Technology is the driving force in the new normal, and banking is no different in adopting cutting-edge fintech to ensure that everyone has access to the best financial services restricted to the urban centers and manifests itself in rural unbanked markets. Equitas Small Finance Bank has quickly adapted to the ‘new normal, recognizing that the business dynamics are shifting to the digital space and commenced their transition towards digital goals by implementing new business models and developing analytics capabilities necessary to enable extreme personalization and individual curation that can create long-lasting customer satisfaction.
In conversation with Medianews4u, Vignesh M, Head – Marketing, Brand and Corporate Communication, Equitas Small Finance Bank talks about the communication strategies during the pandemic, media mix, brand positioning, and more.
Equitas Small Finance Bank has recently launched a fintech accelerator program. Can you throw some light on the objectives behind the initiative?
Post pandemic, one sector that is picking up well is the Fintech space, and with the launch of new Fintechs, the world is embracing digital like never before, which brings new possibilities. Customer-first is the core principle that we work on and are always looking at enhancing the customer experience. With our tie-ups with Fintechs like NiyoX, I can only see the number graph grow from here. Besides strengthening our customer relationship, we also are looking at nurturing relationships in the market. There is a lot of untapped potential in the market for banks like us with these tie-ups. Equitas has always been ahead of its time, which is why our digital banking team has come up with Equitech – a Fintech startup accelerator program. This will be a platform where Fintech startups can collaborate and deliberate their ideas with the best mentors in this space. The best ideas will also be funded, which will add value in building better platforms and experiences for the customers. This entire program has just started, and we look forward to big ideas that might rescript the financial landscape as we see it.
5 years since the inception of Equitas SFB, how has the journey been?
Equitas is very close to my heart. Since its inception, being there with the brand gives me immense pleasure when I look back at the milestones that we have built as a team. Equitas became a small finance bank in 2016, and the following year, we were able to set up 375 state-of-the-art liability branches across India. We have always believed that we can achieve if we dream, and back then, despite having a very small team, we were able to pull things off, which is proof that nothing is impossible with the right determination. In 2018, we embarked on yet another journey with Chennai Super Kings, and 2020 was unique to us with the One India One Bank campaign- a 100-day extravaganza, bringing together people across India through our multilingual One India One Bank anthem. We are a happy and strong family with around ~45 Lakhs active accounts and a 30-member team where everything you see out there in the market is built in-house. The new product launches like Selfe, VKYC and such digital products have added to the value of the customer service and comfort we provide to open an account anywhere, anytime, especially during these times. We had always kept our eyes and ears open, looking at where we should improve.
How do you assess the performance during the pandemic period, and can you elaborate on how communication strategies were leveraged to elevate businesses during the time of the pandemic?
Our Selfe journey is a milestone for us during the pandemic period. When the nation was under lockdown, we shifted our entire focus on campaign management, working out ways to penetrate the whole database when everyone was at home. We also executed campaigns on managing the existing relationship through customer engagement. On the acquiring part, we had our solid digital channels bringing home numbers, and in terms of deepening, we have separate campaigns running through multiple channels. We aligned our thought process towards focussed campaigns. So, our 30-day CLCM campaigns, engagement campaigns, cross-sell & upsell campaigns, and more were an outcome of that train of thought. We also did digital penetration campaigns and webinars to keep our audience engaged, as digital was the only way to touch base with them. To watch our campaigns, yield results with all the constraints of the pandemic was a moment of joy, and we have just taken off from there. The promotion of our DIY services and digital payments was timely during the period as everyone was looking at availing of banking services from the comforts of home. We were able to hit the right note with the customers.
What are the current opportunities for financial institutions with digital marketing?
Today the banks compete with other banks and Fintechs that have forced us to sharpen our digital strategy. As a bank, we are not just about acquiring customers but also about activating them, which is the biggest challenge. The future lies in Big Data. So, we at Equitas take pride in following the data mining exercise to focus on persona-driven campaigns. We do not follow one-size-fits-all when it comes to campaigns because it never works that way. Every person is unique, and so are their likes and dislikes, and so should the communications reach them. Keyword optimization, send-time optimization, A/B testing for subject lines are some of the few things we follow to run customized campaigns. We have seen this persona-driven strategy work wonders. Digital marketing is not just about putting out the ads; it’s more about getting into a lot more detail. It also boils down to influencer marketing, content strategy, social media strategy and more. It is a 360-degree approach in digital, which is gaining us the result. We have realized that the future and the growth are here, and we will continue to invest more time in this particular space- I am sure that a lot more is left to be explored, tested, and tried.
