E-Commerce: Exploring Trends, Challenges, and Strategies

Ashima Aggarwal, the E-Commerce Head at Bajaj Consumer Care and former CEO of Chandigarh’s health food startup ‘POSHTIC,’ brings a wealth of experience spanning nearly 10 years. An alumna of IIM Kozhikode, she excels in sales, marketing, e-commerce, and startups. Ashima has a strong track record in product development, business expansion, and end-to-end channel management. Throughout her career, she has led initiatives for renowned brands like L’Oréal and Coty, demonstrating expertise in brand building, consumer acquisition, and media. In

E-Commerce: Exploring Trends, Challenges, and Strategies

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    Ashima Aggarwal shares valuable insights into the world of e-commerce, discussing trends, challenges, and effective strategies. The conversation covers the dynamic landscape of e-commerce, emphasizing the need for businesses to stay abreast of emerging trends. Key topics include the impact of technology, changing consumer behavior, and the importance of a seamless user experience. Aggarwal delves into challenges such as market competition and the significance of robust marketing strategies. Strategies for e-commerce success are explored, including personalized marketing, data-driven decision-making, and the integration of technology for enhanced customer engagement. This interview provides a comprehensive overview for businesses navigating the evolving e-commerce realm, offering actionable insights to optimize their strategies.

    Key Take Aways

    1. Stay Informed: Keep abreast of emerging trends in the dynamic e-commerce landscape.
    2. Technology Impact: Understand the significant impact of technology on e-commerce, influencing consumer behavior and overall market dynamics.
    3. User Experience Matters: Emphasize the importance of a seamless and positive user experience for e-commerce success.
    4. Market Competition: Acknowledge and address challenges posed by market competition in the e-commerce industry.
    5. Robust Marketing Strategies: Develop and implement robust marketing strategies to overcome challenges and stand out in the competitive market.
    6. Personalized Marketing: Leverage personalized marketing approaches for effective customer engagement and retention.
    7. Data-Driven Decision-making: Harness the power of data for informed decision-making and strategy optimization.
    8. Technology Integration: Explore and integrate technology to enhance customer engagement and overall e-commerce strategies.

    Read Transcript

    Ashima Aggarwal:- Marketing cannot be unidimensional anymore right it has already I think in many forums in millions of forums it has been called out that technology has completely revolutionalized advertising in digital age every marketeer today needs to be cognizant uh of the challenges that it poses one of the biggest challenges that I personally believe is the privacy concerns right and there are a lot of mandates that exist today around collection and use of personal data so a marketer should be cognizant of these mandates and should incorporate these in their marketing strategy any negative feedback or criticism that your brand gets right is visible to the audience through social media and through review sites which if you do not attend to properly it can damage your brand reputation.

    Mehul Ashar:- Welcome ladies and gentlemen to yet another episode of the growth genius powered by infidigit the SEO Specialists it is here where we bring to you growth stories in marketing and business through the inspiring journeys of our growth Geniuses across different Industries today’s growth genius is someone whom I would like to call as an e-commerce Maverick she has transitioned across various e-commerce Brands and also launched her own e-commerce brand especially when e-commerce was just the new thing in market and this is I’m talking about 10 years back so without further Ado join me in welcoming Ashima Agarwal who is the head of e-commerce business at Bajaj Consumer Care hi Ashima welcome to the growth genius we are delighted to have you here on the podcast and thanks a lot for your time.

