Digital transformation is the current industry buzzword, but is the industry ready for true digital transformation, or is it merely paying lip service? Vani and Shiv discuss digital in detail and what it actually means for the future of marketing.

Read the complete transcript below: –

Vani 00:00

So Shiv, a lot has been said about COVID bringing unprecedented change, companies rapidly digitising everybody rapidly going on the mobile, going online, opening websites. But tell us post COVID, what impact would digital have on the organisation, on the company, on the employee, on the individual?

Shiv Shivakumar 00:23 

Yeah, I think that’s a very good question, Vani. Thank you for that. The first thing you see after COVID, the fundamental shift after COVID is that you can work from anywhere you can work from home, whatever it is. So everybody’s got into a hybrid mode. That’s the first difference compared to pre-COVID. Okay. Now, as a result of that, policies need to change. So I think the first thing a company needs to do is what I call fearless flexibility. We always thought, if we give someone, if we give Vani work from home, she will misuse it. You have to stop thinking like that. Okay. You have to be fearlessly flexible to say, I will give it to her. Let me give you a real life example. In one of the teams I lead in ABG, the strategy team, in the strategy team we’ve given all the people the choice to work from anywhere they want at any time they want, as long as they put in 45 hours a week, that’s all we’ve specified, 45 hours a week. So one girl, Komal, wrote to everybody in the team. I’m gonna come to work only on Monday and Friday. So if you wanna meet me, I’m available on Monday, Friday, other times she can pick up the phone and call me, I’m gonna work from home the other days. On the other hand, Sruthy said, I get energy by meeting people. So I’m gonna come to the office and work, now they have started doing that. When they realised that going back, they were travelling one, one and a half hours up and down. When they realised that they said maybe we’ll leave at three o’clock we’ll come at nine o’clock we’ll leave at three o’clock. So you have to give them fearless flexibility is what I would say. Every company, if you put conditions and sub conditions, nobody will stay with you. Okay. That’s one. Second is, I think the danger of a work from home environment is in the employee’s mind. Will there be an inner circle, will there be an outer ring? Will the inner circle be of people who are coming to office and meeting the boss and saying, yes, sir, no, sir to the boss, he or she. And the outer ring is people who are working from home, who do not have the same access. That is something that they’re seriously worried about. So from an organisation point of view, how do you coach your managers to be fair and appraisal? Which means you have to judge people for the effort they’re putting in, not for the presence. How do you validate effort, not presence, and then link it to the outcomes that people are really thinking about. I think a culture of fairness is absolutely very, very important. Next is, if you look at the employee, let’s take a simple thing called responsiveness Vani, if you are in the office and I sent you an email and I saw you in the office and you didn’t respond to it for 12 hours, I’d be [00:03:00] fine. You know why, I know that you’re out and in the office. On the other hand, Vani is doing work from home, I send you an email, I don’t get a response for 10 hours, what will most people think? Okay. 

Vani 03:12 

So she’s sleeping.

