. I’m Kaushal Thakkar, Founder of Infidigit and your host for this show. Today we have the pleasure of having with us Abhishek Gupta, who’s the chief marketing and customer experience officer at Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance. We met several years ago at the jury event of Echo Awards in Mumbai and it has now helped us get Abhishek on the show. Hi Abhishek, how are you doing today?

    Abhishek Gupta:- Hi Kaushal, doing very good, and thank you so much for inviting me on the show. And yes, that jury show that we were on the Echo Awards, that experience was very good. 

    Kaushal:- Thanks for that, Abhishek. Abhishek, while several of our viewers and listeners must be already knowing you, since you are one of the who’s who in the CMO space, at least in the BFSI sector in India, there are some people who may not be aware about you. So please help us know Abhishek Gupta better. 

    Abhishek:- Okay, that’s a tough job I’ll try. So you know, I am part of Edelweiss group for almost nine years now. And I’ve worked in Edelweiss, ICICI Bank, Shoppers Stop Walmart India, to name few companies. I am somebody who’s extremely in love with marketing. And when I say love in marketing because I think the passion for getting insights and then creating those insights into business solutions, solutions for business problems, I think that is what keeps me going. So that is what I believe has fueled my interest and continued my interest in the marketing field. 

    Kaushal:- Thanks, Abhishek. That helps. Abhishek, what we understood is that the journey over these years has taken you through various industries, right? You mentioned retail, you mentioned BFSI, etc. and you worked across these various formats and then you moved to this financial sector as well. Please tell us more about your experience and learnings from this entire journey over these years. 

    Abhishek:- Okay, so Kaushal, if I look back on my various experiences now, I can broadly classify into two large industries and I’m like clubbing a couple of industries together. So one industry is retailing. So my experiences with Shoppers Stop Ltd., Walmart India, and I was with Spencers Retail Limited, as well for a year. So that was hardcore core retailing. And another set of experience has been with retail financial services. So it has been retail always, but it was hardcore retailing and retail financial services. And my experience with ICICI Bank and now with Edelweiss Group. So I’ll talk about from these two broad domains. The first one is retailing. When I say retailing, retailing has one very peculiar thing and I’m actually trying to answer not in the most obvious way for what people would know from what I have learned. Retailing is one industry where you see consumers at very close quarters and consumers actually whenever we are interacting or I’m interacting with someone or we are talking, we always have a kind of a mask with us where we’re trying to portray the best of us and that we do in all interactions, whether it’s personal or professional. But in retailing, the masks actually come off because the consumer is actually behaving like what he or she is, because he or she is picking up something for either food and grocery or something like apparel or anything. So you can see consumer from fairly close quarters and see them behaving very naturally. Okay. That’s very interesting and peculiar about retailing, because that gives you an insight which probably no data can give you, no amount of data can give you. So that is one learning from retailing or my experience retail. And the second part is today in the age of digital era, and especially from the kind of domain that you come into, you specialize in, let’s do an activity and we’ll know the result immediately whether it is working or not working in terms of how consumers are engaging with us. Now, allow me to take you back in a pre-digital era. Where the immediacy of results was not available. So what has used to happen is you do something, you do some intervention, and then you wait. You wait for the results to come, which probably would come after one month, two months, three months of quarter, and then you start analyzing it. Now, the retailing is what digital is today because you do anything, you see the result then and there, because the consumer is going to act there in front of you. Okay, if you allow me, I’ll give you a small example. 

    Kaushal:- Definitely would love to hear. 

