Episode 101 / January 24, 2021

Abhishek Asthana, @GabbbarSingh, on Creativity and Entrepreneurship

47 min

Episode 101 / January 24, 2021

Abhishek Asthana, @GabbbarSingh, on Creativity and Entrepreneurship

47 min
Listen on

The guest for our 101st episode of 100xEntrepreneur is Abhishek Asthana, Founder, Ginger Monkey, and the man behind one of the most followed accounts on Twitter, @GabbbarSingh with 1.3 Million followers.

He is amongst the few who have transitioned from an engineer to a successful marketer. He has been the brains behind some of the marketing campaigns at AirAsia, Bounce, Durex, and Urban Company among others. It was in 2019 when he decided to help companies with their branding and marketing strategies by founding Ginger Monkey.

In this episode, catch Abhishek talking about starting GingerMonkey, working with AirAsia, Durex India, Urban Company, and much more.

For anyone looking to explore digital marketing, this conversation would be of great value. From building an audience by tapping your creative side, to building a brand for a D2C company to reach your customers, this podcast will guide you through it all.

Notes –

01:39 – Abhishek’s journey as an engineer

03:28 – Corrupted by Twitter

04:21 – Getting featured in Outlook while doing his MBA

06:37 – Founding GingerMonkey as a first-gen Entrepreneur

08:02 – Taking calculated risk while setting up the business

09:17 – Key milestones of GingerMonkey’s journey

11:12 – “We don’t have a BD team, our clients are our BD team. It’s a complete word of mouth.”

16:39 – Viral campaigns for Schindler – Getting Ankur Warikoo & Ranveer Allahbadia

19:17 – Creating and going viral with @GabbbarSingh on Twitter

21:43 – “If you’re not able to monetize your hobby, it will die.”

32:02 – Indian D2C brands leveraging digital marketing

38:18 – Branding without burning money on advertising

44:12 – Reaching out to early adopters being a new D2C brand

Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha 0:00

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100x Entrepreneur podcast. Today we have with us a marketing genius Abhishek Asthana aka @GabbbarSingh on Twitter. Abhishek has led Durex India creative team before venturing into his own production company, GingerMonkey. Today we will talk about Abhishek’s journey from an engineer to a successful Marketer, who is the brains behind the marketing campaigns of Airasia, Bounce, Urban Company, Durex, and many other companies. Welcome to the podcast, Abhishek.


Abhishek 0:32

Hi Siddhartha, great to be here. And so nice to interact with other people as well.


Siddhartha 0:38

Abhishek, you say on Ginger Monkey’s website that you coded some phones in Korea, before getting corrupted at a Bschool, and then spending time selling condoms while leading Durex India creative team, tell us about your creative journey from an engineer to working with Freecharge and Durex India.


