The NOW Gen

In this episode, we talk with Rahul Chowdhury, Chief Marketing&Digital Officer at Qunol about rapid changes in digital marketing, and tips for team building in The NOW Gen.


Rahul Chowdhury

Francisco Serrano (01:04):

Oh, well, welcome back. And we have an interesting show today. We’re gonna be talking about the importance of speed and agility in the data driven digital marketing. And for this, I have a very interesting guest today. His name is Rahul Chowdhury, he’s the Chief Marketing and Digital Officer at Qunol and Vice President for Quten Research Institute. Before that he was a Global Director for Lysol and he’s an expert in digital and e-com so we’re very happy to have you Rahul. Welcome.

Rahul Chowdhury (01:41):

Thank you so much, Francisco. Thank you for calling me the show. It’s exciting times and just the way you said data driven digital marketing, it is a mouthful <laugh> and, and it actually is that’s the world we live in today.

Francisco Serrano (01:57):

I know it’s, it’s kind of impressive how everybody, it’s now driven, if you have something to say, and it’s not based out of data, then your opinion does not count, right?

Rahul Chowdhury (02:12):

Yes it is. And, I think as marketers each word has a lot of weight and putting one and one, it doesn’t add it multiplies data driven and data driven marketing. They are very strong and big concepts and the impact of that is exponential, but the way to execute that the challenges and operational challenges are also exponential.

Francisco Serrano (02:38):

Yes, I know. I know we have a lot to talk about, but before we dive into the subject, tell us a little bit about you and, and where you’re coming from, a little bit of your experience and your background so that the audience knows a bit about you.

Rahul Chowdhury (02:53):

Sure. Thank you. Thank you for calling me and inviting me to this podcast. I’m glad to share my experiences.  I’ve been in marketing for probably 15 plus years. Started my career in the traditional brand marketing P & L management kind of webspace. I have worked across probably four, five different industries starting from personal care tobacco, vitamins and supplements, household goods, food. So I really built that breadth in my career. I used to work initially, I started my early marketing career for a subsidiary of British American tobacco in India. So I had a bit of an international experience there, a very grassroot kind of marketing experience, then came here to school, restarted my career with Reckitt, which has been an amazing place for me to dive deep into a more mature economy, a mature market…

Rahul Chowdhury (03:55):

…I worked on Lysol for quite a long number of years, but I did really get experience in brand and traditional marketing over the course of the last five, six years. I have increasingly moved on to digital, just being fascinated by where the world is going towards and how we can sharpen our tools and have spent a lot of time on digital marketing e-commerce marketing. And that’s where I ended up here, where I’m currently leading all marketing efforts, all digital and e-com efforts for, I like to call it a mature startup. We are a brand called Qunol very well known in the vitamin supplement space, but still quite small compared to what, where all I was before.

Francisco Serrano (04:41):

Yeah. I know I noticed we were talking off the air about how I experienced this brand with the famous sign that you guys are famous for right now, the Co Q 10. Right. and it’s amazing. Tell us a little bit about Qunol and, and, and I was interested about the Quten Research Institute.

Rahul Chowdhury (05:05):

Yeah, Qunol.  I joined this company this year. I was fascinated by the product and I really believe the founder and the company has been able to really address a big challenge that adds value to the lot of consumers who are not aware about it. So essentially Co Q10 or Coenzyme Q 10 is an ingredient in our own body, which is responsible for transmitting energy from one cell to another and 97% of the energy in everybody’s cell is transmitted through CoQ10 it’s that integral. But what happens over the course of time is as you grow older, your body stops producing it, or minimizes reduces production of CoQ10 that leads to feelings like fatigue, just, just not having the energy to get going with life. And particularly if you had a heart patient any many of the statin drugs, actually, while they shut off cholesterol, they also shut off the production of coenzyme Q 10…

Rahul Chowdhury (06:11):

….So one of the most direct effects that a lot of statin users see or feel is that they don’t feel, they feel they don’t have any energy. They feel that life has got sucked out from them. What the solution for that is just supplement coenzyme Q10 and have that over and above what your body produces over and above what you get from food, but supplement that enough to bring the level back up in your blood. Now, there are a lot of lot of brands who have coenzyme Q10.But the challenge that the category always had for the last 20, 25 years is that you can eat as much as you want. The coenzyme Q10 does not get absorbed by your body naturally. So what Qunol brought in, and this has been a journey in the last 10 years is a patent where it, it has three X more solvability or absorption than a normal coQ10. So we essentially have exploded this category and made this category much more. What do you say? Much more valuable for a lot of people who either don’t know about it or probably took it, I mean, not getting the benefit and now they have a valid reason for having coenzyme Q10 which not only helps your heart but also has a lot more benefit beyond this heart health.