    Abhishek:- This is my stint in Shopper Stop, and I was taking care of the men’s section. Men’s is a fairly large section, contributes most to the store, most, I think, 40% contribution at that point of time. Okay. And I still remember that one of the section in men’s section was suits and jacket section, where you have suits, blazers and everything. So at that time, we had some Corduroy blazers which had come in. Corduroy blazers with patch over here. And we tried a lot, but they were not selling. They were not selling at all. And we said, let’s try to do we’ll display them, we’ll keep them at the front. We will do a lot of suggestive selling to customers. And this thing not moving. Not moving. Now, if I go and do analyze the data from a data person, probably this range is not working. Let’s tell Blackberrys that this range doesn’t work. Don’t introduce this product. We said, let’s try to do an experiment. Since the jacket were corduroy, we said people will probably wear in a casual wear kind of a context, not in a formal suits kind of a context. So we took the entire range of that Corduroy blazers and moved them to casual section.

    Kaushal:- Interesting. 

    Abhishek:- Okay. And within two days, that entire range got sold. Within two days. It was just the matter of adjacencies and placement. If I talk about your industry, you would probably say whether you’re targeting the right set of customer or not under the right platform or not. It is exactly that. That’s what I learned from retailing that you can do something and see immediate results and a concept like it exists. So that was the learning from retailing industry. So if you ask me exact learning number one, the first learning which I carry even today is action bias. Okay, go ahead and execute. Okay. What will happen at most? It will not work, but at least you will not fail for not lack of time. So action bias is one. Second learning that came to me is retailing is also extensively people heavy business because the people are selling on the floor and you have to manage and I’m talking about front end right now, I’m not talking about back end of retailing. It’s an extensively people heavy business. Rather than managing customer service, you have to manage the people. If you can manage the people well, they’ll take care of customers on their own. And so that learning has been with me. The third learning is elite customers are always an opportunity. It’s always an opportunity because customer is giving you a chance to do service recovery and convert that recovery into delight. It’s always an opportunity. I’ve got some examples probably we’ll talk it later during some other question. But I have seen enough number of examples where irate customers have gone back very happy and then come back and given repeat businesses. In terms of the financial industry, what I have understood is here people actually not they don’t know what are they looking for exactly. They have a very faint idea or a broad idea of what they want. – But what they do not know is… 

    Kaushal:- Yeah, as compared to they clearly know that hey, they are there for buying a blazer or they are here for buying a saree or whatever. But here in financial sector you are saying that completely. 

    Abhishek:- No, actually no. A little different. Little different. Point I’m making what I’m point I’m making is let’s take an example. A customer wants a loan. The customer is very clear that he or she wants a loan. And the end user is very clear in the mind that if it’s a home loan, I want a home loan or if it’s a vehicle loan, I want a vehicle loan. What consumers do not know is what are the possibilities that are involved in customizing and creating a solution for them. And the financial industry has a lot of customization which is available for customers. If this is not possible, this can be possible. I’ll give an example. If customer wants a particular loan amount and loan amount is not possible. There are ways in which you can create loan amount for customers while looking at consumers additional income or increasing collateral or anything or securitization of a lot of similarly in insurance when a customer comes to us customer knows that probably I’m looking for something to protect my family. But when you start spending time with consumers, you realize that while protection is a stated need there are a lot of unstated needs that your other protection solutions can also handle. So that is what I meant was consumers have a fair idea of what they want but they are not able to decipher what a financial institution can do for them. So that is what I believe. The second bit of learning, which actually learnings that has come to me from this, is as a professional in financial services, you should know your product inside out. Inside out. And that’s the first thing that’s the most basic thing of any financial service industry profession. Irrespective of the function that you are coming from. – Irrespective of the function… 

    Kaushal:- For any marketer that would be true. That they should know their product inside out. 

