Mind your Marketing

Don’t just sell but create value

| Updated on November 22, 2019

Hitesh Malhotra, Chief Marketing Officer, Nykaa. A management graduate from UC - Berkeley.

This week, we have in the hotspot Hitesh Malhotra, Chief Marketing Officer, Nykaa. A management graduate from UC - Berkeley, he has handled responsibilities in performance marketing, integrated communication and engagement strategy. In his current role as Chief Marketing Officer at the premiere beauty portal Nykaa.com, he spearheads digital, main line and customer relationship.

Have millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

Honestly, millennials is a slightly oversubscribed word. Many of us are millennials. Maybe there are older millennials and younger millennials. And they aren't too different from each other. Today, all of us want nothing but the best. We all want shortcuts, or we want things to happen faster. As a generation we may not have grown up with cell phones and the younger millennials have grown up with them and with social networks.

So, it is not about millennials transforming marketing but more about the exposure to media becoming very big. The ability of information on a new product to reach across a larger base has become faster. That is the primary change. However, I don't think there is any change in terms of aspirations.

The fact that information is easily shareable, it can spread easily, means we have to be wary of how we set ourselves in this environment. How fast we want to do our business and how fast we want to grow amongst this target audience? What are the kinds of total revenues we're looking at and what is the kind of community that we want to build? Since interests are shared, we need to ensure that we get onto the interest bandwagon first and let people consider Nykaa as a destination of choice when it comes to beauty. Due to the widespread or faster communication means, we are looking at audiences differently. But I don't think that any fundamentals of marketing have changed. You still have to get the best customer at the best possible cost of order. And at the same time, make sure that marketing is not a bleed function for the company.

What are the best ways to connect with and sell to this audience?

Nykaa is a company that is led by content. We are a company that produces a terabyte of content every week split between different teams, like the editorial, social media and the design teams. To my knowledge, no other e-commerce company produces as much. When you produce so much content, people stop looking at the volume of content and look at the nature of the content you produce.

So, it does not matter if one terabyte of hard disk is consumed. What is important is out of that 1 terabyte, how much content caught good attention and interest generation. And how much got outstanding sentiments. And eventually, how did that content aid in users’ purchase. If you look at Nykaa's presence, we are at the top of the funnel, across social media and YouTube, and we guide people on how to use our products and get people on our website.



Once people are on the website, we have ample content to aid buying, like reviews and Q&As and beauty tips. There are videos within the app, which are DIYs, which help us take the conversion to a different level, because beauty is a very engaged category. And eventually, once the purchase happens, we indulge in a lot of content to re-engage with our customers. What we call a CRM activity, basically, reaching out to our database and upgrading them, up-selling to them, cross-selling and telling them about the finer nuances of products that they have not used yet, and they should be trying.

So, I think, content as the spine for Nykaa has been excellent and excellence in content that we produce across different parts of the funnel has been our driving force.

What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

First and foremost, technologies that we're talking about today are the impact of data. India is today the cheapest when it comes to mobile data. So that technology, which is powered by certain operators, has definitely helped us take our video content to larger audiences. And, we believe that there is truth around the phrase, a minute of video is equal to reading thousand words of content.

High-speed, low-cost data is one technology, that has been a big enabler for us, because now people can access videos almost free on their mobile phones.

The second technology that has helped us a lot is payments in general. There were a lot of problems, when I started my career in e-commerce. There used to be two or three payment options, a credit card, debit card, or maybe cash on delivery. But today, there are so many options, that facilitate buying, and returns as well. So, if people are not happy, they're able to get refunds instantly.





What do you need to win in the marketplace - better technology or better ideas?

I believe in what Napoleon says, “The war is won by men, it is not won by tools and ammunition”. It is the people sitting behind the data and technology that is most important.

Nykaa's biggest strength within marketing is the manpower, the people that we have. Almost all of them joined as freshers in the marketing team and then trained under the ecosystem of beauty and have been learning the skills on the job. I am proud to say it is almost an all-women team right now. It is a big team of 27 people and these women have shown results in the most unconventional roles (or unconventional as defined by the digital ecosystem in the past few years). The numbers are fantastic as compared to similar kind of activations done by other teams, across other e-commerce companies.

