NotableTalks with Govindaraj Avasarala, Enterprise Marketing Head at Vodafone Idea 

23.03.22 07:59 AM By Aishwarya

Talks about: #5g, #b2b, #digital, #strategy, and #telecommunications

Govindaraj Avasarala, Enterprise Marketing Head at Vodafone Idea 

NotableTalks By AnyTechTrial

In this NotableTalks episode, we got a chance to have an interaction with a very talented thought leader Govindaraj Avasarala, Enterprise Marketing Head at Vodafone Idea. Here's his conversation with us about Metaverse, Cybersecurity, 5G Network , SMB Digital Transformation  and a variety of more hot topics. Stay tuned for more episodes of NotableTalks Series with cross function thought leaders from across the globe.

Rapid Fire Round with 
Govindaraj Avasarala

How is Metaverse impacting the global business ecosystem?


One’s digital experience is expected to show an acute increase with the foreseen introduction of the metaverse. This will bring virtual reality closer to one’s life, changing the whole ecosystem of marketing. How do you see fast evolving virtual world impacting one’s brand experience, and what impact would this have on the business ecosystem as a whole?

Yeah, I mean, a question that I think one can't avoid in the current times. I think the trend has clearly been established is that Metaverse is here. So I think when you follow it quite closely, I think what's really happening, I think is there are large brands that have already entered the Metaverse. And fundamentally, if you look at the fundamentals of what Metaverse has done, there are billions of consumers who are already in the Metaverse. That's the first sign that there is a market out there that is building itself. Second, those consumers or customers are actually spending a lot of time. Now, quite naturally, it's a very fatal ground for marketers to consider it as a channel worth exploring. Now, obviously, given that some of the fundamentals are still coming into place, it's difficult for marketers to go ahead and stick an account and build a great ROI which you can prove to your management. But what one could do is to start with understanding the matter was how are people engaging in this new world or the new virtual places or workplaces as we call it, and see how you want to kind of put your brand across? 

So beyond the obvious, what I mean by obvious I think gaming is the obvious part of the meta. Worse, I think a lot of brands you've seen which are today and physical in nature, entering the Metaverse quite smartly integrated the brand experiences into those gaming worlds. But I'm here to share something which is beyond the obvious. So for example, one of the things that matter clearly opens up is when we are getting back to normal and we all pretty much have understood that the height is going to be a hybrid working world. You are able to create an acquired digital twin of your office in the metaverse. And colleagues like you and me are actually entering that as a workplace and collaborating and engaging, connecting our meetings.

The second aspect where you can imagine really the marketers actually kind of taking a leap forward is when you are building your customer experiences. For example, I think today most of the engagements were physical. We are trying to move to virtual, but probably it has not given you the best of the high touch experiences that you always wanted with your customers. A good example is we have customer experience centres where we used to take the customers physically and take them through a tour. Now you could do a part of it in the virtual current world, but in the meta world, I definitely think the experiences are more immersive, and that's the beauty of that, the promise that metaverse is giving us and many other use cases like education, retail 24X7 shopping experiences and a different immersive way of imparting education to the children. Now for marketers, I think some rules of engagement would definitely change as marketers. I think while we take some cautious steps and show you some exciting experiments into this new world, I think it opens up a new cohort. Maybe there are people who are in metaphors and there are people who are not in the metaverse. That's the first cohort for you. Second, the way your brand is integrated because it's an immersive world and you do not have a separate space to create a brand zone, but you got to immerse the brand into the meta experiences. How do you do that? Because most of the marketing assets today you have are pretty much used to a slightly different world. You got to kind of carry the brand into that world and design new creatives into that. 

 And third, I think is the way and the time at which you engage. I think you're going to rewrite some of the rules of privacy and engagement there so that you're protecting the brand identity and being safe about how the brand is being put across into the metaverse. In summary, similarly, I think definitive trends, are great exciting stuff to see large brands entering the foray. But to all other marketers, I think is worth kind of starting the experiments and building a roadmap into the new world of the metaverse.

How to achieve safe and secure hydrid working enviorment?

Secure Hybrid Workplace

As unified communication has become the global trend due to the pandemic, a lot of organisations have adopted to hybrid work model. However, this has made cyber security a crucial consideration for companies. What would you suggest as key steps for companies to achieve a safe working environment for their employees with full data protection, and what does the future of work look like?

