Virality helped Zoomcar up the ante: Harish Rawat, CMO

The CMO of Zoomcar talked about his marketing experiences and the company’s rather unique on-ground activations


With the viral effect taking the centre stage for BTL marketing today, Harish Rawat, CMO of Zoomcar, speaks about how it played a major role in his marketing strategy for the company. Being a start-up, he believes in low-cost ways of marketing, which in turn produce significant ROI. In an interview with exchange4media, he speaks about choosing the viral route along with an all organic approach to brand awareness. Excerpts:


Your journey from a management trainee at Nokia to CMO of Zoomcar happened within a span of 15 years. What are your key learnings from this marketing journey? 


I really don’t think too much about designation. At the end of the day, all that matters is what you learn from the role and how it can help you. Each role has contributed significantly in terms of personal learning, opening the mind and developing a different perspective.


Nokia is the company everybody loves. It was a learning ground for me. The perspective about what happens to customers on ground was very important. That was an eye opener when I was doing roles in sales and marketing. Both these functions have tremendous impact on learning. First learning was, know your customers. Both these roles were driving that kind of an understanding.


When I moved from Nokia to Jabong, the perspective changed drastically. I had to un-learn a lot of things and pick up new things. Over the last three to four years of working at Zoomcar, it has opened my mind to leveraging technology. You need to learn to map both customers and technology together. This was another key learning for me.


With so much importance given to technology and digital marketing by you and many others, do you think that somewhere, the other parts of marketing that used to be vital are losing their charm?


At the end of the day, technology enables a choice for me. It has its own advantages. The choice of medium is the marketer's ball. Today, print still has the largest reach. They are right because their customer’s sizes are so huge. If media is defined by a number of choices, I can always define my reach. You have n number of ways to create awareness online and n number of ways to create advocacy for your products online. It’s a low cost option for me which gives a better ROI. It’s also trackable. That’s something that works in a start-up system when you’re just about to climb the steps.


Zoomcar was a one of its kind platform in the initial days. What was it like to market it during its nascent period? What was your strategy?


Whatever people know about Zoomcar was through organic means. We have grown by strong word-of-mouth and we have grown by ensuring that we do right things from a marketing point of view. All our cars were intentionally built around red, orange or blue. This helps our brand remain sticky in the minds of our customers. You have branding on the car itself which helps in creating awareness. When Greg, our co-founder came in, there was nothing like this in India. People used to charge an absurd amount of money to rent a car. Nobody thought that I could rent a car for Rs. 5,000. That led to added virality. Then we had this car unlocking app or a key-less entry. That too created virality. It added lot more people and still continues to do so.


Right now, marketing has changed relatively. We still follow the old tenets. We still like doing events at a local level.


What type of events do you do?


One of my favorite examples is this car we replicated from this movie called ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ This car looked like a dog and we called it K9 Cruiser. This happened on Friendship Day last year. The motto was that when everybody is celebrating Friendship Day, we should pay tribute to a man’s best friend. Then we took the car around many cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Chennai, etc. That was strong activation.



We have a lot of car-plays. During Ganesh Chaturthi, we had a car that looked like a mouse and we called it Mushak. Another time we had a car that was fit with diamonds and glitter and it ran across Surat, best known for its diamonds.



At times we do fun elements. One time, we listed a horse on our platform. We called it Dhanno and had listed it along with our other range of cars available for rent. At the same time, we ran blogs which spoke about why a horse is better than a car. The same way we had the element of an auto. It read “You’ve never driven an auto? You can rent one from Zoomcar and drive it.”


The recent activation was the treasure hunt we did in Hyderabad. We tied up with Bookmyshow and saw about 200 participants and about 50 odd cars were rolled out for this. That was a massive event. We mostly do events and activations like these on-ground. We also trade stories about these activations online.


 We are currently working on something huge which will happen sometime in September. 

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