Interview: Bindu Balakrishnan on Taking German Marketing Agency DCMN into India


Last month, German marketing agency DCMN announced its expansion into Asia with the launching of operations in India. Heading up the new arm of the Berlin-based agency, whose only other office outside of Europe is San Francisco, is biz development specialist, Bindu Balakrishnan.

Before taking the helm at DCNM in Bangalore, Balakrishnan worked in business development for digital startups as well as in the healthcare industry —with over 15 years experience in both India and Europe.

As Country Head for DCMN in India, she’s is charged with developing growth strategies that combine traditional marketing services with DCMN’s proprietary ROI-optimization technology –a potentially explosive market in India where brands are still developing their market measuring capabilities.


 

Branding in Asia recently caught up with Bindu Balakrishnan for a conversation at her office in Bangalore.


What was behind DCMN making the move to India and why now?

The short answer is that we looked at India’s vibrant startup ecosystem, and the high demand for advertising that goes along with it, and decided the time was right to expand our business here. There is a lot of competition between digital companies in India. There are a lot of similar brands and each one is vying for consumers’ attention. They need to make themselves stand out so they turn to marketing agencies to help with this.

A second factor is that we always have our eye on where the venture capital is going. Investment in India’s startups has hit record levels in recent years. With venture capital often comes a lot of pressure to grow your business and because of this, many companies will need marketing to be able to achieve their goals.


 

I have worked in both India and Europe over my career spanning 15 years. This has given me a unique perspective of how to use the best of both worlds and apply it to doing business here in India.

At the same time, we also know we can offer something unique in the market: we have our own proprietary technology which allows us to track and optimize our clients’ campaigns. Many digital brands are running TV campaigns – in fact, TV is the dominant medium for advertising in India – but there is often no analysis afterwards. DCMN takes a data-driven approach to TV advertising.

You just recently joined DCMN in and have been charged with the sizable task of trailblazing the path in India. How did that come about?

I have known the DCMN team for quite some time now. Previously I worked at 1SDK, a mobile attribution startup which DCMN recently acquired. During my 1SDK days, I collaborated with DCMN on various campaigns for digital brands. As VP of business development, India was one of my key focus markets and our clients were digital brands. During this period, I interacted with a lot of decision makers in the e-commerce space in India. DCMN specializes in marketing solutions for digital brands so my transition to spearheading the DCMN launch in India seemed like a perfect move. And it also seemed like a very exciting time to join the company.

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Considering your short time with the agency, what’s it been like getting yourself acclimated to the DCMN culture in terms of having to then bring that culture of doing business to the Indian market?

DCMN, though headquartered in Berlin, has a multicultural team with over 30 nationalities. The organizational structure is very flat and DCMN’s culture is based on trust and team spirit. At the same time, I have worked in both India and Europe over my career spanning 15 years. This has given me a unique perspective of how to use the best of both worlds and apply it to doing business here in India. I am born and brought up in India and I have a deep understanding of this country. This is something that informs all my work.

Along with developing digital startups, you have a strong background in the health industry. Does that play into your new position?

Above all else, being in the healthcare industry helped me develop an analytical mind. DCMN, though a marketing agency, is very data driven in its approach. So being able to bring analytical skills to the table has definitely been a plus for me.

At the moment we’re focusing on India so that we can build up our expertise in this exciting region. But DCMN is expanding fast and we are definitely planning to open offices in other countries in Asia.

You’ve talked previously about how measurability in the Indian market is not as widespread as in Europe and the US. What’s your game plan for the opportunities that presents?

We have working relationships already with the data providers (BARC/TAM) and the TV networks as we have conducted some high-performing TV campaigns in India already. We are now engaging with prospective clients to show them the great ROI they can get from measurement-based campaign optimization.

Other than San Francisco, this is DCMN’s first office outside of Europe. The company views India as a jumping point into Asia. Is it a ‘wait and see’ strategy or are there plans in motion for other Asian markets?  

India is only the starting point for DCMN in Asia. At the moment we’re focusing on India so that we can build up our expertise in this exciting region. But DCMN is expanding fast and we are definitely planning to open offices in other countries in Asia which we see as high potential markets. At our headquarters in Berlin, we already have several clients from countries like China and Korea who come to us when they want to run campaigns in Europe. In the future, we would also love to support these brands in their home market.

Just for fun: You can no longer work in your current field but you can transition into anything you want. What career would you pursue?

I love traveling and meeting new people. So I would probably like to host a TV show based on travel or food, or maybe both!

 

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