Shiv Shivakumar 03:13 

Absolutely right. So the modern company has always expected employees to be perpetually reachable and perpetually responsive. So the individual in a work from anywhere environment will have that added pressure and vulnerability. So for example, people who’ve gone on vacation in the last one year, Vani, there are about 50 to 60% of them who have said I was at work while on vacation for at least an hour or two every day, why? Because you want to overcome the unconscious bias that people might have. And these are real concerns that employees have, they’re not ordinary concerns. Next, if I look at an individual, Vani, I think privacy will be a big concern for individuals, but the positives, I think doing it yourself will become very big. Thanks to digital. For example, in the pandemic, we saw beauty and education, just taking off. Beauty and education were too focused, which took off on YouTube. Okay. Because doing it yourself will become a big trend. That is irreversible in my mind, absolutely. I think liberal will become a big reason. People will start charging each other. Okay. And saying, I’ll take you to court because you said this about me. Okay. I think that will become a big one. Influencers, you look at the influencer market, it’s a $16 billion market. In the past only celebrities, cricketers, film stars, et cetera. Today everybody’s an influencer. I think every celebrity, every influencer needs to judge what is right content, what is content which will score with the audience? What is content, which will not score with the audience? So today you have millions of influencers. So brands use all types of influences today. So the only way a celebrity will command any premium is if his following keeps growing. And if his following has to grow, it has to be based on performance, it has to be based on endorsement of brands. It has to be based on his cool quotient or her cool quotient. Okay. In the digital world, every post one is binary. It’s zero or one either it’s a hit or a miss there’s no in between. Okay. So the pressure on celebrities and influences to stay on top of the cool curve will be immense. The other one I think is in terms of society, thanks to digital. I think we’ll see the best of humanity. We’ll also see the worst of humanity. Why do I say that? A small act of kindness anywhere can be captured on a camera and relate to the whole world. And that person’s kindness, which would have gone unnoticed in a physical world, will be a huge act of kindness in a digital world. Equally, one wrong thing and people will troll you like mad. Like yesterday Madhavan said in India, there’re only 25 lakh Twitter users. He couldn’t be more wrong. Everybody piled onto him to say, Hey, you don’t have your facts right. There’s something wrong. Okay. He got it wrong. So obviously he’ll say, I’m sorry or whatever it is. So it’s a zero one game all the time. I think in language terms, people will communicate with each other in much shorter codes. Everything is a short form right now, for more this, that, et cetera, et cetera, I think relations will be very transient in a digital world because you can reach anybody at any point of time, I think relations will be very transient. And hence the ability of people to build deep relationships is something that I worry about. Something like 57% of people I think, 57% of millennials said that they made a friend digitally. Now in the old world, you made a friend when you went to school, when you went to college you went around the park playing in your neighbourhood, et cetera. Okay. And you gotta know them, you gotta understand them, et cetera. Today, you’re making friends digitally. How deep will that relation be? I don’t know. Absolutely don’t know. Okay. That’s what I would say. These are some of the things that I personally believe. We will see in companies, in individuals and in society. 

Vani 06:55

I think digital is such a huge subject in itself. For example, does digital really help or does it hinder communication? Communication is not just about, what’s said, does shorthand help or hinder communication? 

Shiv Shivakumar 07:05

It’s made people very impatient. For example, I think it started with the Blackberry messenger and now with WhatsApp, the moment somebody sends a message. They want to see the tick. Okay. And parents and kids are the best example. I have a number of young kids working for me in my team, and they said their parents send them the message. And if they don’t respond for 10 minutes, they’ll call them saying, look, I sent you a message. Why didn’t you see it?

Vani 07:26

Okay, fantastic. Now this is a strange question to ask, I’ll ask you anyways. Are there cohorts in society that need to be protected? 

Shiv Shivakumar 07:33

I think so. I think that’s a good question again. I think kids need to be protected, Vani, definitely. I think differently abled people, et cetera, need to be protected. I think anybody who deserves the respect of protection needs to be because in a digital world, people can be very, what shall I say? Very uncivilised in some of the comments they make. Okay. And passing judgement. And I think we owe it to do that. For example, if there is a celebrity couple and this happened to Virat Kohli and his wife. Okay. Why should their kids’ pictures be plastered all over don’t they deserve some degree of privacy? So I think we need to think about a world where we protect people who deserve to be protected and who need protection, who don’t have a voice. And I think that’ll be an important part of growing up in a digital ecosystem, whether it’s for brands or for journalists or for photographs or whoever it is. I think that’s very important. 

Vani 08:30

Yeah. I think for that, the fundamental, moral and ethical fibre of the society will have to change. The problem is we don’t think that, I mean, as Indians in particular we are just generally very intrusive, we think it’s our business to ask, oh, are you not married? Oh, have you not been able to find anyone? Or is there a problem? How come you haven’t had a child yet? And these are questions that could come to you from a random stranger. You haven’t known this person for 60 seconds and you could have these questions. This is just a problem. 

Shiv Shivakumar 09:00

You are absolutely right. As I said, there’s a thin line and a lot of it depends on, do people have the digital etiquette or whatever you wanna call it? Do they have it? I would tend to agree with you that maybe most people don’t display it on a daily basis. They might display it on a sporadic basis, but not on a daily basis.

Vani 09:17

Yeah. And we did touch upon this Shiv, but I’ll ask you again, nevertheless, are there implications on the individual, or how will, how will digital change for individuals? What will digital change? 