Abhishek 1:00

Yes. So see, mine was a traditional middle-class story where the job of the firstborn is to basically bring out their family from one stratum to another stratum. Basically, if you were a middle-class, lower-middle-class kind of family, the job of the firstborn is to I mean, pull them and get them to maybe upper-middle-class strata. So I mean, of course, the first choice of any kid those days was becoming a software engineer, because that used to be like the doors to the USA or Europe, where you can earn in dollars and maybe remit money back in India. So that, I mean, you create wealth. So same here as well. I was predestined to be like a software engineer those days and, and all my career choices automatically aligned to that goal. And then engineering happened, and then joined Samsung. And basically, I used to be creative in my school, as well as writing stuff. I used to have a blog as well. But I never thought that this could be something that could sustain my family or my dependents. So the mainstay of the day job was actually, I worked hard to basically be good at it. And while I was at Samsung, I also worked on Android when they came along in 2010, I guess, the first Android phone, I guess, Galaxy S on that as well. And so I was a good coder there. I was a good developer, I was in Korea for a while. And then it hit me that then I joined Twitter, Twitter was actually the thing that corrupted me not the B-school. So, what happened was that when I joined Twitter, I found a new kind of world altogether, where I saw people from all walks of life, all different professions, and being cool really. So I thought, what could be the way to basically get into this whole kind of a creative kind of a business kind of setup. So then I thought the MBA was the way and of course, I was following the assembly line, then the people who I was working with, they’re all preparing for CAT and MBA and stuff. So I’d like if suppose I’m not doing that I might be missing on. So it was like part of a rat race. So, I prepared for MBA, got an MBA, and I thought maybe MBA would be the kind of entry to doing stuff, but I was really wrong. When I joined, I realized that this MBA teaches you to be a business manager, maybe, or a glorified project manager, you’re the guy who’s basically interested to get things done by working with various stakeholders with sales marketing, or could be like, r&d supply. So you are like the conductor. Basically, you are the one who’s on whose KPI business is. Your KPIs, actually, to get the revenue and to get the gross margin up. So then I realized, so while I was there, and then I joined FMCG company, Reckitt Benckiser, of which Durex was a brand. So when I was there, business vision, I mean, the KPIs were business. And while I was doing that, I was working with my creative agencies, my supply people, salespeople, I was the one who was sitting in the center that I liked, I didn’t like quite enjoyed that job. I was more keen on doing creative stuff. So we had, of course, the issue was that the one disrupting or breakout point was when condom ads were banned on TV. So, the information & broadcasting industry said that condom ads are too explicit. And you can only play them between 10 pm to 12 pm. And then just the two-hour window and basically we had like an immense amount of grps to spend. We couldn’t do that. And every month, the media guys used to come back and said that we couldn’t spend the money you had allotted for and then the management said that why can’t we like, of course Durex has equity. Why can we do it in India and create something creative and moment marketing was not that, And of course, Jio effect, as I say also came in, I guess 16. And everything came together. Now, what happened was earlier digital marketing or digital media was more of a good to do thing. But it was never a reach medium as such where you can actually put money and reach out to people, the reach medium was, of course, always TV. But then when enough number of people, there’s a critical mass of people was there online, every day interacting, the DAUs and MAUs went up. That was a time when people realized that this could also be a medium which if invested in could move needles of sales. And that’s what happened, actually. So we did a lot of stuff we had an in house team, I also enjoyed the job a lot, I used to like, be the one who was like, kind of give ideas and work on ideas and turn around and see the traction they were getting every other post used to get quoted by media, this and that. So, the thrill was there, even though there was a second-order effect on business. But still, that thrill was there. And I could see after a period of time, like a one year or two-year horizon, we could see the sales numbers moving up as well. So that’s when I realized that Now it could be a viable business. If I branch out and help other brands, this could be something that can be explored. And that’s when I realized that now it’s time my time is up with the traditional corporate jobs. And I ventured out to start Ginger monkey. And while I was there, I said of course there are a lot of doubts such as, I was a first-generation entrepreneur, nobody in my family ever, both sides ever touched something outside their day job. And it was not expected of us to basically run a business because we were always risk-averse, with no safety net as such. And it was a very courageous call from my end, of course, my parents were jittery that what exactly is he doing? Is he sure of himself? And we put bit by bit never ever I had taken any monetary risk. I started this business with just 11,000 rupees as I remember. And this was something which was, of course, a services business. So there’s no CAPEX involved. You don’t need capital as such, you build the business bit by bit as and when more and more clients come you keep on hiring. And good thing was that the initial work, which we did I remember, I quit my job in July, June, I guess? Yeah. June was the last working month for me and I went to Singapore for a family vacation. And then I came back I said, finally register my company, I registered the company, got my first client, and we worked with them, I thought that my only strategy would be to get enough work. under my belt, I have enough clients and only I’ll go public with the announcement. And of course, the Gabbbar Singh thing helped.


Siddhartha 8:04

You have shared on Twitter that Ginger Monkey right now has 20 plus clients, 8 figure EBITDA, zero debt. Would you like to share the key milestones of your journey with Ginger Monkey?


Abhishek 8:16

Yes, yes. So that I was about to come to. So yeah, when I started with this business, I thought that, of course, this being not a products business. Of course, when you are in a product business, you need capital, you need that initial fund to basically hire engineers, hire server capacity to start. So you’re in a services business, you just require human capital, I mean people who can work with you. And that also can come in with as and when you get more and more retainers, you can hire more people. So it started on a pretty shoestring budget and also I realized that there were a lot of frills in this business already there. There is a lot of flab to be cut. I mean, of course, this is not a new business. There are 20,000 other people who are doing the same, same job. But I realized that with my background from running a p&l in Racket, how can I cut down the flap? How can I basically do a job in a very minimal kind of a setup? And that’s what we did. And the internet is of course the savior of people across geographies. I thought that I’ll have people who are going to be doing something else and they can contribute to what I’m doing. And not really like detaching them from their existing work arrangements. Otherwise, it becomes really difficult to hire people. So there was a hiring strategy as well that where we realized that we need people who are standalone creators as well. So most of the people who are working with me are people who create content on their own. Even me as well I create content as Gabbar Singh. So what happens is that these people know, somehow that what is the art of basically creating content and also publishing it and distributing it, so that they have done the entire journey. So that’s why it becomes easier for these people to understand stuff and day in day out stuff for their brand. So yeah, in terms of the journey, how it happened was how I grew clients was one client, I acquired, the guy quit his job and move to another company, he got us there as well. And he told someone else, it was purely word of mouth. We are very, we are very proud to say that, I mean, all the clients you see, are all 100%, inbound, we don’t have a sales team, we don’t have a BD team. We say our clients are our BD team, The work we do, it spreads, they tell other people, and 100% of the clients you see have been through word of mouth. Someone has some marketing guy told someone else that why don’t you try out these guys, because some of them have seen our work or the website, and all of them, call us and tell us that we heard about you from this person, and he was speaking good about you. So, that’s how it’s grown.