    Ashima:- Thank you Mehul hello everyone I’m extremely happy to be a part of this podcast series as Mehul already introduced me so I’m Ashima Agarwal in my current capacity I’m leading the e-commerce business at Bajaj Consumer Care my role here primarily revolves around ensuring sustainable and profitable business growth for bajaj and also look out for opportunities uh tapping into Market developments tapping into uh gaps that are available in the market right now to accelerate our Revenue growth right so over the last 18 months so I joined Bajaj Consumer Care in May of 2022 right so in the last 18 months or so Bajaj consumer carees e-commerce business has completely transformed and has grown by 160% right in FY 23 versus fy22 right and now we are a channel which is contributing to 7% of company’s total sales as against say contributing to only 2% in fi 22 and some deciel points years before that right and I think uh before we get into your set of questions mehul it’s very important to understand that there is you know there are traditional um fmcg companies like how bccl is right all these traditional fmcg companies they rely on traditional sales channels they rely on traditional marketing for sales growth right uh but because of your changing consumer Behavior your evolving retail environment we and all the other companies have constantly innovated our approach to meet these requirements right so mehul if you would um allow I would just touch I would quickly touch base on the key strategies that we have implemented to drive this growth in Bajaj Consumer Care uh the first one and the most important one right is that obviously when you are building something from zero when you are building something from scratch you need the right processes you need the right people right I personally believe that these are two important piece which are required to fuel the initial growth right so in the first couple of months we focus on building the processes for long-term success so processes which were related to Logistics processes related to planning and tracking of your consumer promotions planning and tracking of the media spans that you’re doing on the platform and of the platform right and then we also made an entire pnl uh we started tracking our profitability we started uh planning our stock requirements so forecast forecasting became a very important part right so these processes were very very important to set up the base for the e-commerce business and today I’m proud to say that we have a fully functional e-commerce team right so when I had joined there was only one person who is managing e-commerce right now we are a team of five we have dedicated key account managers we have people who are looking after Performance Marketing we have people who are looking after uh operations right so from a one person team and a two person contributing business to a fully fledged functional team growing in uh you know double digits and contributing to 7% of the business we’ve come a long uh long way right so the first one as I said is your processes and people the second very important all traditional fmg companies go through it and it’s a challenge that they face is to have the right assortment strategy uh so for your traditional companies General trade which is your kirana stores and all and all the other smaller stores uh will contribute to Major chunk of the business right uh and it becomes then very very important it becomes very imperative for these companies to come up with the product strategy where all your channels can coexist a general trade a modern trade um institutional Channel or an e-commerce Channel all of these need to coexist in today’s time right so our strategy was that how do we uh you know come up with an assortment and a product strategy and minimize these conflicts so we made a strategy which was two folds one uh was that we will focus on uh our biggest brand and we will look at pack variations of those established Brands right so say a different pack for a general trade a different pack for a modern trade a different pack for an e-commerce and the second one is that we can also look at launching products which were only available in e-commerce so that there were no conflict there as well right so example being I’m sure that you aware of this brand that we have which is our biggest brand which is the market leader in light hair oil which is bajaj Armond drops hair oil right now baj amund herir oil itself is around say a 900 CR Brand and it is very very big in general trade right uh and the minute we launch the same product on e-commerce or modern trade it’s expected that your general trade stores and the Distributors will have an issue with it so we created different packs uh different volumes different pricing for uh our modern trade and e-commerce business the second as I mentioned is that you look at products which will have more saliency on e-commerce because the consumers who are on e-commerce are very different from consumers who are going to General pay their requirements are different uh their interests are different the kind of products that they want and consume are different right so we’ve also come up with products which are exclusive to e-commerce we’ve launched we’ve recently got into shampoos conditioners from just being a hair oil brand we now have shampoos we have conditioners we have body lotions we are getting into skin uh we are also getting into soap Etc right so we have also widened our presence across different categories which which are more prevalent on e-commerce and are growing faster on e-commerce than on other channels right so after assortment strategy Mehul comes um d2c Brands right so d2c is the uh new Buzz right now everybody wants to get into d2c there are companies that are acquiring d2c Brands companies that are investing in d2c Brands right and we also did not want to shy away from this trend so we launched our own digital first brand one was 100% Pure Hair oils and the other one was native soil right so companies like Maro ITC Vio consumer care they have already acquired some of these Brands and have also invested in them uh Maro I’m sure you’re aware of these Brands like viodo and just herbs that they have taken the acquisition boot we however right now we have launched our own Brands and we are also in parallel exploring uh Brands where there are synergies with bccl and where we can invest or acquire U those Brands right now within new launches it was not just d2c that we focused on right so within hair oil uh so hair oil is a big category right hair oil is close to say a 13,000 CR category in India currently right now within hair oil there are different subcategories there’s a coconut hair oil there is an aurc hair oil there’s an amla hair oil there is light hair oil there is your value added coconut oils like how parachute has come up with say your Jasmine hair oil or your aloe vera hair oil right so there are a lot of subcategories that exist within the uh within the hair oil Master category right as of now baj alond drops say couple of years back was only operating in the uh light hair oil category but what we have done is that we have launched baj coconut hair oil we’ve launched couple of other hair oils because of which now we are addressing 85% of the total hair oil category so from addressing say 20% category now we are addressing 85% of the category because of launching a lot of other hair oils that we did not launch till now right so as of today coconut has uh you know overtaken uh uh business from darber or a parachute and we are one of the top brands um in coconut oil on most of the platforms say in Amazon we’ve already become Market leaders on Flipkart also we are working towards gaining share from other brands right so this is the other strategy that we took on driving growth the fourth one and I would probably end at here is mehul um I think one of your question also is around that right uh the battle between traditional media and um digital media right so as a traditional company we are a traditional company we cannot deny from that right so there will always be a battle between allocation of Spence between TV and print and digital right but what fueled our growth here is the increased Spence that we did on platform and off platform media now because of the comparative landscape it is very very important to ensure discoverability on e-commerce there are just too many Brands there are within each category you will see a new brand coming every day right it becomes very difficult for a brand to not invest and then get results right so I personally believe and this is something that when I was in Pepsi Pepsi was my first job actually so my mentor at that time I said I think that has stood by me and I personally believe irrespective of the channel is it if even if it is General trade or modern trade or e-commerce the consumer will pick up something which is easily available in front of them when they are searching for something right so this this this is a Bible that I also follow that big right so the company has also realized that the company has realized that there’s a comparative landscape there’s a consumer needs are shifting and we have also accordingly redistributed our spends right so say a couple of years back we were spending only 10% on digital and we were spending say 90% on traditional now that ratio has changed to 40% on digital and 60% on traditional right so within digital we are spending on platform we are spending off platform so off platform on platform put together now our spends have increased to 40% which is a significant uh move for a traditional company right so that is something that has helped uh us uh Drive the growth um lastly as of today just to end on what has happened is that when we started we were available on two platforms Amazon and Flipkart uh today we are present on 14 platforms across horizontal marketplaces across your vertical marketplaces and your beauty platforms and quick Commerce right so uh as of now if you you name a platform and you will see Bajaj consumer care products listed there right so we’ve also widened our distribution and we’ve ensured that we are able to uh engage with these customers more often and we have a dedicated team which then takes up the business ownership with these so I might have taken a lot of time on this but I think very important because it’s it’s like building a business from zero to one right there was nothing then what do you do what are the levers that you uh you know engage to drive the business becomes very very uh critical.

    Mehul:- Now those were very interesting insights your professional life as you rightly mentioned you know has transitioned across various Industries and also you have been uh you know in charge of your own Venture let us know about your journey and specifically your perspective about the changing consumer needs uh especially uh in e-commerce?

