With over 15 years’ experience across marketing, mobile attribution and sales, Bindu is passionate about working with digital-first brands and helping them achieves their growth potential. As Country Head, Bindu leads DCMN’s operations and expansion in the Indian market. She is responsible for client strategy, bridging customer needs and commercial operations, and making sure every campaign contributes to clients’ long term growth plans. Bindu also heads up DCMN India’s offline and online marketing experts, a team of agile, creative and strategic thinkers working with some of the region’s most exciting brands. She graduated from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, and have experience working across the Netherlands, Germany and India.
DCMN is the growth marketing partner for digital businesses and start-ups. The company’s holistic, data-driven approach combines technology with expert knowledge to grow the market leaders of tomorrow.
DCMN launched its India operations in 2016, with a team of creative and strategic marketing experts based in Gurgaon. To date, the company has helped nearly 400 digital brands worldwide to scale their businesses, including upGrad, Faasos, Truecaller and WinZO.
In today’s Leaderspeak, Bindu Balakrishnan – Country Head – India – DCMN, speaks on her journey, the digital landscape in India and much more.
With 15+ years in the industry how has the journey been and what were the challenges?
I’ve pivoted a lot in my career, starting out in the health tech space, then founding my own company, and eventually joining DCMN to head up the India team in 2016. Since then, I’ve been working steadily to grow the team and our client base – and we now partner with some of India’s most exciting brands, including names like UpGrad, Truecaller and WinZO.
One of the first challenges when starting at DCMN was that the company was relatively unknown in the India market at the time. This meant we really had to carve out a place for ourselves in the market, especially against the big incumbents. TV tracking is one of our fortes, but when we first started out in the market, it was a totally unknown topic. Marketers at the time only saw TV as a branding medium – so our first year was focused on educating the market and showing that TV isn’t a black box, but can be tracked in a similar way to other channels.
With your experience of working internationally, how do you see India and the industry here?
It’s a really exciting time to be in the India market: the digital space has boomed in recent years, with a lot of money flowing in and an immense talent pool. In 2021 alone, over 40 Indian companies became unicorns, which is testament to how dynamic the market currently is. As DCMN works primarily with digital brands, it’s also a perfect region for us to be in.
But working with such fast-growing companies also comes with its challenges. Especially in India, our clients’ goalposts tend to shift quickly throughout the year, whereas in the US and Europe, brands often plan their entire year ahead of time. As their growth partner, that means we need to keep pace and be just as agile as they are.
Past 18 months we have seen a surge in digital platforms, more ad spends and targeted communication, how is DCMN looking at this surge?
We’ve been lucky in that, the past two years have actually been quite successful for both our clients and DCMN as a whole. Many of our clients saw huge increases in use throughout the pandemic, and subsequently increased their ad spend. We saw this shift across verticals, from gaming to e-commerce, and food delivery to ed tech.
It’s also been very interesting to witness this shift in ad spend on big events such as the IPL. Several years ago, traditional brands were the ones spending big money on these advertising opportunities. But we’re increasingly seeing more and more digital brands sponsoring or advertising these events, given their rise in popularity and profits.
As a woman leader, how has your experience been and do you think women leaders in India get the same opportunity as compared internationally?
I’m very lucky in that. My personal experiences as a female leader have been largely positive. The management team at DCMN has an almost even split of men and women, and there are many other inspiring female leaders in the company.
But it’s clear that when it comes to overall female representation in the workplace, and especially in leadership positions, there is still work to be done. It’s always very inspiring seeing female-founded companies achieve huge funding rounds or IPO – WinZO and Nykaa spring to mind. While we’ve come a long way in recent years, there’s still room for improvement, especially when it comes to supporting and funding for female founders both in India and internationally. Looking at overall figures, you still don’t see many women in founding teams, so in the next few years, I would love to see more women-led start-ups reaching unicorn status.
What would be your plans to expand in India in 2022?
This year, we’re primarily focusing on expanding our footprint in the region and increasing our client portfolio across verticals. This also includes hiring for roles across departments to support us in our next stage of growth.
How is DCMN helping brands customize consumer conversations through insightful, data-driven advertising?
We help our clients better target their customers in two major ways. The first is by helping them define their target group. For this, we’ll run market research so they can better understand the ideal customer persona they are trying to reach. From there, we also advise them on how to adapt messaging and positioning to appeal to these demographics.
We also work with many clients on ad concept testing, allowing them to see which out of three or four ads is the most impactful and resonates the most with consumers. This ensures they will be getting the most bang for their buck, before going down the costly production process.
What are your short and long-term goals for the organization and how are you working towards them?
This year, DCMN is focusing on uniting brand and performance marketing strategies to build fully integrated, 360-degree campaigns that power growth and build brand recognition across online and offline channels. This is in large part driven by our clients. Today’s brands know that to succeed, they need to build brand salience and start thinking more long term, both from a branding and performance perspective. Measuring return on investment is also becoming more necessary than ever, so we’re focusing on developing new measurement solutions to prove the value of this comprehensive approach.
Looking further ahead, I would love to expand DCMN’s physical presence in India. The team is currently based out of Gurgaon, but my dream is to also have satellite offices across the country to be closer to our clients.
Who was your first or most significant mentor or teacher in the professional space? What specifically did you learn that has held you in good stead throughout?
I don’t have one specific mentor, but I’ve admired different people at different stages of my career and have picked up a ton of learnings along the way. There are so many challenges you face as a leader, so watching other people in similar roles and how they deal with difficult circumstances has really helped me.
One of the most important pieces of advice has been to treat everything as a learning experience: it’s not a failure, but a lesson learned. It’s also comforting to know that whenever something you didn’t expect happens, six months down the line, you usually see that other opportunities have come from that challenge.
What are some other activities or hobbies that excite you? What are your weekends like?
I’m really excited to start travelling more, especially now that restrictions are easing around the world. To date, I’ve visited over 35 countries and counting – and next on my list is visiting Machu Picchu!
The weekdays are usually so hectic between balancing work, kids and home life, so I always make time on the weekends to catch up with friends. And now that spring is in full swing, I’m also spending a lot of time gardening on the weekends, which I find very therapeutic.
What are your plans for the next 3 years? What specifically do you want to achieve? Both personally, and professionally?
Professionally, I’d like to continue mentoring young founders and start-ups. Having founded a company myself, and witnessed many of my clients’ start-up journeys, I’ve built up a lot of knowledge that I’m keen to share. I’m currently an ambassador for The German Indian Start-up Exchange Program (GINSEP), an organisation set up to foster close collaboration between start-ups and investors in both Germany and India. I act as a mentor for both start-ups and investors who are looking for advice about their next move.
When it comes to personal goals, I want to find more time for myself and my hobbies. Travelling and reading more are at the top of my list, but I’d love to also perfect my German!