Francisco Serrano (07:39):

Yeah. We, I was talking to you about it. Top of mind was the enzyme was related to heart. And what about, what is the Quten Research Institute?

Rahul Chowdhury (07:51):

That’s a parent company who owns the brand, right? And that’s a company who got the product into the market. It’s a science based company, which means that we are very integral with science. We know that the supplement category is there are tons and thousands of brands, and everybody claims to be different efficacy, but we really have to be processing out on clinical studies and on science in Institute is the one which leads away. And they’re the ones who have the details of the product.

Francisco Serrano (08:26):

Oh, okay. And, and tell me about, I’m gonna dive into digital…I know, because I have done my homework. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> that back in 2012, you were the, one of the first to do a Facebook page in India, right. For a product. So it’s a long way from there. Where are you now? What has evolved Rahul from now?

Rahul Chowdhury (08:52):

Yeah, it’s fascinating. I think 2010 was when I was launching the first Facebook page for my company, which is the number one or not the number one CPT company in India. And I was just fascinated with creating Facebook page. Right. what’s gonna happen with this, but what intrigued me is there was no benchmark, there was no best practice. There was like, Hey, we gotta do this. Somebody told us to do this. And that’s the mindset with which you had to go in. Right? you had the people who had 25, 30 years of experience who were the best marketers. They were also at exactly the same page as you, where we were all trying to figure it out. Also me, that was a bit of an eye opener, which said the rules of the game are going to be, are changing drastically in 10 years…

Rahul Chowdhury (09:44):

…You can be smarter than many other people who had years of experience because you figure it out faster than what somebody else can. Right. And for me, that was the place. When I said, we, in many of the emerging markets, you copy what’s happening in the mature market, which means that, Hey, this is what Facebook in the US is doing. This is what the developed markets are doing. And we just need to do that. There isn’t really a lot of new thinking, but for me, the journey was how do I jump ahead and learn where industry is moving? How do I get to that wavelength, where I am leading along with the industry and learning faster than the industry to become more relevant. So that brought me here. And it’s been a journey from Facebook, launching a Facebook page to say, likes is everything that matters to say Facebook likes does not even matter to start with…

Rahul Chowdhury (10:36):

…And I remember 2015, when Amazon launched an Amazon search, we were one of the first brands to be tight, where Amazon said, I do not know what it means, but I have something called Amazon search. And we said, okay, it makes sense that we try it to where now we are spending millions of dollars on Amazon search. So, but it always keeps evolving. There is never an end. I also, by the way, believe that in the US, we are still catching up in the whole digital space. Like when I look at, and I was just on a call about China, and I look at about the marketing levers that they have in the market, like China and Korea, there’s so much like live streaming is going to be a big way of selling. We are seeing that in around, we are seeing that in all of different things that is yes, to catch up. There are three, four more steps that I can clearly see that’s gonna happen in the digital journey from just creating a Facebook page through live streaming in 10 years. I do not know where we end 2030.

Francisco Serrano (11:33):

Yeah. And I wanna ping you on that. You know, the Now Gen is constantly wanting instant gratification, right. And the market is changing constantly. You were talking about that. And technology, people needs, you know moments of purchase, impulse buying. And I would imagine that also in the ecomm world, that changes too. Right. So what does that mean? And how do you use data to make that change one that works for your brand. So does that mean change the whole website again and again? Or what does it mean to get from your seat, of course having that data and using it in e-com and digital in order to make this change more sense for your brand.