    Ashima:- So Mehul I would like to spend some time on this question because my professional journey I believe is quite different from most of your MBA grads right I graduated from IM coord in 2014 uh post that I joined Pepsi as a management training and within that management training sted a couple of projects between sales and marketing uh I’m talking about 2014 where your startup culture was beginning to evolve right and I as a person wanted to do something in food I was not sure what I wanted to do I was not sure when I wanted to do it the only thing I was clear about was that I want to do something I want to be a part of this whole startup environment right so as a very small step uh the first thing that I could do was start saving money so I opened another bank account different from my salary account and I started uh saving money month on month for my own Venture right uh then um I belonged to chandigar and I was stationed in Hyderabad at that time and I used to frequently visit homes so in one of these visits in chandar I met a couple of people there was a conference happening in a co-working space uh and uh there was some discussion happening on uh food so I happened to join that conversation then I stayed in touch with those people and cut to 2015 August I uh quit from Pepsi I moved back to my home and I started working on my own Venture right uh towards the end of the same year again which is like December of 2015 I co-founded a food startup by the name of postic in chandigar Tri City right so Tri City basically is your chandar moali and Pula so we um came up with a cloud kitchen concept and U what postic stood for was our objective at that time was to bring out a change in the way health food was perceived right uh the conventional solution that comes to your mind when you think about health issues is that one should eat less and one should exercise more right but this does not work for majority of the population because everybody is going to eat right every day everybody is going to eat but not everybody can exercise or go to the gym every day right so if you want to end metabolic diseases you have to tap into your people’s desire of giving them delicious food right uh so what we did was we created food which was tasty which people chose because of taste and a byproduct happened that the food was also healthy for them right so for example say on my menu I had pasta but the pasta was made of whole beat or a semolina and it it had olive oil and it had chicken and all to add carbs right so we could give you a 300 calorie meal and give you controlled carbs and give you higher protein also right so whatever your requirement was in terms of health whether you wanted to uh control your cars whether you wanted to have higher protein whether you want to have lesser calories all of these we have different menus to geter to the consumer’s needs right and this is again 2015 when Cloud kitchen as a concept itself was very very new right e-commerce was new and then within e-commerce Cloud kitchen is a further Niche concept right and that to in a city like chandigar so uh at that time in chandar we did not have swiggy we did not have zamato so what we did was we established our own 360° model where we had uh our own kitchen to prepare the food we had our own delivery feed to deliver the orders we had our own website we had our own order taking team uh to take orders and then give it to the chef for Preparation and then let get delivered to the consumer right so uh in addition to this 60-minute food delivery the second New Concept that we introduced at that time was subscription model right so if you are a gym goer or if you go if you have gone to a dietician so we tied up with the dietitians in gyms right and we had subscriptions that you can Avail um it can be a weekl long subscription it can be a 15 long 15-day long subscription basis upon your goal right so if your goal is uh high protein again as I said right so if your goal is high protein then we will we will create a customized meal PL for you and we will deliver it at your specified time right so now subscriptions are very common Cloud kitchens are very common right so this is again eight years ago the whole concept itself was Niche and we were doing it in a city like chandigar I think that’s both the reasons put together I think one of the reasons was we could not scale up because the target addressable Market know City like chandigar was limited right uh and because of this reason and multiple other reasons I had to uh wind up the business in 2017 and then post 2017 I moved to Bombay uh for the first six months so for the first six months I was working part time with my husband so my husband also has startup he’s the CEO of a fintech startup right now so I worked briefly with him and I was also meeting founders of other early stage startups right within the food space I was very clear that if I want to continue I will continue within the food space so through my meetings uh I ended up meeting Mavericks platforms which was backed by Axel Partners right and it was founded by very senior people from the industry generally you will see startups found by very young professionals 20 22 years old right now the three co-founders put together cumulatively they had 60 years of Industry experience right so there was there was one person who was who graduated from I am Bangalore in 1983 there was another who graduated in 1999 so I was I would say I was extremely lucky and it was an amazing amazing learning experience to be working with such experienced people and to be a part of a core team with them right so it was as I said it was uh it was an honor to be working and when you are in a um startup right you join for a certain role but you end up doing 10 other things and by the time you exit you are working on something else right so something like that also happened with me I joined them as a brand manager for a brand called finger lick which was into ready to cook ready to eat available primarily in modern trade stores and by the time I exited I was overlooking their entire Cloud Kitchen business so they moved from being a ready to eat ready to cook fmcg brand to being a cloud kitchen brand and competing with your likes s Rebel Foods right so I’m sure I don’t know if you’re familiar with the rebel Foods or not so Rebel Foods has multiple Brands uh catering to different Cuisines right so you will have lunchbox you have fos you have beos Biryani you have Mand mandering o you have oven story so similar to that concept they move they pivoted into being a cloud kitchen brand having multiple Brands under their um company and then focusing on selling them via swiy now via S again because it was backed by Axel partners and so there was Synergy between uh the investors so uh this brand completely transition into becoming a fmcg brand to a cloud kitchen brand selling in partnership with swiy right and uh this was honestly if I tell you this was my second stint with selling online my first stint obviously is my own e-commerce business my own website bringing traffic to my e-commerce you know bringing a word up mouth using Whatsapp using social media all of that right but this was this was again my second stint with selling online is because you are selling on swiggy on swiggy there are hundreds of restaurants how do you ensure that you are discoverable to the consumer who is browsing through swiggy who wants immediate results in front of them right somebody who goes to swiy will not browse for minutes will not they will they will make a decision in the next two or three minutes right when they go on swiy so that was my second uh s and um I think good for them last year actually or Foods uh which is a starter which started by I think ankit nigori from mintra right so uh cure Foods acquired Maverick and today uh as of now Maverick Market presences they have 125 kitchens and they’re available across 12 cities and they have 10 different brands uh existing as of now right so they’ve made a very good healthy uh exit um so that was my uh second stint in e-commerce and my last in food right so uh I started with food in Pepsi then I moved to my own startup then I moved to another startup and there was a point in my time I realized that I now I need to take a break from food I need to move to second thing that I love the most which was Beauty right so I made that shift in 2019 I moved from food to beauty and I joined C to lead their e-commerce Charter for Professional Salon Brands right so they had Brands like fell professional OPI Sebastian Professional right so at that time in fact that inter interviewed for a brand manager’s role and I ended up joining them for a completely different U profile and U I would um I would thank my hiring manager because it was my first tint working with Amazon working with the NAA mintra Flipkart and I feel very fortunate to have gotten this opportunity to learn and build my expertise in this space just before Co right so at during Co there were very uh you know less number of professionals who were familiar with how e-commerce works right so I got this opportunity in 2019 right in time to be able to learn uh to be able to test learn and grow right so I think I’m very very fortunate in that manner and the brands that I was working on uh were primarily Salon forward Brands right so if you go to a salon only then you will be able to make a purchase they had no b2c presence so it was again a 0 to1 game for me when I joined them the e-commerce business was very very small and whatever it was it was coming from distributor managing a business on e-commerce right and it was only available on Nik so from there uh I I worked with them for close to two years and within those two years the business grew by more than 100% And they later also expanded and added more people to the team because they saw potential in uh e-commerce as a channel right so that is uh my uh third stint uh with cot after cot for a very brief time though I joined the Laural professional again 0 to1 I would say because at that time uh in 2021 they did not have e-commerce uh business right they did not have any presence on e-commerce they were only uh selling again via uh salons right so I joined them to build their business for beauty platforms there was another person in the team who had joined to look after the market places right now because of covid and changing consumer Behavior they they had in fact set up the entire team to build this channel so from before 2021 they had literally no presence on e-commerce so there also I got an opportunity to to work on e-commerce and build the processes and build the business from zero to um the level that I uh left when I could right so uh I stayed there for close to a year and then baj consumer happened right so I’ve been in baj consumer care for over 1 and a half years uh now and U that’s basically uh I would say uh my journey spread across my own Venture spread across food and personal care as a category and more or less I would say that all the thingss that I have been part of have been in one way or the other um specific to digital or uh the e-commerce space right and the second part being that they’ve also been they’ve also given me the opportunity to make an impact right to do something from scratch or to be able to uh build something for the organization and drive the larger organization so that would be uh I mean my journey I I’m sure I’ve overshoot some time but yeah.

