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Sanjay Tripathy

Executive VP & Head - Marketing | 01 Oct 2009

The success of a communication campaign is gauged by its accessibility, viewership, relevance, and understanding by the target audience. In designing a communication, an accurate media vehicle not only helps us connect to a specific group of audience, but also helps us in identifying the gap between the present lifestyle and the aspirational life space of the target audience, while an impressive creative helps us bridge this gap.

Sanjay Tripathy currently heads Marketing, Direct Sales Channels as Executive Vice President at HDFC Standard Life Insurance, one of India’s leading life insurers. As EVP, Tripathy is responsible for HDFC Standard Life’s Marketing Strategy, Brand Planning, Advertising, Communication & Media, Customer strategy, Direct Sales Channels, Experiential Marketing, Market Research, Business intelligence/Analytics, Product Positioning and Corporate Communication. He also is part of the core committee for leading Service Excellence initiatives across all touchpoints.

He has 17 years’ experience in marketing, corporate communications, business strategy, sales and distribution channel set-up and management (direct channel, retail, key account management & telemarketing), business development, organisation building, business process outsourcing, call centre management, CRM and supply chain management.

Tripathy began his career with GCMMF Ltd in 1992. Post-GCMMF, he worked with various reputed organisations like Frito-Lay (PepsiCo), Mattel and Reliance Infocomm before moving on to his current role at HDFC Standard Life in 2004.

Some of his major contributions include launching Dhara at GCMMF and expanding its business in Kerala and Orissa, setting up of Frito-Lay’s business in the East and North-East, building Mattel’s business in the East, North-East, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. In time, he grew to be the National Head-Marketing Planning for Mattel. At Reliance Infocomm, he was instrumental in launching the Dhirubhai Ambani entrepreneur programme. His biggest contribution at Reliance Infocomm was launching the Reliance IndiaCall (international calling card) in the US, Canada and the UK, which is now more than $1 billion per year business.

He was awarded the ‘Indira Super Achiever Award’ 2007 by the Indira Group of Institutes, Pune, in collaboration with ‘Fun & Joy at Work’. The focus for 2007 awards was on Leaders and Entrepreneurs who believe in "MAD" approach - Making a Difference.

In this interview with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha Kashyup, Tripathy speaks at length about HDFC Standard Life’s brand campaign ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ and marketing life insurance in India.

Q. Please elaborate on the various marketing initiatives that have been undertaken by HDFC Standard Life.

Over the years, HDFC Standard Life has used marketing as a strategy to differentiate itself in the cluttered category of life insurance and create relevance to the target customer segment through a series of innovative and strategic marketing campaigns and initiatives based on customer insight.

We have consistently used strong insights that have gone way beyond the promise of security, to a bigger need, that is, of ensuring financial independence and self respect for the family. The core brand thought – ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ – was arrived at after extensive research; the insight that an individual doesn’t want to be a burden on his family and that he doesn’t want his family to depend on anyone after his death.

Over the last five years, we have rolled out several marketing campaigns across diverse platforms – television, print, radio, OOH, Internet, mobile, and experiential marketing initiatives and have successfully built our ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ brand positioning across all the campaigns.

Television campaigns: Our first brand ad on ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ (Station Ad) was launched in January, 2005 and got the brand noticed. For our Children’s Plans campaign, we came up with the Dependable Papa idea, which was based around the insight that whatever the child’s need may be, she can depend on her father to provide for her. In our pension campaign, our strategy was simple: take the ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ premise, post retirement. This was done with the insight that a person wishes to live a life of dignity and respect even after retirement. For the youth segment campaign, we targeted young adults with the insight, “Now that I’m earning, I take pride in sharing my parents’ responsibilities”. This led to the ‘Pride in independence and sharing responsibilities’ idea. Our recent brand campaign – ‘Ghum Nahi Hona’ – which is based around the insight that whenever we misplace anything, we get anxious. Through this campaign we have tried to bring out the core category benefit of protecting one’s family’s future and happiness by investing in life insurance and savings plans. All these have been effective in making our brand more relevant to our target audience.

