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Written by Team Wizikey

September 16, 2022

Data-driven decision-making isn’t likely to change any time soon: Rajarshi from Homefirst

Although Rajarshi is an engineer by education, he soon realized that this was not the path for him. He wanted to get into marketing and sales, so he went back to school and got his MBA. From there, he joined Home First and advanced quickly. How did you end up in marketing and communications? I […]

Data-driven decision-making isn’t likely to change any time soon: Rajarshi from Homefirst

Although Rajarshi is an engineer by education, he soon realized that this was not the path for him. He wanted to get into marketing and sales, so he went back to school and got his MBA. From there, he joined Home First and advanced quickly.

  1. How did you end up in marketing and communications?

I pursued my MBA approximately 11 or 12 years ago. I was a campus hire at Homefirst. When I joined Home First, it was a startup. We started developing the marketing function as a channel for sourcing. Previously, my role was much more tactical. In a sense, every dollar or every rupee spent was used to be pegged against how many loans I would get from that spent. After that, we started developing the brand and started to spread out. Now, we have a full stack of designers, content, data team, etc. From a startup, we have also become a listed company. It is very difficult for me to summarise how and when I came into the marketing and communication fields. As a student, I came from an engineering background, but very soon I realized I was not a very good engineer. I wanted to get into marketing and sales, so that’s what I studied further and joined this company, and things progressed further after that. 

  1. What was your first experience with data?

HomeFirst has been tech-savvy from day one. We were probably one of the first players who introduced technology in the way that it is being used today. Prior to that, the term “fintech” was immensely popular. We were the only ones who had actually brought that into the home loan industry. I remember, back in 2013-14, we did not have good smartphones like today that capture high-quality photographs. We used to go to the field with those handheld scanners. It used to look like a small light and we used to scan all the documents from the customers. Those scanned documents, after a certain OCR has been done, are transferred to the cloud. We started using Salesforce from day one. The entire data that was getting captured on the field was going to the cloud, and from the cloud, the underwriting and other processes started to kick off. Thus, data has played a very important role in every point of our decision-making. It helped us to understand consumer credit, which is the most important thing to us. How do we understand or evaluate a customer without any documented proof? That was our major challenge. How do I know a laundry worker or a fruit seller is actually making Rs. 15,000 a month if I do not have documented proof? Finally, how can digital assist me with that? Over the years, we have been able to build that capacity within the team. We started capturing all the data points from their actions, for instance, banking habits, saving patterns, and family migration patterns. So everything was captured during those discussions, and the data started to make sense. Now we have designed our own algorithms and machine learning to help us.

  1. How do you integrate data into your campaigns and stories?

Data helps us understand our consumer behavior at a very deep level. We realized that our target customer usually drives a Hero Honda Splendor and not a TVS Apache. He probably buys milk from a local milkman and does not buy packaged milk. He, maybe, uses Colgate toothpaste and not a fashionable brand like Close Up. All this understanding helped us develop communication for our customers. Communication became much more grounded because of these insights. I was not communicating with my customers like, let’s say, the HDFC or the SBI’s of the world, who have slightly evolved communication. My communication was very down to earth. It was approachable and friendly. This kind of understanding at a deeper level helped us to design the entire communication strategy. Also, we understood that regional languages have started to play a huge role. It will be confusing if we do not communicate with our clients in their native language. They do not have that kind of trust if you speak to them in an alien language.

Also, in the lower and middle-income segments, the product that I’m trying to sell to them is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. They will probably build a house once in their lifetime. They will put their entire life savings into that. So I have to be that human with them in terms of communication. Data has helped us design the communication accordingly. Our communication for the corporate sector is very different. I have a very different pitch for them. I have a very different way of communicating with them. But when I speak to a consumer or a potential customer, the communication shifts from being suave on one hand to a very simple, down-to-earth communication on the other.

  1. What are your favorite metrics or data points?

We look at communication analytics, voice, and keywords that we are driving. There is a certain narrative analysis which keeps happening regularly. We also tend to do a lot of social listening just to keep our finger on the pulse in terms of what our consumers are talking about. We don’t really do Google Reviews. We aim to keep things as organic as possible. And what we’re seeing is that the majority of the reviews are negative because people prefer to vent, and they won’t review anything positive otherwise. I believe these are some of the topics we discuss on a regular basis. And, from a marketing standpoint, these are clearly our CTR, impressions, regular rankings, and so on. Those are the typical data points that we take a look at. 

 7. What are the tools that you use for these data insights? 

For social listening, we are using Locobuzz. We have been using Locobuzz for quite some time now. There are a number of tools being used for marketing, from GDN Analytics to some of the newer versions of data management. 

 8. How do you see data-driven marketing and communication evolving in the coming days?

It is very difficult to predict what it is going to be like. It is going to change for the better, for sure. Things will become faster. Then again, these are some of the things that are not going to change, like automation and data-driven systems. 

Our customer base will probably become more comfortable using smartphones and using other digital platforms. They will probably complete the transaction online. They may purchase more expensive things like a television or refrigerator online in the future. Currently, they go online and check the pricing but still buy the product physically from the shop. These things might change with more and more people being tech savvy. 

However, in terms of data-driven decision making, that is something that is not going to change and is probably going to become more and more complex. Decision-making with data as your backbone is not going to change anytime soon. I feel more and more complexity will come with that.

 9. What is your 2cents for budding marketing professionals?

 There is a lot of fear around understanding data. I have seen marketing professionals who claim not to be good at math. They get very, very agitated with data and believe they will not be able to manage it. It is actually not like that. When you start working or if you understand your business well, you will know how to use data to your advantage. You might not be very good at number crunching, but you can still be good in terms of understanding the data and utilizing it for your business. You should always keep an open mind and try to think about data in a way that you can actually use it. 

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