    Mehul:- Great also wanted to understand what has been your experience as far as you know changing consumer needs are concerned especially in e-commerce can you throw some light on that?

    Ashima:- So Mehul as I’ve already mentioned right through my journey of the last 10 years across food and Personal Care categories I’ve seen uh consumer needs have evolved rapidly mostly driven by your technological advancements uh changing lifestyle of the consumers and not to forget the impact of events like Co right but what I believe is that all of these needs there are a lot of needs right but all of these needs that exist today can easily be clubbed into one big bucket which is FS right everything that the platforms everything that’s happening today is only and only to drive PS right now uh thanks to goo India now accounts to 12% of your world’s population I was reading this very interesting data I thought I’ll quote it today India now accounts for 12% of the world’s population active on the internet right and we are the third largest online customer base shopping after China and US right so this has happened only because of the you know penetration of smartphones pen of internet and it has all happened because of Goo right now U say 15 years ago I would say like when I was when I was a teenager or when I was young right Indians took comfort in stepping out and shopping at physical stores right a concept that um you know now an impatient New Generation which has been brought up on internet which has been brought up on mobile apps will find extremely inconvenient right so uh sensory experience was very very important to the consumers 10 years ago right uh also um what what has happened now is that e-commerce platforms over the last few years over the last five or six years they have evolved so much to provide convenience to the consumers while following your latest technological advancements right 15 years ago 10 years ago your you know Flipkart was the first one to introduce the concept of cash on delivery right uh this I think if correct me if I’m wrong I think this was 2010 when they had introduced cash on delivery and at that time only 0.5% of the Indian population had credit cards so now imagine right now imagine Mehul you and I are in a in in a time where there are variety of payment options right including your digital wallets including UPI uh buy now pay later easy Emi options you have even cryptocurrencies right so 13 years ago there was only cash on delivery 90% of the business was happening cood very few were happening on credit cards and debit cards and now the entire landscape has changed right so this is all happened because consumers seek convenience right uh then consumers are seeking your no questions asked return policy they want Easy Exchange they want same day refund right so if this is the need that the consumers have how I mean the uh platforms will also have to evolve in a manner to fulfill that need right uh and I would like to mention specifically a platform here since I’m a very regular Shopper on that platform so mintra has launched an amazing feature recently where you order one style so suppose mehul you are a consumer you go to menra you buy for a pant you buy jeans okay but you don’t like the jeans and your size is not available if you want to exchange it your sizes you can exchange it for a shirt which was not possible earlier right so you buy one style and you can exchange it for a different completely different style right so that is again something which is giving you convenience in the same price that you had bought the shirt uh the jeans maybe you getting the uh getting another product and it also helps minra build the lifetime value for the consumer right so it goes hand in hand for the consumer and the platform what again another thing that justifies um the need which is convenience is um earlier consumers were okay to wait for one week for their orders right uh one week reduced to 4 days now people want same day delivery people want next day delivery right anything beyond next day is like okay fine if Amazon cannot give me next day delivery let me go to flipcart and see if the same product is available and I can get it faster if flip cart cannot give you then you maybe you can go to Quick Commerce and you’ll see okay fine let me open blink it and see if I can get a product faster than even Amazon and flip right so this is also showing that a lot of solution that exist today is because the consumer is looking for convenience and the platforms the entire landscape has evolved to fulfill that need so at the end of the day I may I personally believe everything boils down to convenience it is convenient that the consumer is.

    Mehul:- That’s very interesting I mean you you built on that one point so beautifully you know justifying through you know anecdotal as well as uh you know statistical evidence so that really helps that’s very good insights Ashima thanks for that.

    Ashima:- Thank you.

    Mehul:- Yeah so coming to the next question you know wanted to get your views on Advertising so how has advertising changed in the digital Age and what are the benefits and pitfalls of these change? 

    Ashima:- I think I briefly touched upon this in my first question when I was explaining about our journey in baj consumer care right and the battle between traditional and digital so marketing cannot be unidimensional anymore right it has already I think in many forums in millions of forums it has been called out that technology has completely revolutionalized advertising in digital age right uh the rise of your internet your smartphones your social media your um AI you have artificial intelligence you have AR you have VR it has all redefined the Way businesses communicate with their target audiences right uh it has helped the brands unlock newer opportunities for growth right so this is basically a summary of what how advertising has changed right now if I was to uh you know think about the benefits or discuss about the benefits with you I think there are multi okay the first one that comes to my mind is now I mean since we are also doing it day in and day out right the first one which has been possible because of digital marketing today is your uh capability to run laser targeted campaigns right you can Target your audience based upon your demographics you can Target them based upon your interest based upon behaviors be based upon region right at the same you can also deliver personalized content one is you are targeting your audience and bases your the audience interest their lify you can also create personalized content and Target that content to the individual that will resonate will that indivual right so that is something which has also been enabled by digital and because it is targeted because it is personalized how it helps the business is it it helps you give a better CTR a better CTR will give you better conversions eventually right so this is the first big um benefit I think of digital marketing so the second uh big benefit mul would be thatth if you are a consumer who’s sitting in say Mumbai and I operate out of um chandigar if I want to reach out to you if I want to reach out to Mumbai Delhi any uh geography I can reach out at the comfort of my home right it’s not just India but if I want to reach out to my consumer in London or any other part of the world I can comfortably Reach Out sitting in India today right so uh there is unprecedented Global reach that digital advertising has brought about today uh so that’s the second one so may the third one is the capab ability to measure data right and to be able to take data driven decisions the fourth one I think which is very very important for every marketeer is the cost of running these campaigns all these benefits that I talked about they come at a lower cost compared to if you were to advertise your brand using traditional mediums so digital overall is a very cost effective um medium also right now um just quoting some numbers again considering these benefits that I talked about right a lot of your established traditional companies like say uh your H ITC PNG all of them have up their spends in digital and e-commerce advertising uh I was reading one of these reports by med Madison which said that digital had the highest ever share of total spend in 2022 which was 41% right followed by 32% which is television and followed by 20% Which went to print right so for the first time uh in the last three or four years since digital started to evolve right uh the industry itself saw highest ever spends on digital right and we also looking at the trends that are there in the industry we as as I mentioned before as well that we also at Bajaj Consumer Care are spending close to 42 43% of our total ad spense on digital uh and it used to be like say single digits um three or four years ago right um so these um are the benefits as I said but uh for every benefit or every evolving uh uh technology will have some challenges right will have definitely have some pitfalls uh so um what I would say is that every marketeer today needs to be cognizant uh of the challenges that it poses one of the biggest challenges that I personally believe is the privacy concerns right and there are a lot of mandates that exist today around collection and use of personal data so a marketer should be cognizant of these mandates and should incorporate these in their marketing strategy right the second one is uh competition uh because of digital advertising’s reach and cost Effectiveness a lot of brands have folded into digital advertising which has intensified the competition right uh so that’s the second uh biggest um challenge I would not say it’s a pitfall it’s a challenge as of now uh then uh the third one I feel personally because I’ve I’ve been at the receiving end is that any negative feedback or criticism that your brand gets right is visible to the audience through social media and through review sites which if you do not attend to properly it can damage your brand reputation right because everybody is online right so any negative comment can go in any direction so a brand needs to be cognizant of that and needs to take corrective action to uh protect their reputation and U the last I somehow feel is that there’s just um too much information right digital marketing can overwhelm you with uh a lot of information it becomes difficult for consumers to retain information like today you might be seeing a lot of ads of different brands you will remember the product you might remember the product but it’s very difficult for you to remember the brand all the time right so just too much information this it’s becoming a little uh cluttered as well so uh we need to find strategies or we need to make our plan in a way that we are able to declutter our brand and stand it out.