    Abhishek:- That Is what i’m saying. You need to know product inside out and what your product can do. And what are the.. [in Hindi] this is what we call Another way to look at it Is in every product there is a gimmick which you can help your consumers with. You need to understand that what your product can do for customers. So that is one. Second is most of the time when consumer is interacting with you for a financial product consumer is high on the vulnerability state. And that vulnerability is coming from not understanding the product. So you need to keep yourself in customer shoe and empathize. It’s very much important to keep yourself in customers’ shoes and then try to work out a solution. Third thing which our industry does not do very well, our industry does not do very well is do not overcomplicate. We have a habit of bombarding customers with jargons and move the customers and to hide behind jargons or try to create a lot of such words that consumers will not be able to understand. Thinking that if there is a problem tomorrow, at least I’ll be safe. I have a counter view on it that we should not overcomplicate. We should simplify it for the customer as simple as possible in a language that the consumer understands. It is not a language in which you want to communicate, but a language that the customer understands. And the last part of the learning that I would come is in line with what I was saying for retailing is whenever consumer has a problem, as a financial industry professional, do not avoid the curve. Do not. Take the problem head on. Whatever consumer is facing, even if you don’t have a solution. Most of the time, consumers do not want a solution. Most of the time, they want themselves to be heard. So if you have that conviction, whatever the problem is i’ll take it I’ll listen to the customer, almost 80-90% – of the time that problem will get resolved.

    Kaushal:- Really nice. 

    Abhishek:- That’s what I’ve learned from these two industries. 

    Kaushal:- Whatever you said for finance and retail both. In fact the applicability of that would be across all the industries. So thanks for sharing that part of the business. Abhishek, continuing on this particular part which you mentioned about the customer while you have been there in the industry for a long time, how has the customer changed over the years? Has there been any change in terms of the behavior of the customer or anything else which you have seen over the years? 

    Abhishek:- Yes. So over the years Kaushal, what I’ve seen is the consumers today are much much more aware than they were earlier because they have access to so much information these days. So they are very much aware but with that awareness due to the overload of information also comes that they are extremely confused. Consumers are actually while they have a lot of information, I believe the ability to process the information or the rigor in the information is not so much there and therefore ends up a lot of confusion at the consumer’s end. And therefore again I’m going back to what I say as an industry we have an onus to simplify it for consumers. The second trend that I see, and it is coming from consumers having access to information. And especially I’m seeing it from younger audience these days. They are asking very pertinent questions, very relevant questions, and that is extremely important. Because these kind of questions number one helps to keep us on our toes and number two is make things lot of clear for customers as well as intermediaries. So customers are asking very pertinent questions which actually goes against what I was saying earlier, that they are very confused. Third trend that I see is consumers these days they want to have control. In earlier times consumers say that you are the experts, you manage. I have given the money to you. Now it’s up to you. Now. Consumers want to be in control. They want to be kept updated. They want to be aware what’s happening. They want to weigh the options that are being given to you and then arrive at a decision. Or at least they want to feel that they are in control and they have arrived at a decision which earlier didn’t used to be there. Earlier it was there. You are the experts, I’m giving it to the experts, you guys manage it. 

    Kaushal:- Okay, thanks. 

    Abhishek:- And another trend that I see which I’m sure very pertinent to the industry that you are into Kaushal is the reducing attention span.

    Kaushal:- Yeah, that’s across…

    Abhishek:- We face that challenge as marketeers that how do I get attention of the customer in so much of information overload and so much of really good pieces of communication information and everything available. So how do I still remain relevant to the customers? So that is the trend that we are seeing. However at a very basic level, some things do not change and some things I don’t think will ever change. Number one, consumers are always looking for solutions for a particular problem that they have. The problem or the need could be stated or it could be unstated. So that will always remain. That will always remain. Second is the consumers would love somebody and they love anyone who’s very empathetic. So empathy should be built-in your behavior whether today, tomorrow or anytime. So that mistake. And consumers will always reward you if you are empathetic and if you are able to provide solution to them they will always reward you. That will never change. Fourth, that will never change is consumers extremely respect the people who stick to what they say. I don’t want the concept of 10 minute delivery. But if you are saying that you are going to do delivery in ten minutes, stick to it. Stick to it. 

    Kaushal:- Yeah, definitely. 

    Abhishek:- Stick to it, that’s fine. If you say you’ll give you 15 minutes and give me in 15 minutes I’m fine. I’ll not shout at you. That why not in ten minutes. Stick to what you say. And if you’re sticking to what you’re saying you will have my respect because what you’re bringing is predictability and predictability in this uncertain world actually makes my life much more easier. So there are things that have changed but there are basics that I think don’t change. Definitely. 