Rahul Chowdhury (12:37):

It’s a very heavy question, right. And when you even say, what does that mean? A lot of people are trying to figure out what actually it’s supposed to mean. Right. There are a few principles. However, I think I own it in trying to find the meaning, right. The first, most important principle that we all probably agree is there is nothing static and that learning curve will never saturate at least in the near term. So what does that mean is having a team, having processes, having the agility to be able to always disrupt yourself the second, what does it mean is it’s a question about skillset. It’s a question about who’s going to lead that way. I probably being the CMO or anybody who’s in the marketing leadership might not actually have the skillset, but then who and how do you spot that skillset?

Rahul Chowdhury (13:39):

…How do you bring that, that person in and keep them the freedom to chart their own way while guiding and matching them? Right. That’s what it means. I have been scaling up my team here just to make it future ready. And the challenge I was recruiting heavily two years back when I was part of Reckitt, I’m just seeing a difference in talent. I’m seeing a difference in expectation, right. Of just digital, like previously what people call the base digital toolkit is also changing. Right. So how do as recruiters also, how do you bring in that team’s way different? What does that, what does it mean? The third is what does that mean? It also means how does consumer and business evolve, so you could have the agility and the mindset, you could have the talent, but understanding how do you see your business with, along with the consumer at 25 30 in the year 2025 in the year 2030…

Rahul Chowdhury (14:41):

… So what I’m essentially telling you are questions we have, but what does it mean is finding an answer continuously for this, right. Just to give an example of how I see it, when I say, okay, when I look at 2022, I have each of these three different channels. What does it mean for agility? And the Now Generation for me in 2022 is how do I create an operating model processes, which can continuously disrupt? What did we about 2021 is not going to be relevant now, what is going to be relevant also? Where do we need to double down? How, who do I need to add to the team? What skillset am I missing? For example, I quoted live streaming. I don’t have a person who does it, but it’s a place that I want to explore. How do I build that capability and skillset? And then third is the, the, the now about consumer is the consumer has changed a lot when, as we come out of COVID, what categories are they going to buy? The way they bought before? What categories are they gonna move onto? What part of my business has a risk? And what might my business have an opportunity, understanding that crystalizing that, and then converting that, connecting all of those them together is the marketing, the Now Generation marketing that we have to get to.

Francisco Serrano (15:54):

Yes, as you were saying, I am constantly talking to people and you know, talking to individuals that are building teams like you are, and they are creating job positions that are, I’ve never heard they existed before. <Laugh> from Amazon likes on Google. And I’m like, what? Yeah. What is this guy gonna do? Right. So it’s probably that position is not gonna be vacant. It’s gonna be vacant now, but it, the future is gonna disappear because it no longer adds value. So it’s just like testing and going and moving and just investigating what’s out there. Right. So, yeah.

Rahul Chowdhury (16:44):

Yes, yes. And, what is constant is the brand insight and data, right? You spoke about data a little bit. All of this is not possible. If you do not have a rich way of understanding what’s happening and that’s based on data and then analytics, which converts the data into insight. Because I have also been in conversations with a lot of people who want to move, but they have no light on where to move. And then it’s in that case, it’s just a wheel that is trying to keep rotating. Doesn’t go anywhere, right? That’s the key formula, for burnout. You have a ton of different people. You all want to move. There isn’t any data. There isn’t any process of building learnings together, and you are just trying and doing different things. I like to say that there is a saying in this company where I joined where the founder said, if you’re not able to scale something, then that’s a hobby, right. And we need to really move from hobby to driving a business.

Francisco Serrano (17:50):

Yeah.  I completely agree in talking about data. Can you give us an example, of course, that you can share with us of how you used in the past, either in this or another, any company data in order to demonstrate to use it in an agile way. So you got the data, you reacted, then you changed the course and it was a success or a failure, you know?

Rahul Chowdhury (18:15):

Yeah, no I think 2020 was a big year for us to question what data we had, question the agility of the data, right. Because I remember we were in February, March, we had a solid plan of winning the year and come March. Every plan got tossed out, right? Yes. There were bigger macro changes of uncertainty, of people not going out and people working from home. But the biggest thing is a market year that I was struggling with, what is a new consumer behavior and how do we get across it, not based on what we hear, but based on actual data and how we then refine that insight into what should be a new marketing strategy. Pretty much between three months, that was a challenge we had. And that’s a question that we had. We knew that people are gonna come and buy online…

Rahul Chowdhury (19:09):