    Mehul:- Super so coming to our next question uh just wanted to understand since you have experience in e-commerce you know marketing has changed a lot over the past few years so how do you build a e-commerce brand you know because some of the brands are digital first and some of the brands are purely digital so what has been your experience uh and you know it will help if you can share some insights?

    Ashima:- Okay um so U may I would say that when you are working on an e-commerce brand that is uh digital first one should be very very clear about the product proposition one uh the second is the pricing right now um if you look at the d2c brands that have established themselves in the last four or five years the likes of Mama Earth sugar Cosmetics Plum me caffine none of these d2c companies have launched uh Mass market products on e-commerce right why because your mass market products uh command lower margins their product proposition is also very very unique right so Mama started as a baby care label then they later expanded into personal care products when they launched their products they had natural toxin free ingredients which was A New Concept 6 years ago right so to summarize I think your products should have high or average gross margins compared to the category that’s one and you should have differentiated product proposition to make you stand out also your product mix and your assortment mix should be such that the consumer can buy multiple products in one basket because then only your d2c you be able to justify your d2c Logistics cost right so uh that’s the first very important part for any e-commerce brand uh the second is that once say once you have found the right product once you have found the right pricing for your product then uh the brand should move to finding the best medium to reach their consumer right now um as I’ve already mentioned right the opportunities that are available in digital marketing today are endless uh so a brand needs to determine that Target consumer they need to know where that consumer is hanging out and how can they best reach out to that consumer right there’s no point being on a platform just because everyone else is if your consumer is less than 25 years old he might be on an Instagram or a Snapchat right there’s no point of having Facebook as a part of your marketing strategy right uh now even even within Instagram the brand should try to understand what your target consumer is doing what type of content they are are consuming whom are they following right and once you’ve understood your target consumer once you’ve understood the channel that you want to Target the consumer you need to create content which will resonate with your audience right you need to create content with your audience in mind and then share uh uh it with them on the right platform and at the right time right so after you have figured out the right product after you figured out the right pricing after you figured out the right uh digital uh advertising model the right plat platform where you would reach out to your consumer the last but the most most important part is your distribution platform right now Mehul there have been many debates in fact I was part of this uh debate right which you had organized um in one of the d2c Summits right there are a lot of debates that are happening uh on choosing your own d2c platform or launching first on Market places right now uh what I believe is that starting one’s own d2c platform can get very very overwhelming right and it is also expensive uh I can quote this from my own experience um 8 years ago there was no zamato uh there was no swiy to help me with orders to help me with the deliveries right so we were completely dependent on our website on um on our own delivery Fleet right and this limited our reach uh today I’m 100 I mean I’m like 200% sure that if there was swiggy there was zamato there was these marketplaces available at that time to help me reach out to the consumer reach out to the relevant consumer I might not have shut down right uh so I would say my suggestion for all the upcoming Brands would be that jointly work with marketplaces do not discount U the fact that these Market places exist work with them uh what you can also do is that you can choose the marketplace right so uh lately you will see a lot of brands that have launched exclusively on naika so you don’t have to be available on all Market places if you think Nika has the right kind of consumers for your brand you choose Nika if you think uh mintra has the right kind of consumers Ian if you are a fashion brand if you think mintra has the right of consumer you choose minra right but always work with these marketplaces in parallel right and then also start working on building your strong Tech and operational capabilities because uh in d2c a successful d2c brand today requires a robust system uh to fulfill orders to deliver them on time to the consumer and to also manage yours right so while you’re working on uh building your business and marketplaces also work on building a strong uh Tech system building a strong backend Logistics system to be able to cater to your growing demand so.

    Mehul:- Amazing very well put Ashima thanks so much for that gives a perspective you know not just from the consumer side but also from somebody who has actually been there and then that so thanks and heads off to you you to you know have the courage to pull that off at a time when you know you didn’t have the swiis and the zomato of the world uh you know especially in the area where you were present?

    Ashima:- So Mehul actually I think I didn’t uh mention this we were breaking even every month we were not profitable but whatever our expenses were operational expenses we were able to uh manage them with our Revenue so at least U we were making enough money to fulfill uh you know the salaries and all the rents and all the other costs.

    Mehul:- Amazing amazing that’s very interesting so what do you think about influencers uh you know in marketing of a brand you know how important they are and what are your views about them?