    Kaushal:- Okay, thanks for sharing that, Abhishek. And Abhishek taking this question on the other side and taking it to the insurance sector itself. So how has the insurance sector changed over the years at least since the time you joined it? 

    Abhishek:- So insurance sector…one very big defining moment obviously there was COVID in between. COVID had a lot of impact in the way the industry behaved and in the way the consumers interacted with the industry. So insurance and especially life insurance has always been a push product, always. Nobody wants to buy an insurance. You don’t get up in the morning and says I want to buy life insurance today. That doesn’t happen. It has always consumers need to be made aware of the need of the product and you have to really focus on following up with the customer to convert a customer. So it has always been a push product. What happened was because of COVID this push got converted into some bit of pull. Some bit of pull and the reason I’m saying is it got converted into some bit of pull is consumers started to realize we humans, we realize how vulnerable we are and whenever the sense of vulnerability increases, our action to cover that vulnerability or to hedge ourselves that vulnerability, that action bias also goes up. And therefore in order to cover ourselves against this vulnerability of that I’m not safe, the insurance get converted into pull. But what has happened was while we feel we are vulnerable we also don’t learn from most of the time we don’t learn from our past or we forget the past very quickly. And now we are back to where we were. We are back to people what we call as now revenge travel, revenge shopping. Nothing wrong in that. Yes, you should enjoy a life, you should this thing. But what we are also back to is we are back to procrastination in life insurance. We are back to thinking that I already have and we are back to thinking I am fine. That feeling of vulnerability is getting now gradually converted into feeling of invincibility again which used to be earlier. 

    Kaushal:- So that revenge insurance is not happening. 

    Abhishek:- Oh no, we are still back to that where you have to convince still. So typically we say in insurance that you have to knock on ten doors before one door opens and for every ten door that open you probably will get one sale. So it’s one in 100 kind of a thing. That ratio more or less is still the same. – So that doesn’t change.

    Kaushal:- Okay.

    Abhishek:- What has changed is the awareness has been there now. The awareness is extremely high and which is a good step for the industry because it is always a journey. For awareness to move into action, it’s a journey so high level of awareness is there that awareness is immediately converting into action. Not right now. So at least conversations are happening and that is a good point for the industry. The third, which is not to do much with customers as is see, insurance is heavily dependent upon distributors. Heavily dependent. I’ll give you a data. Of all the insurance life insurance sales in the country, 85% to 90% happens when a distributor is in between. So that means only close to 10% sales are happening when the consumer is buying directly from the insurer. In 90% of the sales, there is an intermediary in between. This intermediary could be an individual insurance agent, it could be a corporate broker, it could be a bank RM, it could be a telecaller from aggregators like PolicyBazaar or anybody. But there’s always an intermediary in between. And if you just remove the telecallers aside, these intermediaries have been selling insurance for long. Insurance is more than 100 years old. They have been selling by meeting customers face to face. Nobody knew any other way to sell insurance which is go meet the customer, understand the needs, suggest a solution and then close the sale. That was the process. Suddenly overnight, the physical meetings of face to face meetings were not happening. The change that we have seen is the rapid pace at which the distributors have embraced the technology. While yes, I give a lot of credit to insurers also because insurers created that platforms, that entire tools that were given to distributors, insurers can only create those tools. Adopting those tools means changing the behavior, changing the habits, which is not easy. But distributors have really-really embraced the technology and that I believe is a big change. And that change is not like the first change that I was referring to. Now we are back to square one. No, it’s a change which is irreversible. The distributors have realized how tech can make the process much more seamless and much more hassle free and much more faster, quicker and better for them as well as their consumers. So now they are very okay in looking at new technologies that are coming, newer ways of selling, newer ways of interacting with the customer. That has been a very positive moment for the industry.

