On the 21st of May, 2020, SCoRe organised another masterclass and we were honoured to have Mr. Anand Subramanian who is the Head of Communications, Ola Group. Anand commenced the session with his career journey from back when he believed he would become a chartered accountant someday when he came across marketing. He was fascinated as he felt that marketing is where he fits. He started his career as a salesman selling credit cards to insurance mutual funds with a global bank. That is where he realised sales without a story is boring. He later proceeded to work with an Edtech start-up firm for two years. Anand with his companions founded a marketing firm for start-ups for a year after which he began operating for Ola. Anandh shared that he got an opportunity to contribute a lot of time and effort in navigating how Ola was perceived by every single user, which gave in-depth knowledge of the business. According to him the only way to effectively communicate is by internalizing what you are doing.
The three takeaways he shared with us are as follows:
As Ola was a start-up, the team had differentiated themselves as being a fresh new approach to mobility and transportation. Anand shared a few case studies with the class. One of them was once a customer disappointingly tweeted as his son had missed his friend’s birthday party as the Ola cab driver cancelled the last moment. To this the Ola communications team sent out a cake to the customer. Within 12 hours a bunch of tweets circulated on Ola’s efforts of delighting a customer. Surprisingly, the customer turned out to be someone running a digital marketing firm, running workshops across the country. This man has adopted this as a case study for every workshop. Anand says that those small initiatives impact these kinds of conversations. As a communicator all your senses have to be open. It shouldn’t be about being opportunists but ensuring to genuinely fix each problem through the right way and it will come back the right way. Anand when talking about the PR firm said that as agency partners he would expect these opportunities and ideas to be presented.
In the digital era, the ability of consumers to turn into media themselves through Twitter is powerful and we should understand the power of an average user. We as communicators should understand that this power can also be turned into an opportunity. Anand shared another case study where a customer once tweeted about the driver assigned to him was associated with a community he didn’t admire. This allowed Ola to address about what they stand for. They reacted to the customer stating they don’t discriminate people. This displayed their point of view.
Back when floods hit Chennai when people required boats more than automobiles, the communications team reached out to the fishing clubs and fishermen groups addressing them to get boats on the streets. Within 12 hours national media started focusing on Chennai floods centering on Ola’s initiative. Anand said that his small gesture not only obtained respect for the brand but also shifted the narrative of a new cycle for the greater public good. This was a classic example of a communications team driving the table.
According to Anand, brands without a purpose will fail miserably today. What a brand stands for, if not showcased cannot survive for the long term. This crisis is the best time to look for your purpose not only for brands but also for professionals. In the time of COVID, Anand stated the top priority in this crisis was their drivers. Few measures they undertook were:
Anand shared more on Ola’s communications and strategic choices when global competition entered India. A range of innovations like Ola Mini, Ola Auto and even luxury offerings on the platform today made Ola the default choice for a vast majority of consumers, allowing them to stay ahead of the competition even after 6 years today, in Indian Market.
This was an insightful masterclass and SCoRe students are grateful to Anand for his time.
– Anjana Kallat
Anjana Kallat is a part of the Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe, Mumbai. She completed her winter internship with GolinOpinion, Mumbai. She was born in Kerala but brought up in Mumbai. She has completed her bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology from St. Andrew’s college in Bandra. Her mother tongue is Malayalam but since she has grown up in a boisterous city, she is comfortable with English, Hindi, Marathi. She is fascinated by languages, due to which she is even learning sign language. She looks at the positive aspects even in unfortunate situations and is always keen on learning new things. She is a calm and collected person, and she believes to be well organised.