Interview with Poornima Rai, Aircel, Head – Online & Digital

8 Min Read. |

Poornima Rai has 18 years of cross-cultural experience in setting up and growing various internet businesses, both domestic and international, with specialization in digital sales.

At Aircel, she has set-up Online Sales Channel as a new vertical and her role includes, selling through Aircel owned channels like & App and partner properties, working closely with Recharge sites, Wallet partners, E-Commerce, Digital Payment Channels, Banks and Financial inclusion partners.

She is closely working with GSMA on “Connected Women” project which aims at increasing percentage of Women Internet Users in India. Additionally, with ‘NASSCOM 10000 Start-ups program’, she is mentoring a few start-ups who need assistance in defining their digital strategy.

Part of the core team that launched the 1st Indian Affiliate Network (Deal group media Plc.) which started the concept of performance marketing and ROI model in India, also worked with the UK Tourism Board to set-up, an information portal and a sales channel for selling tourism products online. She also had brief stints with Citibank and Kodak in Dubai.

Importance of Digital Marketing

With an objective to drive digital adoption in Aircel, she has been instrumental in converting offline customers to online on Digital Channels for Recharge & Bill payment as well as acquiring new customers through the Online Channels. She is fostering partnerships with channels to enable multiple digital touch points for customer convenience and high engagement on social media through a sampling of new offers and aggressive plans.

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

Poornima Rai:  In 1998, I was based in Dubai when Internet had just started and we used it as a communication tool but I was keen to explore more so I studied Java programming and when I came back to India, I got the opportunity to work with UK Tourism Board to set up their India-centric website and contribute to the local content. My digital journey started from there and I used the online medium to drive traffic and engage with customers. I also got the opportunity of being part of the core team that launched the first Affiliate Network in India, (Dealgroup Media Plc) and then went onto set-up the online business for Aircel.

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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?

Poornima Rai: At the moment, I believe both the mediums are required to reach a wider audience as there are only 30% customers who are online, however a large part of India’s population is still offline. Print and Television advertising budget is far higher as compared to digital but brands are now increasing their digital spends. Since, marketers want to reach out to a wider audience who may not access online services, traditional marketing helps to widen the reach, Infact some the Online Retailers like Flipkart have opened offline stores.

Online is a reasonably cheaper advertising option and is measurable as you get the performance metrics and profiling of customer. Moreover, it gives you the flexibility of tweaking a campaign on the go, i.e. if you don’t see the desired results in a campaign, you can always make changes to the creative and landing page, while the campaign is on.

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

Poornima Rai:

  1. #alltheboss is a marketing campaign launched by giffgaff a mobile network run by its members, who are able to participate in the company’s business, from customer service to sales to marketing. In return, they get remuneration through a system called “Payback”. This the first Online ONLY Telecom company and their campaigns are innovative.
  2. #ShareTheLoad from Ariel, detergent brand from P&G in a smart campaign raised question about gender equality. The campaign kicked off with the question “Is laundry only a woman’s job?” and sensitised men to #ShareTheLoad.
  3. #WeIndians Amazon India had launched an integrated campaign that highlights the unique traits of Indian consumers and their behaviour, like always rushing to get somewhere on time, Indian quirks like dropping newspaper to block a seat in a bus or about seeing Rs.500 note under sunlight to check its authenticity. The campaign ties back these quirks to the Amazon’s brand’s values of 100% Original Products, Easy Returns, Fast and On-time Delivery.

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Free Digital Marketing Webinar

Date: 27th Jan, 2021 (Wed)
Time: 3 PM to 4:30 PM (IST/GMT +5:30)
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According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?

Poornima Rai: 

  1. Not enough money spent on Digital Analytics– Digital analytics can help companies get a full view of customer’s journey and helps segment customers into various buckets to offer customized solutions. Unfortunately, very few companies invest in good analytics tools.
  2. Low adoption of Omni-Channel strategy – It is important that all consumer touch points should be connected to give customers a seamless experience, so they can start where they left off but usually platforms work in isolation.
  3. Inconsistent content strategy– not enough focus in companies on creating a content strategy which can result in good traffic and conversions at lower costs.

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

Poornima Rai: A mix of both is necessary as agencies have sspecialized skillsets which brands may not want to invest in and also one may get better media rates thru agencies. However to bring more focus and speed of execution, in-house Digital Marketers are required for sales monitoring, data analysis and using the insights for campaign launches, monitoring social media channels.