Shiv Shivakumar 09:29 

I think, see if you, I said we need to protect young people and tweens et cetera. Across the world, one of the trends we are seeing is that tweens are under enormous pressure to look good, to look cool, to post the right thing, et cetera. And that expectation is horrifying for them. They don’t want to bear the cross of their expectations. The social media world has tried to show everything as a perfect world. You look at everybody, everybody’s posting success after success. Everybody’s showing reward after reward, cup after cup, et cetera. And even if you look at the description of each person, everybody’s a mentor, everybody’s a coach, everybody’s a high flyer, et cetera. So this whole world is placing an unnecessary emphasis on a very strange way of success and a strange way of evaluating what somebody should do. There are very few people talking of failures and even if they talk about it, it’s sporadic. So I think everybody wants to look good on a daily basis. And I think that’s a real, real challenge for me in the social media world. 

Vani 10:29

Absolutely. In fact, I’m a great believer in this, I think social media, since you talked about teenagers in particular, it’s a subject that must be taught in schools because I have a teenager boy at home and I feel that it deserves guidance, it requires conscious guidance because there’s so much pressure that’s created via social media. It also creates changes in behaviour, changes in one’s fundamental thinking. I feel kids are a lot more distracted these days, just because of the amount of media that they have constantly access to whether it’s discord, checking, discord messages or checking the number of likes, you mentioned, your whole self-worth depends on how many likes have I got on this post. 

Shiv Shivakumar 11:09

Absolutely right. So, I think we have noticed globally in terms of Vani, that the tweens are under enormous pressure to look good, to tweet right, to use the right language, to dress well, et cetera. Life is not a beauty parade. Life is meant to be lived; every day cannot be a beauty parade for everyone. So, I think you’re absolutely right. I would agree with that.

This show is sponsored by CherryPeachPlum Growth Consultancy. ­čŹĺCherryPeachPlum is a marketing-focused business consultancy that delivers business results. Get in touch via www.cherrypeachplum.in to get marketing solutions that work in the real world!

Digital transformation is the current industry buzzword, but is the industry ready for true digital transformation, or is it merely paying lip service? Vani and Shiv discuss digital in detail and what it actually means for the future of marketing.

Read the complete transcript below: –

Vani 00:00

So Shiv, a lot has been said about COVID bringing unprecedented change, companies rapidly digitising everybody rapidly going on the mobile, going online, opening websites. But tell us post COVID, what impact would digital have on the organisation, on the company, on the employee, on the individual?

Shiv Shivakumar 00:23 

Yeah, I think that’s a very good question, Vani. Thank you for that. The first thing you see after COVID, the fundamental shift after COVID is that you can work from anywhere you can work from home, whatever it is. So everybody’s got into a hybrid mode. That’s the first difference compared to pre-COVID. Okay. Now, as a result of that, policies need to change. So I think the first thing a company needs to do is what I call fearless flexibility. We always thought, if we give someone, if we give Vani work from home, she will misuse it. You have to stop thinking like that. Okay. You have to be fearlessly flexible to say, I will give it to her. Let me give you a real life example. In one of the teams I lead in ABG, the strategy team, in the strategy team we’ve given all the people the choice to work from anywhere they want at any time they want, as long as they put in 45 hours a week, that’s all we’ve specified, 45 hours a week. So one girl, Komal, wrote to everybody in the team. I’m gonna come to work only on Monday and Friday. So if you wanna meet me, I’m available on Monday, Friday, other times she can pick up the phone and call me, I’m gonna work from home the other days. On the other hand, Sruthy said, I get energy by meeting people. So I’m gonna come to the office and work, now they have started doing that. When they realised that going back, they were travelling one, one and a half hours up and down. When they realised that they said maybe we’ll leave at three o’clock we’ll come at nine o’clock we’ll leave at three o’clock. So you have to give them fearless flexibility is what I would say. Every company, if you put conditions and sub conditions, nobody will stay with you. Okay. That’s one. Second is, I think the danger of a work from home environment is in the employee’s mind. Will there be an inner circle, will there be an outer ring? Will the inner circle be of people who are coming to office and meeting the boss and saying, yes, sir, no, sir to the boss, he or she. And the outer ring is people who are working from home, who do not have the same access. That is something that they’re seriously worried about. So from an organisation point of view, how do you coach your managers to be fair and appraisal? Which means you have to judge people for the effort they’re putting in, not for the presence. How do you validate effort, not presence, and then link it to the outcomes that people are really thinking about. I think a culture of fairness is absolutely very, very important. Next is, if you look at the employee, let’s take a simple thing called responsiveness Vani, if you are in the office and I sent you an email and I saw you in the office and you didn’t respond to it for 12 hours, I’d be [00:03:00] fine. You know why, I know that you’re out and in the office. On the other hand, Vani is doing work from home, I send you an email, I don’t get a response for 10 hours, what will most people think? Okay. 