Siddhartha 11:15

You have a fantastic journey in a short period of time.


Abhishek 11:19

I mean, we’ve been fortunate because of this pandemic as well, I won’t deny that. Because of this pandemic, what has happened is, of course, a lot of mainstream budgets have come to digital. And though we don’t call ourselves a digital agency, we are now also doing TV ads and stuff like that. Our whole strategy is basically we if suppose you have a Marketing Challenge, we are there to solve it. And we are there to basically build that bridge between you and the consumers. That’s the business we are in not like we’re not wedded to a particular medium as such, though it helped initially with the pandemic now, now we are getting more and more stuff, which is outdoors, or ETL, as you say,


Siddhartha 12:01

and you’re sharing, you know, some more details on numbers.


Abhishek 12:05

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So in terms of numbers, what happened was, we follow a business where we work on retainer with a lot of clients. And because that’s how, I mean, if you are closely aligned with them, for a longer period of time, then you can see results as well. Otherwise, it’s not like a dip, you take a quick dip and come out and you will see results. It’s not like that. So most of the clients, we have our own retainer. And we also managed to get export licenses in as well to our first client in the US a client in Europe. So and, and because of internet responsible, we are doing projects with them. Now more and more projects are coming with us. And in terms of the cash flow management bit of it, we were pretty lean, I realized that. And fortunately, unfortunately, because of the pandemic, there was no, we had taken up office at a co-working place, but then we gave it up because nobody was willing to come. Everybody was working at home. And being in a creative business. Sometimes there is a norm in the industry that you have to be together huddled up to come up with ideas, then only it will come. But we realized that it doesn’t matter much. Suppose even if you are remote, you can sit on a zoom call and still ideate and get. And we have done it. I mean, we have done a number of times. So now it’s easier for us to sit remotely and do stuff. So that has helped. And to the fixed cost w’re pretty lean. And in terms of the stuff we have done with clients, we have like I mean, right now we’re working with at least 12 to 13 clients, and eight clients who basically are the 20 plus clients You see, are those clients who use like Airasia, who have paused their marketing because of the pandemic and stuff, they’re gonna come back as well. So in terms of and we have constantly we get interacted with them. One of them is Bounce as well. They also have like, paused their marketing, because of the exigencies of business. But so the thing is that all of these clients keep interacting with us, it’s not like that they have given up. So we have also received 0% attrition in clients as well. So not just employees. So it’s been a good journey. I mean, the core thing is we enjoy what we’re doing. I mean, we love sitting cross, and try to solve problems and be creative about them. So it’s at the end of the day, it’s something everybody in the team and we enjoy doing. That’s why it’s coming across and the numbers are secondary.


Siddhartha 14:41

And how big is the team at Ginger Monkey? And what is the number between your freelancers and the full-time people?


Abhishek 14:46

Yeah, so we have about 10 people full time now. And in the sense of the workforce could be 15 at a point in time average workforce will be 15 with like four or five people who are interns and freelancers. 10 people are core. And we are anywhere in the process to expand more. So, our model is very simple if we acquire more and more retainer clients, we get more people.


Siddhartha 15:11

So, can you share one of the most viral campaigns of Ginger Monkey till now?