    Ashima:- So a little trivia mehul so I also time and again feel that I should become an influencer I’ve tried it on and off uh but trust me it is a very very tedious task it requires a lot of time it requires a lot of planning a lot of brainstorming uh it is uh it’s not just about you know creating content posting content blindly today people like to follow influencers who are experts in their fields right uh so the growth now now what has driven this right so the growth in consumption of content on social media has increase the significance of influencer marketing uh brands of all sizes today need a strong social presence and that is only possible with the help of influencers uh and influencer marketing now is not just about roping in an influencer or a celebrity which has high number of followers uh you’ll see more and more Brands I’m sure you’re already aware and you’ll continue to see more and more Brands who are working with the micro influencers or working with Nano influencers and they are prioritizing engagement over each right you want the right kind of influencer to be promoting your product in their subscriber or follower base right and consumers today are also valuing content which is authentic which resonates with them so it’s a very very integral part I feel uh influencers they uh they help build uh brand awareness they help the brand reach out to the right target audience uh they help you uh tailor your messaging depending upon your objective it helps you increase engagement and eventually Revenue right so there are a lot of benefits the only thing that I would say has changed is the kind of influences that exist the kind of content that these influencers are posting right now influencers were important PR years who are important and will continue to be important but the um the content strategy uh is going to uh significantly change right so mehul just uh quote a couple of uh examples here of some of the d2c brands that have grown uh using influencer marketing as their key marketing strategy right so I’m sure everybody is aware about Mam Mam entered this space and became a unicorn within just six years of their existence right and uh how did did uh this was that they ditched the conventional marketing style and they use social media extensively they uh targeted very Niche very very specific uh influencers for their campaigns and uh not just influencers in terms of their Channel um presence also right so from YouTube to Instagram to Facebook communities Mama Earth had integrated content across all possible social media platforms right uh on the other hand I’ll also like to take an example of a brand like vat right which is the second biggest um brand in a very different category but it’s also a unicorn now both collaborated with celebrities such as ran kapo Kik Aran even Mega influencers like pra GOI to spread uh the word about their fashionable audio products right and the one thing other than just you know tying up with influencer that sticks to my mind is that they also created a digital community of people who uh share the same passion for music industry and audio products right so I remember very very clearly that my um my cousin brother who was into uh Marvel right so Bo had come up with their Marvel collection and it was a special collections of earbuds and headphones and speakers right which was designed specifically for Marvel fans now this strategy and this um this exclusive launch of Marvel products promoted on digital in digital communities uh help them build you know a very widespread band visibility and an aura of exclusivity uh which got created around both products right so I think that’s the second example that I would like to go.

    Mehul:- Great so coming to the next question obviously you spoke uh a lot about e-commerce and you know the challenges and also about how they are dependent on marketplaces having said that of course you know uh e-commerce as a business sometimes becomes fragile because of their over dependency if I may say so on marketplaces as well as uh paid marketing uh channels so in this situation do you think uh you know it is important for a brand to improve their organic search through their own website through means like uh search engine optimization?

    Ashima:- Yes I think it’s it’s uh extremely extremely important Mehul again quoting some data here so more than half of the people today who are browsing the internet uh Place more trust in a brand that that Brands higher in organic Surs right than the one that is appearing as a sponsored ad or a sponsored or a paid endorsement right so users your users will tend to trust and click on an organic search results way more than a PID right so that’s the trend right now so appearing at top of the search results for relevant keywords will definitely increase uh visibility for the brand will help increase credibility and awareness of the brand right so mehul the brands need to remember today that organic search uh or SEO that we call it right is a long-term strategy right over time uh as you create quality content as you build backlinks your Brand’s Authority your Brand’s visibility is going to increase right and the growth that we will see from investing uh time from investing resources in building SEO is going to be sustainable because uh your paid Media budget can get cut anytime right but your uh SEO is not subject to budget limitations right or add campaign durations so this is going to be sustainable it is only going to take some time and the brands need to be cognizant of the of that and continue to work in that direction right uh now um your your followup question can be that what can brands do right if they have to work on their organic uh search where do they start right how do they start building their organic search now um I’m going to just link it to e-commerce Brands only right so for e-commerce brand keyword research is your first pillar of building a successful SEO strategy in today’s time uh you have Amazon you have flip cart you have keyword tools also to understand the right keywords which will then help you you know uh differentiate between your uh relevant traffic to your website and irrelevant traffic to your website right uh also at the same time What uh we should know and what should uh what the brands can do is that they can also browse the competitor’s website uh for identifying longtail keywords that cater to specific Niche audiences right so you need to start on finding the right keywords for your Brands once you have identified the keywords once you have identified the long tail keywords once you’ve identified the language or the phrases that are being used by your potential consumers then you need to use these keywords and optimize these uh keywords across the various elements on your product page right so say your url you can integrate this in you can integrate this in your title tag you can integrate in your product title description there are multiple Avenues available for you to integrate these keywords and optimize your content right and all these will then eventually help build authority of your product page will build relevancy of your website so I think the brand should immediately look at working on building the right keyword strategy and integrating those keywords in their content at as many places as possible.

    Mehul:- Super thanks as as usual very nicely put along with examples thank you so much for that Ashima my next question is about artificial intelligence and I would like to know your your views on artificial intelligence in marketing?

    Ashima:- So um as I talked about AI arvr earlier also in one of my answers right uh artificial intelligence today has become an integral part of every marketer’s life and I would say not just marketing mle right it has proved its Effectiveness across multiple other functions be it supply chain be it Finance be it err right a lot of uh the organization goals are being driven by a today right um but because your question is about marketing so I restrict my answer to marketing um AI has brought about personalization in marketing uh again I’ll quote some examples right so uh Netflix is using AI for Content recommendation uh you are able to I am able to discover new shows and movies based upon my interest right and which has been possible because of AI uh then Amazon also recently in man OFA discussion was showing us a data where they said that uh around 35% of the sales that are happening on Amazon are coming from these AI driven product recommendations so when you type uh a keyboard or when you go to Amazon there a lot of recommendation that come bases your previous browsing history or the kind of products that you have purchased right so Amazon’s 35% of sales is coming from this AI driven tool right then you have your Spotify which is also using AI algorithms to analyzing your listening habits and then curate a playlist which uh which will have your uh recommended songs right now the examples that I whether it’s Netflix or Amazon or Spotify these are examples from your tech companies and you expect tech companies to follow AI right but cut to your fmcg companies a lot of your traditional companies are also using AI more and more in their marketing uh so I still very um vividly remember the campaign that Cadbury did with Shahruk Khan in 2021 around Diwali uh which allowed anyone to create an ad for their local store and use the face of Shah ruk Khan right and how were they able to do it with with the help of AI with the help of machine learning they were able to recreate Shah ruk Khan’s face and Shah ruk Khan’s voice in a way that it sounded like that the actor was saying the local store or the brands name right so that was the first time I think I saw any FM CG company using AI in a large uh you know large scale campaign and the list of use cases is just endless right today fmcg companies are using AI for better content creation AI tools are helping them in generating impactful uh product descriptions impactful digital banners which can get them better CTR and which can eventually get them better conversion uh they’re also using it uh to analyze the social media trends they’re also using it for social listening using it to understand the consumer Behavior then again optimizing content optimizing the right posting time Etc right so there are a lot of things which have been made possible because of AI a lot of time is being saved a lot of optimization is possible and that’s leading to cost saving for the company right so I think AI is um ha to stay.