According to you, what is the Importance of millennials from a marketing point of view for Equitas SFB?
Millennials are the re-adapters. They are the ones who have the power to decide whether a brand has a future. So, our entire digital strategy is focused on reaching out to these millennials to capture their heart and mind at the early stage. As I said before, our focussed campaigns have yielded unexpected results, and I am happy to say that they are the ones who first welcomed us and have taken up the role of our brand advocates, taking “The Bank with a Heart” to a larger audience. “Catching them young and seeing them grow” – This is the strategy that we are using in Equitas to reach out to the millennials. Our Selfe product is something that directly connects to their aspirations, and the whole product proposition of Selfe is for those who like to have everything at their fingertips. The 90s kid’s stand-up comedy video, which went viral during the launch of Selfe, showed us that our campaigns are on the right path.
As a brand, we have done many songs – “Route ah Mathu”, CSK anthem, One India One bank anthem is a few among them. In my journey with Equitas, I have been witnessing how we have done things differently. A bank releasing musical videos, collaborating with sportspersons, making a difference in the lives of millions…all of this shows what we are and how we stand apart from others. Way back in 2007, we chose the traditional route for marketing. Still, from then on, we have been experimenting with multiple ways to reach out to our target audience and our Selfe acquiring channel that brings home ~2 lakh accounts per month is one such success story.
Can you speak about the marketing and ad spends of the brand?
We have enough budget to keep our focus on digital and carry out our BTL activities. In digital, Selfe and VKYC are the key drivers, and in BTL, we run our campaigns by drawing parallels with political campaigns. This is a concept that we had built years back on which our BTL activities are done. Here our branch is the candidate, and the focus is on conducting activities in the catchment of a 5km radius to generate leads and bring in the brand recall.
What’s your media mix like?
For me, a perfect balance between digital, catchment-specific activities and PR would do the job. Digital is for a tech-savvy segment that is tech-savvy and gets everything done on their mobile, those who indulge in consuming content by scrolling through screens. It is more likely for someone to read something when it pops up on the phone rather than on a billboard or a one-pager. Catchment-specific activities help in building relationships and generating leads and then conversions. We go out in the market with engaging activities for the target segments to make a brand recall. The relevance of public relations is enormous, as we all know. Every time we recall a brand, all the credits go to their PR team. PR is the backbone – I should say. Letting the world know about the act of good you do is as important as the act of doing it. On the ATL side, we only do hoardings and focus on the home market – Chennai.
What are the marketing plans and digital strategies in 2021?
The focus is on addressing the heart and the mind of the customers. We provide a 7%* interest rate on savings, no maintenance charges, free fund transfers, rewards, etc., to address the mind of the customers. When it comes to the heart, every time you bank with us, you make a difference in millions of lives around through our CSR activities.
Our website revamp is our focus this year. We have tie-ups with various renowned brands for each age group of customers to serve their needs, and we will be looking at extending our tie-ups to all the major top brands by this year-end. We will be strengthening our customer cross-sell campaigns, focusing more on how we can penetrate the data and drive segmented persona-driven campaigns to focus on “products per customer” and not “product per customers”. As VKYC is live, acquiring full KYC accounts would also be one of our key focus areas. With the launch of our brand repositioning of Beyond Banking, we have a lot in our pipeline to engage, entertain and excite our customers.
You are associated with sports- be it CSK or the recent announcement of Brand Ambassadors- Smriti Mandhana and Rani Rampal. What are the objectives behind these associations? Brands these days seem to be playing the role of a catalyst in advancing sports in India. What is your vision for sports in India?
Our association with sports- be it Chennai Super Kings or the recent announcement of our Brand Ambassadors, Smriti Mandhana(Vice-Captain of Indian Women’s Cricket Team) and Rani Rampal(Captain of Indian Women’s Hockey Team) is a strategy to build the brand. We could draw parallels between what sports and we as a bank do, bringing people together, celebrating diversities. Our logo positioning at the back of the helmet & Cap of the CSK is to reiterate the fact that we are a bank behind every champion. With the word “Champion”, we mean not just the players, but everyone directly or indirectly associated with us is a positive change maker. Sports brings with it a myriad of emotions, and we are sure that our association with sports will only take our brand to the last mile, targeting the right audience segment to whom we cater. When it comes to brands associating with sports, it is all about bringing in the inclusivity- sports is beyond borders, and so are the brands that believe in inclusivity.