At home with marketing

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Rajeeb Dash, Head of Marketing Services, Tata Housing
Rajeeb Dash, Head of Marketing Services, Tata Housing

Selling real estate can be challenging, but Rajeeb Dash seems to have found a way.

Now Tata Housing’s Head of Marketing Services, Rajeeb Dash has been with the company for the past six years, having joined as Senior Manager – Marketing Services. As head, he is responsible for leading all corporate and project marketing efforts. Earlier, Dash worked with UB Group as a senior brand manager, handling Bagpiper, its flagship whiskey brand. He was also instrumental in launching an alcoholic beverage (Bagpiper) for the first time in cartons.

This is Dash’s second stint with the Tata group. Before UB, he worked at Tata Chemicals, where he successfully relaunched the Tata Salt brand with the ‘Tata Namak – Desh Ka Namak campaign, and Samunder, a low-cost, iodised crystal salt. His first job was with AC Nielsen, where he handled brands such as Dabur, Horlicks and Coca-Cola. Rajeeb holds a MBA degree specialising in Marketing, from Pondicherry Central University, and has received many awards for his work as a marketer.

My most memorable marketing initiative

Tata Housing launching its first value housing brand, Shubh Griha. This was a pioneering initiative by any real estate player targeting the bottom of the pyramid. The success of the brand not only proved it was a product innovation, but also a marketing innovation in the real estate sector. We had to unlearn all traditional marketing concepts and adopt tools that were unique to the audience, which had minimum mass media influence. We took the help of activations that were unheard of in the realty space, such as street plays in Mumbai’s local trains, streets and bazaars. For the first time, the project was also promoted through microfinance companies.

The innovative marketing drew so much interest from the target audience that we had to allot homes through a lucky draw for transparency. Even the media termed it ‘Nano Homes’, coinciding with the Nano’s launch at Tata Motors. I will always remember the passion of everyone involved, and the enthusiastic response from our customers and employees alike when it launched. There's nothing more powerful than an aspirational brand story to shape a company culture of inspiration and excellence.

My first product launch

While at Tata Chemicals as a brand manager, I had the opportunity to launch a low-cost branded iodised salt, Samundar, an entry-level product. It is a refined white crystal salt, a purer and cleaner alternative to the loose, unbranded crystalline salt widely available in Indian markets. This was also targeted at the bottom of the pyramid, where we were entrusted with the top job of converting unbranded salt users to use branded iodised salt. The challenge was to sell the product under the new brand name in a cluttered market. As part of a marketing campaign we initiated a public health campaign about iodised salt, which contribute immensely to increase awareness and also a shift in customer preference. I have also been a part of the team which launched branded cooking soda for the first time in India.

A setback I have learnt from

Every career has its own share of setbacks, which need not necessarily be taken as a setback but as learning. Even I have had a few which made me more focused and sensitive towards consumer needs. Any marketing initiative not driven by consumer intent has higher chances of failure. Brand positioning also has to take care of future requirements.

My marketing idol

Steve Jobs and one of his quotes that inspires me: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. He has been able to create a level of excitement about Apple’s products that makes them iconic and aspirational. He had a talent for identifying what was important and what was not, and had the courage to toss what he felt was non-essential.

Where I get my insights from

Travel to new places, serendipitous encounters at conferences, books, movies, and quiet moments.

I started my career with A. C. Nielsen, which is where I learnt there is no better way to gather insights than from the customers themselves, through primary and secondary research.

Travelling gives a lot of opportunity to explore different regions and understand the local culture.

I like observing customers on-site. Being completely aware of what is happening around you largely shapes your perspective and in my opinion helps me to be a smarter marketer.

How B-school has helped in my career

It has definitely helped in shaping my thought process for marketing management and to be specific in understanding consumer and market dynamics. Having said that, I believe there is no substitute for on-the-job experience.


Challenges of marketing housing projects

Traditionally, real estate has been a boring category with less involvement, but our marketing team at Tata Housing has been able to change the paradigm by bringing in innovations and disruptive marketing techniques inspired by various other sectors and industries.

The challenge is to create campaigns that will not only connect but also engage the customers as happens in any FMCG category.

Real estate in India is plagued by negative connotations such as “non-transparent”, “unethical”, “unorganised”, and so on. We being a corporate house from the Tata Group have a dual responsibility of not only establishing the company image as the most trusted, ethical brand but also of enhancing the sector’s profile as the next sunrise sector with lot of potential.

(This article was published on August 9, 2012)
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