SoftBank’s Kohli urges corporates to focus on customer experience rather than ad spends

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on February 24, 2020

Continues to bet on start-ups; says they can feel the ‘pulse’ of customers

Though Japan's SoftBank Group has taken a multibillion-dollar hit from its ambitious bet on once high-flying companies such as Uber and WeWork, the Indian arm of the conglomerate continues to wager on start-ups, with focus on e-commerce, healthcare and artificial intelligence (AI)-led companies.

Throwing light on the start-up environment in the country, Manoj Kohli, Country Head, SoftBank India, maintained digitisation was set to bring in large-scale disruption in every industry and that it was only the start-ups that would be capable of embracing the change, since they have been envisaging ways to do things better.

During his presentation at the Madison advertising event in Mumbai, Kohli said, “Start-ups in India are leading the pace of growth, leading the momentum. They understand how the consumers’ mind and behaviour is changing and how consumers are eager to get a better experience. These are the brands (start-ups) that will soon overtake traditional brands.”

Start-ups ahead of the pack

By 2025, many start-ups would feature in the Top 10 brands in the country, given that most have the pulse of the customer that is essential to get ahead of the pack in the current economic turmoil, Kohli said.

“It is time organisations focus on customer experience, rather than focus money on advertising,” he added, urging corporates to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by making their customer experiences memorable.

Noting that customer experience is turning out to be more than just measuring the ‘pulse’ of customers and their experience across various touch points, Kohli said it is also about how the organisation is set up to act on these experiences.

With increasing globalisation, consumers are becoming more price-sensitive and less loyal because of the diversity of options. This, the official said, is making it more challenging for organisations to differentiate themselves.


Embrace technology

The need of the hour, said the official, is to embrace technology, which is a given with most start-ups, for technology backed by artificial intelligence will aid optimisation and help track consumer behaviour.

Earlier, SoftBank’s Kohli had said the Group is committed to investing $2 billion over the next two years in India. SoftBank has reportedly invested over $10 billion in several Indian start-ups, including Ola, Oyo, Paytm, Delhivery, among others, and has among 20 portfolio companies in its fold.

In February, FirstCry, the e-commerce store for baby products, received another capital infusion of $150 million from SoftBank, valuing the Indian company at around $1 billion. The Japanese venture capital’s last investment in India of $231 million was in Lenskart — which is the second bet by SoftBank on a vertical e-commerce business with a sizeable offline presence. FirstCry also runs brick-and-mortar stores.

Published on February 17, 2020

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