In conversation with Karan Kumar, Product Marketing Manager, Cards Product Business, Citibank India
Could you tell us a little about your professional and academic background and how you came to become the Product Marketing Manager @ Citibank India?
Am a firm believer in the saying – ‘where you are ought to be , you shall be’. I was fortunate enough to study at some of the best institutions India has to offer. I did my schooling from Mount St Marys School, Delhi with science & computers as the subject streams , followed it up with an engineering degree ( hons. ) in computers from Shaheed Bhagat Singh State Technical Campus, Ferozepur ,Punjab and pursued my MBA in marketing and international business from the Symbiosis Institute of International Business ,Pune (SIIB).
Each of these milestone journeys have refined and shaped me from a budding school boy to a thinker and a professional in making. All of these places are very different from each other both in terms of the people that were a part of it and more importantly in terms of the learning’s that I took from all these three stints in my life. Not to forget the locations.
During my early MBA days, I knew marketing was something I really liked and understanding consumers and their ever changing habits and lifestyle interested me. During my summer internship with Max Life Insurance core marketing team, I did a comprehensive project to design marketing strategies for the emerging markets of Max by strategically analyzing their business model & flow and making a comprehensive marketing plan. During this time I got to travel upcountry markets in North India and the interaction with the sales personnel’s, branch managers, regional managers and the end consumers helped me in not only delivering a good project but also helped me understand the ground realities.
Citibank India was a campus placement and a day 0 company at SIIB and hence it’s very special working with this 200 year old global brand. My first role was with the branch banking business of Citibank North India cluster where I learnt not only about banking, investments but also how challenging it is to sell / pitch an INR 30 lakhs account to a customer. The primary challenge being that everyone is already banking with some bank or the other. The key is to differentiate on two aspects – a strong value proposition (brand and product) and personal relationship handling and management skill (customer service and management) which can change the arena.
I won the coveted top performer award in my very first year and did well in this role. In my second role, I joined the coveted marketing team of Citibank India and was privileged to handle the most engaging and hence complex of all the banking products – cards and credit card in particular.
Started by managing a single co-brand (partnership led) credit card product and went on to manage the entire credit card suite covering our three focus consumer segment offerings:
- Super Affluent segment – Citibank Ultima Infinite credit card
- Affluent segment – Citibank Prestige credit card & Citibank PremierMiles credit card
- Emerging Affluent segment – Citibank co-branded credit cards – Indian Oil credit card & First Citizen Shoppers Stop credit card
- Rare distinction of having launched three credit card sub brands in India – Citibank PremierMiles credit card (Q2’12), Citibank Ultima Infinite Credit Card (Q2’14) & Citibank Prestige credit card (Q3’14).
- Planned & successfully executed a close USD $2 million campaign for the launch of – Citibank PremierMiles credit card leading to 9000 leads within three weeks of launch.
- Holding a record of sorts of winning 10+ awards within Citibank India including the Country Business Manager Award besides external recognition for Citi as a brand.
Having spent time both in sales and marketing I got selected to be a part of the most high performance cards business product – Installment business where I lead and manage ways to create a customer centric value proposition in line with customer requirements & plugging them into our entire credit card product suite for the cards installment business .This vertical contributes to a close 40% of the total revenue for Citibank cards in India and I lead the digital channel sales which is the newest of the channels and the one which has shown a strong revenue growth. This is my third role within the bank and I have moved into this recently.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Since I have recently moved into my new role I still am in the marketing manager mode as of now. A typical day practically means you are on the move constantly. Day starts with getting a status tracker updated on the on-going / planned campaigns and the framework attached to it and sharing that with key stakeholders. While I try to manage the first half in clearing and organizing emails, agency meetings (both creative and media) happen almost on a daily basis. These can be on calls, in person (for key strategic campaigns) or via VCs. We also get a chance to meet folks from top media publications, event marketing companies and digital leaders. As a bank we need to be careful of what we are communicating to a number of stakeholders, and this needs to be managed to ensure that all the campaigns are delivered on time to create maximum bang for the bucks being spent. And we do usual coffee catch ups, checking on what the competitors are doing and above all a lot of reading and data analysis to help give us insights about our consumers- both in spending volumes and the places / categories they are spending on.
Please give us an example of how you have innovated a product or service that you’ve managed? What was the business result?
