Nikunj Kewalramani is a Corporate Communication professional with 10 years of experience in the technology space. Over these years he has worked in a hyper-growth startup environment, heading communications for topline emerging brands in consumer tech (b2c) and SaaS (b2b).
At present, Nikunj is the Communications Lead at POSist Technologies, a cloud-based restaurant technology platform. In his previous role, he was the Public Relations Lead at Freshworks Inc, where he was responsible for external communications focused on Thought Leadership, Customer Advocacy, and Product Innovation in global markets including- the US, Europe, Australia, India, and ASEAN.
Prior to Freshworks, Nikunj spent two years with OLX Group as the India PR Manager, and a five-year stint with consulting firm 20:20 MSL, where he spent his foundation years in Public Relations working for some of the leading consumer tech companies and building a PR practice for early-stage startups for the firm.
Nikunj holds an MBA in International Business & Marketing from Amity University
Q1: Nikunj, you had been heading communications for a long time now. How was your experience and what inspired you to continue with the job?
For the last 10 years, I’ve worked on both the sides of the communications business- consulting as well as the brand side, with companies like MSLGROUP, OLX India, and Freshworks Inc. Throughout this time, I’ve handled communications for brands of different scales at different stages of their journies. When I started my career in 2011, I never imagined that communication was itself a business function, this was something we were never taught in the business schools, all the limelight was stolen by Finance, Sales, Marketing, and HR. I simply assumed that communication is a part of marketing, it was only two years into my career that I realized there is so much more to learn in communications – be it external or internal.
When I look back, I realise that the only thing that kept me inspired is the never-ending excitement one feels when one is able to communicate a meaningful story for their brand, the thrill to see your brand being positively talked about or covered is the best form of encouragement for anyone working in the business of communications.
Q2: Can you share a few insights from events or situations in your working career where brand communications helped you? And also do you have any hobbies or interests that have added value to you as a Marketer?
One of the biggest takeaways from my career in Communications has been the ability to use data to communicate a story. Although storytelling is not something new for PR professionals, today’s digital age offers new opportunities for brands to connect with its audience through most creative routes and high impact mediums. While storytelling can be achieved through various mediums, using data-backed insights to tell a story is both an art and science.
I would like to share an example of OLX where we used data in the form of research, insights, and consumer trends to narrate stories which highlight the potential of unused goods stocked by Indian households. We used to publish OLX CRUST (Consumer Research on Used-Goods and Selling Trends), an annual survey that estimates the size of the unused goods market in India and examines key attitudes towards unused goods. Over the years, CRUST research has helped the industry develop a comprehensive understanding of the unused goods market in India, the key trends, consumer behavior, and the future outlook of the industry.
At Freshworks, we did something similar in context to measuring how Customer loyalty is stronger in brands that provide personalized, tailored experiences. For the first time we released a report to map the trends in customer support, the report – New Rules of Customer Engagement became a gold standard for the industry.
Q3: How has the industry changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?
There is no better time to invest in Communications, it is becoming more relevant than ever. Over the years, brands have realized the importance of talking to their consumers directly. Today, PR/ Corp Communications is not just about stories and press releases, it is rather touching boundaries of advertising & marketing. Agencies are hiring in-house content creators, digital experts, and influencers who can manage end to end communications for the clients. With these developments, I see some interesting trends shaping the industry in the next 5 years.
- AI: Artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to disrupt the entire communications world. A major part of our job as PR professionals is to predict how consumers will respond to a brand. Artificial Intelligence is largely about futuristic predictions based on an existing set of data. We can expect large consultancies to start adopting AI tools to churn out content and to distribute it to media channels.
- The emergence of Micro-influencers: Debate on the authenticity of influencer marketing has been going on for quite some time. Lately, there have been controversies around fake followers, lower engagement, and the use of bots in social media channels, which have reduced the impact of heavy investment influencer engagements. What we have started seeing is the rise of micro-influencers. Today, rather than having influencers with millions of followers, brands prefer engaging with micro-influencers.
- Digital PR: the right mix of owned, earned, and paid media is becoming a part of the news dissemination matrix. Digital PR will play a key role in changing the way PR agencies will target stories to the right set of consumers. Creative ways such as native placements, visual storytelling will soon become the new normal in PR.
Q4: What is the biggest challenge in the industry at the moment? And how do you stay updated on the latest tools and trends?
COVID-19 and the speed of innovation have led to shorter product life cycles, flattening of markets, and a lot of stress. Marketers need to do more with less and simultaneously rethink their GTM. The risk of delaying time-to-market is too high. It can result in loss of market share and brand damage. It is important to improve the team’s ability to react to new market conditions. The most important part of this is to remove roadblocks as possible and automate tasks.
To keep myself updated on the latest trends, I try to read as much as I can and keep catching up on news via Twitter.
Q5: What will you suggest to the start-ups to manage their customers giving negative social media reviews about the product?
Accept the feedback, respond proactively, and make improvements if the customer is genuinely pointing out a bug or a problem.
Q6: What based on your experience are the major pointers to look at to ensure that you remain productive and competitive in different market conditions?
On the basis of my experience, I think there are three areas where marketing teams must put their focus to remain competitive and relevant at all the times:
- Better workflow management for teams to ensure quick turnaround.
- Creating more efficient collaboration within teams and even externally. Using project management tools can be of great benefit in these times
- Content localization to match the preferences and demographics of the target customers.