…Great. What is the need that they have? Is it just replacement? Are they looking for different products? What do they need at their home now, which they never needed before? So that was a good moment for us to say, what insight tools do we have? How can we build up quick insight tools and data tools? What do we know about consumer in now in the last 30, 60 days? And we’ll have to go in with that assumption. So essentially we built a few tools in house. We had a few tools. We customized them, redeployed them to what you call social, listening to what you call, just getting a bit of a feeling of where is it again… I keep seeing that the basic concept, all of this is that you will never have a hundred percent of your answer. I think this says it is that if you have a hundred percent of your answers, you’re too late, you will have to go in with 80% of your answer and a gut feel, but it’s better than going in with no data and just a gut feel…

Rahul Chowdhury (20:10):

…But essentially that was so time went from April to May, June. I remember we tweaked a lot. We got a lot more social listening tools. We got in a lot more reading the numbers a little bit more to see which categories are growing, which categories are slowing down. And then you match the quantitative data with the qualitative data. You start getting strong insights. And what we ended up doing is we pretty much flexed all of our marketing spin into categories, which we had never thought before. Wow. Right. And those are the categories that gave us much faster growth than even a brand. Like Lysol not that Lysol would not have grown, but just that Lysol had its own big curve. And then you went outta stock. Like you went for toilet paper, but then the question was, we can’t be sitting, but you just realized there are other nascent needs that would be untapped, that started coming up. And we were the right spot to leverage that, to find that and to activate on that, be it dishwashing detergent, be it baking as a concept, which led to things like Easy oOff growing. Right? So these are all things that you be able to tap ahead of the time and put dollars behind it because we believe in it and we grew faster.

Francisco Serrano (21:20):

Wow.  I mean, I just get the, the chills right now, just listening at it because to, to really mastermind something like that and really see it a success and really getting into the channel, the product and actually selling and everybody saying, yeah, it worked and all, everything came because of analyzing data

Rahul Chowdhury (21:41):

In three months. And the challenge is you, we I’m sure people would’ve got that in within six, eight months, but by that time, everybody was trying to figure it out. You just need to be faster than the previous day.

Francisco Serrano (21:51):

Wow. So, and, and coming back to, you know, you’re not alone, you have assembled a team what does it take to be a leader in the Now Gen? I mean, with the Now Gen that, that they want rewards also, as, you know, as a team member, they will like ask you for rewards too, because you’re not. So it’s kind of a 360 instant gratification. How do you become such a great leader in this generation?

Rahul Chowdhury (22:24):

It’s tough, right? It’s a very interesting generation that we are seeing. I just feel proud of what every person that I see and every person that I’m seeing, I just see that there’s so much more bright and so much more sharper than we were. Right. We came in with a very traditional mindset and we are learning, but they’re starting with a very complex complex environment. But I think there are a few things that have helped me, right? Number one is authentic. You have to be authentic this generation, like you said, the Now Generation is no bullshit generation. Like they will say it on your face and they are very vocal about it and, and they can see through it, right? So that’s one big piece, which I always caveat at, because it’s not about what you tell them…

Rahul Chowdhury (23:11):

…It’s about, about who you are and you, whoever you are, you would not be appealing to everyone, but you would be appealing to many. And finally you want somebody who wants to figure it out, add as badly as you want to figure it out. But I think from what has helped me get the most of them and make them smarter every day and better marketers every day is number one, sharing the vision. They want to be part of it. They don’t wanna be told what to do. They want to say, where are we going? And then that’s the first big piece, right? Is you have to be visionary. You have to be exciting. You have to be able to share the strategy and, and be open to hear from them. Right. That vision is very key. The second is being democratic. You are equally a disciple as them in, because probably, you know, equal to, or less than what they know of their own field…

Rahul Chowdhury (24:13):

…I have a search expert. I have a social media expert. I have a creative designer expert, and I don’t know more than any of them in their field. So I’m equally a disciple, but we all listen together and we challenge each other. And we try to go ahead with what we think is the best. I would tell for people who are leaders, but at the same time, remember something that you have that probably many of the generations, that new generation don’t have it’s fundamental for marketing. We think consumer, they think activation, they think channel, they think media tactics, we think consumer. And so that’s a great way of you balancing out, but say, okay, from a marketing principle, how does this work? And that’s been some of the best, I think, discussions where they have, where they say, Hey, you do this on Facebook and you do that on Facebook and you get this return…

