Our business is almost close to pre-Covid levels: Ravi Santhanam, HDFC Bank

The Chief Marketing Officer of HDFC Bank spoke to Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor, exchange4media, on the festive season, influence of IPL and the pandemic-induced changes in consumer behaviour

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Oct 2, 2020 10:32 AM
Ravi Santhanam

It is that time of the year when most brands are loaded with discounts and offers. However, 2020 is not a usual year. This year saw one full quarter under lockdown hitting businesses across sectors.

So do festive discounts and offers mean the same this year too? To find out more on this we spoke to Ravi Santanam, CMO, HDFC Bank.

Edited excerpts:

How is HDFC’s festive offer this year different from the previous years?

Looking at the current pandemic situation what we have done is a lot more work on the online side. So you will see a lot more online offers available from our side including the partnership with Amazon. On the offline side, we have gone much wider in terms of regional partnerships so that even if you have travel you can find that offer near to your city.

We are focused specifically on regional stores and offerings. Last year we might have had 750 odd regional offerings but this time we have just multiplied it. We are going across the country with it and have 2,000 plus regional offers already in place. In addition, we will be adding more going forward.

Has the demand for specific festive categories changed or stayed the same?

We see a lot of pent up demand for categories like home appliances, phones, automobiles and clothing. A mobile or a laptop, for example, from being a fashionable device is also becoming an educational device, and a work from home device for many. So the usage of many categories has changed. In terms of durables, a lot of interest has changed. People are looking for dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, etc. TV too has become an educational device as Smart TV is being used for online classes. We have seen Work From Home and Work For Home as two distinct categories that have emerged and we see a lot of traction there. Traditional categories are finding new uses.

In addition to this, the education category is increasingly growing and we have a tie-up with most of the leading online education providers. Some of these educational platforms are pretty expensive and so we are providing EMI offers. On the health side, we have a lot of features for online gyms as well as medicines. We will soon be announcing a big partnership with some of the health and wellness providers.

How has consumer behaviour changed in these six months?

If I look at the March-April-May months, April and May were more of a shock for most of us because none of us had experienced anything like this in our lifetime. The demand was there but the supply was stopped. In June-July-August, with the unlock supply started coming back we have seen the confidence coming back slowly.

Offline is still a little bit of a struggle for us compared to what we saw in January 2020 but online has picked up. If I have to look at July it was better than June and has been progressing well since. It also means that the ecosystem is slowly learning to live with this pandemic. Over time we have also seen that in terms of consumer behaviour the fatigue of staying at home has come in. We have seen that people want to go to nearby places for travel. We do see that the majority of the pain area is over and there is a clear outlook of what is going to happen compared to May or August months.

What type of recovery have we seen in Q2?

HDFC Bank is taking January as the barometer. Because January is one of those 31-day months and we are against January. So that is our pre-COVID level because February is a 28th day month and March too around 15th we started getting into the lockdown phase. If we look at January as a barometer we are almost close to getting there and business is almost close to pre-COVID.

There are certain areas in business like Travel and Dining Out that are under severe stress. Online is back and more than what it was in January levels. There are lots of positives that we see in the system and the numbers are more or less back in the system. We are very confident that going forward you will see the festive spirit starting to kick in.

Will IPL and the festive season help in the recovery?

The whole industry and all of us as brand marketers and consumers are betting on this festive season for a phenomenal recovery for the loss of Q2. Yes, we had a very bad quarter in the Indian economy but we in the banking sector had a phenomenal performance. This quarter is very important because I think all of us are putting out energy into it. The biggest saving grace is IPL happening at this point in time. We are having a lot of consumer sitting at home to watch this year’s IPL, and we have seen the number of people watching TV has dramatically increased. The cricket-starved audience is going to watch the matches and there is a lot riding on it, looking at the positive first-week number of the matches.

What will happen after the festive quarter?

We at HDFC strongly believe that we need to create the market and demand too. On one side there is a demand in the market that we need to fulfil and the second is saying that we will have to create the demand.

Campaigns that HDFC is launching this festive season

The biggest thing is we are bringing ‘Festive Treats’ back again. Last year too we started on October 1 and this year it is the same. We have a lot more online play this year looking at the current situation. We have added specific categories like education, health and a lot of other things which consumers are currently doing like - Work From Home. Regional Store partnerships have increased dramatically. In addition, we are just coming in as one bank. This is the biggest thing a bank like HDFC can offer and that differentiates us from the rest of the people who will also offer deals.

For instance, if you want to buy any kind of mobile device, we will give you 10-15% off depending on what kind of device you will be purchasing. In addition, if you want the remaining 85-90% to be financed we give an EMI offer also on that. Plus on that EMI offer also there is a loan offer available. We are a bank that can give you a deal on the product that you buy plus financing the purchase of that product and there is a deal on that finance too. That is the difference we will bring to our customers.

Media Mix this year

We are taking the ATL route this year on Television. So we are taking the ATL route taking into consideration the pandemic and the numbers on IPL at this point of time and will be going on to advertise about our offerings. In addition to IPL, we are also having a partnership with Hotstar. So we are having a 100% property on highlights. We will be on OTT and in the entire digital system. People are spending their time looking at screens today. What we wanted to do this year is whichever screen you are spending your time as a consumer we will be there. In terms of OOH, we are investing a lot of energy on OOH ads in shops, which will be very big from our side.

Final thoughts

All is possible with HDFC bank Festive Treats. This festive season, go and buy something for yourself and your family. Have a look at what HDFC has to offer and get the maximum benefits from us.

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