    Mehul:- Do you use AI in any of your marketing activities and if so can you share some examples there?

    Ashima:- Yes so very much do thank you for asking this question uh so around 6 months ago we tied up with the Dubai based agency who is uh helping us optimize our Amazon search campaign so basically our AMS campaigns they are helping us optimize these campaigns uh 24/7 using realtime Market uh intelligence and Shopper Behavior data right so what they do is that they have a tool which will look at various data points including how was the performance of your previous ads what is how is the category performing what are the kind of keywords that are generating leads or sales for the category uh what is the traffic on certain keywords what is Your Shopper Behavior as well as was also look at seasonality data right now this tool will consider all of these data points and will optimize your campaigns in real time and adjust the bits in upward or downward manner appropriately as per The Campaign World right so say 6 months ago when you were working with another agency a person had to manually go to AMS open the dashboard and open each and every campaign and optimize the bits right but now because of this AI Tool uh we are able to do thousands of optimizations a day for thousands of campaigns that we have right so there’s no limit to what we can achieve uh with the help of AI and it has also helped as I I think I mean this is all the input right we also want an output also to justify the spend that we are doing right so this is this tool has helped us get better Roi for much lesser spends right so we are able to spend lesser and convert more and drive more Roi for our brand so it’s working in that way as well uh the second that we are doing is that we’ve recently partnered with shank where we are using geni which is your generative AI to create stunning creators that highlight the products ease feature and convenience right so that is the second place where we’ve started very recently we’ve started using Ai and uh the third not from Bajaj consumer care but I think it’s very uh notable to mention is that when I was in laal okay so there was a campaign that the L’Oreal professionals brand team had executed and I was very very uh fascinated by what they had done at that time right so they had partnered with Google and they used a combination of Google studio Google web designer and DB 360 which is your display and video 360 uh using that the brand was quickly able to create and serve Dynamic ads right with tailored messages now I’ll explain it a bit okay so say if you are a consumer who has browsed for solutions for frizzy hair so you have frizzy hair you have in your past browsed for products that control frizziness right and there is also Monsoon coming up in your area is already there in your region which is adding to the frizziness so the messaging of the creative and the creative itself will tailor bases your uh requirement right so you if you have a frizziness concern you will see a different creative somebody who’s sitting in say South it’s very hot and they have uh they have oily hair they will see a completely different messaging in right so this was possible because of AI.

    Mehul:- Thanks thanks for the inputs on AI Ashima now coming to the next question you know we talked about marketplaces like Amazon and flip carts of the world and they play a big role as far as e-commerce is concerned today so what are your takes as far as the importance and challenges of these uh marketplaces are concerned?

