Money & Banking

We saw an opportunity in demonetisation to go disruptively digital with our product suite: Karthi Marshan

Thomas Abraham Bengaluru | Updated on November 08, 2019 Published on November 08, 2019

Karthi Marshan, Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group

Karthi Marshan, Chief Marketing Officer of the Kotak Mahindra Group, talks to BusinessLine about the group’s marketing efforts

Karthi Marshan, Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group, oversees marketing efforts across all verticals with Kotak’s presence, including insurance, banking, brokerage, and asset management, among others. An alumnus of IIM Bangalore, Karthi previously helmed the marketing function at IDBI Bank. He is also a co-founder of Sharekhan. In a conversation with BusinessLine, Marshan shares his vision and approach at Kotak Mahindra Group.

How has Kotak Mahindra Bank’s advertising and marketing strategy evolved with the merger of ING Vysya Bank?

The merger of ING Vysya with Kotak Mahindra Bank couldn’t have been better timed. We started the Kona Kona campaign with the merger of ING Vysya. The nation was bursting with enthusiasm, fresh ideas and youthful energy. We acknowledged it, saluted it and chose to play our role in transforming the mood of the nation. Kona Kona Kotak was an expression of our commitment to support the dreams of an ambitious nation and its people in every corner of India. We stayed with that expression for a few seasons, adding on the tadka of our marquee product promise of up to 6 per cent interest on savings deposits.

When demonetisation happened, we instantly saw in it an opportunity to partner India’s journey to go cash-free. We launched a radical social experiment just weeks after November 8. We sent a documentary film maker on a 3,000-km solo adventure across India for 30 days, with zero cash in his pocket; he had to survive using Kotak’s card products, mobile banking app and his wits. We dubbed this digital campaign Kona Kona Cash Free.

Every day he made videos of the most interesting incidents. For instance, he ran into a problem with a chaiwala, who didn’t have the means to accept payments in any other way except cash. So, the film maker told him to top up his mobile balance in lieu of the tea served.

Thus, the filmmaker used barter and other creative methods to survive those days without cash.

The bank launched Kotak 811 in March 2017 – pledging to double its customer base in the next 18 months. What role did marketing play in achieving this goal?

We saw an opportunity in demonetisation to go disruptively digital with our product suite. We launched 811, India’s first and most successful downloadable bank account. While the first campaign that announced the birth of 811 necessarily focused on educating the consumer, we followed it up with the platform of ‘India Invited’. Also, we saw in 811 the opportunity to live up to the promise set in Kona Kona Kotak, of being accessible to every Indian, in every corner of India. 811 didn’t just break the shackles of geography, it also cut through barriers of class, gender and every other divisive force that has kept large swathes of disenfranchised Indians outside the financial ecosystem.

By all accounts, launching a product that has not only derived its origin, but also its name, from the historical date of demonetisation was not without considerable risk. But that is precisely the job of a courageous marketer. We used the chance like a judo player would, leveraging the most significant financial event in the history of India to catapult our product into the brains and hearts of Indians, practically overnight. As marketing guru Peter Drucker has said, marketing’s job is to make selling superfluous. While I won’t go that far, I daresay we made the selling much easier than it had been in the past.

What is the essence of the #DreamsInvited campaign? What are you trying to convey?

#DreamsInvited is a logical next step in our mission of assisting all Indians in pursuing their big, audacious goals. We know that every dream involves money and that many people stop dreaming all too soon, believing that they can’t make them happen. We would like to assure a billion dreamers that they can and must dream big and that a lot is possible to achieve, provided they stay committed. We are committed to working hard, to staying the course, to saving, investing and planning their finances strategically and sensibly. And we would like to tell them that we are standing by their side, ready to support them in every way possible.

Thursday is like a curtain raiser, the first day of the campaign, on YouTube. It will now be followed by releases on TV, theatres and other media channels.

Published on November 08, 2019
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