Abhishek 15:17

Yes. I don’t know if you’ve seen us do this, there was this brief that came to us from Schindler. Schindler is a European elevator company. Ashok is the CEO, he gave us this brief that the name Schindler itself is a European name, a Jewish name where you can’t. I mean, Indians don’t know how to pronounce it. So how can we create something, a campaign where people know how to pronounce it, and there was a pretty open-ended brief. So what we did was we created the Schindler challenge, we realized this common thing I mean, of course, Indians, English is not a native language. And all of us are always wary of pronouncing things right. No matter how many degrees we’ll accumulate, what success we have gotten. We are always wary of those words of the French brand, we would think twice before pronouncing it right. And if suppose in a public setting, if you pronounce something wrong, you kick yourself. I mean, when you go back home, why did I say that? I mean, you suddenly associated a lot of self-worth with it. So what happened was, we thought that why not like, embed this name with other names, which people don’t know. And we, instead of people, find the right pronunciation, the hard way where someone else is correcting them? Why can’t we make the software where a particular client or particular brand is basically imparting that knowledge? So we created an Instagram filter, we then got Ankur Warikoo and Ranveer Allahbadia basically to do videos for us where they were like, challenging their followers for a challenge where they could pronounce words, right? And the video Warikoo did got, I guess, three lakh views in a day or two and 5000 plus comments, and it got like, and the best part was the global team at Schindler noticed that, and they wanted to, like, expand it, like 35 countries now. So the team in Switzerland and even the guy who is the managing director of Schindler saw that and he quite appreciated that and he said that why can’t we do this in more countries. So being a small setup sitting in Gurgaon, if we could do something which made people in Switzerland take notice. That was a proud moment for us. And that’s how we’ve grown. And we’ve done a lot of moment marketing stuff, which might not mean, in the absence of that context, makes more sense. But we’re done enough stuff with Durex, a lot of I mean, two month long campaigns with a lot of e-commerce stuff, which is a lot of moment marketing. And it did really well for us. So yeah, I mean, and we’re constantly learning, and we’re gonna do more and more stuff now. Yeah. And a lot of stuff is on the website anyway, if you can go and see.


Siddhartha 18:04

Yeah you know, Gabbbar Singh, the Twitter account of yours is one of the most followed accounts in India, which now has more than 1.3 million followers. How did you start it? And how did it help you begin Ginger Monkey?


Abhishek 18:19

Yes, yes. This is the question I get a lot. So what happened was, of course, Gabbbar Singh was not like something thought through, it was an accident. In 2010, I guess it will be long back, I had a blog. As I told you, I was in Samsung at that time. And what I was doing was, I was busy trying to create a blog with the Sholey characters being on Twitter with the silly premise that Daakus are following Basanti. And that time, someone following someone, earlier it was usually fans or likes, but Twitter was the platform where you follow people. Based on the premise of that joke, I thought, like, why not? Why can’t I create a blog post about this new platform of Twitter? And I thought, I’ll just do some Photoshop and put some tweets and in the blog, then they realized it’s too much effort. So why don’t I create an account so I created some three accounts, Kalia, Basanti and Gabbar, and I thought I’ll just put some tweets and delete them after I’m done? So I deleted Basanti and Kalia but I went back to Gabbbar I saw some 20 retweets then and if you adjust with inflation, those 20 retweets in 2010 would be worth 1000 retweets now. So I saw that it was getting traction because Twitter earlier was like a medium, it was a pretty serious medium where journalists used to hang out and talk about news breaks and stuff. And that time there was no humour as such on Twitter. So when it came in, it was irreverent. I mean, a popular Bollywood character, speaking In english and talking about stuff, sports, there’s that. So it was interesting. I mean, people were interested and I got an initial bit of following because of that name, but eventually started creating content and it became a part of life. And the followership grew in 2012, Outlook did a cover page story. And I was in a B school that time studying. And suddenly, I found out I was on a cover page of Outlook magazine. So it was quite disconcerting that time, it was pretty early in my whole Twitter journey. It has just been two years and suddenly, and my parents were like, What the hell is happening? And suddenly it grew, and got a lot of media mentions, and then suddenly a revenue source, also side operating, I think I tell people often that if you don’t monetize your hobby, it will die. If you are a good painter, if you’re not able to sell your paintings, you are a good musician, if you’re not able to create, I mean, monetize that those stuff that you create, it will die its natural death, and the majority of your time will be devoted either towards making money or recuperating from making money. Like when you really want to just chill out at work, okay fine I have done enough work for the day and I will chill out. So that’s the whole thing. So when the revenue part kicked in, then I got serious. And now this is something this is a platform, which is also it’s also sub, I mean, contributing towards my network and stuff. I had a good amount of network, I took a lot of time, actually, 10 years is not the ideal number of time when you start thinking about starting a business on the basis of the safety net of a Twitter handle, or a network that you have created. But I realized, fine, let’s start this. And the good part was, whenever I talked about my business on Twitter, the very next day, I got at least three inquiries from other clients. That’s been very conscious. It’s not about boosting or something like that. When you talk about your business people come to know about it. And then they inquire about it. I mean, the tweet you’re mentioning about those numbers, the very next day, I got calls from three clients who are market clients, by the way. So it’s been a conscious call. And that’s how business also has grown. You talked about a business, share your business, share your work, and nothing speaks like work. Yeah, I mean, I can sit here and talk 1000 words. But if I share my work, it will do a much better job in getting new clients. So that’s been our whole thing. Our simple funda if you go to my website, there are minimal words in it. We just say if you have a Marketing Challenge, say hi. And we are a no-bullshit company. And we believe in work and the people I hired as well. Barely I’ve taken like two rounds of interviews, they just show their work. And I see their work and see a spark. If I see some creative streak, I hire them the very next day. So that is a whole philosophy that has been simple. I don’t claim to be a startup guru or something or, I have read a lot of books, I followed a lot of startup people, but I’ve learned on the way and done my own small experiments to know more. And that’s how I’ve grown the business so far. It’s still small, I mean, a lot of stuff to be done.


