How Krishnan Chatterjee is shaping a unique identity for brand HCL

04 Sep,2012

By Rahul Sachitanand

 

Even as 65-year-old Bruce Springsteen was kicking off yet another soldout tour in his four-decade-long music career, one Indian marketer could only marvel about his longevity from afar. Seventeen studio albums and countless shows later, The Boss was showing few signs of dimming fan interest as successive generations of fans lapped up his latest tunes.

 

This timeless appeal left Krishnan Chatterjee, Strategic Head of Marketing, HCL Technologies, enthralled, as both a diehard fan and a marketer looking for solutions to build a strong and ever-lasting brand. A vocalist and rhythm guitarist for HCL’s band named Contraband, he wonders at the musician’s ability to build a strong personal brand and keep fans asking for more.

 

Mr Chatterjee is hoping to use some lessons from music at HCL Technologies. As technology has evolved, the delivery of remote software services has become a commoditised offering, leaving vendors, his employer included, hunting for new growth drivers. Rather than chase the same opportunity, Mr Chatterjee has been pushing new business opportunities, growing units such as remote infrastructure management from $60 million when he joined in 2004 (after a decade-long stint at ITC), to a billion-dollar unit today.

 

His ability to find a winning proposition for a brand began before HCL Technologies, when be moved from the Tobacco business to lifestyle retailing under the Wills Lifestyle brand. “He was able to quickly build a competitive proposition and identify a need gap in a cluttered market,” says Sabyasachi Mishra, CEO, Vietnam and Indo-China for advertising agency JWT. According to people who know him well, Mr Chatterjee sets tough goals for himself and isn’t afraid of going after slackers for failing to meet these targets. If CEO Vineet Nayyar is the face of HCL Technologies, Mr Chatterjee is happy to play the understated counterfoil, keeping the marketing machine humming.

 

History is now repeating for Mr Chatterjee at HCL. He has transformed marketing from a 3-4 man team, providing support services to teams pitching for new business, to a 300-person team at the forefront of HCL Technologies’ brand transformation. “We even started Team 360, which has 72 people today, to provide marketing services to teams at competitive rates.”

 

Part of the challenge for HCL Technologies and other large Indian IT firms is to be noticed when grouped with globally-recognised brands such as IBM and Accenture. “Indian companies are recognized by a tiny fraction of our target customers,” he reckons.

 

Also, he helped build Employee First (CEO Vineet Nayyar’s book on the subject has sold thousands of copies globally), to try to stand out in the clutter. A YouTube video on the subject has got over 2.5 million views, he adds, pointing to its success.

 

According to Anand Narayanan, VP of Marketing for Beroe, a provider of procurement intelligence and market research, Mr Chatterjee’s biggest accomplishment has been to grow HCL’s brand recognition, despite being a relatively small player based out of India.

 

Creating this sort of brand is important at this time because HCL plans to hire some 10,000 people in the US, at a politically sensitive time, with Presidential polls around the corner. “Never lose sense of your people … they are your biggest source of strength, credibility and voice,” he says.

 

Mr Chatterjee, an IIM-A alumnus, is taking a tough stance on getting Brand HCL noticed, While the “Mr HCL” series of advertisements did the rounds recently, he thinks the company will look beyond these confines. “The age of advertising has gone past us,” he declares. Instead, building brand HCL will be a much more targeted campaign, tilted towards digital, especially targeted at the firm’s customers. “You’re building a brand for the next century,” he claims loftily.

 

Mr Narayanan agrees. “What Krishnan has demonstrated is a pilot of HCL’s capabilities,” he says. “It has the potential to become the bellwether of marketing.” Steering HCL to these lofty heights will be Mr Chatterjee’s toughest mission yet.

 

Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

 

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