Thought provoking words from Nitin Paranjpe, CEO and MD of Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

This is the story that Mr. Sanjay Mehta carried on the learnings from Mr. Nitin Paranjpe’s keynote address in July 2011. We bring this to our readers to highlight what the CEOs of large companies are thinking of Digital mediums.

Had the pleasure of attending the Mumbai leg of Exchange4Media’s where Nitin Paranjpe, CEO and MD of Hindustan Unilever Ltd. was the keynote speaker.

Starting the day’s proceedings with a heavyweight speaker of this kind, set the tone for the day. His talk was thought provoking and virtually posed a challenge, for all of the attendees present, to think if they were preparing adequately for the changing times, and the future that could be!

I was particularly pleased when in the first 5 minutes of his talk – which were in a way, also the first 5 minutes of the conclave – he started talking about how digital has started to grow, and how it can only get bigger now!

Digital and social media figured extensively in the keynote address, and which certainly pleased me, no end!

Paranjpe made it clear at the outset that he was going to throw some thoughts, potentially with an idea to provoke, to challenge, to make people think and consider. Some of his observations were speculative, and he emphasized the same, but the idea as per him was, to wonder how things would be, if those speculations came true. He also emphasized that he did not necessarily have answers, just questions. And that everyone would need to figure out their own answers really!

With this background, I am pleased to share some of his thoughts, with my comments interspersed, as per below:

1. One of the bold thoughts that Paranjpe threw was about how big digital could potentially get, in India? He mentioned that in the US, TV was still a lot bigger, but in the UK, digital had become bigger than TV, in media spend. Could such a scenario occur in India as well, he wondered?

* My thoughts: wow! Even to consider the possibility is mind boggling. Today digital is almost an afterthought for planners and marketers. And it is a small percentage of the spend, with bulk still going to TV. While we consider digital going to a double digit share – and that looks far away – considering an idea that it could possibly be bigger than TV, is certainly HUGE. If anyone else had said it, we’d have dismissed it summarily, but when Nitin Paranjpe speculates this, we have to stand up and think about the possibility!!

2. Paranjpe talked about possibilities that we had not envisaged and how things have got impacted on basis of the same. Be it mobile phones and their population in India, on the one hand, or the use of Digital Video Recorders. As CEO of one of India’s largest advertisers, it was candid of him to admit that most of the television that he himself sees, is on DVRs. And that he certainly fast-forwards the advertising there, except on account of his professional interest! Paranjpe was essentially referring to potential inflexion points. He wondered, if like mobile phones’ usage costs had come down dramatically, what if cost of DVRs came down from around INR 4,000/- to INR 400/-? How will life change then?

* My thoughts: indeed a staggering thought. If more and more television in India gets viewed via DVRs, what does that do to the big budgets allocated for TVCs?? Would there be a strong rethink then?

3. Nitin Paranjpe shared this amazing infographic, about what happens on the Internet in 60 seconds:

A fabulous graphic, this shows the totally dynamic and ever-changing world on the Internet.

* My thought: how many marketers are really prepared for this ever-changing world? If there was an eye opener, this graphic it is!

4. Like in case of DVRs, Paranjpe feared another possible inflexion point. Like the cost of mobile usage, he speculated, what would happen if broadband costs came down rapidly? Say, these became INR 200/- or even free? How will life change due to that?

* My thought: will anyone watch any TV at all? Would you get all the entertainment and news and everything else that you need, on broadband? When you want it? From allocation of media spend, to budgets for content creation, things will never be the same again!

5. Nitin Paranjpe emphasized the three new skills people need to learn and have: Engage, Engage, Engage.

* My thoughts: If this does not spell Social Media, what does?

(In fact, Paranjpe waxed eloquent about Social Media!)

6. An important point Paranjpe made was that consumers see a lot, but remember little. On one of his visits to small town India, he asked a few people to remember some of their favorite ads of recent days. And they could not recall much at all. That in spite of the fact that television reaches everywhere. On further prodding, they mentioned that they remember the old Sridevi ad, for Lux!!

This is what he meant when he said that while consumers see a lot, there are few things they remember. And which is where the challenge for the marketer lies.

7. Another story that Paranjpe related, again from a village in India, was seeing a young woman there, use fabric softener. On asking, he was surprised to find that the girl completely understood the concept of softener, and it was not accidental use. That prompted Paranjpe to share a masterful insight – that thanks to television “aspirations have become homogenous, even though the means may be heterogenous”!!

Few other thoughts that Paranjpe shared included sharing how Cornetto had used crowdsourcing and social media. The fact that even their agency partners were also still getting an understanding of the new space, and they were learning together.

Paranjpe shared a very interesting personal challenge that he has taken up for himself. That this year, he intends to get familiar with the new media, and he is doing it the hard way. He has a 25-year old “mentor” who is taking him through the paces, including giving him homework and projects! Isn’t this fantastic??!

No wonder, Anurag Batra of Exchange4Media conveyed at the end of the talk that Paranjpe’s speech was better than many that he heard at Cannes recently!

Author : Sanjay Mehta

Sanjay has been an early internet entrepreneur with 11 plus years of experience at hands on level, in building and running a successful internet based venture ( Most recently Sanjay has served as the COO of Compare InfoBase Ltd. Previously he has also served as a director in an electrical and industrial electronics manufacturing and marketing business. With more than 20 years of experience in various leadership positions, Sanjay brings to the table a keen understanding of how businesses operate. He combines considerable prowess in the field of Social Media, Ecommerce, SEO, SEM and Web 2.0 with expertise in strategy, planning, business development, operations, sales and marketing.

You can connect with Sanjay on LinkedIn,or Twitter. His various blogs include Summer in Scandinavia, Random Musings and Gray Hair Wisdom.

(This post is being republished with the permission of the Author, Mr. Sanjay Mehta. It was originally published in the RESONANCE blog and can be viewed here.)

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