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Anupam Vasudev, Chief Marketing Officer, Aircel

May 17, 2016
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Anupam Vasudev, chief marketing officer, Aircel, has his plate full these days. The telecom industry is going through rapid growth and innovation and he has to ensure that Aircel keeps pace….

With more than 22 years of experience in sales, marketing, communications, branding and research, Anupam Vasudev, chief marketing officer, Aircel is the driving force behind one of the most innovative brands in India.

An economics graduate from St Stephen’s College with an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, Vasudev started his career with FMCG major Hindustan Unilever and then went on to work for SC Johnson Consumer Products’ US office. He served as regional director, Asia region during his over half-a-decade stint with SC Johnson before moving to Star India. As executive vice-president, marketing and communications at Star, he was responsible for spearheading the company’s core marketing strategy.

In 2011, Vasudev joined Aircel and contributed significantly to its turnaround, making it one of the most innovative telecom brands in the country. From a relatively less known brand, Aircel today is the sixth largest telecom operator in India in terms of subscriber numbers. This is a story that is close to Vasudev’s heart.

“Aircel’s turnaround was certainly a challenging task that required a lot of patience and perseverance. I still feel that we have just arrived as a very young and dynamic brand that is constantly innovating and disrupting the market. Aircel’s success is one of the best stories that I have been a part of,” says Vasudev.

He, however, gives the credit for this success to his marketing team at Aircel. “I have been blessed with a great team at Aircel. This fabulous journey wouldn’t have been possible without my team. The team’s out-of-the-box approach has led to some disruptive ideas for the brand,” he says.

According to Vasudev, Aircel is viewed as a “challenger brand”. “This is a result of our constant innovation and ability to come up with creative products and services. We always believe in doing a little extra for our customers and hence have adopted a holistic marketing approach to reach out to our target groups and offer them value in all our products and services,” he says.

In the past five years that he has been at Aircel, Vasudev has ensured that sales management, product development, distribution channel management, marketing communications (including advertising and promotions), pricing, market research and customer service are all in sync with each other. It certainly helped Aircel create disruption in the industry with unique offerings that have had a tremendous impact on the industry.

“Since its inception, innovation and affordability are the two things that have been ingrained in Aircel’s DNA. That was the reason why we could disrupt the market with some industry-first offerings. Aircel was the first telecom player to make 3G affordable for the masses and that truly changed the way mobile internet was perceived and consumed. Our latest innovations, Free Basic Internet and 3G@Rs 9, have received a great response and will certainly change the way data is consumed in the country,” he says.

Vasudev sees a silver lining in data consumption, thanks to the proliferation of mobile apps and 3G. But “attaining profitable growth” is the biggest challenge for the telecom industry, he feels. “Mobile apps have changed the way mobile internet is being consumed today. They have significantly impacted the manner in which people communicate today. The increase in the use of apps is also driving data revenues for us. With the penetration of mobile internet-enabled devices, 3G adoption will grow further, especially in the rural and suburban markets. But 2G users are also growing, as more and more first-time internet users come on board our network,” he says.

These data consumption patterns are shaping Aircel’s data vision and roadmap. “Aircel has always been committed to the growth of mobile telephony in the country and has made substantial investments to ensure that its networks are ready to cater to this increasing demand,” says Vasudev. “Data penetration is growing substantially and in the last few quarters, we have witnessed huge growth in this space. The industry recorded data revenue growth of more than 11 per cent in the quarter ended December 2015, and we did better than the industry.”

Vasudev believes that all telecom operators must make the best use of the huge amount of data emerging from behavioural studies and observations. “It has become important to improve the customer experience. Aircel being a customer-centric organisation is making use of such insights to delight the customer through relevant, innovative and value-for-money offerings,” he says.

He strongly advocates the need to use all mediums to communicate with consumers and notes that the digital space has become the “hangout zone” to develop a deep connect with consumers. “Our approach is to keep conversations going through continuous engagement and contests in order to drive brand love. Digital also plays a key role as a business enhancer where new and customised offerings are served to sharply target current and prospective customer groups. Customer care is one of the key pillars that digital helps in fulfilling as today, customers demand real-time problem solutions,” he comments.

Like other players, Aircel too is trying to reduce its operational costs without compromising on quality. “Our challenges are not different from what other operators in the industry are facing. We are all looking at ways to reduce operational costs without compromising on the quality of services we provide our subscribers,” he says.

Being a seasoned marketer, Vasudev feels that keeping pace with industry growth and predicting consumer trends are the need of the hour. “My tip to upcoming marketers is to understand and capture the pulse of their consumer base so as to predict future trends and have a first-mover advantage in offering innovative products. The only way to do so is for marketers to have an in-depth understanding of the needs and requirements of their customers,” he says.

Vasudev further adds, “We need to have strategies in place to be able to influence customer usage patterns as well as maximise internet adoption in the country. Therefore, we need to constantly ask ourselves the age-old question: who is my customer and what does he/she want?”

Growing up, Vasudev always believed in “making a difference to the people around”. This is something that has not changed for him over the years. He is still a strong believer in making people responsible and feels that this is the only way to build a strong team.

On a typical office day, Vasudev tries to ensure that he interacts with his team members and colleagues. “My typical work-day comprises endless meetings, emails and conference calls with my circle teams.” He adds, “In a challenging and stressed environment, you always look for inspiration. I have three principles in life: do hard work, believe in karma, and ensure that your body and mind are always active.”

To keep his mind fresh, Vasudev believes in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. He practises yoga, takes time out for a game of tennis, and enjoys spending time with his “very supportive family”. He also likes reading magazines, listening to Ted talks, watching TV shows and playing with his children.

Vasudev has a simple piece of advice for aspiring corporate leaders: “In this fast-paced world, we don’t get much time for ourselves. But we must keep ourselves mentally fit so as to think out of the box. My advice to all is to spend time with your family and come back to work rejuvenated.”

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