    Kaushal:- Perfect. Really nice and thanks for sharing that, Abhishek. Abhishek. One other question which comes in at this particular point is India by itself is multiple countries in itself, right? How do you see the insurance sector growing across multiple locations across India or multiple states? However you would like to frame it? 

    Abhishek:- I’ll answer it in two parts. The first part is I’ll talk about the growth of the industry as such. I believe that the industry will continue to grow and continue to grow. When I say continue to grow, it will grow in a healthy way. And to be more specific, I anticipate anything upwards of 10% to 15% per annum. That’s how the industry will continue to grow. That is one part. Why it will grow? Number one is we have something called the financialization of savings. India used to be a savings market where the savings are always locked in very comparative and safe and traditional instruments like FDs, recurring deposits, and gold. These savings will move towards more financial products like life insurance, mutual funds, like structured products, alternate investments, and everything. So this financialization of savings will continue and it will continue to grow. And therefore life insurance will grow. Because what we believe is life insurance is the basics, is the first tier for financial planning. Because first you protect what you have and then you decide to grow what you have. It is important to protect first. And protection is where life insurance comes in. So with the entire savings pyramid going up, insurance is definitely going to grow. And anything upward of ten to 15%, that is for sure. What will also happen is there will be more players in the industry. Currently, we have 24 life insurance players in the industry. There will be more. In fact, the 25th Go Digit has just got the license to start the business in the country. So we’ll very soon have the 25th player. And I’m sure there’ll be a lot more players coming into the industry. So that will push the growth further. The third thing that will grow well for the industry is the various reforms that the regulator IRDAI is bringing. They are making go-to-market much simpler by giving a lot of relaxation in the way products can be introduced in the market. They’re talking about giving composite licenses, they’re talking about giving extended licenses. They’re talking about open architecture as far as the banking and bank assurance business is concerned. They’re talking about open architecture in terms of life insurance agents not being confined to only one insurer and they can sell multiple companies. They’re talking about composite licenses where you can sell life insurance, general insurance, and products as well. So there are a lot of changes that the regulator is gradually starting to bring. In addition to this, there’s a huge initiative that the regulator has worked on, which is the Insurance for All by 2047, which is to increase the life insurance penetration in the country. And there is a lot of work that the regulator is doing along with the industry to push insurance and to push penetration of insurance up. All of these factors if you put them together, and especially with the income levels going up, our economy is supposed to grow, be one of the fastest growing economies in the country, we will be 5 trillion very soon. So all of this if you put it together, I believe the insurance sector is continue to grow. Coming to India is a fairly diverse country. What I see is gradually we will move into a situation where we will have regionally dominant players and that has happened in many countries where you have players, especially in markets like the US, where you have players dominating one part of the geography rather than trying to spread their wings across the country. So that will might will happen in our country as well. But the difference that I see in our country, it’s not just one country, it is 29 countries put together, and therefore and these people won’t fail, and nothing wrong with that. If I am a consumer, I want my insurer to talk in my language. I want the insurer to probably do what is best for me and what works for me. So what it will do is it will place a lot of challenges on the insurers number one is to create capabilities where they are able to serve this diverse set of customers. Things might not. So if I look at let me divide it into the front end of insurance and the back end of insurance. Now back end of insurance, there’s a lot of risk management, there’s a lot of fraud control, there’s a lot of product pricing, and a lot of other actual and all of these statistical models underwriting all of this in place. So I don’t think that changing much because, for that kind of functions, India is still very homogeneous. But if I come to the front end, front end, especially sales, marketing, HR, all of these functions where the homogeneity is not there, where it is fairly heterogeneous. So I believe a lot of pressure on these functions that how do they adopt and adapt to this heterogeneous market that is going to be there. So from a marketing perspective, that means you need to be able to talk to consumer in consumer languages. So that means develop vernacular capabilities. Develop capabilities in which you can talk to customers or even from your digital assets. For all assets that you have, you need to talk in the language of the customer. Third reason which often people do not talk about is while customers are diverse, the distributors are also diverse. Like and customers, distributors. So don’t try to be one size fits all for distributors also. Bring as much rigor as you are going to bring to thinking from a consumer. Bring that rigor in thinking for distributor as well, because as of today, that distributor still brings you 90% of your business. 

