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Interview with Akhil Chandra, Founder & CEO, Studio Mosaic

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akhil_chandraSoon after completing MBA from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi in 2009, Akhil Chandra joined Bharti Airtel as part of the prestigious ‘Young Leader’ management training program where he did telecom sales and marketing for a year. Since then he has been in the digital marketing space, having first gotten introduced to it at Affle, a leading mobile app marketing and advertising company where he worked for 2 years on app marketing and product solutions. This is the time when Akhil got interested in mobile apps and joined PayTM, India’s premier mobile payment and e-commerce app, where he managed the digital marketing and user acquisition activities for little over a year.

Finally, in September 2013 Akhil started his own venture called Studio Mosaic  which is a full-service mobile app studio specializing in the 3 D’s i.e Design, Development & Distribution (Marketing) of mobile apps on the iOS App Store and Android Play Store. Their 360-degree approach covers all stages of an app’s lifecycle from ideation & development to launch and post-launch promotions. Digital Marketing, rather mobile app marketing is at the center point of their offering at Studio Mosaic.

How did you get into Digital Marketing? What interested you in learning Digital Marketing?

Akhil: While at Airtel, I realized I wanted to do digital marketing in the telecom industry, but only after I joined Affle, did I truly understand the mobile and app marketing ecosystem that included paid advertisements and app store marketing. And finally, at PayTM I covered more uncaptured facets of digital marketing including SEO and SEM while adding to my existing knowledge of mobile marketing. By the time I decided to start Studio Mosaic, I had an all-round understanding of digital marketing and was clear that this is what I wanted to do. The growth in interest and knowledge happened over a period of time while I want in the industry. Of course, it also helped that digital marketing, especially mobile marketing became huge all over the world around the same time. There were new options opening up and lots of stuff to try. So I got to learn about and activate an entire gamut of digital marketing initiatives.

According to you, what are the advantages of conventional marketing over Digital Marketing? Do you think that Digital Marketing is a threat to the future of conventional marketing?

Akhil: I think the largest and probably the only advantage that conventional marketing has over digital AS OF TODAY is Reach. And this is relevant to a lot of countries like India where there is a high penetration of devices (PCs, mobiles etc.) but in terms of usage, a large chunk of the population is still either illiterate or not comfortable with using the internet. In such cases, the only way for marketers to reach out to this population is to use national/ vernacular conventional broadcast or BTL mediums to get their message across.

However, with more and more people getting comfortable with accessing the internet and familiarizing themselves with the digital world, conventional media is sure to lose its edge pretty soon.

Share about your 3 favorite Digital Marketing case studies. What did you like most about them?

Akhil:  Lots of them especially stuff done on mobile by Coke and Nike. 

According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?

Akhil: 

  • Confusing Mobile with Web: Mobile and web are 2 different mediums. Hence, they demand different campaign strategies, different optimization strategies, different creatives and different measuring tools. The one thing fits all philosophy doesn’t work as invariably campaigns on the ‘other’ media have to suffer.
  • Only focus on downloads/registrations/number of leads etc.: Marketers tend to look at the wrong metrics to measure campaign/ medium effectiveness. You need to look at Quality (relevance, stickiness, intent, action) along with Quantity to gauge performance and optimize. As a result, retention of TG becomes a major issue.
  • Not choosing the right medium: Not all campaigns work on all mediums. Marketers make the mistake on investing in mediums that their core TG does not identify with simply because the medium is popular. For instance using Facebook for Teenagers doesn’t really work in 2016 since teenagers are completely off Facebook and prefer to be on Snapchat and Instagram.
Between Agency and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?

Akhil: I feel the overall strategy and brand communication should definitely be managed in-house in order to remain true to what the company/brand stands for. The level of understanding and adherence to guidelines showcased by in-house employees usually ends to be much better. However, the execution is something which can be easily outsourced. Activities like paid advertising can be managed much better by agencies which have past experience and skill and driving higher volumes at a lower cost per unit. Also, this varies depending on the company. For instance, traditional brick and mortar companies that want to run consumer-centric promotions might not have the complete understanding and exposure to different digital marketing channels and might be better off by outsourcing the complete digital marketing mandate to an external agency. However, new-age internet companies of today understand this much better. And tying in growth hacking techniques within the product itself can best be achieved through an in-house team. A win-win situation, I feel will be a combination of both and would entirely depend upon the inherent skill set available within the organization.