Music videos: We also unveiled ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo,’ a music album promoting and propagating ‘Self Respect’. Through this innovative marketing initiative, we conveyed a simple message – ‘Respect Yourself’ – to the quintessential middle class because from it emerges the essentials of one’s life – needs, wants, hopes aspirations.

Sports associations: We have always been looking at events and associations that give us national reach and a good return on investment. Sports has got an excellent connect with our target segment. We have been associated with all kinds of sports events in the past, through on-air sponsorships, like football (Euro 2008, FIFA World Cup 2006), Premier Tennis events (Wimbledon, French Open, US Open, and Australian Open), apart from major cricket events such as 20:20 World Cup, India-Australia Series, India-England Series, etc.

In IPL 2, HDFC Standard Life had formed a partnership with Rajasthan Royals (our company logo was placed on the back of the players’ jerseys). To build up on this association, we unveiled a new music video, ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’, promoting and propagating ‘Self Respect,’ featuring Shilpa Shetty, filmstar and co-owner, Rajasthan Royals and the Rajasthan Royals team. This music video propagates the value of self respect by encapsulating the team’s self belief, pride and confidence.

Experiential marketing activities: We have conducted innovative programmes to appeal to parents, young adults and corporates. For instance, we introduced initiatives like Art of Parenting, Young Saver, Paint your dream, Fitness activities, yoga@work and others. Our recent on-ground activities at shopping malls as part of our children’s plans campaign, included innovative programmes called ‘Guess what your child wants to be’, where parents were asked to guess their child’s ambition and another activity called ‘Guess and Win’, which helped to drive awareness about the importance of pension plans.

Various customer engagement programmes at retail outlets, brand visibility initiatives at various touch point – traffic junctions, stations etc., – and across the country were also explored.

At HDFC Standard Life, we believe in educative and informative programmes that create opportunities for the development and growth of young minds, and we are committed to support every parent’s dream of seeing their child develop his/ her inherent potential with our products, to take care of their child’s immediate and future needs. In line with this, we conducted the ‘HDFC Standard Spell Bee – India Spells 2009’, a unique and scholarly education series in a fun – filled quiz format under the patronage of Spelling Bee USA, a prestigious annual event in the US with a lineage of 83 years. This event was conducted in more than 700 schools across 11 cities, with students participation crossing 250,000.

Apart from the marketing initiatives, we do for the prospective customers, we also believe in building more value propositions for our existing customer base, we do this by working on cross-sell and up-sell database marketing campaigns using insight and analytics on our existing customer base.

Q. How has the feedback been like?

HDFC Standard Life’s brand philosophy – ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ – has managed to re-define the way life insurance advertising has been done in the past. It has managed to bring a stronger connect and relevance to our category. In fact, HDFC Standard Life is the first private life insurer to break the ice using the idea of self respect (‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’) instead of ‘death’ to convey its brand proposition.

All our campaigns have been received very well. As a result, we have been able to successfully differentiate ourselves based on our brand promise of ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’, which is one of the most recalled campaigns in its category, in brand recall and consideration, as per The Nielsen Company syndicated research data. Every year, we continue to receive several awards and accolades for our marketing initiatives.

Moreover, our need based approach in communication has helped create strong sub-categories, which have helped segment the market and create bigger opportunities for us. This, in addition to efforts of other insurers, has helped grow the market by enlisting more and more non-believers of insurance into the category. In addition, through our Up-sell/ Cross-sell initiatives, we have targeted our existing customer base; and have been successful in increasing the product density per existing customer.

Q. What media vehicles do you use to send across your message to your target audience?

HDFC Standard Life always follows a 360-degree campaign to take its communication through different platforms and intensify the brand experience. Apart from television, our marketing initiatives are supported by print, radio, OOH, Internet, mobile, and on-ground initiatives.

