SBI aims to be the preferred bank for urban youth: Dinesh Menon, Chief Marketing Officer

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October 26, 2018 2:20 AM

State Bank of India is striving to become the bank of choice among the youth. Its sprightly campaign, replete with a rap and catchy tunes, to promote its YONO app was a step in that direction.

Dinesh Menon, Chief Marketing Officer, SBI

State Bank of India is striving to become the bank of choice among the youth. Its sprightly campaign, replete with a rap and catchy tunes, to promote its YONO app was a step in that direction. Dinesh Menon of SBI talks to Anirban Roy Choudhury about breaking away from SBI’s old-fashioned imagery, the impact of fintech companies and more. Edited excerpts:

This is your first stint in a PSU. How different is the work culture from the private sector?

Each organisation has its own work culture; even in the private sector, there are differences between companies. I have worked in both MNCs and large Indian corporates; there are differences there, too. A PSU Bank has to follow more processes as compared to a private sector bank. This does not mean one is wrong and the other is right. So when we are associating with an external partner (agency) or even hiring from the market, we have to follow certain processes — I have to put an RFP (request for proposal) and an advertisement in the newspapers — that are mandatory. Because of these processes and documentation, agility is a little lesser in PSUs.

How successful have you been in getting the youth on board, given SBI’s image as ‘the bank for the older generation’?

It is a myth that SBI is a bank largely for the older population. If you look at our customer demographic data, we almost replicate the country’s demography — 60% of India’s population is below 35 years and we also have a similar construct. But we are not amongst the preferred brands when it comes to the urban youth and that is a fact.

How do you plan to change that?

We took the initiative of launching YONO a year back, which is the digital avatar of SBI. This platform offers everything that has to do with money. Although almost all banks offer digital banking services, we are different because of our other value propositions. You can buy all other financial services like life insurance, general insurance and mutual funds through YONO, and also buy lifestyle products — food, movie tickets, air tickets, etc — through our shopping vertical as we have got all the partner merchants syndicated to YONO.

Is that why you moved from the classic Banker to every Indian premise to a TVC with a trendy theme?

It is a deliberate departure from what SBI is used to and that is primarily because the core of YONO’s audience is the youth in the 21-30 segment (from a marketing perspective). Secondly, marketing principles tell you that when you talk to the youth, others will take to the brand if it’s relevant. We are relevant and age-agnostic, because banking is a service that everybody wants to and will consume.

How has fintech changed the way marketing functions in the BFSI category?

The entire landscape of the BFSI sector has changed completely because of fintech. It has redefined the way the industry looks at consumers, value propositions and marketing. Today, a bank has competition from fintech players, which was never anticipated. Earlier, debit cards and credit cards ruled the payments space; today these cards are fighting with e-wallets. Fund transfers were confined largely to the internet banking space; today, there are other fintech brands offering easier and faster fund transfers, so banks were forced to look at their models and quickly modify their strategy.

Trust is your biggest advantage when competing with fintech brands, but what is your biggest challenge?

Because people are dealing with money, trust is an important virtue. People do not trust new brands in the fintech space. On the other hand, people are looking at convenience and ease of banking; nobody wants to stand in long queues.

Our biggest challenge today is consumers having a larger choice of brands that are newer and perceived as technologically savvy, whereas SBI’s perception may not be that. The reality is that SBI is the only bank in the entire industry, including the fintech space, to have such a wide suite of digital products.

How important is associating with e-commerce for a holistic banking service?

For a bank like ours and for a platform like YONO, e-commerce brands are absolute musts to provide a holistic value proposition to customers. If we don’t do that, they will go elsewhere and utilise the money in their SBI accounts. Why should I allow that?

Urban youth or new customers in rural markets — who are you targeting?

It is urban India that we are going after. The challenge is not so pronounced in tier III-downward markets because SBI is present as a branch and is already a preferred brand. We aspire to be a preferred brand amongst the urban youth and are sure that YONO will get us there. We have given
ourselves a year to ensure that.

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