Siddhartha 23:22

That’s been a really interesting journey to 1.3 million Twitter followers in 10 years. And any steps you want to share for somebody who wants to build a personal brand on Twitter, let’s say the first 10,000 followers what could he learn from your journey?


Abhishek 23:41

My variables would be different. When I started times were different. I took up the moniker of a Bollywood handle, which also helped get me the initial number of followers. But the thing is what I realized and seeing other people who have grown their following is, when you are adding value to people’s timelines, that’s when people will follow you. Let’s say you started of course, when you are tweeting stuff you are tweeting in a vacuum, nobody would mean reading it. But when you interact with people who are already well followed and add your opinions, add your rejoinder to them. So what will happen is, of course, when there is nothing more evocative than a great argument. So if suppose I put out a tweet, I put out an opinion about something that has happened at a farmers protest and someone with a low following comes in and puts out a great argument which is negating it right? Then what will happen is people will read that comment as well because it’s tweeted below me and maybe they’ll like it. And that’s how that particular tweet will bubble up and come on top. And then we will see that this guy is consistently adding good stuff, good value, good arguments, good jokes, anything. Whatever is your expertise. That’s when people start following you. And that’s when people will start noticing you and the stuff you’re independently creating and not just commenting on other handles. And that’s how it grows basically. I’ve seen a lot of people do a lot of great threads. And on Indian businesses, some of you have read a great article, and you think it’s really insightful, maybe create a thread out of it. And if you think because what happens is a lot of very, very few people have the patience to actually go and read an article, usually, people are happy to scroll through their timelines. So if suppose you can distill that great article in a set of five, six tweets or 10 tweets, and people find it very interesting, they can just tag it and link it as well and retweet it, that’s when you start growing as well, so that I found a good hack, and to first create that impression that you are 100, which can add value to your timeline. So, that’s how a lot of people have grown as well.


Siddhartha 26:01

And, you know, what about consistency, like you have been really consistent, how do you build your content?


Abhishek 26:11

Consistency, I’ll tell you, it’s not a concerted effort. It’s not like that, I have to tweet today, or I have set reminders that I’ll tweet today. It’s not that it’s the platform that will draw you in actually. See, of course, the validation is dopamine, right? What will happen is if you get social media validation, if you get a lot of likes, of course, you get attracted to it, attracted to that validation, and you’ll create more stuff. So you don’t have to put an effort in such that is to tweet five times today, it automatically comes. But initially, of course, you will have to make an effort when you are building the initial set of following. something that, suppose something has happened, or you’re constantly browsing something, if you read an article, you make an effort to distill that article into thoughts and pull it across, let’s say if you’ve read one article every day, and you are able to create a thread maybe once or two days and that thread is basically value worthy, then of course, people will follow you. And I’ve seen a lot of people do that. I mean, and I’ve seen them grow as well on Twitter in the recent past. So consistency is of course there. But consistency is not something which you have to put extra effort into, let’s say, one year or two years down the line. I mean, first one year, maybe you’ll have to be consistent otherwise, afterward, it becomes an automatic process, you constantly are getting drawn to the platform and you create stuff, because you’re getting a lot of validation anyway.


Siddhartha 27:35

And how do you avoid that dopamine rush of checking your Twitter again, and again, how many likes or how many retweets you got?