I can respond to the question on the future of work and then see how security becomes paramount. Some of the changes that we've seen during pandemic, which have changed the earlier physical ways of working to completely virtual, are getting back into what you and I know as a hybrid way of working. And I think that is a reality of working or the future of work. And it's going to stay here. What essentially it means is for large enterprises or small businesses as security becomes paramount. A couple of reasons why one at the same time that I think the future of work is changing, the companies have also started accelerating in the adoption of digital, adopting technologies like software as a service on the cloud. There were some technology adoption barriers before, but now I think the companies have realized the imperative to adopt digital and I personally and some of us call it the year of AD 2, where adapting to digital was a choice before adopting digital now is an imperative and that's the year of AD 2 as we call it now in this environment, I think a couple of things have changed fundamentally for us to relook at security. One, the perimeter security we used to call it, which was largely the four walls of the company and some of the assets which are latching onto the network. The perimeters have been broken and now pretty much the endpoints have become distributed. It could be a smartphone or tablet, which means the data is actually by design is flowing into endpoints which are probably needed to be brought into the limit of security.

Second, I think some of the data, business-sensitive or customer sensitive data is across those devices and I think it raises the question of how much security is good enough for you. But I think the first step to me which indicate that there is a big change in the way that customers look at security is probably earlier. Security adoption was largely an imperative for companies and sectors which are very compliance heavy. But now I see small businesses looking at security be it endpoint security be it is device security or application security, email security and web so on and so forth, which means that there is a heightened awareness of the need for security even in large customers beyond the ones which are compliance. I think they are looking at as the cloud is happening and as the endpoints move and the workforce is getting far more distributed than before. We're looking at security in multiple of those workforce areas like you're constantly on collaboration, communication tools and we call it the new cave we all live in for at least eight to 12 hours. So as you spend time on all those applications, I think the expanse of security has definitely grown bigger. So in my view, I think security goes hand in hand with the way digitally is getting accelerated. So one cannot think of that as a choice anymore. It is imperative to look at security as critically as we look at the business or digital or any other aspect of the business. 

Guiding steps for the budding marketers in their marketing journey?

Marketing Automation

From your experience, while leading marketing for global brands like Vodafone, Microland, Deloitte and more, how important is marketing automation for an organisation to scale and what advice would you like to give for budding marketers and growth phase startups to succeed in their marketing journey?

It's one of my favourite subjects. So one key data point for us before we kind of debate on the need for marketing automation. So there's research that says that I think before pandemic customers in a buying journey or a decision making journey. We're using about four to five channels channel could be email, phone call, face to face visit from a sales to the customer point of view. But now if you take a poll now, I think there are at least minimum of ten channels in which eight out of ten of them actually are digital or virtually nature that the customers are using in the decision making process. So what it essentially means I think is you need a capability which is probably an automation capability, surely, which helps you address this omnichannel desire of the customers, not just creating awareness from a beautifully designed campaign which you kind of use the marketing automation as a tool for, but even reducing purchases on the eCommerce. For example. I think today some of the B2B journeys have got completely digitalized end to end. So you're not just looking at information-oriented communication or engagement but actually inducing transactions. That's where I think truly the power of marketing automation lies more than before. Earlier, four years ago when I was building a use case for marketing automation investment, largely it was email. Can I justify the kind of engagement and what is the return on marketing investment? But today when we are really looking at it from a pool upgrade or a refreshing point of view, the use case is far richer and wider. Not just marketing but customer service, value management, team sales can use it. So the power of the tool, now it gives you scale. 

 Second, you can control the omni channel experiences. You are doing a campaign on social. How do you kind of automate the whole stuff using marketing automation? So I think it's a question of being able to put the right business case is what probably stopping some of the enterprises to adopt marketing automation.

Otherwise, the case is pretty evident to me. If you ask me right now, coming to your second part what would be advice for some of the budding the marketers and startups? To be honest I think we learn a lot from them because I think they are the new-age marketers breaking barriers and experimenting a lot more. But to be honest I think some of the things that I would like to share with them are some of the fundamental rules of marketing. Whether you are in the B2B business or you are in the direct to consumer business there is a human aspect of customer. So I call it the business to human focus on those elements when you are actually designing marketing engagements, marketing, communication. Second I think empathy. I would think that in the pandemic world one thing that has clearly stood out for me when you are either in marketing or in sales is empathy. With respect to customers, how do you respect the time? 