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

Poornima Rai: Digital is still a relatively new channel in brick and mortar companies and as the regulation, processes and technology is totally different from conventional channels it takes a while for people to get comfortable with this channel. I believe a few wins in terms of incremental sales and innovations helps people see the value of this channel. For a company like us it is a necessity to reach out and engage with our customers hence our various functions are aligned to this channel. Today, the channel is being seen as a key growth driver for innovation and with the Government of India’s focus on Digitization, this channel is gaining significance.

Which are your 3 favourite Digital Marketing Tools?

Poornima Rai: 

  1. App Annie
  2. Hootsuite
  3. App Tweak

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

Poornima Rai: 

  • For Entrepreneurs – With the increase in marketplace models, it has become easy for entrepreneurs to sell their products online with low overhead costs. Additionally, the plug and play platforms open another opportunity for the entrepreneurs to set up online stores and boost their sales. Hence it becomes essential for Entrepreneurs to understand the online medium to boost their sales.
  • For Professionals – Digital plays a very important role in the overall marketing strategy; hence marketers should have a good knowledge of Digital to be able to leverage these tools to their advantage. Also, as new digital platforms are coming up it is important to upgrade one’s skillset to stay relevant.
  • For Students  The students nowadays are Digital savvy as they have far more exposure to Digital tools. Since the world is moving rapidly moving towards digitisation and automation, it is necessary that the basic level of digital marketing should be introduced at the school level which students can further enhance at the colleges if they want to pursue this field.

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

Poornima Rai: 

  • Subject Matter Knowledge– Should have knowledge of the specific digital tool which will be his core KPI and should be able to innovate and use this effectively
  • Right Attitude– Should be willing to learn and be passionate about the medium
  • Team player– Should be able to work well in a cross-functional team

Digital Marketing Course by Digital Vidya

Free Digital Marketing Webinar

Date: 27th Jan, 2021 (Wed)
Time: 3 PM to 4:30 PM (IST/GMT +5:30)
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What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?

Poornima Rai:  There is a lot to learn as this industry is still growing. Knowledge of basic digital skill sets is a must which you can use as a base and build on this. Refinement of learning happens on the job when you use these tools for different campaigns and learn what works and what doesn’t for your product. One should also read blogs/ industry reports to increase your understanding of the medium and stay updated on the trends.

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?

Poornima Rai: 

  1. Medianama
  2. Social Bakers
  3. Gartner

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

Poornima Rai: 

  1. Anurag Gupta
  2. Mahesh Murthy
  3. Gav Thomson

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

Poornima Rai: 2017 will take a step further from where we are in ORM. Content remains the backbone of marketing strategies. The content which is getting shared and is moving faster, now imagine if that is put to use in creating a reputation data and integrate it into the business and financial data. Big Data revolution is not far from reality. Different industries like telecom and FMCG are using these data to understand their customers better. When this data is analyzed, it will definitely help the companies take important decisions to develop traditional and online brand strategies basis accurate customer insights.

The other trend which we will see quick acceptance in social media space will be the investment by marketers in adoption of newer technologies. We saw a glimpse of Live Streaming and Augmented Reality (AR) in 2016. However, it is expected to change the way brands will communicate with its stakeholders in the future. AR will transform the way products are designed, produced, and supported, enabling businesses to craft delightful customer experiences.

With brands becoming more open to experimentation and keen on reducing dependence on resources, chat bots are going to be the next big thing. Both, on tweets and Facebook posts, and direct messages, bots will respond to customers based on artificial intelligence technology.

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

Poornima Rai: 

With the advent of digitization and brands & companies increasing focus on the digital channel, there lies a huge opportunity for people to imbibe digital marketing to be able to get better jobs in the sector.

Digital Vidya is helping fulfil this need in the market of quality Digital Education. The course material is pretty exhaustive and covers all the latest tools. What got my interest were the digital case studies and webinars that are available on the website by industry experts sharing their experiences. Excellent Work by your team and I wish you all the very best.

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 :).

Register for FREE Digital Marketing Orientation Class
Date: 27th Jan, 2021 (Wed)
Time: 3 PM to 4:30 PM (IST/GMT +5:30)
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