Marketing Execs at Indian Startups - The New Age Evangelists

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Marketing in the world of start-ups is a tad bit different from those at large organizations. A marketing officer at a start-up, who at times is termed as an evangelist, has the task of canvassing a plan for a brand new set up. The person in command ends up donning multiple hats and most often is the sole person in charge of the task!

Entrepreneur India

Some marketing strategists working at start-ups also feel liberated and cushioned in this set up, which is less hierarchical in nature and gives them creative wings, which they would probably not get at a giant, corporate set-up. Entrepreneur speaks to new-age marketing executives and consultants to understand the riveting and challenging task of running the show at start-ups compared to a giant corporate set up. 

A little bit of everything 

Vignesh Vijayakumar, who handles marketing at Girish Mathrubootham’s Freshdesk, says that a marketing proffesionals in a start-up would do a little bit of everything. It would start with content that goes on the website and the collaterals to A/B testing layouts for different landing pages.

“There is always a little bit of analysis involved. You analyze your competitors and other companies similar to you, and also keep a close watch on trends. You’ll have to engage with the customers and the world on social media - which means you’ll literally have to be online 24/7 and working. You will have to engage with the press and journalists and media houses to promote your brand and a host of other activities,” he says. Vignesh literally started his career with Freshdesk and has never worked full-time at a traditional company set up. 

“So a marketing person may be required for sales, customer support, on-boarding, operations and any other role. In traditional companies, people have one job role and will stick to that. So you need to find someone who is nimble and flexible and has the right kind of attitude at start-ups,” Zal Dastur, Co-founder, Lucep, says. 

Getting more with slimmer budgets 

While larger corporate honchos have structured resources and outsource a certain amount of their work, start-ups mostly work within limited boundaries. In most cases, at nascent stage of start-up growth, marketing executives need to achieve more within restricted budgets. In 2016, when late-stage funding saw a decline, investors got worried about how start-ups were going about chalking their marketing budgets. In a start-up, the marketing officer needs to constantly juggle between aligning the organisation towards long-term growth objectives, while delivering on short-term goals. 

Growth hacking becomes an important part of a marketing officer’s role at a start-up, in order to maximise the return on investment. “Traditional organisations depend a lot on external agencies, who keep the companies apprised of latest developments and help companies take advantage of those,” says Durgesh Kaushik, Chief Marketing Officer, Bhive Workspace.

More ownership versus corporate jobs 

On the flip side, executives who spoke to Entrepreneur also listed the perks of having more ownership and acting as ‘evangelists’ at the start-up. The perks of having a lean set up gives marketing folks the levy towards experiment, learn and polish their skills. In a corporate, more of your focus is directed to ensuring the continued success of an already established product/concept. The level of responsibility is the same on both sides but the psychological belonging is very different. 

“You should keep in mind that when you sign-up to work for a start-up, you need to enter a psychological contract with them to shoulder their vision. You are them now. If they succeed, you succeed. But if they fail, you fail too. Taking the responsibility for someone else’s dream and vision is not an easy task,” Saumya Kapoor, Marketing Strategist, Product Marketing, Juspay. 

Saumya talks from experience, as she has previously held marketing roles at Razorpay and HackerEarth. “If you’re someone who actually cares about what people think about you, more than what fulfils your professional thirst, then you might be better off at a corporate. Start-ups don’t come with a social status served on a platter – you’ve got to work with them and help them achieve it,” she adds.

Are you up for the challenge? 

Entrepreneurs and agencies need to set different standards while hiring marketing officers for start-ups. A marketing officer at a start-up needs to constantly keep abreast with the latest market dynamics, technology developments and evangelise newer ways of accomplishing organisational objectives. Dr. Som Singh, founder of Unspun Consulting, rightly believes that a great marketing officer is all a start-up needs to make a difference. 

“You are gaining momentum and are close to perfecting your product offerings and roadmap. All the hard work you’ve put in to building a proper sales pipeline is beginning to pay off and potential investors are looking at you. This is a pivotal time for your business and you are facing tough decisions. A good marketeer is versatile - masters of PR, branding, blogging, analytics measurement, paid advertising, user experience and dozens of disciplines that play a role in digital marketing. They are agile. Things change so fast online that a marketeer’s skills can become entirely obsolete in no time.,” Dr. Som adds. 

With the onset of new marketing methodologies invading the market, it would be interesting to see how Indian start-ups hire the right people who can adopt new technicalities and give new dimensions to this esteemed job role. 

(This article was first published in the March issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)