Abhishek 27:48

See, I’m a self-confessed addict. So I can’t be like doling out advice on how to not be addict how to avoid it. The point is that, of course, how I see people because of course, you can’t be on Twitter all the time, and also run a business. The thing is, what I do is how I see it basically, it’s like grindstone when you are sharpening your knife. So when you are on Twitter, you constantly are thinking about the idea that what could I tweet, which will make the next viral tweet on or gets me a lot of likes? So the good thing is that I’m in the business of doing that anyway. Right? So if suppose I constantly churn my brain on Twitter, it’s easier for me to approach briefs in competence solution, right? So basically, if suppose there’s a brief, it takes a very less amount of time to come up with a solution, come up with a campaign may be, or on my team as well to create something out of in a very short amount of time and that I attribute to Twitter because had I been not that active, I might not have been that sharp. So I think this is like a grindstone for me at least. So though I spend a lot of time there on Twitter, it somehow is like a kind of a net practice for the eventual work which comes out.


Siddhartha 29:13

Which are like the non-celebrity or non-Bollywood Twitter accounts, which you have seen grown from zero, which, you know, you have seen their journey?


Abhishek 29:24

Yes, Palak (Zatakia) is one I’ve seen him do a lot of threads. And a lot of similar accounts like that, that they have grown by just adding value by just creating stuff, which is new, and I haven’t seen them putting up opinions. They are pretty much there sharing a lot of facts, which are interesting facts which are insights about the business, and then they have moved to opinion. I mean, that’s where I see the journey. Well, and that’s when they have done as well in the, in the following, even though then following might not be in terms of numeric, a big amount, but the people kind of people who were following them are great, they have got the niche amount of following them got the nice, they have got pretty good people following them who think who will add when you who are a local influencer in themselves, even I follow Palak. So what happens is whatever stuff Palak creates, suppose it reaches me and, maybe I somehow tend to amplify it through my medium it will go out to those 1.3 million followers as well. So that’s where Palak has access to a lot of other people as well. So that’s how many people are there who create good stuff, get good people following them, who are local amplifiers, and they have an access to a much larger audience. And that’s how their followership will grow very fast


Siddhartha 30:53

Coming to a different topic on Indian D2C startup and emerging indian D2C right. What are the companies I would like to first ask you that have inspired which have come up recently?


Abhishek 31:14

D2C of course is a modern age concept anyway. Being a traditional marketeer, I would tell you the usually, whenever you make a multivariate of sales, right that basically the outcome is sales, what all variables are basically affecting sales, the biggest coefficient or biggest variable is of distribution, then you have trade, then you have media, and then you have, of course, the marketing. So the marketing and media part comes third. So the biggest component that helps your sales is distribution. And for any fmcg company, if you see the biggest effort they put in the field force anything is to actually be present on counters on shelves in stores. So the number of stores as many number of stores you are growing, your sales will automatically grow. So what has happened with the internet and e-commerce is that we have completely skipped that step now that anyone anywhere can access your product, suppose it is listed on Amazon by a simple Google search, right, or maybe an Amazon search. So, that requires the maximum amount of investment as well to build a distribution of 6 million stores, a PNG or HAL would have been spent years right. But now that a D2C brand comes in, suddenly it is present, is listed on Amazon, it’s a store present on so many phones out there, right. So it has cut away that distribution part now it can focus on pure play, and the trade part is also taken care of and the discount parties also can take care of. They can easily do it, they can easily change offers, pass on discounts, it is very difficult in an offline business. Imagine, on a particular soap, if you have one plus one free, you’ll have to change the entire packaging for the entire lot to roll out another offer and which takes a lot of time. But on ecommerce, you can just do that with a click of a button. So the trades and then comes the media part. So what I’ve seen is one of my favorite examples, I share Bombay shaving company and Ustara these other brands, which are into the FMCG space, but they built a brand purely to digital marketing. And what they have done well is in terms of their media targeting, which is creative is fine sometimes, okay, if you are selling an innovative new product, just to tell the story in a manner which is palatable to users, which looks good premium. But what actually helps is using media. And when I say media it is the most reach and frequency. Reach is fine. Of course, you’re reaching out to different people. But at what frequency do you show it to them? I remember once, of course, I’m a consumer. But I remember converting on the fifth frequency I’ve been seeing that are like 1234. the fifth time I was like, let’s try it out. But then because at the fifth time the need arises, right? Maybe in the first four occasions, I might not be needing a shaver or might want me needing a mean lotion, beard lotion. But on the fifth occasion, I might be on a life stage that I needed. So suddenly I like Oh, this looks good. Let’s try it out once and then I got converted. So that persistence as well, it helps a lot. So, they have had a great media strategy, what I really like about them, and of course, everything else is now seamless you go on a platform, I mean, where ordering is easy delivery is also like all of this is commoditized. Now, I mean, I don’t think so there’s much difference in these new startups in terms of DTC brands, in terms of how they handle in the whole last mile bit of reaching out to the consumer, but what changes it is how they present the product, how they basically market it and what is the media strategy, The Moms Company and other products I suddenly saw it in my box And when I saw that, that fine, I have read about this particular product. And now, my wife who usually takes those calls or gets those toiletries, and she has got it in my vicinity, suddenly, I didn’t make an effort to buy it, but I have read about it. But because it has reached my bathroom, I can see there, that means they have succeeded, and they have succeeded in terms of marketing it well. So that’s where I feel they have done well, in terms, of course, the product is good. That’s why it gets a repeat, a lot of repeats. But in terms of getting that first trial, these guys have been really good. And I really see I mean, good things and a good future for a lot of DTC brands coming in and suddenly getting acquired by bigger FMCG. That is supposed to happen because bigger FMCGs are clunky, they know the offline business really well. But they are still learning e commerce and b2c business. And these guys are experts, they will suddenly come in and make the same products that may be replacing their production in premium homes. And suddenly, these bigger FMCG companies will be better off buying them out.


