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Vaasu S Gavarasana

Head - APAC Business Marketing | 07 Feb 2014

Mobile is going to be huge. We will be putting tremendous effort in creating innovative products based on consumer insights. At CES 2013, Marissa has announced ad product offering, mobile products, and two new digital magazines. She also mentioned that there will be a huge thrust in our communication products such as Yahoo Mail. These are all global offerings. We are all set for phenomenal growth.

Vaasu S Gavarasana has been with Yahoo! since 2011. He is responsible for managing Yahoo!’s relations with global clients. He works with both APAC regional advertising sales and marketplaces team and the US Global team to deliver multinational campaigns across Yahoo!’s APAC network.

Prior to joining Yahoo!, Gavarasana was Executive Vice-President and Branch Head (Delhi), Bates 141. He has 21 years of experience in the advertising industry, having started his career in 1991. He spent 12 years with Interpublic Group (IPG) agencies such as McCann and Lintas, both in India and in Singapore. He has also worked with agencies such as TBWA and Dentsu Communications. Over the years, he has worked for global clients such as Unilever, Nestlé, MasterCard, Lufthansa, Boots Healthcare, and Johnson & Johnson.

Gavarasana has also been a dotcom entrepreneur and was running a website named Udrool.com, before the venture was struck by the recession. He has also worked with DY&R 2.1 as a navigator and helped them set up the 2.1 division with Y&R Singapore.

Internet giant Yahoo!, which was perceived to have lost the plot somewhere, is now revisiting its whole strategy. From a portal to a content platform, Yahoo! is now betting big on mobile. Former Google Chief Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo! in 2012 and since then there have been numerous acquisitions in the mobile space with a lot of repositioning of the brand.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Sonam Gulati, Gavarasana shares how Yahoo! has evolved in the recent past, how Marissa Mayer’s leadership is changing the face of the Internet giant, and the plans for 2014.

Q. What is Yahoo doing to get back its mojo?

I think we never lost the mojo. Let me give you a perspective on that. Even in the worst of worst of times we had 700 million unique visitors a month. If our product was not up to the mark, why would people keep coming back to it? It is because when it comes to content, we are still prima donna. I don’t think we ever lost the mojo. I think it’s more of the bad perception created by the business community, otherwise the average consumer loves Yahoo!. Otherwise how would we get 700 million unique visitors? The people are coming not because someone is pressing them to use Yahoo!, but because they see value in it. And since Marissa has joined, that 700 million has become 800 million.

Q. How has Yahoo evolved over the last few years?

We are no longer a portal. The portal idea is 90s-early 2000s, where it was essentially a gateway to experience other things. Yahoo! has since moved on. We now have journalists who create original content for us. We are no longer a portal, we have evolved.

Q. Why this shift? How did it come along?

It was more of an evolution, and I think somewhere along the lines of providing consumers with a lot of content. Consumers started asking, does Yahoo! have a viewpoint? In fact, since Marissa has come on board, she has roped in a couple of high profile journalists in the US to lead separate sections.

Q. What are the challenges that Yahoo! has been facing?

Prior to Marissa there was indecision in terms of where to take Yahoo!, after she has come on board, that indecision has gone away. She has got a great plan.

Q. What kind of competition do native players such as Times Internet pose, since your positioning is now very similar to them?

We run our own race, we don’t look at who is running with us, behind us or ahead of us.

Q. Since your positioning has changed, these players are now direct competitors. So, how much are they eating into your market share?

When you look at a bigger picture of content marketing, the old definitions are changing in the market today. Everyone does everything.

Q. What are your plans for 2014?

Mobile is going to be huge. We will be putting tremendous effort in creating innovative products based on consumer insights. At CES 2013, Marissa has announced ad product offering, mobile products, and two new digital magazines. She also mentioned that there will be a huge thrust in our communication products such as Yahoo Mail. These are all global offerings. We are all set for phenomenal growth. Since half of the traffic comes from mobile, it is going to be a huge thrust area for us.

Q. Which sections are most popular in India?

We are No. 1 in news, entertainment and cricket in the India region.

Q. How are you reaching out to the lost users?

There is a huge online campaign going on. It’s a very targeted campaign. It’s about the new mail app on Android and iOS and talks about the benefits and updates in the service.

Q. So, you mean that the end users love Yahoo!, it’s the businesses that got the wrong perception?

What happens is segmentation. There is so much choice that they probably got confused. Choice paralyses the user.

Q. What are a few takeaways that users should know about the ‘new’ Yahoo?

The audience should know that Marissa is leading the company to grow. Secondly, we are making our switch to be big in mobile. We have made several acquisitions in the mobile space since Marissa has come on board and that is going to be a big focus area.

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