The digital marketing evolution and what it means for startups


The rules of marketing have changed. Forever.

Companies need to adapt or become obsolete. This then, is the startup marketing challenge — how do you be creative and up your game?

Keeping this in mind, we hosted the Kstart Digital Marketing Summit in May, where I interviewed Rajan Anandan, VP & MD, Google SE Asia & India. Rajan is a huge supporter of the booming startup ecosystem and has been at the forefront of digital revolution in India. This fun and engaging conversation with him resulted in deep, thought provoking insights.

Here are some key takeaways from the session.

Apps are not going to exist in a few years.

If you are building apps, you are toast. Why do you need an app? Take flight booking for example. Apps have replaced people who used to do that at one time, so that we can do it ourselves. Now machines will do all of it.

There are too many people building something for ‘the now’. You can never build a great company by building for the now, you should always build for the future.

Drivers for the growth in digital marketing

Today, the internet reach is about 300 million people but the television market is about $3.5 billion. Online video reach today is about 100 to 120 million from platforms like YouTube. When online video reach gets to 300 million, the only constraint would be about broadband. One can imagine that a billion dollars will move over to the online video market once that happens.

India has about $3.5 billion print market, probably the only large print market that is still growing. Regional language print is growing high single digits and English print is growing low single digits. 75% of the print market is what is called performance advertising — the reason big brands advertise into newspapers is because it drives traffic into dealership. Print publication with 17 million subscribers reach makes a billion dollars in revenue. That money is going to move into digital because digital as a performance medium is much more powerful than print.

It is this combination of reach, performance dollars migrating and online video becoming much bigger. Those three things combined make it $4-5-billion-dollar market.

How do you capture this market?

By building highly engaged audience — focusing on the right target group.

Take a specific target group — for example, content for women between the age of 24 to 40. There is content but the reality is that there isn’t a lot of exciting content for this specific target group.

At a simplistic level, what has worked for the first 300 million users would not work for the next 300 million users. Imagine this — there are only 2.5% of Indian rural women on the internet. In trying to understand this staggering gap, the biggest insight that has emerged is

The women in rural India think that the internet is not for them.

At the end of the day, it is about startups that have very, very deep user insights into a segment.

How should startups think about the opportunity?

If you are trying to build a product for a specific demographic, it would be great if you formed that demographic. ‘Two, 22-year-old tech founders trying to build a product for 40-year-old women’ can be tough. What are you going to build? Where would you try and begin? You would rip off some concept from somewhere else, which may not work.

Founders need to pick a space that they know something about and have a competitive advantage. Start focusing on our problems, as opposed to looking elsewhere and trying to replicate. One of the biggest constraints in this would be how to monetize because these problems do not present an obvious straight forward monetization model.

There are 3.3 billion people on the internet and 4 billion not on the internet. The current products and services may get a few hundred million more. But, to go beyond that, we have to go back to basic human needs, not needs around communication, but really about things that improve people’s lives.

How should startups think about product in context of effective marketing?

The most important thing is to build really amazing product. If you build amazing products, you don’t really need to market for the first million users.

Once, you have a great product, there is growth hacking which India lacks. There are very few great growth hackers in India and it is a skill set that needs to built as an ecosystem.

It is very important to have differentiated product. If you have a differentiated product that 1,000 users are going to love, then you can growth hack your way to a 100,000 users.

How should startups approach marketing?

When approaching marketing, there is a funnel comprising of awareness building, engagement, acquisition and then retention.

If you are in the internet space it is all about acquisition — the most efficient, effective acquisition channels for the right audience. For startups what is really important is to find one channel that really works, maximize it. Then find the next channel and maximize that and the next one. Build scale within a channel.

If you have a great product and smart growth hacking, you don’t need marketing.

This article first appeared on Medium.

(Disclaimer: Kalaari Capital is an investor in YourStory.)

Download the Kstart report on “Exploring India’s Digital Marketing Landscape” for further insights about the fast-evolving space of digital marketing.