THE FUTURE OF MARKETING – SPJ ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT WITH ASHOK PATRO

“Gone are the days when all of us had to sit through the commercials on TV. Today, the challenge for advertisers is to be present and helpful across the various digital touchpoints for the consumer. They must think omnichannel as consumers switch between apps and prefer online to in-store.

Advertisers need to have the correct measurement strategy in place to understand what is working. All these, while also thinking about what is the best for the consumer.”

It was back in 2008 that Ashok Patro (GMBA 2009), a Telecommunication Engineer with L&T, decided to take his career in a different direction. After four years as an engineer, Ashok wanted to embark on a global journey that would help him explore a new industry.

Today, Ashok is a leading Digital Marketing expert who lives in Toronto with his wife. He is currently making an impact at Google Canada and is also the President of SP Jain’s Canada Alumni Chapter. 

To understand the latest trends in the digital marketing space and explore the future of this industry, we caught up with Ashok for a quick interview. Read on to find out the expert insights Ashok shared.

Could you tell us a bit about how you started your professional journey?

I joined SP Jain after four years with L&T as a Telecommunications Engineer, and after my graduation, my digital marketing career started. This was when I co-founded ThoughtBuzz – a Marketing Analytics firm in Singapore – with Anshul Jain, my dear friend and classmate from SP Jain’s Global MBA 2009 cohort. Together, we experienced the complete cycle of a start-up venture right from its launch in 2009 to its acquisition in 2013.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time at SP Jain?

Learning and friendship are the first things that come to my mind when anyone mentions SP Jain. Not only did I learn various aspects of business, but I was also able to apply them immediately for my start-up. The faculty, curriculum, and tri-city model were my favourite aspects of the program.

2009 was an interesting year to graduate with the world recovering from a financial crisis. However, this played a massive part in bringing our cohort closer than I’d have ever imagined. We supported each other through the job searches and helped each other land the best possible roles. Today, we are all in great positions in our careers, and I’m so thankful for the friends I made along this journey.

How did SP Jain’s Global MBA help you build yourself as a global leader?

The best part of the GMBA program was the balance of in-class and out-of-class activities. Our faculty body had a mix of academicians and industry leaders from the corporate world who shared their insights with us. The industry immersion projects were also fantastic and helped us apply the knowledge we gained in class.

The multi-city learning model made me a global citizen, which helped me a lot as I proceeded to live in different countries around the world after my graduation.

To be a global leader means to be agile, have a learning mindset, and excel in ever-changing and challenging situations. That is precisely what the course prepared us for. 

What key takeaways from the IT industry have helped you in the digital space? 

During my technology-focused days, I learned problem-solving, being organised, keeping it simple, and constantly learning. These things have helped me as a person and in my professional life. The digital space has changed a lot, and the pace of change is faster than ever. Remember how brands like Nokia and Blackberry were so big ten years ago? Now we don’t even talk about them. I used to use Orkut so much during my MBA days, after which I created my account on Facebook. One of these platforms has now shut down, while the other is barely used anymore.

At Google, you have worked with some of the largest advertisers. How have you noticed advertising and marketing trends changing over the last decade?

The advertising industry is very fascinating. Internet and digital tools have made access to information easy and fast. Thanks to the smartphone, consumers are getting very demanding, and how they consume content has changed drastically. Gone are the days when TV channels were the only source of information, and all of us had to sit in front of a TV commercial. Today, the challenge for advertisers is to be present and helpful across the various digital touchpoints for the consumer. They have to do this in a very thought-through and privacy-safe way. 

Advertisers now have to think digital-first in their planning, media and creative design. They must think omnichannel as consumers switch between apps and prefer online to in-store. They need to have the correct measurement strategy in place to understand what is working. All these while also thinking about what is best for the consumer. A consumer today has choices they never had before.

How will digital space transform over the next 5-10 years?

Things are changing so fast that it is tough to predict anything these days. The number of companies that have undergone digital transformations in the last two years (due to COVID-19) is relatively high. This trend will continue even ahead. Consumers will look for ways to look for information, and marketers will find new ways to be more assistive.

We will have new platforms coming in, and some will fade away. Some organisations will pivot, and others will struggle. But what is certain is that:

  1. Consumers will have more options to choose from and more say in how their data is collected and used. Platforms and advertisers will have to find new/different ways to connect with the consumers and do it correctly.
  2. E-Commerce will continue to rise faster than before. More industries and companies will think digital first. Yes, physical stores will still play a role, but how much? This will depend on the sectors and how the companies tailor their in-store experiences. 
  3. Video content will become much more significant than before. More consumers will opt for video-on-demand, and the cord-cutting will continue. This will push the global content industry to think differently, as will advertisers. The definition of prime-time (that we used to say in TV days) will change significantly. 

What advice would you like to give young students at SP Jain who aspire to achieve a similar leadership journey as yours?

Stay hungry & be curious. We may have preconceived ideas about what we want to do and which industry we want to join. While this is good, I would recommend that you come with an open mind; that’s when you will be able to learn the most. 

Spend time with your batch mates who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Attend the lectures and the talks from guest speakers; they have some tremendous real-life insights to share that you won’t learn from textbooks.

Ask questions, and do not worry about trying something new and failing. I had no idea about running a start-up and had never imagined working at a start-up before ThoughtBuzz. Do not think a company is big or small, as long as you like their work/mission and see value in their work. Things you learn in a start-up are different and at a different pace.

Find yourself good mentors and a close group of friends who you can discuss anything with and who can inspire/encourage you.

Want to learn how SPJ alumni are making a difference around the globe? Check out the stories from our top alumni here.

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