‘We don’t need mercenaries; we need missionaries’ – Karan Bhandari of Weber Shandwick India
Mr. Karan Bhandari is Vice President of Digital Marketing at Weber Shandwick India; a world-leading global public relations and communications firm with a heritage in Asia Pacific stretching back over fifty years. Mr. Bhandari expresses his views and perceptions on the digital marketing trends, its future prospects and other important aspects in an interview conducted by Mr. Saimik Sen, Editor-in- Chief of ERTC, Herald Global.
While discussing how he got attracted to the digital marketing industry, Mr. Bhandari stated that almost a decade ago, the digital marketing industry was perceived differently and was seen as ‘technology’. For example, digital marketing was driven by lead generation campaigns which required analytics and technology and codes built in, even the internet was not what we now think of it. He couldn’t resist his curiosity to know more about it. It was the curious young boy, completely infatuated with technology and shiny new things, which got him where he is today.
On further discussion regarding the kind of leadership style he believes in, he said that irrespective of the position at the workplace or any place in life, it is vital to be approachable in every way, approachable to collaborate, to help solve problems and enable others. He believes that leadership is not dependent on age or rank, it is reliant on the role individuals play in the team – it is about individual performance roles. It is actually about how you contribute to the bigger picture. Everybody owns their space and has to contribute equally to the team. He further added that this is much more effective than the conventional model of delegation.
On asking about the most interesting thing about working in the field of digital marketing, he replied that he stays on all social channels the whole day/week/month/year. Nobody can really question his productivity because that’s his job. To be on top of what is trending, what’s making the most waves and getting his clients with it. He channels the technology fan boy in him and that’s what keeps him going. ‘Now that’s a win,’ he added.
Additionally, everything is fast paced now. Real-time updates rule the roost, people want everything now. News reports come out on the hour now compared to years and months earlier – this is what keeps him engaged. He believes that he is working with a very young audience – as peers and colleagues – who are always ready to experiment. That makes it even more alluring.
Furthermore, Mr. Bhandari mentioned that the current projects his team are working on make people very curious and they peek through the glass and ask about the kind of action going on all the time. Whereas it is not limited to a single space it spans industries right from financial technology, hardcore engineering, and management and to consumer-oriented products. Projects also transcend audiences – stakeholder engagement, influencer management and to end consumer engagement including even employee communication – it is our role to ensure it manifests in a way that it gives all people the pride and joy of association with brands.
On revealing his thoughts on the changing picture of the digital marketing industry, Mr. Bhandari continues stating that he doesn’t see the industry as a picture but as a movie – a huge blockbuster. Nobody knows what the next scene is going to be – neither the protagonists nor the orchestrators! He believes that these are simply just the opening credits right now. The Protagonists are going to get way more interesting as the narrative develops, they will wield more power, and will impact lives around them considerably, in ways never seen before. All of this will be enabled on the commoditization of two essentials: data and technology.
While indicating towards his peers in the digital marketing industry, he said that he and all of his peers are driving towards a singular goal – their sole purpose is audience pleasure leading to big wins for the client. He also believes at this stage, they don’t need mercenaries; they need missionaries. He added that they need people for the long haul, thinking from a long-term perspective, working hand-in-hand with the client and the partner ecosystem – advising, collaborating and course changing for the better outcome for the entire industry.
As asked about his best learning in life, Mr. Bhandari said that the best learning can’t be attributed to a single eureka moment but comes from everyday observation – especially of the younger generation. To understand what triggers them, what makes them click? These learnings are then adapted every day in a lot of ways – not just in our communication approach, but also in the way we work or approach things. Interestingly, the way you perceive the world around you, the way you would want certain actions to be taken also enables your world view and furthers your learning.
While stating about the importance of thought leadership at Weber Shandwick, he continued that the path to thought leadership is to first exemplify before amplifying – essentially meaning that our DNA is reflected in everything we say or do. They go to their clients with certain recommendations and results and they really have to own them – simply saying practice what you preach. At Weber Shandwick, that is exactly what they do. They are relevant, contextual and engaging always. It is their responsibility to help clients understand current trends and evaluate how they fit in. It flows from the top – their CEO Valerie Pinto is their driver in chief – always willing to do new things and helping them achieve more every day.
Five years down the line, Mr. Bhandari sees himself as excited to be in this industry and it’s magic as he was ten years ago. He believes that on being excited he will be as gung-ho about delivering the same kind of edgy work as he does today. Further, he said that one can’t afford to be jaded in this industry – it just leads to stagnation. He wants to keep this child like wonder alive – that smile of joy because this space is as alluring as it was 10 years ago.
Mr. Sen concluded the interview by asking his take on the initiative by Herald global in bringing success stories of the industry leaders in their own words to the readers to initiate inspiration amongst them. Mr. Bhandari replied that he thinks beyond success stories, we also need to project candid thoughts and real-time updates. These really help readers reflect and spark inspiration in everyday life. Inspiration should come in abundance and come every day, especially in the age of the millennial. Initiatives conceptualized and led, by Herald Global, help close this gap and provide access to one and all, helping people become future leaders in their own right – which is commendable and inspirational.