Q. What comes first – creative or media – when deciding on your brand communication?

The success of a communication campaign is gauged by its accessibility, viewership, relevance, and understanding by the target audience. In designing a communication, an accurate media vehicle not only helps us connect to a specific group of audience, but also helps us in identifying the gap between the present lifestyle and the aspirational life space of the target audience, while an impressive creative helps us bridge this gap.

Q. How do you target the rural customer?

India is still an under-insured market, especially the rural market. There is an urgent need for educating the rural mass on the importance of life insurance. Distribution reach, easy to sell products and building trust and brand equity will be the key to success in these rural markets. We do have our presence in quite a few Tier II and Tier III towns and plan to expand over the next few years. Currently, we sell policies among rural customers, but it is still on a pilot scale (through different models and for regulatory requirements). Scaling up the rural reach will take time and huge resource requirements, especially for servicing these policies over long periods of time.

Q. How has the year been so far? Please give us an overview of your operations in India.

The consumer confidence is showing a positive trend over the last few months. We expect to grow at a higher rate in the remaining part of this year. HDFC Standard Life continues to have one of the widest reaches among new insurance companies through a network of 595 offices serving over 700 cities and towns across the country. The company has also increased its depth in existing markets with a strong base of more than 200,000 financial consultants. As on March 31, 2009, the company has more than 27 lakh policies in force.

Today, we are one of India’s leading private life insurance companies, offering solutions, which meet various customer needs such as Protection, Pension, Savings, Investment, and Health. We currently have 25 retail and four group products in its portfolio, along with five optional rider benefits catering to the savings, investment, protection and retirement needs of customers.

Q. How your company has dealt with the economic slowdown?

We believe the need for life insurance – either protection or saving – is universal, irrespective of market conditions. Everyone has a need, be it protection of income from unforeseen events, protection from loan liability, planning for future savings requirements, pension requirement, or cover for medical exigencies. Our need based communication has helped build this positioning. Though we may be noticing that customers are deferring their plans to buy policies, they have surely not cut off insurance from this list of purchases as they are well aware of the growing need for insurance in their lives.

HDFC Standard Life’s sales force (financial consultants) adopt the company’s structured sales process called ‘Disha’ that helps customers understand their latent needs without focusing on product features or tax benefits at the first instance. We are also focusing on increasing productivity of our financial consultants, increasing density of products per customer, managing cost and at the same time ensuring that good persistency (a measure of insurance policies remaining in force) and good quality book are built.

Q. What are the challenges that the brand faces in this market?

As the Indian insurance market is marked by stiff competition, creating a brand identity, along with enabling customers to identify the best insurance product/ solution that meet their needs is the biggest challenges. In a nutshell, earning the trust of the consumer, building a distinct brand in a market, ensuring consistent service, and offering the best advice based on customer needs, are the biggest challenges for any brand.

Q. What were your revenues and profits in 2008? What are your targets for this year?

The company generated total premium income of Rs 5,564.69 crore in FY2008-09 registering a year-on-year growth of 15 per cent. In line with overall market conditions, growth in Effective Premium Income (EPI) in respect of retail business increased by 5 per cent, growing from Rs 2,425 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 2,552 crore in 2008-09.

We would continue with our focus on maintaining the quality of our business and encouraging individuals to remain invested for long term. Our business philosophy is not to ramp up topline alone, but to create long-term value for policyholders and stakeholders. We are focusing on total premium growth, which includes new business plus renewals in the current year and expect to grow higher than the industry average.

Q. What are your future plans vis-à-vis advertising plans for 2009?

Going forward, the insurance category will be more commoditised as seen in mature markets and the brand that creates differentiation and relevance for the customer will be the one that emerges successful. We plan to build on our brand equity further by integrating changing customer need and connect in all our future initiatives that we launch for the customer; be it for our new products, new services, etc., through the ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo’ platform. The plan is to integrate service excellence in every activity that we do for the customer.

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