Out of the many things that I try to learn and do, there is one thing which I am always keen to take time out for is- writing and hence my own blog. This always makes me think outside the usual and I try to plug this in for my managed brands. When we were launching India’s first travel agonistic credit card – Citibank PremierMiles Credit Card besides doing the 360 marketing roll out, I conceptualized & conducted a first ever Citibank PremierMiles travel bloggers event in Delhi. This was an industry first & Citibank global first where we pre-launched the card to a selected group of top travel bloggers. The framework was done in house and it gave us a chance to leverage all the leading social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram & Blogs by the travel bloggers. This gave us the ‘influencers‘ push generating free PR and helped the overall marketing plan over-achieving its objectives for the campaign leading to a record 9000 leads within less than three weeks of launch.
What has been your most significant achievement till date and key learning’s in your career so far?
All the brands that I have managed have done extremely well and hence all are very dear to me. Achievement’s become significant when external sources start to notice the good work that you are doing. I got an opportunity to be featured as ‘Gurgaon’s Most Talented Corporate Executive‘ by Hindustan Times – HT City Gurgaon -August ‘13 for their new series ‘Corporate Curry’. I was one of the youngest Citibank executives ever to be featured and this was more than special.
- Always keep learning. A day you don’t learn something new, you waste it.
- 100% effort in whatever you are doing- if you are not giving your full don’t expect anyone else to chip in more than needed. Remember, great things come when you put in more than 100%.
- Don’t work in silos – This is a corporate world and it has no place for people who are lone warriors. Take your stakeholders along with you as you drive ahead.
- Network – This is a key takeaway. If you don’t know people, people also don’t know you. Meet, call, interact and expand your network. Ideas, inputs and solutions can come from corners that you never imagined.
- Balance – It’s no use skipping an important family wedding function or taking a break from work. If you are the only one who is always working, then there is something wrong, terribly wrong.
- Worship timelines- Without an end date things will never start to kick up. Be on the rigor and ensure you track everything in details to avoid any last minute surprises.
- Meet consumers – No matter what your role is, the best insights and tips will come from the people who use or recommend or hate them. Meet them, visit them and plough back the learnings.
- Move on – Things will not always happen the way you want or expect. There will be some hard battles and some bad blood. Pick up your battles correctly and this also means moving onto greater roles / opportunities to ensure you don’t become too comfortable with your current ones.
Can you describe your favorite product, its brand promise, & target audience?
Favorite Product – I would want to pick a non-Citibank product here. I always get fascinated how people across the world can drink water or sugary water with some fizz attached to it- Coke does this in a way beyond imagination and the reason why it works well across the globe is their ability to connect at all levels.
Brand promise – Their central promise is to refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, and inspire moments of optimism; to create value and make a difference.
Target Audience – Theoretically, everyone is their TG but focus TG is b/w 12-30 years of age, though of late they have touched upon almost all age groups. The messaging is always positive filled with a strong vibe to do more, better and is always community driven.
Are there any new features or upcoming upgrades that you are excited about and would like to give us a sneak peek into?
As a bank we try to innovate continuously across our product suite by bringing great offers, partners and making a stronger value proposition for our consumers. The latest set of our offerings are available here.
Movie buffs can get 2 BookMyShow vouchers worth Rs. 300 each with your new Citibank Credit Card. So, apply now and enjoy your favorite movie.
How do you unwind after work?
Different people would have various ways of answering this. I actually (try) cluster my outlets into two simple modes:
Hobbies & passion: Observing people and noticing them can be a great learning and a hobby. It not only ensures you speak less and listen more but also helps in knowing your consumers better and so your people . I have taken this a step further by blogging and writing my thoughts on a range of genres on my blog and since then it has become a passion. Besides this, I like to travel a lot (within India) since I feel there are so many treasures all around our country.
I also review restaurants and dining options on Zomato.
Staying connected is something I am very passionate about (personal , friends , professional ) and I do pursue this. I get inspired by meeting ‘achievers ‘ – young or old and learning from them is really enriching. By nature I am curious and try to learn/read something every day.
Interests: Browsing magazines is a recently picked up interest since I have limited time to do full scale reading. Also, I love visiting our neighborhood NGO and spending time with kids and educating them on preventive ways to better protect themselves and their surroundings. Going for a quick jog or a game of lawn tennis used to be hobbies but are interests now.
Stay calm, relaxed and be at peace. Remember, there are many who inspire to be like you.
- How did you get started working in this field?
I was picked by destiny and my preference to be a part of great global brand at the start of my career.
- Skills/personal qualities required to excel in your job?
Self-driven, strong analytical and interpersonal skills, willingness to learn and unlearn things on the job and a strong desire to succeed and yet being grounded always.
- What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Interesting people and teams to work with who can make you do so much and learn as much.
- The most challenging part of your job.
Managing expectations – consumers, stakeholders and yours.
- A piece of advice for someone interested in this field.
Being interested is not enough. You need to be committed 100% else you will never do justice – to the job and to yourself.