Vani 03:12 

So she’s sleeping.

Shiv Shivakumar 03:13 

Absolutely right. So the modern company has always expected employees to be perpetually reachable and perpetually responsive. So the individual in a work from anywhere environment will have that added pressure and vulnerability. So for example, people who’ve gone on vacation in the last one year, Vani, there are about 50 to 60% of them who have said I was at work while on vacation for at least an hour or two every day, why? Because you want to overcome the unconscious bias that people might have. And these are real concerns that employees have, they’re not ordinary concerns. Next, if I look at an individual, Vani, I think privacy will be a big concern for individuals, but the positives, I think doing it yourself will become very big. Thanks to digital. For example, in the pandemic, we saw beauty and education, just taking off. Beauty and education were too focused, which took off on YouTube. Okay. Because doing it yourself will become a big trend. That is irreversible in my mind, absolutely. I think liberal will become a big reason. People will start charging each other. Okay. And saying, I’ll take you to court because you said this about me. Okay. I think that will become a big one. Influencers, you look at the influencer market, it’s a $16 billion market. In the past only celebrities, cricketers, film stars, et cetera. Today everybody’s an influencer. I think every celebrity, every influencer needs to judge what is right content, what is content which will score with the audience? What is content, which will not score with the audience? So today you have millions of influencers. So brands use all types of influences today. So the only way a celebrity will command any premium is if his following keeps growing. And if his following has to grow, it has to be based on performance, it has to be based on endorsement of brands. It has to be based on his cool quotient or her cool quotient. Okay. In the digital world, every post one is binary. It’s zero or one either it’s a hit or a miss there’s no in between. Okay. So the pressure on celebrities and influences to stay on top of the cool curve will be immense. The other one I think is in terms of society, thanks to digital. I think we’ll see the best of humanity. We’ll also see the worst of humanity. Why do I say that? A small act of kindness anywhere can be captured on a camera and relate to the whole world. And that person’s kindness, which would have gone unnoticed in a physical world, will be a huge act of kindness in a digital world. Equally, one wrong thing and people will troll you like mad. Like yesterday Madhavan said in India, there’re only 25 lakh Twitter users. He couldn’t be more wrong. Everybody piled onto him to say, Hey, you don’t have your facts right. There’s something wrong. Okay. He got it wrong. So obviously he’ll say, I’m sorry or whatever it is. So it’s a zero one game all the time. I think in language terms, people will communicate with each other in much shorter codes. Everything is a short form right now, for more this, that, et cetera, et cetera, I think relations will be very transient in a digital world because you can reach anybody at any point of time, I think relations will be very transient. And hence the ability of people to build deep relationships is something that I worry about. Something like 57% of people I think, 57% of millennials said that they made a friend digitally. Now in the old world, you made a friend when you went to school, when you went to college you went around the park playing in your neighbourhood, et cetera. Okay. And you gotta know them, you gotta understand them, et cetera. Today, you’re making friends digitally. How deep will that relation be? I don’t know. Absolutely don’t know. Okay. That’s what I would say. These are some of the things that I personally believe. We will see in companies, in individuals and in society. 

Vani 06:55

I think digital is such a huge subject in itself. For example, does digital really help or does it hinder communication? Communication is not just about, what’s said, does shorthand help or hinder communication? 

Shiv Shivakumar 07:05

It’s made people very impatient. For example, I think it started with the Blackberry messenger and now with WhatsApp, the moment somebody sends a message. They want to see the tick. Okay. And parents and kids are the best example. I have a number of young kids working for me in my team, and they said their parents send them the message. And if they don’t respond for 10 minutes, they’ll call them saying, look, I sent you a message. Why didn’t you see it?