    Kaushal:- Got that. This helps. The other thing which is going around right now is ChatGPT, Bard and other AI stuff, right? What is your outlook in terms of the adaptation of AI in the coming years? 

    Abhishek:- Probably call me old fashioned or old school, I still believe we are human dealing with humans. Essentially, a business is a group of humans dealing with humans. So human intelligence is always going to be there and human intelligence will always supersede artificial intelligence. That is my firm belief. Second, I believe again, but that is very specific to the function that I am part of. As I told you in the beginning, earlier, I’m a huge believer in insights. And insights is not just data. Insights is how you read that data and how do you connect the dots between the data. It is typically like a difference between from a research methodology. It is a difference between quant and qual. Quant can give you numbers. But if you want real insight, you want real reasoning, then it’s the qual which is actually deep diving what consumer is thinking, okay? Not just what consumer is stating, but what consumer is thinking. So I believe that human intelligence will always prevail over artificial intelligence. However, what will happen is there are a lot of areas where this entire AI and ML will really, really help us and it is already helping. So one of the biggest concern for any insurer is frauds and risk. The kind of, I would say, models that the industry has built in to prevent frauds and to actually mitigate the risks based on all of these models where ML and AI have really helped is phenomenal, is phenomenal that have really helped us. So I believe in areas like this where it is actually a lot of data around it, yes, it will help. So what will happen and as far as Chat, GPT and all this concern, it is and again, personal belief, email marketing ayatha shurume. When people said wow, this is the best thing because you are directly talking to the customer and you can actually talk to customer one on one directly. Very soon email marketing moved to and it became spams for customer. And therefore over a period of time, the efficacy of email marketing is going down. It is still one of the most potent mediums. But it is still coming down because of spams. 

    Kaushal:- Thanks, Abhishek, for sharing that. Any other Aha moments or success stories from the wonderful career that you have? 

