The suc­cess of Paytm is one of the most cher­ished sto­ries of dig­i­tal In­dia. Shankar Nath, CMO & Se­nior Vice President, Paytm talks about how sports spon­sor­ship has played a big role in tak­ing the brand to new heights, and why the eight-year-old bil­lion dol­lar com­pany still con­sid­ers it­self a hum­ble start-up

Q] Paytm is now the of­fi­cial um­pire part­ner for IPL. How do you hope to lever­age this for brand build­ing?

This is an as­so­ci­a­tion with IPL and BCCI where we are the um­pire part­ners for the next five years. The back of the um­pire’s shirt will have a Paytm logo, which will also be there on the side screen, third um­pire screen, etc. There are some unique brand­ing ben­e­fits with IPL and it’s a good long term as­so­ci­a­tion, which gives us time to build it. And the rea­son for this as­so­ci­a­tion is be­cause cricket has worked very well for us.

Q] Does Paytm plan on ex­tend­ing its deal with Indian cricket as the ti­tle spon­sor?

When we signed the deal three years ago, it gave our brand a lot of lever­age, tak­ing us to an all new level. That as­so­ci­a­tion will end in 2019. Par­al­lely, we have started this as­so­ci­a­tion with IPL which will keep us go­ing for an­other five years at least. It’s great for salience and top-ofthe-mind re­call for the brand. And es­sen­tially, whichever way you look at it, IPL is In­dia’s big­gest me­dia prop­erty and it’s very dif­fi­cult to es­cape that. It is full-scale en­ter­tain­ment which keeps young­sters glued and thus it is good for us.

Q] What are the other plat­forms through which you are try­ing to build a con­nect with con­sumers?

We con­stantly ask our­selves if we can be a so­lu­tion for con­sumers any­where that they need to make a fre­quent pay­ment. But just telling them to make a pay­ment us­ing Paytm is not enough be­cause the con­sumer doesn’t con­nect with that. I have to make it re­lat­able, and spin cer­tain sto­ries around it. For in­stance, the 15-sec­onds elec­tric­ity bill pay­ment through the Paytm app is a story worth telling, as is the cash­back of­fer that can be availed when book­ing movie tick­ets, which is quite pop­u­lar with cus­tomers. Of course we have ra­tio­nal­ized over a pe­riod of time, but it’s a great cus­tomer ac­qui­si­tion tool. So what we are es­sen­tially do­ing over the next 12-18 months is ob­serv­ing how we can present such re­lat­able sto­ries to the user, which is a core mar­ket­ing task. There are 2-3 el­e­ments we look at, what are the creative thoughts be­hind it and what are the me­dia ve­hi­cles that you use to tell those sto­ries? IPL is one of those me­dia ve­hi­cles. Also, we have re­al­ized that as we have be­come more and more mass and pop­u­lar, our next level of growth is go­ing to come from ver­nac­u­lar lan­guage speak­ers. And while we have done some amount of work to cater to that mar­ket, there is a lot more to be done. Just trans­lat­ing your ads into ver­nac­u­lar lan­guages doesn’t work be­yond a point. How do you cre­ate these sto­ries which you think are re­lat­able in the so­cial con­text in Delhi, to be rel­e­vant in Trivandrum, or Guwa­hati, is the


Q] Do you think sports spon­sor­ship is the way for­ward for vis­i­bil­ity in a coun­try like In­dia?

If you are a young, mass brand, you can­not es­cape sports and movies. One rea­son why sports con­nects re­ally well is be­cause it’s time-sen­si­tive con­tent. There are only two things which are time-sen­si­tive in In­dia, in terms of me­dia ve­hi­cles. One is sports, be­cause you won’t ever watch recorded sports, and

the sec­ond is news. Out­side these two gen­res there is a lot of de­ferred view­ing; I can al­ways record ev­ery­thing else or see a re­peat later or the next day. So there is ef­fi­ciency of me­dia de­liv­ery be­cause the user is there and your ad will be watched there and then. Up un­til now most of our work has been around cricket. Go­ing for­ward, we will look at other sports too.

Q] So will we see an IPL-spe­cific cam­paign soon?