Vani 07:26

Okay, fantastic. Now this is a strange question to ask, I’ll ask you anyways. Are there cohorts in society that need to be protected? 

Shiv Shivakumar 07:33

I think so. I think that’s a good question again. I think kids need to be protected, Vani, definitely. I think differently abled people, et cetera, need to be protected. I think anybody who deserves the respect of protection needs to be because in a digital world, people can be very, what shall I say? Very uncivilised in some of the comments they make. Okay. And passing judgement. And I think we owe it to do that. For example, if there is a celebrity couple and this happened to Virat Kohli and his wife. Okay. Why should their kids’ pictures be plastered all over don’t they deserve some degree of privacy? So I think we need to think about a world where we protect people who deserve to be protected and who need protection, who don’t have a voice. And I think that’ll be an important part of growing up in a digital ecosystem, whether it’s for brands or for journalists or for photographs or whoever it is. I think that’s very important. 

Vani 08:30

Yeah. I think for that, the fundamental, moral and ethical fibre of the society will have to change. The problem is we don’t think that, I mean, as Indians in particular we are just generally very intrusive, we think it’s our business to ask, oh, are you not married? Oh, have you not been able to find anyone? Or is there a problem? How come you haven’t had a child yet? And these are questions that could come to you from a random stranger. You haven’t known this person for 60 seconds and you could have these questions. This is just a problem. 

Shiv Shivakumar 09:00

You are absolutely right. As I said, there’s a thin line and a lot of it depends on, do people have the digital etiquette or whatever you wanna call it? Do they have it? I would tend to agree with you that maybe most people don’t display it on a daily basis. They might display it on a sporadic basis, but not on a daily basis.

Vani 09:17

Yeah. And we did touch upon this Shiv, but I’ll ask you again, nevertheless, are there implications on the individual, or how will, how will digital change for individuals? What will digital change? 

Shiv Shivakumar 09:29 

I think, see if you, I said we need to protect young people and tweens et cetera. Across the world, one of the trends we are seeing is that tweens are under enormous pressure to look good, to look cool, to post the right thing, et cetera. And that expectation is horrifying for them. They don’t want to bear the cross of their expectations. The social media world has tried to show everything as a perfect world. You look at everybody, everybody’s posting success after success. Everybody’s showing reward after reward, cup after cup, et cetera. And even if you look at the description of each person, everybody’s a mentor, everybody’s a coach, everybody’s a high flyer, et cetera. So this whole world is placing an unnecessary emphasis on a very strange way of success and a strange way of evaluating what somebody should do. There are very few people talking of failures and even if they talk about it, it’s sporadic. So I think everybody wants to look good on a daily basis. And I think that’s a real, real challenge for me in the social media world. 

Vani 10:29

Absolutely. In fact, I’m a great believer in this, I think social media, since you talked about teenagers in particular, it’s a subject that must be taught in schools because I have a teenager boy at home and I feel that it deserves guidance, it requires conscious guidance because there’s so much pressure that’s created via social media. It also creates changes in behaviour, changes in one’s fundamental thinking. I feel kids are a lot more distracted these days, just because of the amount of media that they have constantly access to whether it’s discord, checking, discord messages or checking the number of likes, you mentioned, your whole self-worth depends on how many likes have I got on this post. 

Shiv Shivakumar 11:09

Absolutely right. So, I think we have noticed globally in terms of Vani, that the tweens are under enormous pressure to look good, to tweet right, to use the right language, to dress well, et cetera. Life is not a beauty parade. Life is meant to be lived; every day cannot be a beauty parade for everyone. So, I think you’re absolutely right. I would agree with that.

This show is sponsored by CherryPeachPlum Growth Consultancy. ­čŹĺCherryPeachPlum is a marketing-focused business consultancy that delivers business results. Get in touch via www.cherrypeachplum.in to get marketing solutions that work in the real world!

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Shiv Shivakumar Group Executive President - Strategy and Business Development, Aditya Birla Group

About Marketing with Vani

Hosted by award-winning marketeer Vani Dandia, who has spent over two decades in advertising and marketing with Unilever, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser, Henkel, BBDO and Leo Burnett.

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