Siddhartha 36:05

I think you will be able to relate it to the most, you have spent like four years. You had a different train of thought though, while working in a large setup. Right. Now, you’re able to see what difference these DTC brands are able to create in the market and somehow also replace the traditional FMCG companies off the shelf ultimately.


Abhishek 36:33

Yes, absolutely. So you know, also it shows the power of marketing as well, if suppose you do stuff well, if you reach out to the people well, and come across as honest, come across as valuable, come across as something which is I mean, it cuts out the frills. And it’s a great product built upon testimonials, built upon great looking creatives. So that’s where I think people like us who helped these brands come up. Also, our contribution to this whole ecosystem also becomes more apparent and it grows as well.


Siddhartha 37:09

Can you share for a very early stage D2C startup? Right. Can they work on branding without burning money on advertising?


Abhishek 37:19

Actually it’s not a very straightforward answer because there’s so many different categories. There are so many different variables at play. And also it also depends on the incumbents’ right in that category that what they are doing.


Siddhartha 37:34

You can share an example. I think that will be great.


Abhishek 37:38

In terms of Paperboat again, I won’t call it a DTC brand. But of course, they’re a niche brand started up by people who had a nimble thought process and approach towards marketing. These guys were fighting against Of course, the cokes and the Pepsi’s of the world. I remember the cokes and Pepsi’s of the word would distribute fridges in offline stores. So when a smaller company basically comes in and fights with the giants, it has to have a different kind of approach what Paperboat did was that tried to create that whole aura of nostalgia behind it while the other brands were trying to rope in newer celebrities, younger-looking celebrities and trying to create the connection with the youth these guys are the ones who basically said that fine, nostalgia was a great hook to work on and they didn’t spend I mean of course in getting celebrities because that was the norm that every other brand has to have a celebrity in it and so these guys build that aura of nostalgia and I think that doing well because they have a standard they have launched new alliances well and they have established a niche in people’s mind that fine this is not just another drink, this is Paperboat.


Siddhartha 39:17

On a generic theme you know, you have some thoughts that you would like to continue that train of thought like on a topic like branding without burning money on advertising, okay.


