From FMCG to tech start-ups: Marketers, here's what the switch is like

I sat down for a chat with a marketer who has made, what some would say, is a big switch couple of years ago – from well-established FMCG giants to a small, nimble tech start-up.

In the very near future though, this kind of switch will become the norm.

Anuj Jain is a marketer with decades of experience working with P&G, GSK, BIC and other FMCG giants. He quit his cushy job a few years ago to venture in the startup world. He has been leading business development and partnerships in Asia for Mobikon where he was responsible for scaling operations in virgin markets.

Around six months ago, he took on the role of a CMO for this growing start-up - a SaaS tech venture backed by Jungle Ventures and other investors in the region.

In this role, he is driving growth globally with focus on overall strategy, building thought leadership in the domain, inbound marketing and Brand engagement.

The start-up has seen a rapid growth in last two years growing to 7 countries with its platform helping 2400+ restaurants and more than doubled its customer acquisition and engagement with 4 Million diner profiles till date.

For a marketer with his experience what is it like to work in a start-up, other than it, obviously, being very different?

There are no big budget traditional 30 sec ads, extended consumer research timelines, multiple agency teams to help and large internal teams to support initiatives.

Other than that what’s, quite literally, in your face is the pace and dynamism of start-ups, centred on innovation, quick A/B testing and smart growth hacks.  Getting things done and failing fast helps with 'speed to market' and 'staying alive' are the key pillars of competitive advantage.

The thrill in it? The feeling of establishing a zero awareness brand firmly in a new markets, seeing new set of customers adopting your evolving proposition and eventually seeing the growth of organic business is amazingly satisfying.

“I love the fact that as marketers we bring solutions to uninitiated customers, educate them and help enhance their experience with our ideas and efforts. One could see the impact of one’s thoughts and actions in a short time in a measurable way,” he says.

But challenges are aplenty. Start-ups by definition are an entity which has yet not found its repeatable and scalable model. Hence dealing with uncertainty, multiple variables and resource constraints create a certain type of chaos that puts demands on managing an ever changing business landscape.

The quest, he explains, is always to find the right mix of elements in your strategy, marketing plan and business execution to manage expectations of stakeholders & customers while keeping an eye on the ever mushrooming competition and yet make meaning out of it.

“I say sometimes much to wife’s displeasure that I only have three-six month visibility but a 10 year vision.”

But the training he has had working in FMCG played a critical role in making this successful switch. Working with P&G instilled a discipline, work ethic and habit of backing everything with facts and data. With GSK, Jain received the exposure to work across markets where he worked with large teams to restructure operations and do feasibility studies to launch brands.

“I used to request retailers to allow me to sit in their shops to observe shopper behaviour. That was exciting as well as enriching,” he said.

At BIC, he learnt about scaling business in North Asia, SEA markets and global best practices grounds up. He led market strategies, new product development with localised designs, innovative campaigns, consumer research, merger & acquisition studies and many inventive shopper marketing initiatives.

I have learnt many new lessons by walking this path in the start-up ecosystem and large traditional companies could gain a lot by bridging the gap with the new world,” he says adding that the new approach of lean start-up and agile management could be applied to any project by any company for far better results.

For marketers, it is a great opportunity to cross over and deep dive into design thinking discipline, get more focused on UI and UX modalities and for many B2B2C companies turning to inbound marketing principles, it could change the whole paradigm, he says.

Jain has also helped 120+ early stage startups with his old world experience and new world learnings through leading an inventive start up bootcamp over weekends with Lithan Hall Academy in Singapore.