By: Yohan Chawla
Sowmya Iyer is Founder and CEO of DViO Digital (formerly Xebec Digital), an integrated marketing agency focused on digital transformation of brands and business. It serves in six markets across three countries- in UAE and Africa, and in India, where it operates out of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Pune.
Sowmya is a start-up investor too. She is Chief Mentor at MAD-Tech Incubator, a start-up incubator, which is run by DViO and a TEDx Speaker. She really is the lady with multiple hats, all worn at the same time. Sowmya started Xebec Digital in 2007 as a division of a full-service mainline advertising agency. XD soon became an independent, fast growing digital marketing company.
Read on to see how the Digital Diva at DViO wears so many hats at the same time, what she thinks about the Digital eco system. From Sowmya Iyer – mother, successful digital leader, and so much more.
Tell us about DViO Digital and its body of work.
DViO is an integrated marketing company that transforms businesses and brands in a technologically driven world. With a team of 120 digital marketing experts across India, UAE and Malaysia– DViO has deep expertise in sectors like Entertainment, Sports, Retail, BFSI, Travel and Education.
Some of our key clients include Star TV, Hotstar International, Gaana.com, Universal Music, IPL teams, Reliance Capital, Exide Life Insurance, and retail majors like W, Landmark Group, Aldo, and Birkenstock. Etcetera.
DViO’s special focus is on the tech services which is helping us to innovate using automation, Artificial Intelligence powered chat bots, VR and Social tech to add tangible business and brand value.
DViO’s talent collaboration platform Digi-Talk, helps brands co-create interesting branded content for its clients with popular as well as unique talent from various fields like music, dance, fusion art etc.
How has the digital ecosystem changed in the past decade?
Digital is now integral to all eco-systems. Digitization of news, entertainment, retail, payments, travel bookings and most importantly penetration of smart phones across geographies and sections of society has transformed digital marketing as well. It’s no more traditional marketing or digital marketing. It’s simply integrated marketing with a digital focus.
You also mentor startups. How do you go about doing that?
I have been active in the start-up circles, helping various companies go to market.
A few years ago, I narrowed my focus to help companies and platforms that have a marketing and advertising application. Because that integrates well with my business. Through what we now call the MadTech incubator, we connect these start-ups with the businesses DViO is engaged with. This has enabled an ecosystem where the start-ups get their first few clients and our clients get advantage of applying new and innovative tech to create fantastic business value, it’s a win-win for all.
As a woman entrepreneur in the Digital ecosystem – what’s it been like, so far?
An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur. Whether it’s a woman or a man it doesn’t matter. The entrepreneurial journey doesn’t differentiate based on gender.
I do believe that the inherent qualities of a woman play up to have certain advantages. For example, I feel women are natural networkers. I find them to be better collaborators. Their emotional intelligence and empathy quotient make them better leaders in the service industry.
Great. Could you highlight some of the most challenging campaigns DViO has delivered?
DViO has worked with many entertainment and music businesses. We have done award-winning work and our campaigns for these brands have reached globally.
Entertainment, sports, music and travel are passion points and multiplying traction on these campaigns can be less complicated because of the traction the content inherently has.
Our most challenging campaigns have been in BFSI. For example, for our client Reliance Mutual Funds, we are constantly working on making a subject like Mutual Funds interesting, engaging and relevant. There is also a lot of satisfaction when you get these campaigns right, because I feel we have done our bit in making the country and the youth more financially aware.
What have been your key learnings since DViO has been in business?
Oh! Every day is a learning! But I’ll sum up the important ones in few bullet points:
One: I don’t have the word called BIG, in my dictionary. No big clients, big budgets. To the extent you look at things as big, you reaffirm your inability to reach them. If you are comfortable with the idea of scale, you will access and handle them all with ease.
Two: As an entrepreneur in a creative industry — you cannot take the liberty of ignoring or overlooking finances. It’s the most important pillar of entrepreneurial success.
Three: No two entrepreneurial journeys can be the same. Learn from others, but your life and your choices will make for your unique story. Play it out to the fullest.
Four: Identify 15 to 20 key people who will be of strategic value in your business and life in general. Nurture these relationships and you will see tremendous value unlock.
Five: Meet people. Meet people. Meet people. I can never over-state the need to meet and network with new people, especially when you are running a business.
What are the need gaps in the current digital ecosystem and how does DViO fill them?
The future of advertising is advertising that doesn’t look and feel like advertising.
DViO is constantly innovating to create platforms that help brands achieve this.
Our initiatives with Digi-Tal and MadTech Incubator are endeavors to create experiential and immersive marketing that helps customers build a relationship with the brands.
What are the key trends a digital marketer should be aware about in the current digital ecosystem? How can a marketer leverage those trends to market a product or service?
There is a declining trust in what people see and read online. Do everything to ensure authenticity in all your communication. For example, people will trust what they hear from peers more than macro influencers.
Video will be key driver for reach. Innovate using this channel.
AI will gain common place in marketing. Build skill sets internally to take complete advantage of this.
What are your thoughts on the growing concern on data privacy after the GDPR issue?
This is a monumental piece of legislation as countries all around the world look to adopt it in the year ahead.
Marketers and brands stand to benefit from the move as treating data responsibly is the new currency of trust.
Customers willing to share personal data with you is a sign that they trust the brand and are willing to be prospective customers. This will help in better conversion rates across the board.
Having said that, brands will have to be careful of what information they share with their business partners and will have to be in the know on what they plan to do with it to secure themselves from regulators.
Indian brands and marketers will need to catch up in double-time to enable global businesses to see us as responsible data controllers and processors. Data security might just be a bigger concern than privacy.
Will branded content take away a chunk of the client’s investment towards Creativity? Your views on the importance of branded content in digital marketing. And the way forward
Brand content is equally an investment into creativity. With people today turning to digital for entertainment more than ever before — branded content is a powerful way building awareness and affinity for brands. But again, branded content is easier talked about. To design, develop and amplify branded content in a way that it’s contextual and also adds true value to the business or the brand is where the challenge and the magic lies.
What are the growth prospects for DViO Digital? Where do you see the agency five years from now?
DViO has gained a unique position as digital focused marketing consultancy that also has an ace delivery and implementation engine.
With our core strength in bringing creativity and technology together – we already have an advantage and are gaining acceptance in all markets we have forayed into.
I see DViO as a leading multi-country integrated marketing company with a presence in India, Middle East and South East Asia. We have already created a foundation for this future through our presence in Dubai and Malaysia.