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Arun Rajamani

General Manager, Consumer Business | 23 May 2013

The current internet penetration at 10 per cent offers huge potential for growth. At the same time, there is an increased complexity due to different OS, devices and languages. While this lends obvious attraction to an advertiser, it will be a challenge to understand these complexities and offer consistent experience across all these variables and derive optimum value from all these options.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Arun Rajamani, General Manager, Consumer Business, Sify Technologies speaks at length about brand engagement on digital platforms, growing importance of augmented reality, taking competition head on in the email space and more...

Q. You revamped the Sify.com homepage last year. What changes have you noticed in terms of traffic movement and has it resulted in a differential approach from advertisers in terms of spends?

What we did included:
a) Layout that captured the gamut of news across Sify.com
b) Differential content, basis the cities, that the user is surfing from
c) Engagement tools like FB recommends
We have seen a tremendous response from the consumers, which is an obvious attraction for any advertiser. Further, the highly customisable layout has enabled advertisers to come to Sify for their big branding campaigns.

Q. What is the emphasis that Sify as a brand puts on business solutions and consumer engagement?

Tremendous. Consumer engagement is the most important metric for any brand today. From clicking to commenting to sharing a story across the social networking platforms, it is what drives engagement of customers as well as discovery of content. Sify uses a variety of tools (inhouse as well as external) to facilitate the same.

Q. Amidst cut throat competition in email service, where does Sify stand today, when a substantial number of email users have migrated to services like Gmail due to various unavoidable factors? How do you retain your subscribers?

The approach of Sify is to focus on its core areas and seek partnerships that can add value to our customers. Sify, because of its heritage and services, has a lot of loyal mail customers. To ensure continous value to the users, Sify has a partnership with an external mail application provider, wherein the experience of the customer is completely world class. This customer experience has ensured that there is minimal attrition. The situation is a win-win. The customer is delighted, while Sify continues to focus on other relevant services.

Q. In this market of mobile platform proliferation for customer engagement as well as business solutions, do you think mobile is becoming the primary medium? What is Sify’s broad role in the mobile marketing solutions space?

Mobile is being accepted in a big way. Whether it will become the primary medium is still too early to say.

Q. What are your views on the growing importance of augmented reality in the digital domain?

With the increased penetration of android apps as well as apps on iPhone, delivering an augmented reality experience has become smoother than before. Sify is one of the few players in India to have the experience of working with multiple clients across geographies on augmented reality. The technology will facilitate frequent and closer interaction of customers with media. Brands too have an awesome opportunity to provide an all-encompassing experience to the customers. The technology is here to stay.

Q. Do you think marketers are competent enough to understand the need of various digital application driven solutions for the services/ products they deal with? What are the challenges that Sify as a digital player faces today with regards to selling solutions?

Marketers understand their brand the best. To be fair, the brand manager seeks the value that the technology/ applications bring to them, rather than the technology itself. Too often technology providers (including Sify) are guilty of pitching the technology, rather than the benefit to the brand. One of the challenges of the internet industry is that there are often applications/ technologies that are nascent yet relevant to the brand. Brands are often uncomfortable working with nascent technologies.

Secondly, the pace of change in the internet industry pretty much outstrips the pace of change of other media. For most offline brands, digital spends still form a small proportion of their spends, though that is changing. The brand does require a lot of faith in the digital medium for it to keep pace and constantly finetune strategies/ implement newer types of communication.

Q. Are there marketers/ consumers internationally as well that Sify deals with? If yes, what would be the approximate break-up of international population vis-à-vis Indian population that Sify caters to? Would you like to give a few examples related to this?

Sify has a flagship property, Samachar, which is among the largest properties for NRIs today. On an average, around 40 per cent of our users live outside India. A logical corollary is that there is a set of international advertisers in the banking, entertainment, and real estate space, who seek to communicate to this audience.

Q. How much Sify is into web-based applications today? According to you, what is the future of such applications in India?

Not much. We would not like to speculate on the future of web-based applications.

Q. What are the different ways that you market Sify? Is it more skewed towards ATL, BTL or any other mode of promotion? Being a digital player, what is your engagement like on digital platforms?

Being an online company, it’s obvious that we use a fair amount of digital media. We also extensively drive our content across various social networking platforms. Also, we firmly believe that our differentiator is our content itself, which attracts its own share of loyal users and builds a deeper engagement. Among the portals, we have one of the best engagement metrics.

Q. As a digital player, how much weightage do you allocate to B2C and B2B promotional activities?

We use B2C marketing extensively to reach out and communicate to our customers. B2B marketing is extremely useful in reaching out to advertisers, with our message of how Sify adds value to their marketing strategies.

Q. Where do you see digital as a domain headed, based on the Indian market reality?

The current internet penetration at 10 per cent offers huge potential for growth. At the same time, there is an increased complexity due to different OS, devices and languages. While this lends obvious attraction to an advertiser, it will be a challenge to understand these complexities and offer consistent experience across all these variables and derive optimum value from all these options.

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