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Interview with Tejinder Gill, Truecaller, Vice President – Sales & Head of India Operations

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Tejinder Gill is currently building Truecaller in India from the ground up, with a focus on building monetization strategies, monitoring country growth and implementing new initiatives. Tejinder considers himself a digital athlete who has spent over a decade in Leadership and General Management roles within the advertising industry. He is passionate about setting-up businesses from the ground-up, cultivating a culture with inspiration at its core, building a high performing team and delighting customers with innovative solutions that solve meaningful problems.

Importance of Digital Marketing

In his previous roles, Tejinder has been a part of LinkedIn’s core leadership team right from its inception in India back in 2010. Prior to joining LinkedIn, he was with Yahoo! India for more than 2 years heading verticals like Auto, Consumer Durables and Technology. Once can call this the beginning of his digital marathon.

Shifting gears at Truecaller, Tejinder always knew but he has come to realize more & more, that mobile marketing is central to everything we do every day. And hence, as a good marketer, you need to be where your audience is. And this is where Truecaller brings complete focus on Mobile Marketing. Right from user experience to designing new products, enhancing new features and taking it to their consumers – they’re changing it all for the better.

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

Tejinder Gill:  It was the mid-nineties and I began my love affair with digital like so many of us at the time – in a cyber café. I had stumbled upon something wondrous, another world. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how, when, why, what and who when it came to the big WWW.

I was very cosy in my mainline world at TOI back in 2008. The wild west that was ‘Digital Marketing’ called out to the cow-boy in me. And I ran towards it with everything I had. My gut told me that this was just the beginning. I could see it unravel before me like a wave and I dived right in and became a part of it. I experienced and witnessed digital marketing solutions, crazy innovations, new ad formats almost every other month and the very first glimpses of mobile marketing. And as luck would have it, the timing was just right. This was the time that agencies and clients alike were clicking onto the digital bandwagon. The biggest conversations around this time were always around moving monies from mainline to digital – what they saw were lower costs, what we saw were higher spends. If lower costs were the bait, accurate measuring tools were the hook, line & sinker. For the first time in my career, I was actually delivering direct value – and I knew I was in love. The idea that the medium was changing lives drove me to dig deeper and it is this very life changing property of mobile marketing that has gotten me hooked to mobile marketing now.

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?

Tejinder Gill: Define conventional marketing? In my mind, there is no such thing. Digital is ‘conventional marketing’ done digitally. This gap is in place because of our industries innate need to divide and conquer. It’s another channel, another medium to reach your audience. The audiences don’t discriminate, why should marketers

The only difference is ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. People who have the internet and people who don’t (yet). If you ask me, honestly, I cannot think of a single marketing objective which cannot be fulfilled via the digital channel. However, conventional marketing still holds good in scenarios where you do not have internet penetration. It is the only way to reach these places at this time. Digital marketing is not a threat to the future but is THE future. It is the way we evolve. A natural progression of how the world is creating and consuming information. From being ignored, to surviving on scraps – digital has come a long way. Today, it’s a staple. One cannot imagine a single marketing plan without having a focus on digital.

Seasoned marketers today know that there isn’t a difference at all and are integrating beautifully. They’re using all the channels available to them with a focus on social, digital media and mobile marketing to achieve maximum impact.

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

Tejinder Gill: 

  • Walnut:  Walnut is an app that manages your money by automatically and securely tracking your monthly spends & helping you pay your bills on time. Immediately after  demonetization, they aded this fabulous feature in their app which was telling users “Which ATM has Cash”. The founders initially planned a print campaign in the newspaper for specific regions but later decided to leverage Trucaller’s reach to create an impact. A simple creative with clear messaging targeting to the right audience helped them deliver exceptional resuts. It was not only a great branding exercise but they also saw a record number of installs coming in.
  • Jabong: Being an ecommerce player in a market like India isn’t easy. But Truecaller got Jabong the impact and results it needed to race ahead on Valentine’s day. With our massive reach, we delivered 150 million impressions in a single day – delivering impact as well as performance in one go. Just what the e-com doctor ordered.
  • Ford: One challenge that the automotive industry faces today is individuals not servicing their cars at branded company service centres after the first year because they believe it’s too expensive compared to 3rd party service centres. Ford’s campaign highlighted the fact that their services are quite economical and guaranteed genuine parts as well. They used Truecaller’s unique targeting solutions to reach Ford owners with surgical precision. The number’s did the talking when Ford witnessed a 37% lower CPA on Truecaller as compared to any other digital channel they were using. Talk about driving performance!