How do you ensure increasing Digital Marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

Akhil: I don’t think I or anyone needs to increase the relevance of digital marketing in an organization. The consumers speak for themselves and any brand/company that is true to its cause will definitely be listening to what the consumers have to say. The message is loud and clear and the benefits are easily measurable. Unlike conventional marketing where it is almost impossible to measure impact, digital marketing, on the other hand is all about numbers and measurable metrics. Coupled with the fact that digital marketing is so much more personable and customizable for the end consumer, it’s an option that no company can ignore in today’s world.

Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?

Akhil: 

  • For Entrepreneurs: To run their business
  • For Professionals: It is the ‘Hot’ media now and it is surely here to stay
  • For Students: For anyone looking to make a career in advertising/marketing, knowledge and understanding of digital marketing would soon become a pre-requisite
What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?

Akhil: 

  1. Lateral Thinking
  2. Great communication skills: Succinct, direct, clear and grammatically correct communication is very important
  3. Good analytical & mathematical skills
  4. Awareness about the digital medium and enthusiasm to work in the space
  5. Willingness & hunger to learn
What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?

Akhil: I think my advice to these guys would be:

  • Stay updated: Digital marketing is a forever evolving business. Users are doing a lot more online, brands are doing phenomenal stuff to reach out to them and great products are getting launched to bridge the gap between the two.  You can very quickly fall behind the line if you do not stay abreast with the latest in the digital world.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new mediums: There are so many marketing options and so many tools available to reach out to your audiences each with a different terminology, interface, functionality etc. that for someone new it can be a rather daunting task to work with all of them. But most of these platforms and tools have rather easy interfaces and are pretty simple to work with. Read, understand, try, make mistakes and learn from them. As an industry, digital does not value someone who has a niche. You can’t just say, I am good with running ads on FB only, or making Instagram posts only. You need to be aware of the options available and be willing to try them.
  • Finally, always make an effort to understand your user. Everything does not work in digital for everyone. You need to get into your TGs shoes and understand what drives her. What is she most likely to do online or on her phone, what sites is she most likely to visit, what apps is she most likely to use and what activities is she most likely to undertake. A good digital marketing strategy is about being at the right place at the right time as much as it is about the right message. So be cued in to the people around you.
How do you stay updated on the latest trends in Digital Marketing? Which are the Digital Marketing resources (i.e. blogs/websites/apps) you visit regularly?

Akhil: Steve P Young’s blog, Topical Digest, App Annie

Share the names of 3 people you respect when it comes to Digital Marketing.

Akhil: Steve P Young, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Dan Counsell  

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2016?

Akhil: I think in the long term (5-10 years) IoT or the Internet of things is going to become a reality where all our electronics, gadgets etc. are intelligently linked to make our life easier. And with this technology, digital media will be at the forefront taking advantage of the situation.

In the short term (0-5 years) mobile will become even more central to the entire digital media ecosystem. While a mobile presence has become a necessity for everybody, more and more brands will be embracing it as a medium of choice for reaching out to their TG.

In 2016, I see the following trends gaining traction:

  • Increased focus on wearable technology – linking it to more aspects of our everyday life apart from health
  • Mobile Bots gaining traction as a product as well as a customer service tool
  • Content Marketing becoming essential for digital marketers in engaging their audiences
Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?

Akhil: 

I think Digital Vidya is doing a great job of making people aware and equipping them with the necessary skills needed for digital marketing. While hiring, I often come across people who have done a course with Digital Vidya and it is really helping people who want to make a foray into the digital marketing ecosystem.

Are you inspired by the opportunity of Digital Marketing? Start your journey by attending our upcoming orientation session on Digital Marketing for Career & Business Growth. It’s online and Free :).

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