Awareness, intimacy, and narrative in technology branding

Indraneel “IG” Ganguli is the Global Head of Marketing at Tech Mahindra. A member of the company’s Leadership Council, IG dishes out insights on Tech Mahindra’s marketing and communications strategy, their multi-faceted branding partnership with the Wall Street Journal, and how digital is disrupting the way brands raise awareness, create content, and establish intimacy among today’s ever-discerning consumers.

Could you expound on your branding and marketing philosophy?

When it comes to branding, we’re an extremely federated company. What let each geographic region pretty much handle the brand at its own level, guided by the common philosophy of the brand. Our brand follows a higher purpose—what we call “rise”. Internally we say we don’t wake up in the morning—we rise. Rise has three parts to it: one is accepting no limits (stretch behavior), second is alternative thinking (innovation), and third is driving positive change or doing good to the ecosystem/society and going beyond business.

Tech Mahindra being what it is as part of the Mahindra group, is an extremely entrepreneurial company. We’re not very straightjacketed or process-oriented. If there’s a great idea, we chase it, and once we decide on that, we see it through. That worked for us three or four years back, but once we achieved a certain scale, we felt there were aspects of the business wherein it was best to call in experts. Design thinking is one area.

As a company, we have a very large automotive practice, but we needed help in design thinking so we started shopping and picked up a company called Pininfarina. The world leaders in design, this company has been working with Ferrari and Lamborghini for almost 80 years. About 10 years back, they decided to branch off into applying their design thinking skills into doing products, some of which have brilliant stories around them. For example, as a policy this company never ever chops a tree to generate wood. Instead, they use geothermal satellite imagery over New Zealand to unearth redwood trees that had fallen some half a million years back. They unearth those, shave and slice them off, and those are used in some of their custom-made cars. So you’re sitting on a luxurious Ferrari and your hand is resting on a piece of wood which is one million years old. We found synergy in Pininfarina because our integrated engineering services—the robust backend of technology and engineering—coupled with the software side of design, it’s a match made in heaven.

Our brand is not insulated from the branding challenges of any B2B brand in this world today. There is a lot of noise, ideas, expectations, and I’m not going to kid myself—I’m not an Accenture. For every one dollar I can put on the table, they can put a hundred dollars. We play the game differently. One of the things we chose to do was to find partners.

How would you define your brand personality?

We are like David of David and Goliath. We’re tiny, small, but agile, nimble, and we want to take risks. We’re scared, yes, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we want to take those slingshots. One day, we wrote the word David on the whiteboard and were blankly staring at the word and the answer came out beautifully: D stood for digital; A stood for automation; V for verticalization; I for innovation; and D for disruption. We said that the future of our brand and business lies in DAVID. And that’s how we’re going to do it.

Brand personality-wise, we’d like to be an entrepreneurial, not in search of perfection but process-oriented enough to take you to the next level. We’re not building the Titanic here, we’d rather emulate Facebook. We believe the brand doesn’t belong to us, but to our consumers. We would like to hand over our brand to them.

The Mahindra Group has always demonstrated the ‘rise’ way of living whenever its back has been against the wall. In the 70s when global oil prices plummeted, we did crazy innovation. We put a jeep engine in our tractors because they were both on the internal combustion platform. Who could’ve ever thought of that? During that time, the lights-on behavior was top of mind—we wanted to keep food on the table so we had to innovate.

I used to work for a company called Satyam—we all know what happened to it. On the 7th of January 2009, Satyam was delisted from trading at the stock exchange. Within three business quarters, we had gone back to being number five on the exchange. This doesn’t happen because you’re straddling both the boats of lights-on and innovation. What I think we’re really good at, and I know this is easier said than done, is changing the tires of a moving car.