Yes, there is a lot of work go­ing on and there will be dif­fer­ent cam­paigns which will come up at dif­fer­ent points in time. While I can’t com­ment on the ex­act date of re­lease, in April you will be see­ing a lot of IPL-re­lated com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Paytm across Tele­vi­sion, Print, Out­door, Ra­dio, etc.

Q] While Paytm ads can be seen very fre­quently on

TV, the same ad runs for years. Are you con­cerned that con­sumers may lose in­ter­est?

Sometimes when we are too close to the brand, we tend to over­re­act or we see the same stim­uli far more than what the nor­mal user is see­ing. So, typ­i­cally what hap­pens is you may have a fan­tas­tic ad and run it for some­time. Then the mar­keter feels it is over­ex­posed and thus moves on to the next creative which may or may not be as good. What we for­get is that in the ex­ter­nal world where a con­sumer is be­ing bom­barded with 500 dif­fer­ent cre­atives, he may have had the op­por­tu­nity to see your ad just 3-4 times. You may have seen it 100 times, be­cause you are liv­ing and breath­ing the brand. So, sometimes there is merit in es­tab­lish­ing the same thing.

Q] How well does TV drive down­loads for the Paytm app - which is the ultimate goal for the brand?

User ac­qui­si­tion and rel­e­vance are both im­por­tant. For ex­am­ple, when we run cam­paigns as the ti­tle spon­sor for cricket matches, we see a big spike in our app down­loads. In key matches, the app down­load num­bers go up by as much as 3x-4x and it is all or­ganic. There is a direct cor­re­la­tion; our down­loads go through the roof dur­ing a big In­dia match and so do our DTH recharges via Paytm, be­cause per­haps peo­ple are recharg­ing only to watch the big match on TV. Be­sides, in the app ecosys­tem you are not only com­pet­ing with peo­ple in your own cat­e­gory, but you are also com­pet­ing for the mem­ory space of the user. Peo­ple are con­scious about what mem­ory space the apps are tak­ing up in their phones, and if they are us­ing an app just once a month, they may even delete it. So we need to con­stantly re­in­force that mes­sage so that the user sees value in keep­ing us on their phone, by telling them of the mul­ti­ple ways Paytm can be used. Q] How much do you spend on mar­ket­ing in a year?

Our deal with BCCI for Indian cricket was over Rs 200 crore for four years, and now there is the IPL deal too. The mar­ket­ing in­vest­ment will con­tinue to grow sig­nif­i­cantly for the next three years. On the one hand we need to ac­quire a lot of new users. And we will go ver­nac­u­lar in a big way be­cause that’s where the next phase of growth is go­ing to come from. How­ever, this re­quires sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket­ing in­vest­ments, which on a cost-per-con­tact ba­sis could ac­tu­ally be higher, be­cause it’s scat­tered. Apart from that, we don’t have the economies of scale there, which is why our mar­ket­ing in­vest­ments will con­tinue to be sig­nif­i­cantly more than what they were ear­lier.

Q] Do you still con­sider your­self a startup?

The way I would de­fine a startup is an or­ga­ni­za­tion which needs to be a lit­tle ag­ile and think on its feet. I can­not have a sit­u­a­tion today in our in­dus­try where we do an an­nual plan com­pris­ing three dif­fer­ent cam­paigns; one in every four months. Here things change by the day. And we just need to be ag­ile to take quick de­ci­sions, and with a set of data and vari­ables, and you can­not af­ford to have anal­y­sis paral­y­sis. There are also mul­ti­ple busi­nesses, dif­fer­ent cam­paigns and dif­fer­ent sto­ries, so yes, in that sense, given the way our en­tire team works, it’s def­i­nitely a startup. Yes, we have been around for a while and we are rea­son­ably well-funded, but we have to think and re­act quickly, which we are able to do only be­cause of the lack of bu­reau­cracy which al­lows for faster de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Our deal with BCCI for Indian cricket was over Rs 200 crore for four years, and now there is the IPL deal too. The mar­ket­ing in­vest­ment will con­tinue to grow sig­nif­i­cantly for the next three years.

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