CMO Diaries: In conversation with Krishnan Chatterjee, SVP & Head Strategic Marketing, HCL Technologies


In continuation with our CMO diaries, Krishnan Chatterjee, SVP & Head Strategic Marketing, HCL Technologies gives us a gives us a sneak peek as to how his typical day pans out. 

TA: What’s a typical day for a CMO (you) @ office?   

KC: Very unpredictable. There are three/ four critical values or aspects we bring to the company. First would be the strategic value. We build the entire proposition that goes out to the market for HCL Technologies. So proposition work occupies a part of my day. We are also responsible for HCL technologies as a brand, both externally and internally. So several initiatives, campaigns, ideas, content related to the brand would take up a part of my day. We are also responsible for all the technologies and the analytics required for the front office for both sales and marketing. For a global brand like us, there is a lot of data that we analyse out to devise certain action,  so the analysis of the data also takes up some time in the day. Beyond that there will always be some form of corporate level action that is necessary during our result or something new that we are planning at the company level which will require participation. And finally a lot of my time goes into representing the company to external audiences; it could be advisors, analysts and speaking to the media like you.

TA: One campaign other than your brand that you truly thought was brilliant

KC: I thought that the recent Indigo campaign was truly great.

Let me first tell you the framework I use to analyze brand campaigns. Mainly there are four layers that I feel the brands are operating in. The top layer being identity followed by positioning followed by proposition & finally followed by the campaign. The campaign actually is the least of what is there to admire. But what’s fundamentally great is to bring all four layers together. If I look at indigo, they have established a very distinguished identity, both, in their experience as well as branding. If you see Indigo, you can pretty much distinguish their positioning. I believe positioning is where your brand becomes equal to your business model. Indigo has certainly demonstrated that. On the proposition, every time I see indigo communicating, they are doing it very topically around a new flight or a new service that they are launching. There’s almost never an indigo ad that you will encounter which is just for the sake of pushing the name. There is always a proposition that is locked into their campaign. What I find most interesting is that they have been able to bring the whole experience flying in indigo into their campaign which I think many brands miss out on. One mistake all brands make is that the campaign one encounters on the outside is always great but on the inside, the campaign has very little to do with the experience they give to the consumer, however indigo has managed that very well.

TA: Three marketing rules you live by:

KC: First is brand framework. Anything we touch has to live by that framework.

Second is brand equal to business model. If I find anything in marketing, which we can’t backup in how the company acts or in our process or anything else, it is for me very much a no-go.

The third critical rule I live by is impact not transaction.

TA: Marketing an already established brand (like yours), how easy or difficult is it?

KC: Firstly, HCL is misunderstood to be hydrochloric acid. We are HCL Technologies and India, if you see is a pretty much insignificant market for us. Our primary markets are America, Europe, UK, Australia and others. We are like a non-existent brand to be honest. And I don’t feel there is any double edged sword; in fact I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. If you look at India, IT services as a sector, all the companies like TCS, Tech Mahindra, Mindtree etc.  are doing about  100 billion dollars of business. The IT services outsource sector globally is about 1 trillion dollars. So while the world thinks India is the hut house of IT, as a country we own barely anything, roughly 10%. 90% is with somebody else i.e. global MNCs. And they are very local brand for those companies. So why I said this is an advantage is because if at all by now HCL would have been known, we would have been known as an Indian IT company. The problem is, until the recession hit, Indian IT sector really flourished in the world as a commodity service provider. Indian IT you see is known for cheaper IT labor. Now because of the recession, things have dramatically changed and businesses around the world have realized that technology is a source of competitive advantage for the business and they are discovering that Indian IT companies have the competencies to bring them that advantage. And now that we build our brand, we can completely avoid the baggage of the commodity player and truly take our place as a global IT company, which is what is happening now.

TA: What happens when a campaign fails? It’s impact on your brand and you?

KC: We just move on. At the end of the day, if campaigns don’t fail, you’re not doing enough. One of the key abilities to make a team very successful is not to get very entrenched… And this is why I made the comment about impact not transaction. So if you’re very transaction focused and the campaign fails, you will be very disappointed. But if you’re impact focused, you will rapidly realize that the campaign is not generation results you desire and decide not waste time, exit it quickly, take learnings from it and design the next campaign, which can get you a bigger impact.

TA: What is the importance of a strong Social Media presence?

KC: Businesses are both B2B and B2C. While on the customer side, we are B2B, on the employee side, we are B2C. There are millions we hire and another million who have applied to us. So the whole employee side is B2C numbers. So for the right reasons, social media is very important for us on the B2C side. Let me give you a very important thing why social media is important on B2C side. Recently we won a major award for a campaign called #CoolestInterviewEver that we did on twitter where end to end we hired employees’ online. The award which is considered as an equivalent to Cannes was won by this campaign. It was an end to end hire. So there were five very rare skills. All we did was we announced this campaign. From the application, to the interview, to the selection, everything was done on twitter. That campaign gave us 88k resumes from over 140 countries giving 320 million impressions. The total spent on the campaign was the average cost of one hire as a company. So we found that social media, because of the virility factor, ROI is incredible and the ability to discover rare skills is fantastic. Right now we are running another campaign which is becoming hugely successful, called Hiral, which is for Youtube. It is basically hiring videos for viral. The main intention there is that not many engineers may be hooked onto social media, but they have friends who are. So this campaign is designed for people who are digitally savvy to share these videos with people in the industry who they think might be interested in these jobs. So on the B2C side, we find social media a very good multiplier. Very very cost effective, because of the virality. Let’s now go to the B2B side, where I think it’s much more important. The reason for that is sort of two fold. You know B2B buying is a very high risk. You can consider it as real estate. It takes a lot of research, analysis and effort to buy a house. The second reason is that in B2B, a lot of your buying is driven on thought leadership because you are not buying a product but you are buying a service which can help your business get to the next level. So thought leadership becomes a very critical notion in the buying motivation. If I had thought leadership along with high risk, the best route would be references. So thought leadership is best handled to something I call community. So in B2B, unless you can run a brilliant community, you are really going to struggle, and social media allows you to generate and run communities where buyers can come together in a thought leadership platform, where you are not pushing your services or your product, but they can engage with you, the buying will automatically happen. You won’t have to go and sell. Thus social media presence in B2B is very vital.

TA: A marketing book worth reading.

KC: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Pic Courtesy: Contraband

Krishnan is also a lead vocalist of Contraband and describes their music as white collar rock. 



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“Thinking Aloud” reflects the emerging trends and varied outlook of the rapidly evolving internet and communication sector. An IAMAI publication, this is a part of the market education initiative of the association.

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