Quikr’s cmo, vineet seghal, gives us a peek into the marketing mix of a startup

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

Vineet Seghal, the newly appointed chief marketing officer of Quikr, the online classifieds startup, believes in seeing an opportunity in every limitation. Here’s why. Having worked for over 18 years in MNC conglomerates such as Cadbury, Nokia, Accenture and Nestle, he believes that the best innovation happens when one has limited resources. And, he sees this as a huge advantage for startups.

Quikr is not Seghal’s first brush with the startup world, though. Earlier, he founded Nokia Money, Nokia’s mobile wallet service, and led it from conception to launch. The sheer amount of freedom and flexibility it allowed to innovate and build a great product attracted him to entrepreneurship, and eventually, to Quikr.

In his current role, Seghal will be responsible for managing marketing strategy for the brand, including performance marketing, brand building, and creating partnerships and alliances. In this interview with The Smart CEO, he talks about the difference between marketing for a startup and MNC, why startups should compete and collaborate with competition, and the key focus areas for Quikr, going forward.

What led you to leave Nokia and join a startup? Specifically, why Quikr?

My first exposure to the startup environment was when I worked on Nokia’s mobile wallet service, Nokia Money. The sheer amount of freedom allowed to innovate and build a product attracted me to the startup ecosystem.

The move to join Quikr stemmed from three reasons. One, the fact that ecommerce is growing at a more rapid and structured pace. And, the industry is allowed the freedom and flexibility to build a tough business. Additionally, the online transaction space is still at a nascent stage and presents huge growth opportunities. Thirdly, of course, was due to the founders, the company culture and their practices.

When you came on board Quikr, what were some of the observations you’d made about the current marketing strategies adopted by the startup – what was the team doing right, and what were the gaps that needed to be bridged? 

Let me start with what they did right. If you look at the online classifieds space in India, the founders have done the right thing by focussing on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ aspect of the business. The ‘what’ aspect comprises building classifieds database on the website and educating people about what online classifieds is. And, the ‘how’ part comprises educating the customer about the simplicity of posting an ad online. At Quikr, we focus a lot on quickness; take a picture, upload it online, quote a price, and close the transaction.

What we need to place a higher focus on, as we go forward, is the ‘why’ part of it. Our target group is primarily in the age group of 18 – 36 years. How do we become more relevant for them? How do we make them understand how the platform will help them? Not just through advertisements or promotions on print but by telling them that Quikr is not just to buy or sell, but also to rent, search, donate, exchange, barter or do tons of things. Today, there are over 170 sub-categories of products available on Quikr. Apart from traditional categories such as cars, mobiles and TV, there is also information such as quotes and news articles. What we’re seeing is a visible shift in the way consumers have taken to the online classifieds space. What we need to do now is to create more clarity in these subcategories.

A second focus we need to have is on product innovation. Like any other online or offline player, we need to constantly innovate and develop products that will simplify the lives of our customers.

How different is marketing for a startup, as compared to for an MNC? 

While the fundamentals of marketing (that is the 4Ps of marketing) remain the same, irrespective of size or industry, marketing strategy will vary from company to company; it will depend on the company’s core value proposition, its target audience and such.

Secondly, marketing at MNCs is more structured than at startups. Speed of decision-making is slow because the company is process-oriented and in every step it takes, stakeholder interests must be taken into consideration. Contrarily, in a startup, there is less hierarchy and more pressure to take quicker decisions. Though startups don’t have the luxury of big budgets, it should constantly innovate to stay relevant in the market. Yes, sometimes campaigns may fail but there should be continuous trial and error in order to learn and grow.

Thirdly, startups have a much younger, driven crowd working in the marketing domain. There is no formality; rules are relatively more flexible than in an MNC. I believe such a culture will spark more creativity.

Being at the helm of marketing at a startup, what kind of challenges do you face today? 

The first thing that comes to mind is limited resource availability (in terms of money and manpower). But, I also see several advantages in this limitation. One, it helps us prioritise sharply, it makes us question every spend and the relevance of it, and lastly, the best innovation comes when you have limited resources.

In fact, what startups should do is place a higher focus on building partnerships. Startups, by nature, have limited bandwidth and scale-up their business at break-neck speed. In such circumstances, if they go with the mindset that they’re going to invent everything by themselves, they’re going to fail. It is very important for startups to compete with and collaborate with competition. For example, today, if a customer posts an ad on Quikr, to sell a car, we should be able to tie-up with used car dealers and get leads so that the transaction goes through at a quicker pace. Thus, the more they partner and build, the larger their ecosystem grows.

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