How digital acceleration will change the future of communication

IPRCCC: Panel discussion with Siddhartha Butalia, Nitin Pai, Ramakant Khandelwal, Santosh Iyer, Hitesh Singla and Ahmed Naqvi

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Feb 13, 2021 8:35 AM  | 4 min read

The 11th edition of exchange4media’s India Public Relations and Corporate Communications Conference (IPRCCC) saw some great discussion around this year’s umbrella theme ‘Economic revival post-Covid and the role of communication in amplifying and channelizing the positive business sentiments’.

The second session of the conference, a panel discussion, was on the topic- ‘Integrated Marketing and Digital acceleration will change the future of communication and the challenges it poses’. The discussion was chaired by Ahmed Naqvi, CEO & Co Founder, Gozoop Online.

Siddhartha Butalia, Chief Marketing Officer, Air Asia; Nitin Pai - Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer,  Tata Elxsi; Ramakant Khandelwal, Chief Marketing &  Digital Officer at PAYBACK India; Santosh Iyer, Head of Sales and Marketing – Mercedes Benz; and Hitesh Singla, AGM Marketing, KAI India were the panellists.

A lot has changed in the past 12 months, including a change in audience behaviour, content consumption pattern, or the way consumers transact. Kicking off the discussion, Naqvi asked Butalia to share the experience of the travel and hospitality industry, which underwent a lot of changes during the pandemic.

Speaking on the change in consumers’ behaviour and how digital acceleration helped, Butalia said,  “I would say that it's not just the behaviour, but it's the demographics itself of the audience that have changed. Demographics becoming decidedly younger immediately after the lockdown in May and more diverse brought its own behavioural changes as younger consumers tend to be more digital. They also tend to be more open to new experiences and new service offerings. We've seen that their resilience to the pandemic has been higher. They have been more optimistic about coming out of it than many of the other audiences.”

He further added, “At the same time, the purpose of travel has also changed significantly. Business travel and corporate travel remains very much muted. However, visiting friends and family continued to be quite high. Also, the reduction in leisure or holiday travel in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown has actually resulted in a significant pent-up demand, especially among these younger consumers. And now this has enabled us to really change the way and the dynamics of dealing with consumers.”

Sharing his perspective on the impact of the pandemic and change on the business and industry, Singla said that it has been a mixed bag. “We have seen a big change in the behaviour of consumers. The consumption pattern has changed. Even the communication for that matter has changed, as it's the baseline of whatever we do, as a marketer. What we believe is that there is a huge exposure to the consumers because of the digital acceleration and within that it is fuelled by three factors: economic downtrend, and preference.” The third factor, he mentioned, was options.

Speaking about his company KAI India, which is a 113-year-old Japanese organization manufacturing knives, razors, surgical and industrial cutting tools, Singla shared that in the last 12 months, they witnessed a huge demand for women razors because they prefer using razors at home than going to a salon during pandemic.

For the auto industry, initial few months were hard as people were not going out and not driving. But has the pent-up demand changed the audience behaviour for the auto industry?

Iyer shared, “We also shifted significantly to the digital platform, and we were for the first time selling luxury cars online at the time when people assumed that nobody will buy a luxury car online. But digital has accelerated our online sales.”

Speaking on how the digital payment industry has impacted marketing, Khandelwal, said, “People who are being the early adopters or the companies that were ruling out these solutions were very confident that if consumers try this out,  it's quite likely that they are going to like the experience and the convenience of it and will become loyal customers.”

He also said that Payback India is not only focused on instant payments but they run a multi-channel and a multi-partner loyalty program. “The way we have looked at this whole industry is that the digital marketing industry from a business perspective probably is looking at two things- they want more new customers, and they want to retain their existing customers. Digital marketing is coming in as performance marketing, which is making things much more measurable.”

Khandelwal explained that in terms of utilizing digital marketing platforms, they have looked at three aspects- personalization, relevance, and the real time aspect of digital marketing.

Pai said that marketing has become digital but it has become more about sales now. They're actually helping the organization overcome the fact that they cannot meet people anymore. “For us, the biggest challenge is that we are b2b and global. The ability to meet people, develop relationships and trust is decreased. Digital is helping us in marketing.”

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