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Shankar Nath
Shankar Nath

… so it’s good that market research is giving observation its due now, says Shankar Nath, Head (Marketing & Direct), ICICI Lombard General Insurance

Shankar Nath, who heads the Marketing and Direct function at ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company, is an alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, where he studied mathematics, and IIM, Ahmedabad. Fifteen years of work experience have taught the 39-year-old Nath that Indians are less confrontational and will say positive things when asked to judge or score anything, so he gets his insights more from observation and less from questions. Nath has worked in organisations such as Glaxosmithkline Consumer Healthcare, CitiFinancial and Aviva Life Insurance. He also started an entrepreneurial online venture called PolicyTiger which enables users to compare insurance policies in various categories and their benefits. A cricket buff, Shankar has two daughters.

My most memorable marketing initiative

Aapka Plan B campaign of ICICI Lombard. Another marketing initiative that I enjoyed working on was the Kal Par Control campaign of Aviva Life Insurance. Both were 360-degree campaigns and involved a significant amount of research in generating key consumer insights. We are also currently working on an extremely interesting campaign on road safety across Facebook and other media vehicles.

A digital marketing campaign I found groundbreaking

Recently, Tata Tea Jaago Re! campaign was a good example of a well-executed digital marketing campaign in India. The campaign lived up to its aim to awaken and enable the citizens of India, especially the youth, to register and vote. The portal enabled netizens to register and obtain all information related to voter registration. Jaago Re created that awareness which ultimately led to action.

Another digital campaign I like is Sunsilk Gang of Girls. This was an all-girl online community in India, which was quick to catch the attention among its target audience. I felt the campaign understood the importance of new and emerging media in view of the change in environment and media consumption behaviour of the target audience.

My first product launch

Aquafresh toothpaste and toothbrush. GSK was entering the oral care space in India for the first time. I was a rookie, having just completed my MBA. The learnings from working on these two product launches were immense. My first boss at GSK remains a very good friend, and is one of the most respected marketing professionals in the country.

A great idea that had not taken off

Till recently, term insurance which is a very useful pure life insurance product, had not taken off in India. Of late, there has been significant interest in this product, mostly online. However, till a few years ago, the entire distribution machinery was not interested in selling this tremendously useful product to the consumer. It is interesting to see how this product has found a new distribution avenue (online) bypassing the conventional routes.

A setback I have learnt from

It takes years to turn colleagues into friends. One learning has been that we should never take short-term decisions which can strain those friendships.

My marketing idol

Steve Jobs. I cannot remember anyone being able to create such mass hysteria about an overpriced range of products! Another fantastic marketer is Chetan Bhagat.

Where I get my insights from

Observing people going about their daily lives. Market research is evolving in our country, wherein researchers are adopting models to observe the consumer and see what she does, instead of relying solely on questionnaires and asking questions. The new motto is observe, not ask. This is a paradigm shift. It is significantly more useful because it eliminates the need to moderate responses across regions. As a general rule, we Indians are less confrontational and will say positive things and rate higher when we are asked to judge or score anything.

How much B-school helped in my career

Significantly.

It taught us some very good frameworks. B-School education also helped me develop a lifelong network of friends whose wisdom I can draw upon. The other thing I learnt in B-school is that one should always have a back-up plan. Coincidentally, this is the campaign theme that we have executed for ICICI Lombard which emphasises the need to have a Plan B in one's life.

Future gazing into the life of a marketer in 2020

Digital marketing skills will be indispensable, and there might be a disruptive change of budget allocation from offline to digital media. One-to-one, customised marketing messages could become the norm.

(This article was published on January 10, 2013)
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