Rahul Chowdhury (25:09):

…I said, great. But how does it doesn’t really play with how is a consumer journey? That’s where you challenge them back. You have to be democratic, but you have to do that. And the third is I also think they need a little bit of coaching and mentoring. They’re very young, they’re very pride to have so much more ahead of them having someone who can be a mentor. They’re probably looking for mentors, not leaders, and they will follow their mentors everywhere, not necessarily leaders, because they have as much as they have answers, they have an equal number of questions for which they don’t have answers. And, being able to have a sounding board is a real thing for them. So that’s what has worked for me, vision democratic, being a disciple, and then mentorship.

Francisco Serrano (25:54):

Oh, mentorship. Yeah. I know that from my personal experience I have seen a lot in the market that the more flexible you are nowadays, the better, because you know, that constant change that you talk about. If you are stiff and you don’t want to change, and you’re not flexible and adaptable, then you’re not going in the right direction. Right. So, yeah. And you assembled the team. This is not your first time you assembled teams, right? You, you’ve assembled multiple times. Yeah.

Rahul Chowdhury (26:28):

It is. It’s been an extreme pleasure. And I would say privilege to assemble a team. I always like to say is that I, you always feel you’re assembling a band of avengers. That’s the tone that I always use, because everybody has a unique skill. You are no one than just finding who’s the right skill at the right time. And then they just both are an amazing group of avengers and you have the joy of seeing them becoming their own superpower.

Francisco Serrano (26:54):

Yeah. Yeah. And nowadays people think that because of technology, people are not there and they don’t count. And, and I say that now more than ever, even, even if there’s AI, you are always gonna need the people to make sense of it. All right. So I need to assemble something. So coming back to your history and I’m moving back, let’s go to the time machine right now. And tell me a time that you really felt proud about Raul and said, I love you, Raul. I’m very proud of you. I’m sure there are a lot of times, but just pick one.

Rahul Chowdhury (27:43):

Yeah. It’s I, I think the way we navigated COVID as a team, as a company, as adding value to consumers, life being able to solve many of the problems that consumers had, or people had that time with a brand was quite a satisfying period for us. Right. It was a lot of ambiguity for me, my team for the company and for our consumers. But one step at a time we all ended up in doing better.

Francisco Serrano (28:18):

Okay. Awesome. Well, kudos for that. Congratulations. Because people think, Hey, you sold everything, by itself. You just go to the office, turn on the coffee maker and that’s it. And like, yeah.

Rahul Chowdhury (28:30):

It’s not nothing, nothing ever happens by itself. Right. if there was everything happened by itself, there would be hundred and one companies out there exactly doing it…

Francisco Serrano (28:38):

…By itself. Yes, exactly. Exactly. So okay. Before we move to the end of our interesting interview, I want to ask you if you were to give away you know, a takeaway to all the listeners out there that are just building teams and the e-com, and they’re talking about data and all that, what would be one learning that you would lead? Because I know you said there was a dense answer to the question of the data and speed. No, but something simple that they can nibble and take away and use it in their brands. What would you tell? ‘em

Rahul Chowdhury (29:15):

Get to the depth, but don’t dangle yourself into it. Right. So what does that mean is gone are the days where we used to buy TV, how many per week? Okay. How should the flighting be? What is the cost of G P and that’s it right. Gone on those days, days, you have to understand the depth of how does this tool work alone? How do you, what is different about how do you buy it? How does it interact with the consumer? But at the same time, when you put 10 different levels together, you cannot complicate it so much that you just lose track of where you are. So that’s one of the pieces that I always say, you have to get the depth and still stay above load. And the second thing is, understand the consumer…

Rahul Chowdhury (30:07):

…The consumer makes very simple decisions, right? They resonate to a very simple message. They, their life is anyway very complicated. We are not selling rockets. We are selling very simple products, at least in the CPG space. So the way you talk with them, creatives, packaging brand message consistency, that all of them have to be simple. And sometimes it just, it works. We, some, we as marketers, overcomplicate things many, many times and including me, right. And then, as much as we do it, we need to step back many times, sit back and say how is the consumer gonna respond to it? Like every creative has to have 10 different things. We want to say, every creative has to have pricing, promotion call out the brand in the big shape and the consumer and the consumer inside. We have to simplify that.