    Ashima:- Okay um so uh I mentioned this earlier also it’s very very important for any e-commerce brand or in fact the digital first brand also to partner with marketplaces there are multiple benefits of listing your products and selling your products on these Market places I’ll just quote some of the top benefits that we see while working uh with these marketplaces the first and the foremost uh may I believe is that there is minimized headache of logistics and when I say headache it is actually a headache okay so uh because of Market places you have minimized headache of logistics and last M deling right they will manage shipping they will will manage delivery they will manage returns and they will manage exchange for you right the brand can because everything is taken care of the brand can actually focus on scaling up their business without worrying about the logistics part right now consumers as I mentioned that convenience is a very very big need that exists today consumers want same day delivery consumers want easy returns they want doorstep refund these options uh marketplaces can offer seamlessly right and because these marketplaces are offering these options attract more customers which will then result in more trials for your products on these Market places right so first I said is that your your Logistics is taken care of uh the second is that uh these marketplaces over a period of time right they have built a large consumer Base today your Amazon today your flip cart they have millions of active consumers they have a lot of consumers browsing uh their app day in and day out right so you can reach out to this large consumer basee who is sitting in different parts of the countries you automatically uh get access to a vast and diverse audience right and more number of consumers are able to see your Brands and you can also create like I mean we’ve mentioned digital before also you can then Target these consumers who youth believe will be able to resonate with your product but you’ve already got that consumer base right so that’s the uh second one uh the third one uh I feel is uh when it comes to e-commerce right I think trust and reliability is very very important if I’m a consumer uh I will choose to buy from an Amazon or a Flipkart or even a minra versus a a d2c brand right because I don’t know the brand I don’t trust the brand right so these platforms over a period of time have built that trust they build that reliability among the consumers now if you are part of these established online marketplaces that level of trust already builds between you and the consumer right because you’re listed on that marketplace now um this is when we were also evaluating we were uh you know going through some data if you are a new d2c brand right who has very minimal uh presence on marketplaces and you launch your own d2c website uh uh we saw that 70% of the orders that the consumer will place would be Cod orders right and C orders are very expensive orders and they add a lot to your to overall Logistics cost right so uh if you were to do your own d2c and not be on Amazon platform there’s a lot of cost that will get added to your overall operations right but if you work with Amazon if you work with Flipkart if you work with Nika right consumers have because of the trust and credibility that these platforms have built the consumers have shifted to prepaid orders and even if that order is going to be Cod that headache again and I would say that headache is not yours to maintain to to manage the returns and uh cood orders right these platforms uh will as part of the commission that they charge will manage everything uh for you right so that’s the third uh point that there is trust reliability uh the fourth uh I would say is um see today um what’s happening is that if I’m also a consumer I will research about a product on multiple channels before I make a purchase right so uh today uh 71% of the consumers are researching online before making any purchase and this research is happening on Amazon primarily and on Google right so before a consumer makes a purchase they like to read about the reviews they like to read about what other users or consumers have to say about that product right and they will go to an Amazon or a flip card so not being available and not having those reviews on the platform and a consumer searching for a certain uh product will eliminate your chances of that uh uh you know of building that awareness or being in that mindset of the consumer right so being available on these platforms can boost your visibility it can boost your credibility which will eventually lead to uh increased sales across different channels right so if somebody is researching on Amazon they might not buy on Amazon they might come and buy on your d2c platform or even a retail store that you have right but the first research of any product that today is happening 71% of it is happening online so it’s very very important for the brands to be available on these top trusted uh marketplaces because it gives the consumers the confidence to uh buy your product right then um I think these are the top uh four benefits U that I could think of uh disadvantages right so there are different disadvantages that a traditional company would face versus a d2c right but the common one I would still believe uh is high commission so uh it depends upon the category it depends upon the product that you have it depends upon the ASP of your product but selling on marketplaces you have to pay a certain commission fee it can vary from 20% to 40% right that’s an average that a brand will have to Shell out when they plan to decide on Market places uh the second uh channel uh the challenge I feel um for marketplaces is that that uh there’s just too much competition right and again I said so you have to be disc discoverable on these marketplaces and to become discoverable you have to spend a lot of money uh on media right uh there are hundreds of Brands selling similar products if you have a shampoo there’ll be another brand selling a shampoo same concern same ingredients right and the focus of the customer today is shifting from the brand more to the product they’re more interested in knowing the product than the brand right so it becomes very difficult uh to build uh brand equity on these Market places uh third which we Face honestly U any uh Ecommerce person from uh fmcg will tell you is the price Wars that happen right so uh there are price Wars that happen between Amazon and Flipkart right so if you are working with the alpha sellers of Amazon uh and and flip cart so for Amazon say for personal care category this is RK and for flip cart for again Personal Care category it is super government so if you’re working with these Alpha sellers there are chances of them breaching the prices right so if you’ve given them a certain discount but the final discount that is visible to the consumer is going to be significantly uh higher so your control on the price minimizes because you’re working with these marketplaces right and then you will have to device strategies that you have exclusive products or products that minimize the conflict with your general trade right so that’s the third Pitfall SL disadvantage uh the fourth being is that if you are on only Marketplace then you get very limited data right you don’t have any onep data you get data which can help you understand uh customer Behavior but it will not help you understand the full funnel right from who’s the consumer who looked at your product page why did they bounce off did they add the product to the card after adding to the C did they make a check out or not right so the entire Journey it’s very difficult to understand if you’re only on Marketplace however if you have your d2c site in parel you can understand a lot more about your consumer a lot more about uh what is driving that purchase and what kind of products that they you looking for so that would be the last.

    Mehul:- Wonderful thanks a lot for sharing that Ashima now we come to the last question I would like to request you to share some takeaways for budding professionals before we sign off?

    Ashima:- Okay so Mehul if you see my journey right the kind of roles that I have done and the organization that I worked with I’ve always uh been involved in uh building something from zero right whether it is my own startup or joining another food startup in a very early stage or joining C and building their e-commerce business or doing a similar l in L’Oreal or doing or building the e-commerce business or baj consumer care right so I’ve always being a part of the0 to one game right and personally that is what keeps me going this is what keeps me motivated this is what keeps me happy keeps me energized right so um to all the budding uh professionals to all the young professionals I would say I would have just two um key takeaways for all the budding young professionals here the first one which may sound very very cliche is that pursue a job that you enjoy and I have personally stood by it and I’m uh I’m giving this um you know takeaway from my own personal experience that finding a job that is uh good that is a good fit for you is uh very very important and it will take time it took time for me also for some people it might happen in one attempt uh for others it may take two or three attempts right but always be on the Move till you find something that aligns with your interest till you find something where you are able to contribute to the larger organization will you find something that you know keeps you happy and gives you Joy right if you look at my career graph I’ve you know I’ve I haven’t been in any Organization for more than two years right I have even shifted uh in just over a year right so just forget about uh duration that you are spending in a company right it’s not the 1990s it’s not the 2000 anymore where people would work at the same organization for years right uh life is short okay so look for roles look for profiles that give you Joy where you’re able to contribute something to the larger uh you know organization uh I know it again I would say it is cliche you might have heard it from multiple other you know career coaches lot of leadership conferences but try to follow it and I think your career will see a completely different Trend if you follow this um the second uh is um uh venture out of your comfort zone right so today um Mehul I believe and again I I go by it right uh today is not the time to be master of one right organizations prefer people who are Jack of all trades why because if you are Jack of all traits uh it shows your aptitude it shows your capability to learn new things right it is the digital age where every day there is some of the other technology which is making way into your life right so upskilling is very important uh reskilling is very important trying things that uh you know make you feel uncomfortable initially uh are very important right unless you try you will never know what you uh you know actually enjoy doing right uh so just venture out of your comfort zone try things and uh you know keep on growing uh in terms of skills and keep on finding new things that uh you uh end up enjoying right so like for example I was initially very very uncomfortable when I got to know that I been invited to this podcast but I took it as a challenge I spent some time on preparing it I went through the questions I prepared my answers Etc and I don’t know I will have done a good job or not but uh I think I gave it my 100% to overcome my nervousness or I would not call it fear but it’s the fear of unknown right if you’ve not done it you don’t know whether you can do it or not so the that’s the second take away from my side.

    Mehul:- No you have done a great job Ashima by providing insights as well as a lot of examples uh you know through your research so uh this would probably be one of the most enriching podcast for our viewers as well thank you so much for that.

    Ashima:- Thank you m thank you that’s really great to hear very kind of you.

    Mehul:- So here we are at the end of yet another episode of The Grow genius it was truly inspiring and very knowledgeable with a lot of anecdotal as well as statistical facts that Ashima Agarwal shared with us it makes me feel truly knowledgeable as far as the space of e-commerce is concerned and I hope you like the insights as well if you like our content do like share and subscribe to us across various social media platforms and also audio platforms the links to all of these are given Below in the description so till the next episode of the growth genius keep learning and keep inspiring thank you

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    E-Commerce: Exploring Trends, Challenges, and Strategies