How do you bridge the gap between expectation and experience?

I'm speaking on behalf of the industry because Nykaa is a part of the industry, and Nykaa moves at the pace of the industry. We have just probably taken 2 steps out of 10. There are 8 more steps to go in terms of bridging the gap. I think first and foremost is that the personalisation for everybody has to be next level. We want to use predictive index or the predictive science to upgrade the customer or to ensure that the customer is getting the best bang for the buck, but to do that successfully we probably have to invest a lot more in data science. Data science is definitely a gap but once that gap is closed, you probably will be able to take two or three steps together. It can help predict the destiny of a product over the next three years as well. Based on that, the organisation can develop new products.

Last and final is customer service. What is it, apart from refunding customer’s money or apologising on a call?

What will matter to customers and define the success of any company now?

This forms a big part of data science and machine learning itself. If we can utilise these insights, then we are at least walking three four steps in that remaining eight steps journey towards the customer.

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

First is being real to yourself, don't lie to yourself. When you try to wear the hat of a consumer, you're lying to yourself because you are actually not a consumer, you're a marketer. Reach out to real consumers and look at what really is liked by them, what really pains them, to create strategy. So always have a consumer panel. Nykaa has the strongest women panel right now, which is bigger than any other women panels, especially for beauty where we validate our hypotheses all the time

Second is that as a marketer, your job is not to just sell but create value. Have very firm KPIs or KRAs for yourself and your team members around that. Maybe sale of products is growing but is that the ultimate benchmark to indicate if my brand is becoming big or am I getting more sales because, there is no alternative? Tomorrow, if there is an alternative, will my sales drop?

Third and important of all, be a humble and polite team leader. It is not just your duty but also your religion to train people. And you must ensure that you take them to a level where they can do something that you're doing today.

Can a one-size-fits-all approach work in a differentiated market such as India?

In terms of the only size that fits all right now in India, are certain embedded value systems, but product need not be based on value systems. Certain communications can be based on value systems.

Nykaa's value is about inclusion, which is pretty much what India's value is too. I think you could have one standardised value for your brand, for the company. India is a country of more than 1,000 dialects, more than 55 languages, and more than 25 communities, 7 major religions. This country is all about inclusion and your brand has to be all about inclusion. When you're talking about brand inclusion, you're not just thinking of people from different origins but people of all shapes and sizes. If you can imbibe that common value into your brand, that is one-size-fits-all. At the same time, I have to make sure that I'm creating products that take care of my inclusion principle. So, I have a foundation for dusky skin, and I have a foundation for a lighter skin. If I'm not walking the talk, then nobody will believe my story.

Localisation has gone far beyond merely dubbing national campaigns. Why and how should brands think local?

Physical retail for me is one of the finest examples of localisation. Wherever you go, you'll always find a chemist shop and a ‘boutique aunty’ and a ‘parlour aunty’. This is an example of outstanding localisation, where they speak your language, perhaps extend credit lines, will be nice to you and also know what you want to buy. A similar approach has to be adopted by all the larger players as well, if we want to make our business a truly multi-billion-dollar business. And translating content is just one part of it. Creating hubs that encourage commerce is really important.

I could have a Telugu, Bengali or Tamil video to reach out to the heartland of these States but do I have a robust hub where people can go and collect the products because I might not have the capability to deliver in every single pin code? Do I have a dedicated customer service ecosystem where they can talk in their language to place the order on the phone? Do I have a tie-up with a local bank and a payment system where they can probably deposit money and I can collect that? All of this comes into play, localisation is not just about dubbing, it is about catering to the entire ecosystem for this audience.

How does your brand approach the Southern market when it comes to branding and consumer engagement?

The first thing obviously was to create content with local stars and in the local language. We've been able to get a hold of people who have been local influencers, beauty bloggers who have been delivering some outstanding content in Tamil and Telugu and then we have created some interesting content.

On the other side, we do a strong on-ground interaction, called 'Beauty Bar' which takes Nykaa and the influencers to the people every month and talks about the latest trends. So, today, South is one of our biggest markets, we get outstanding business from markets like Kochi, Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. It is at least as much business that we get from the West.





Published on November 22, 2019

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