Francisco Serrano (31:01):

Yeah. Sometimes with, it’s not enough, it’s like, it cannot be that simple. Right. It’s just boom. But anyways, that’s the way life works. Sometimes. Not only, I, I, yeah,

Rahul Chowdhury (31:13):

I always say is like the most fascinating thing about digital is that there’s always somebody who’s trying to do something different and you can just learn from them and, and what digital native brands have taught many of us as that simplicity wins in many different ways simplicity and say it in a different way, or communicate in a different way or reach out in a different way, just becomes, makes sense. And it becomes intuitive later on.

Francisco Serrano (31:40):

Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing that. Now to our final segment, it’s a little bit of a fun question for you, right. You said you didn’t have any boundaries. So I’m gonna ask you a question since you are a brand expert, I would like to get your two favorite brands of cereal. I know that you’re, I know that you’re a cereal fan, so that’s why preferred brand of cereal and why?

Rahul Chowdhury (32:13):

This was fun. I do not know where you got that, but I’m a cereal fan. I guess you’re talking about eating cereals, right? Yeah. I am of hardcore loyalist from a cereall standpoint. I have I eat Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch. I don’t change it for a time. It’s right there. Backside. It’s sitting out there. You can see that out there.

Francisco Serrano (32:41):

I know, I know

Rahul Chowdhury (32:43):

That, like, sometimes you, you have heard about the black t-shirt thing where you don’t everyday morning, you wake up, you just wear the black t-shirt you don’t think, but it’s the same thing. It’s, don’t overcomplicate. I like that it stays on, I don’t try different things. So I have only one

Francisco Serrano (32:59):

Oh, only one. And do you have it because of, of the practice or because of the brand or because of the flavor or because of all the above?

Rahul Chowdhury (33:09):

I think somewhere in my mind, I felt that it’s perception, but I felt that it was more healthier than a lot of other sugary things. The O and, and, and the fiber of it. And I do not know when in the last 10 years I made the choice. And since then, I haven’t really tried to challenge my perception. One of the places where I need to go back and redo the learning curve. Like we said, there are new things in the market every time, but sometimes as consumers, you just want to live in the bubble that you have is that life is fine. Don’t over-complicate things.

Francisco Serrano (33:38):

Yeah. Yeah. You don’t want to like overcomplicate it in, in your options of what to have for breakfast. Right. So, yes, <laugh> excellent. Okay. So anything else you want to add before I wrap up this interview Raul?

Rahul Chowdhury (33:53):

I just wanna wish everyone who’s listening to this podcast and you Francisco have a very happy hopefully 2022 is the end of all the darkness that we have seen for the last few years. It’s a much needed break that Mankin needs. Even though it doesn’t look like now in the last two, three weeks, but I’m very positive that we, as human beings will survive and we will do good for the world because the world needs it. So I just wanna wish everybody a very happy 2022 and a more prosperous and healthy 2022 including you Francisco.

Francisco Serrano (34:29):

Yes. Yes. Thank you very much. Best wishes going your way too Raul. Well, thank you very much. I’m gonna wrap it up. We’ll be, we’ve been talking to Raul Chowdhury chief marketing and digital officer for Qunol and vice president of the Quten Research Institute. Raul, where can people reach you if they want to LinkedIn? Is it a good place? Yeah.

Rahul Chowdhury (34:55):

Yeah, I think I, again I, I do not know how, what value I can offer, but definitely yes, if there’s a conversation into you LinkedIn is the place I am dying to meet people in person and getting into those conferences that we have. I think that’s the one big piece I missed really perfectly work in a startup is that you are in your own bubble, but I think there’s a lot more than we need to catch up on.

Francisco Serrano (35:19):

Exactly. Yes. Thank you very much. Well, thank you very much. And if you want to learn more about the most relevant power brands, please do not do not lose the next episode of the Now Generation stand, stay tuned and listen to all these brand talks that I have with all these experts. Thank you very much. And we’ll see you soon. Thank you.

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