    Abhishek:- So know, we talked about it in the early part that there’s something that I would like to talk about. It’s a very small incident, but somehow it has left a huge imprint. So it’s when I was working with Shoppers Stop and Shoppers Stop, the first two years, I was part of the operations. In retail terms, the sales is called operations because you’re operating the store, and that’s what sales is. For two years I was part of the sales stroke operations team, and then I moved to marketing, and I used to take care of the store marketing. Now imagine those time. There’s no digital assets, there’s nothing. So if you’re doing a promotion, either you do flyers or you do newspaper ads. If you want to do a local advertising, if you want to do full city, then you go to radio or TV, whatever. And Shoppers Stop was probably the only large departmental store in the city at that point of time. So I still remember Mattel toys had introduced its Barbie range of dolls, and within the Barbie, the Barbie range was always there. Within the Barbie, they had introduced the Cinderella range of dolls. And it was a high decibel launch for them. And so therefore they want to do a lot of promotions at sale. So they were running a large promotion in Shoppers Stop. That promotion was so large that it was advertised everywhere in newspapers and everything. Promotion was very simple. It was based on the story of Cinderella. So what they had was they actually had a person dressed up as prince roaming around the store with a small shoe in the hand, small glass shoe. And whenever the prince would see a little girl, along with parents or anything, we’ll go to that little girl and said, why don’t you try this shoe? And that shoe was in such that it will fit most of the girls, okay? And if the shoe fit the girl, the prince would give the girl a gift. That was just the promotion huge and probably first of its kind in the country. So we had a lot of interest among consumers for this, and it was running only on the weekends. Now there is this particular mother whose daughter’s friends would have gone to the store, seen this promotion and would have come back. And now her daughter wants to go to the store, but because of some work, she is not able to go and this thing. So she calls up the store, remember, it’s that kind of an array. You have to call the store, okay? And she asks, is the promotion going to be there next weekend also because I’m not going to come this weekend. So because of some error in communication or anything, the operator over there says, yes ma’am, the promotion will be there next week. Also. You please come. Now imagine this woman’s, what is happening at her home during the whole week. The daughter is counting the days. We are going to go, we are going to meet the prince. And she’s telling, yes, we are going, we are going. So come weekend, she lands at the store and she asks, okay, where is that promotion going on and this thing? And then she’s told, sorry, promotion is already done. And she’s crest fallen now. She doesn’t know what to do. And more important is she doesn’t know what to tell the little girl. okay. And she’s literally saying, what should I do? What should I do? Can you really help me? I don’t know how to handle her now. So since I was taking care of marketing, the store team said the customer is facing some problems as there was some miscommunication from our side. So we said, what can we do at this point of time? The prince is no longer there. Let’s do one thing. We got one of the store associates. We dressed him in the prince’s dress. So that looks somewhat like a prince. And Shoppers Stop is a departmental store. It was not easy to find something that will make this into a little bit of prince. We took a shoe from the shoe section, a girl shoe. And then we told the mother, don’t worry, prince is coming. Prince is coming. We somewhat created a fake scene for the girl. And then the prince comes to that little girl, gives us the shoe. Shoe fits  Then everyone claps. In the store, as a marketing person, I always used to have gifts. I used to remove the gift and give it to the customer. Small things. Just a small gesture. But you should have seen the amount of relief on that mother’s face. And then she really started crying. And she said, you guys have really gone out of the way. I never expected this. I was planning to go back home thinking about what should I say to her. You guys have made my day. You guys have made my weekend. I will never forget you guys and everything. 

    Kaushal:- And that’s where the customer stays with the brand forever and ever, right? 

    Abhishek:- Actually, I don’t know whether she stayed with the brand or not. 

    Kaushal:- Yeah. But generally as a user, at least something like this happened. Definitely. 

    Abhishek:- So what that became is that AHA moment that you were asking and this happened. That was my first job 23-24 years back. But that moment has still stayed with me. And when we say in psychology or not in psychology, in the normal, in consumer behavior, we say that you will always remember what other person made you feel. You’ll not remember what they did, but what we made you feel. I think therefore, I’m a firm believer. As I was telling you earlier, empathize with the customer. So that is an AHA moment that has stayed with me throughout. I actually got personally Mr. Nagesh, who was the first CEO of Shoppers Stop and the Founder CEO of Shoppers Stop. He came down to the store just to felicitate me for this, because that customer wrote to Mr. BSN and then he came and I don’t remember all of that. I only remember how she felt on that customer’s face.Yes.

    Kaushal:- Thanks Abhishek, for sharing that as well. Abhishek, any book or any person that inspires you. 

    Abhishek:- So there are two, three books that really, really helped me, and these have been fairly recent, actually. So I am a habitual procrastinator. One book has really helped me to, I can’t say overcome, but probably make some good progress in this is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. 

    Kaushal:- Really nice book. Yes. 

    Abhishek:- Really nice book. And really insights, maybe. And I told you I love insights. Insights. You can get insights by a lot of this thing. – But is that insight actionable. – True Can I give that one actionable insight to the business? Customer is saying this so do this. I can’t give a global gyan customer says, I want good customer service. I need to give very actionable insight. This book actually gives you very actionable things that you can do. 

    Kaushal:- Yeah. And it has helped me also change several of my bad habits and converted them into good habits. So I’m also a big fan of him. 