Abhishek 39:29

So branding, without money. So the thing is A we need to figure out what is that critical audience you need to reach out to. See of course, if you have a great product. And when there is a product that comes out which is basically promising something which is new. The best way to go about is going through testimonials, I mean about sharing real life user examples or real people sharing their experiences. Of course, is the holy grail saying that fine, I don’t want to burn money as well, I also want to sell a lot of stuff as well. So, what usually helps is if you get these testimonials from these influencers, so it’s like growing your followership, it’s the same, right? The point is that you have something of value to offer to people, and you get other people who are influential to talk about it, and let them use it, right. And if they like the product, of course, you have a comment that if they like your product, they’ll talk about it in their local groups, or their local spheres. And that’s how it grows. So I think, to do that, you need to have a great differentiated product, or else, you would need a lot of marketing. So the point is that, if there is a differentiated product, of course, you need to get, let’s see, get these people to talk about it, sample it out, give it to people and let them try it out and talk about it, get the first 100 consumers to swear by it to be the advocates of that product. And that’s how you could usually and all touch points of your product be like the user experience, be it the website app, or anything should be top-notch should when I say top notch, it should resonate with the premiumness of the product. And if it is doing that, and you create simple things, right? I remember Paperboat had the base, there was a copy written key. Now that I guess you have drank it up. And I mean, it was written at the base that hope you have closed the lid, close the lid, while by reading this copy, though, in the simple things you do, and you make those first 100 advocates of the product and let them be your marketers, let them be the ones who are I mean, spreading the word. Recently, what happened was, on my birthday, my wife ordered a cake from Miam, I and when the cake came here, it was pretty premium, the niche, kind of a boutique setup, I liked it so much that I tweeted about it. And then the founder messaged me on Instagram that Who are you suddenly, I’m getting so many queries from different people. So, if you are creating a great product, make sure it reaches out to those 5-10 people or 100 people who can be your advocates who are so impressed by this product or the users of this or the UX of this, they talk about it. And that’s how you grow with basically your business. And going about, of course, marketing. The whole point of any product is that there is a critical mass of people who should know about your product, and then let them talk about it. And then how that’s how it grows. So the critical mass of people is very important to reach. You reach it through maybe influencer marketing or whatever. But you need to get the word out to the right people.


Siddhartha 43:16

And what about like, an area of your expertise, like touch upon is digital storytelling. Like you have to create a different story, though, The Moms Co and Johnson are competing for the same shelf of a baby hair product. Mom’s Co zero has zero toxins. Similarly other, you know, emerging d2c brands, what about digital storytelling? What are the key areas which you know, you would advise to focus on that?


Abhishek 43:47

Be authentic, I guess. See, when you say digital storytelling, there are two businesses one is GingerMonkey and then there is Gabbbar Singh. Gabbbar Singh is a creation of content online and Ginger Monkey is about servicing clients and understanding their briefs and giving them a marketing solution right. So when you say digital storytelling, do you mean the Gabbbar singh or the digital marketing?


Siddhartha 44:09

I am asking about digital storytelling from a point of a D2C brand.


Abhishek 44:17

Okay, see of course, a person who is gravitating towards The mom’s company would be the one who’s already tried out Johnson’s right and they find these big ticket companies, I mean, of course talk a lot about what they’ve been droning about it for years and years. That best baby care, this and that. But let’s try out something new. So, the other early adopters as well adventurers basically these guys are the ones who realize that fine if everybody else is using Johnson, let me try out this one. This new thing that has come up, I trust maybe the founders or the process and stuff. Let me try it out. And then it’s also how to differentiate yourself from others as well. Johnson’s anybody’s using, but my baby is using The Mom’s Company, right? So I’ll tell him why don’t you use this one. This is a new thing that has come up and it is suiting my baby a lot. It has no toxins. There’s that though your Johnson’s is a big fmcg company, of course, they would have told you a lot of things. But you never know when of course there is this, of course, is marketing people at a point of time, realize that it’s a big bag of lies as well, there’s a lot of lies being told. I mean, there was a big controversy with Johnson as well, that asbestos thing that they have in the baby talc powder, is creating cancer. So people realize that bigger companies, if they’re telling you something in the ads with pretty models, it might not be the truth. So a lot of people are, I mean, looking beyond that. So once you figured out that fine, it might not be the best product on the shelves. So, you venture out and get new things. And these are the early adopters in the market who are like, the enlightened one says this. And they look beyond traditional advertising. And they think that I won’t be fooled advertising. So I’ll go and try it out. So you need to reach out to those people, too, if you reach out to those people who are early adopters, adventurers, and who are a local influencer in their own group. That’s why Twitter also works sometimes. Because people who are using the mom’s company products would be the influencer in their own social area circle as well. People will think that imagine there’s a doctor who has a kid and the doctor is using the mom’s company products, but the whole people who are connected, the relatives, the friends and family who are connected to the doctor will see him or her using that product. And ask is it good. I mean, if you’re using it, it must be good. So let me also try it out. So it’s very important for these brands to reach out to these local influences. Once they’re done that that’s how the word of mouth will grow.


Siddhartha 47:02

Thank you very much Abhishek. It’s been wonderful chatting with you, you know, and thank you for sharing your experiences, your insights.


Abhishek 47:10

Same here. It was great talking to you guys.


Vector Graphic Vector Graphic

Know when new episodes are released. Subscribe to our newsletter!

Please enter a valid email id