 They're kind of hypnotized to kind of read your communication. You need to be far more empathetic in designing some of the marketing driving force. I think these fundamentals if they're taken care, I would really envy some of the new age marketers who are entering the profession because the channels to reach customers and engage with them are far richer than before. So I think there's a vast canvas and  digital marketing as a play has really come to be established in India. Just a data point. I think when you look at advertising spends in India, 30% of them are actually a digital advertising and it has replaced print as the number two medium and the first one being TV. There are tremendous opportunity in the digital advertising stock digital marketing space. The last thing from a people and skilling point of view I think is build the skill of digital marketing in house, invest in rescuing and upskilling and yourself because that pretty much is going to hold you good in the future. 

How 5G is affecting the digital ecosystem & how it can help marketers to establish marketing leads?

5G Ready

With 5G being aggressively adopted globally as a next-generation mobile network, how would this change the digital ecosystem that we know today and what opportunities does it present for marketers to establish the next lead in their marketing strategies?

Yeah let me share similar some of my experiences through the 5G trials that we did in India recently as Vodafone Idea and while I think globally there has been some great progress on the 5G deployment and how the companies have benefited from 5G largely manufacturing, retail, construction. I think there are numerous industries which have benefited with the onset of 5G but coming to India because it's a market of huge interest for us and a huge scale, what I can share surelyI think is what we did during the trials is largely the real-world use cases across few industries, construction, manufacturing, automotive, health care, education and the 6th being public safety and surveillance. And these are areas of huge interest for the Indian economy and Indian citizens like you and me because remote diagnosis during the golden hour when you're in an ambulance is as critical as public safety on the roads if you're able to detect a crime in real-time or ensure a women's safety. So it's important for societies, it's important for businesses and it's important for people's lives. The 5G technology I think what is really demonstrated to us during the trials is that the low latency, the high speeds and the massive density that it can enable are really what probably today's networks don't really give us. Hence it opens up setting new possibilities across the ecosystem, across the industry. That's the first point about it. 

The second point I think is we firmly believe as Vodafone idea and some of the other players also would echo about the ecosystem. That has to be nurtured and created. Why? Because I think there are devices that are new, applications are going to be built new or going to be enhanced in a new way. And there are new players who will enter the 5G system. For example, in the trials that we did, we were with large companies like Nokia, Rickson L&T, Smart World, Ethernet on the same brick. We also work with startups like Tweet Labs, Whisby, who are doing some pathbreaking work in the areas of drone-based surveillance or motion body capture, which is typically used to enhance the athlete's performance in sports. If you look at the ecosystem, that just is an example of the ecosystem, how rich and diverse it can be really is available for us. And it's still time, some time away. But I firmly believe that the ecosystem is going to be built up new and it's going to have a great mix of established companies, technology-enabled companies, and fascinating startups. Partnerships are the key and the way to go in building the 5G roadmap for India. 

What is digital transformation & how to plan a roadmap for adopting digital transformation for an organization?

Digital Transformation

Today we all hear a lot of buzz about digital transformation these days. Would you be generous enough to tell our audience about what exactly is digital transformation and what are the key areas to focus on when planning a roadmap for the digital transformation of an organisation?

Yes, I think I have seen customers go through digital journeys, transformation journeys, and we as the telecom also are going through a transformation journey. But before I share some of the pillars of it, one thing we always prefer to call it the perfect storm, where I think there are great set of technologies that are enabling the dream of digital transformation. So 5G, IoT, AI, machine learning are set of technology enablers, which are building blocks. On the second hand, if you imagine the storm to be a traffic of three different things happening at the same time, is the customers and consumers changing, changing the way they engage? And we spoke about it earlier about the metaverse or omnichannel engagement. On the third dimension of the digital transformation and the storm that we're talking about is a great need to kind of progress in the business. And I think some of the companies today have seen spell out a digital strategy, and it's clearly linked to business outcomes, which they spell out and commit to the shareholders. Now, that's a serious statement some of the companies make, which means digital has come to be established as something that drives both top line and bottom line in a tangible way. So if you put these three factors together, I think that's called the perfect storm, where I think there is a need, there is a technology driver that are enabled, and there are customers waiting to be adopting this. And the way to navigate this, in my view from my experience, is actually focusing on three pillars, and I would draw a bit of an inspiration from Porter's value chain framework. The first pillar is if you are a provider and a company that is actually in the space of offering digital transformation solutions, you've got to be a digital business yourself, your operations, your supply chain, your forward and backward supply chains, your own offices. How digital they are? Have you digitalised the operations that you are into? Have you automated some of those process handoffs? Have you used some of those new age techniques to kind of drive efficiencies? And that largely is in the POTUS. Parallel settings are the support functions in the value chain frameworks. The second and one of the most critical ones are digital workspaces.  The focus on digital workspaces is on the employee or the human part of it. And I think research has proven or the trends have proven that a workplace that is more digital attracts the best talent, diversity, and more richness in thought and is probably a great place that people would love you.