    Abhishek:- That is one book. The second book is one that I read when I just starting to work, is a book written, not written, but it’s an autobiography of Dr. Kurien, the Milkman, the first chairman of NDDP. “I Too Had A Dream.” Fantastic book. Fantastic book. In face of adversity, how do you continue focusing what you want to do and just focus on doing what is right and everything will get sorted. And the third book that I will recommend everyone to read is “The Ride of a Lifetime.” It’s a book by the ex Disney chairman, Mr. Bob Iger. And if you are following the story of Disney because of the last three, four years, problematic years that the Disney is having, Bob has been bought back from retirement right now, and now he’s the current CEO. So he was the CEO of Disney for quite long time. Then he took a retirement. Now he has been requested back to come back from his retirement because, yes, there are some challenges that the Disney company face. Excellent book. Excellent book in navigating business problems. Excellent book in focusing on customers and doing what is right for customers. Very nice. 

    Kaushal:- Thanks. I’ll add the remaining two to my reading list as well. So thanks for sharing that. Abhishek, one personal question. So when Abhishek Gupta is not at work, what would you see him doing that he loves the most? 

    Abhishek:- Depending on the time of the day, if it is morning, you will see me running.

    Kaushal:- Oh, nice. Okay. 

    Abhishek:- But I don’t run marathons, but I run regularly and that’s what I love doing. And if it is later part of that, I try to end my day with reading.

    Kaushal:- Really good. 

    Abhishek:- These are the two things I do. Otherwise, I love binge watching. I love binge watching. In fact, in my company I’m known as kind of an encyclopedia on OTT in terms of everything that is there. I would have seen it. But I believe constant traveling really helps in keeping up with those shows because that’s what I enjoy doing on the flights.

    Kaushal:- That’s good. And any advice that you would have for the budding CMOs? 

    Abhishek:- Yeah, I’ll have something but again, at the risk of being called old fashioned and this thing, I am firm believer in basics. So my advice to budding marketeers is this thing You should remember one thing, sales is the holy grail. There’s nothing important than that. So therefore spend time doing sales. Or if you are in a function where you’re not doing sales directly, go and spend time with sales guys. Go and spend time meeting with customers. Go and spend time and especially for our industry, spend time with distributors. Okay? You work with these two guys closely. Diretly with the customers and the distributors. And if you spend enough time with them, believe me, all solutions will come from them. And I have seen it. Many of my marketing problems have been addressed by insights that I have got by spending time in sales. And some of them have really been solutions that really, really helped help push the sales. That is one part. Second part is believe in insights, believe in consumer insights. And that is part of the first part of if you spend time with sales you will anyway start getting insights. Believe in the power of research. Research actually really helps. And the third point is have a strong action bias. Have a strong action bias. There’s one mantra that me and my team have pasted on our workstations and this thing, it’s actually and I am a firm believer in copying shamelessly. If someone has created something good, shamelessly copy it. There’s nothing wrong in copying. So if you would have read there are ten mantras of Nike which has been there ever since the company was founded. I think the mantra number four was it is not done till it is done. Your job is not done till it is done. So that’s the mantra that I try to follow and which is a huge action bias. We usually have this tendency where we we say that we’ve done the work and the next person hasn’t. I think that is the mentality we have to come out of it. It is not done till it is done. These three will be my advices.

    Kaushal:- Thanks for the wonderful messages. One last question. Where can our audience connect with you or follow you?

    Abhishek:- The best platform to connect is on LinkedIn. @abhigpt12 is my handle. a-b-h-i-g-p-t-12 is the best place. But I have been guilty of not posting regularly in recent past. I think I need to start doing that.

    Kaushal:- Yes, perfect. That’s good. Thanks Abhishek, for being on this particular show. It was really a pleasure. I’m going to add those two books, at least to my pending reading list and lots of insights, lots of helpful content. So thanks a lot.

    Abhishek:-  Thank you. It has been a delight having this discussion. Thank you so much for inviting me for this.

    Kaushal:- Thank you for joining us on this episode of The Growth Genius. I hope you got some great marketing insights from Abhishek Gupta today. If you have any questions for Abhishek Gupta or for us, please include them in the comment section and we’ll get back to you. Thank you. Now go out there and create growth for yourself and your organization. Thank you.

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