Address the Fundamentals for Success in Digital Space

Address the Fundamentals for Success in Digital Space

February 3, 2016

Ashish Thomas PictureAshish Thomas has recently joined the Systems Solutions & Development Technologies (SSD-TECH) group as the Chief Strategy ‎& Marketing Officer for all the operating units across the globe as well as the partner organizations. In the SSD-tech group, Ashish is leading product, content, marketing & communications, and customer experience directly as part of marketing portfolio. He is guiding all business units for their strategic directions and initiatives as part of his Strategy Portfolio.

Ashish holds leadership credentials in domains of strategy, incubation, business development and marketing in the consumer digital space. He is passionate about fostering innovation for growth. He has incubated multiple profitable businesses within large and medium sized companies in the TMT space.

Ashish has worked across multiple geographies and cultures in both large MNC’s and small and medium businesses. He has served Microsoft Universal Storefront, Microsoft Asia as a Director, Strategy & Business Development. He has led SingTel’s Group Innovations as a Director. He also served the Strategic Business Development, Wireless team of Google in India and China. He has worked in the US, UK, Eastern Europe, Middle East, and for the last 9 years in Singapore.

In the recently held Digital Marketing Summit 2015, Ashish shared his thoughts and insights with (Bangladesh Brand Forum) BBF in an interview.

BBF: You have huge experience in leading digital companies across the globe. How does culture and geographic conditions influence digital marketing, and does digital marketing vary across cultures? What’s your take on this?

Ashish Thomas: Digital Marketing varies a lot across cultures because every culture is unique, and the infrastructure that is available in different cultures is also unique.  There are developed markets, developing markets and frontier markets which you know is really primitive in terms of development. In each of the markets you look at, the medium that you use to deliver digital marketing, the message that you use to deliver, the metrics that you use to measure marketing, the return on investment that you seek, can have very different meanings for different markets.

BBF: In the digital space what are some of the most advanced countries and what are the factors behind their success?

Ashish Thomas: Some of the most advanced countries in the digital space I would say obviously are the developed markets like the US, Japan, South Korea, to a certain extent UK, Germany and Singapore.

There are instances of both success and failure in those markets. It’s not that just because they are advanced they succeed in everything they do; a lot of people have failed as well. I think the key factors are addressing the fundamentals – you got to address the fundamentals if you are to derive value, from the customer and the consumer. And in this market, have you addressed the fundamental? Have you been able to bring value to all the rural customers using the digital channel? What is value for the rural customers? Meeting these issues are some of the most essential factors behind any country’s digital marketing success.

Read Also: Bangladesh – The Next Global ICT Destination

BBF: Can Bangladesh incorporate those success factors in the current scenario?

Ashish Thomas: Can Bangladesh incorporate some of those practices? I don’t think so. The reason for that is you need an infrastructure ecosystem to support activities. So, what works in USA, Japan or Korea, for example, will not work in Bangladesh, what works in Singapore won’t work in Bangladesh, because it’s the ecosystem. They have 140% broadband penetration. Indicators tell you that their speeds are already hitting 1 gigabytes speed in homes. What you do there for digital marketing, which could mean a lot of video, a lot of interactivity on multiple devices, would mean something very different in Bangladesh because the national infrastructure does not exist and it is not that advanced.

So what you do in this environment is something very different, and that was really the topic of my whole session at DMS 2015, where we were talking about what is the medium, what is the message, how do you deliver the message, how do you deliver value in this market.


BBF: What are some of the current trends in digital marketing across the globe?

Ashish Thomas: It’s becoming a lot more measurable. I think that’s one massive trend. It’s becoming very clear value derived. Metrics like clicks, pay-per-view helps to know whether your customer acted on your message or not.

The second trend, I think is the whole social aspect of it. When I say social I mean, digital has a lot of impact on word of mouth, on sharing. You buy a product and share the good experience about it on Facebook and your friends may come up like, “Hey, my friends bought it. Maybe I should buy it as well”. So the whole social and the sharing economy brings a network effect to your brand, and I think those network effects are also very common among markets.

BBF: Can you tell us in brief about your session in DMS 2015 ?

Ashish Thomas: The session was really about how you translate the digital in a Bangladeshi ecosystem and how you seek to make money at the bottom of the pyramid.

BBF: In comparison to the other lower middle income countries in the world, how do you see the progress of Bangladesh in digital marketing? Are our marketers getting it right?

Ashish Thomas: I think they are halfway there and our marketers are asking the same questions, that’s why we are having this summit. I think there are enough companies, enough brands, enough organizations that have started looking at the lower and middle income group and going beyond Dhaka or just the city, or a couple of cities, or looking at how do I deliver value, and how do I get customers to buy my products.

BBF: What are some of the challenges in digital marketing for a country like Bangladesh?

Ashish Thomas: In my opinion, one of the challenges in Bangladesh is to get the medium and the message right. I have seen it happen multiple times in different markets that people get swayed by what’s happening in the US. As Asians we are led to believe that what the person is wearing in the US, I should wear. What the person is eating in the US I should eat. That’s the tendency in terms of marketing practices as well. I don’t think it’s so much of the US, it’s more about the west – the western culture, the westerns economies. Well, what works there, in case of digital marketing, may not work in this region. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we will be able to come up with innovative new ideas to execute our plans. I think it already started happening, it is already happening in the country.

Read Also: Syed Gousul Alam Shaon on Creativity, Advertising & Inspiration

BBF: How do you see the overall impact of digital on the socioeconomic life of consumers from your years of experience?

Ashish Thomas: It is always about consumers. Consumers get better access to information now. I think the impact that digital would have on the ecosystem is tremendous. We are living in a digital economy; there is a large element of social uplift, aspirational uplift, ambition uplift. The information that used to be available to someone sitting in a Cambridge University in London or in Boston is also now available to a guy who goes to a cyber café in Dhaka or in Chittagong or in Sylhet. The access is all there. That is what basically makes the country’s ecosystem more globally comparative and there is a lot more possibilities.

BBF: What would be some of your suggestions to digital marketers in Bangladesh?

Ashish Thomas: We have to look for new innovative ways of delivering value. Campaigns don’t always have to be cool and funky. Rather, it has to deliver value for the customer. And that’s what both the agencies and the brands need to work together on – the mass or the rural population or the middle income group or the low income group must be able to see value in what you are delivering to them. And the moment someone sees value,they buy it. So that’s really the only piece of advice I would have for the ecosystem.

Interviewed by 

Maruf Hassan

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