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

Tejinder Gill: 

  1. Not investing in right talent: It all begins and ends with people. If you’ve got the right people with the right attitude and skills, you’re set. As a team, you will have a well-rounded strategy because of their inputs and experience. As an organization, investing in good digital talent will reap great dividends. With natively digital people at the helm, there is very little that you can do wrong.
  2. Not investing in right tools: Digital marketing is all about measurement and for one to leverage this, investing in the right tools is mandatory. Right from scheduling campaigns, amplifying it on social media and measuring it to the last mile – using the right tools can make all the difference.
  3. Not solving for the right marketing objectives via Digital: Quite often, I have seen that marketers sometimes have different objectives for conventional marketing as opposed to digital marketing. Digital usually bears the onus of performance while gets step-motherly treatment when it comes to impact. Marketers must realise that digital is a powerful channel to reach their audiences and that it should be central to their overall strategy.

Between Agency and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?

Tejinder Gill: No matter how good a general physician is, s/he will always need a specialist for certain procedures. Digital Marketing is the same. Although one can hone in-house talent for most digital exercises, I still think the agency partnership model holds true as they bring special focus, expertise, and learnings to the table. As a client, you get more than just a marketing expertise, save costs, get latest technology and tools, detailed reporting. As a publisher, you need the agency to bat for you because they have a seat at the client’s table. Agencies can get you an extra edge when it comes to digital marketing.

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

Tejinder Gill: Part of this growth as I mentioned earlier, will be organic. Organizations have already begun witnessing the role that digital plays in their marketing ecosystem. This itself will ensure an increase in influence.But organic growth isn’t enough. Digital Marketing needs a catalyst for it to rise within an

But organic growth isn’t enough. Digital Marketing needs a catalyst for it to rise within an organisation. One such catalyst is education and evangelisation of the medium. Once an organisation’s audience themselves begin adopting the medium, the organisation itself cannot be far behind. Getting internal stakeholders to experience and see success with the medium is crucial. Every win needs to be highlighted and every milestone, celebratedBut it mustn’t stop there. Change is a necessity and in keeping up with technology,

But it mustn’t stop there. Change is a necessity and in keeping up with technology, organizations need to match steps with the latest that tech has to offer. At Truecaller, we’re witnessing this change, first hand. We’re all about digital or rather, about Mobile. Mobile is becoming the centre of everything starting from your alarm clock, wallet, television and gaming console. In our organization, we build all our marketing strategies around digital or you can say mobile. We try and test our own platform to reach out to consumers to test our new product features, learn from them and then scale it to other platforms.

Which are your 3 favourite Digital Marketing Tools?

Tejinder Gill: As I mentioned earlier, Digital Marketing is all about reaching the right audiences, with the right message at the right time. And marketers need to ensure this is being done and measured in the best way possible. Here are 3 of my favourite tools to match these objectives:

  1. Reach the right audience – Truecaller’s Intent Based Targeting
  2. With the right message – Adobe Marketing Cloud gives marketers insights needed to shape their communications.
  3. At the right time – Programmatic is the future and I’m a firm believer in Double Click.

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

Tejinder Gill: 

  1. For Entrepreneurs: To analyze and understand the trends of their consumers and then make meaningful marketing strategies. You can’t ignore the biggest revolution in the world while making business decisions.
  2. For Professionals: The world is moving digital, it is critical for them to learn this and be a part of the rising tide transforming India. Know it to tame it and the world is yours.
  3. For Students: Digital is the way forward, the sooner they learn the easier it will be for them to make actionable strategies.

What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?

Tejinder Gill: 

  • Passionate about digital
  • Strong data analytical skills
  • Understand business and market dynamics
  • Strong curiosity and a hunger to learn

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What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?

Tejinder Gill: My seven-year-old son questions me every day on why I read a newspaper when it’s available digitally. Honestly, I don’t have a good answer and in the next decade or so, our entire TG will be on mobile. Mobile is the new television for younger India with an average time spent of more than 3 hrs daily. Digital marketing ensures personalization, high relevance and measurability of the advertisements. My advice for the new folks on the block is to stay ahead of the curve. Keep your eyes open. If mobile is the way ahead today, find out what will be cutting edge 5 years from now. Never stop learning.

Howdo you stay updated on the latest trends in Digital Marketing? Which are the Digital Marketing resources (i.e. blogs/websites/apps) you visit regularly?

Tejinder Gill: 

  • Mashable & TechCrunch
  • My LinkedIn Feed
  • Campaign India
  • AFAQs & E4M

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

Tejinder Gill: Gary Vaynerchuk

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2017?

Tejinder Gill:

  1. Digital marketing will be replaced by Mobile Marketing
  2. Programmatic buying
  3. Personalized native advertising

Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?

Tejinder Gill: 

Digital Vidya is doing great things in terms of leading the way in building Digital India. Bringing all the relevant information under one roof for the marketers of tomorrow. I wish we had something like this during our foundation years. Keep up the great work and keep spreading the Vidya!

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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