 For now, digital workspaces, probably as a topic we spoken about in a different way, which is called the future of work, has attracted are probably garnered better traction in the pandemic, but essentially. The focus has to be on the human and the productivity and being empathetic to the employees and their wellbeing, especially as we all get back to the hybrid world. So again, adopting tools like collaboration mean safe communication channels and constantly keeping the engagement alive is critical to the success of what you want to achieve as a digitally transferred company. And one of the examples of human-centered approaches, is not just enough that you digitize the processes and systems, but have you trained people to be aware of digital? Have you trained them in agile ways of working? Because it does a transformation of many sorts. It does transform the way you work and the way you run projects. So I'm just doing a call out on when you're talking about digital workspaces, skilling of employees is equally important. And third, most fascinating part is digital customers. Your customers when you're working with them, how are they using the power of digital to engage with their end customers? And that I call it the B2B, B2C in a way, a great example, we were in a conversation with I can't name the customer, but the manufacturer who felt can we put some intelligent internet of things sensors to change the way the tires are engaged today, especially the premium set of tires. Instead of selling them as tires, they sell them based on outcomes and the outcomes are fuel efficiency. Outcomes are as a service now, everything as a service is another aspect. I'm sure you are in that space of SAAS and stuff, so you will relate to it. I think what enables that is I think some of the digital technologies like IoT or in the future 5G as well. The ability to leverage these technologies and design the product actually opens up new revenue streams. And that's what I think some of the companies which are at the cutting edge of digital are actually doing and they are working with ecosystem and we are lucky to be in some of those conversations to really see the power of digital. So in my view, since you asked me about breaking down this whole digital transformation, yes, transformation is a big word. But if you focus that down into three pillars of how digital is your business, how digital are your workplaces and your employees. And third, how digital are your customers. And I think you probably can make a good headway into the future. 

Digital Transformation for Indian SMB's?

SMB's Digital Tranformation

So would you mind telling us about the roadmap for digital transformation, especially for SMEs in India?

 SMEs are the bedrock of Indian economy and the pandemic has really kind of stressed that sector out. And I think as they rebound, a couple of trends that we have seen and let me share from what we see as a telecom here is a great appetite to adopt technology than before and let me share some simple examples. While I think we can always apply for the high-end technology adoption and what does that mean for SMBs. Today SMB’s think you realize that the workforce has kind of got distributed and their customers have become 24 by seven. On the other hand, they're using simple technologies like auto-receptionist. Education institutions are using it to kind of handle the calls. Healthcare pharmacists, retail industries like these are using it. A simple technology like a cloud-based auto-receptionist or a lead management system because in this time it's very difficult to go and put the feet on the street which you are doing before. So how do you leverage the digital? So from there to kind of adopting the website as a starting point of the digital journey all the way up to and I'm seeing this as a kind of good trend that is coming about in SMEs. 

It is a hyper-local marketing, which means SMBs are willing to, to go ahead and kind of spend some money in leveraging hyper-local marketing using multiple different platforms and tools or automation tools to kind of reach the targeted customers in their hyper-local definition. And I think that really shows that the maturity of the SMB has kind of really increased over the last one or few months from now. One challenge, however, is that as providers, we got to be enabling them with the advisory because it's difficult. There is a big west world out there in terms of plethora of technologies and choices. One large enterprise, you're right, you got a dedicated team which could evaluate for you, but for an SMB, for them rebounding in this new normal or the never normal, as the quality is very critical and time is of supercritical sense. So how do you make the digital journey faster with the sounded advisory and easy to adopt products and journeys are going to define the way SMBs actually accelerate their digital adoption in India. 

Full Episode: NotableTalks with Govindaraj Avasarala

Explore More Episodes Of NotableTalks By AnyTechTrial.Com