"Build sticky relations with stakeholders"

Updated: Jun 30 2009, 09:09am hrs
Jessie Paul
Jessie Paul joined Wipro Technologies as chief marketing officer in 2005, and is responsible for ensuring a platform to win and engage customers through its domain-specific, IP-led technology and business solutions. She joined Wipro from iGATE Global Solutions, where she was heading the marketing function since 2003. She played a key role in rebranding and repositioning iGATE as an integrated technology and operations company. Prior to joining iGATE, Paul was global brand manager for Infosys Technologies.

She was involved in setting up the marketing department at Infosys Technologies, and putting in place the marketing infrastructure and processes. Her efforts earned her the Chairmans Award in 1998. In this interview to Alokananda Chakraborty of FE, Jessie Paul, chief marketing officer, Wipro Technologies & Wipro Infotech, discusses the strategies the Indian software industry can formulate to emerge stronger and more profitable when global spending on IT gets back on track.

The West associates India with outsourcing. Has that changed or does India still conjure up images of a low-cost back office

The West may identify India with outsourcing, but the days of India being seen as purely a low-cost destination are gone. Let me give you an anecdote to illustrate this. When I first visited the US, cab drivers would not accept tips from me because they assumed that I was poor because I was from India. Then after the dot-com boom, they assumed I was rich because I was in technology. Now, when I say I am from India, total strangers say, You must be smart!

This is because of two things one, the outsourcing industry has moved into higher value areas such as consulting and business solutions, and two, India is increasingly seen as a profitable market by the global companies.

Apart from the usual diversification strategies and move up the value chain mantra, what new strategies should the Indian software industry formulate to emerge stronger and more profitable when global spending on IT gets back on track

Whether the market is up or down, the provider who listens best to their clients and crafts solutions to address their needs is likely to increase market share. So when the downturn hit, we launched our performance and capital efficiency (PACE). This is a suite of solutions that would help our clients reduce either their operating expense or capital expenditure within 12 months. We havent reduced our marketing budgetweve focused it around this one campaign, and it is yielding good results.

We are tracking emerging technology trends and building solutions around each of them. In that sense, we are ahead of the curve and can speed up client adoption. There is a lot of interest in areas such as the intelligent enterprise, customer-centric organisations and any time, anywhere self-service, which use newer technologies such as cloud, and software as a service.

Speed will be in demand when clients start coming out of the downturn, and we are considering renaming our PACE portfolio as performance acceleration and capital efficiency.

Any words of caution for business-to-business marketers looking to take advantage of increasing globalisation

It is important that any aspiring marketer maps out the ecosystem as a whole. For any product or service a whole ecosystem of influencers, media, government, trade bodies, consumer forums etc have to come together for the market to be successful. Marketers sometimes make the mistake of focusing on one or two elements.

The real benefit of marketing will only be felt when the entire ecosystem is in sync and positive. For example, if the government expresses a negative view of your industry then managing media will not be so effective. Or if the trade analysts are positive but the media is negative, you will again have a challenge.

There are many other aspects of country branding and entering a new country that I cover in my book, No Money Marketing, which is coming out in August.

In your book No Money Marketing, youve talked about your experience as a challenger marketer. What is your marketing advice for companies that are not leaders in their industries

To succeed, a company must have a superior value proposition relative to incumbents. It needs to focus on increasing market share and building sticky relationships with clients and other stakeholders. The window of growth available for the upstart to achieve a threshold market share is the time taken by the champion to successfully react to the new business model.

From a marketing strategy perspective, keeping in mind the relatively-low budgets, the best plan is to drive focused communication to potential clients and other elements of the ecosystem. Once a threshold level of revenue is reached, one should communicate aggressively to consolidate position and rapidly acquire market share. The brand levers I recommend for a challenger are price, executive branding, country of origin and sustainability. The channels that are most effective are thought leadership, media relations, awards and online marketing.

But organisations seem to be using new technology to reinforce the old marketing habits...

In old media, companies could buy the attention of the audience. The audience tolerated this interruption because it was subsidising their television or radio, which were expensive channels. The internet, on the other hand, is almost free and subsidies through advertising are not required. So now companies have to be interesting in order to get the attention of their prospects, and that is much, much harder. The newer channels also force immediate and personal responsesfor exampleCEO blogs cannot be outsourced. This is a big transition for marketers and CEOs, and yes, many will not make the leap.

What are the strategic initiatives that Wipro has developed to move up the value chain and enable intellectual leadership

Wipro has had an innovation council for many years that functions as an in-house venture capital for funding new ideas. This is in addition to the over 50 centres of excellence that operate and build out new applications for our clients. We have recently boosted our technology expertise with a crack team under the leadership of the chief technology officer. Last year, we launched the Wipro Council of Industry Research, which builds relationships with leading academics and encourages the creation of case studies and white papers.

With the downturn overseas, the Indian IT services sector is beginning to look more seriously at domestic clients. Do you feel IT services companies such as Wipro need to evolve a separate strategy not only for India but also for other emerging markets including Brazil, Russia and China

Wipro entered the technology space through the domestic Indian market, and has been present here for over 20 years. We are certainly seeing more traction here, with large exciting deals being signed such as Unitech-Telenor and Employees State Insurance Corporation. We evaluate each geography as a market and devise a specific entry plan for each. Emerging markets are an area of interest and we already have a presence in Brazil, India and China. Their IT markets are rapidly developing, but in terms of size still do not match those of the developed economies.