Schneider Electric India’s Rajat Abbi on how brands should bank on sustainability and AI

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Schneider Electric India’s Rajat Abbi on how brands should bank on sustainability and AI

September 30
09:08 2023
Schneider Electric India’s chief marketing officer says the company uses AI to optimise operations and for programmatic media buying, significantly improving ROIs from media spends.

Marketers who lead communications must remember that the endeavour for a cleaner, greener planet is a collective effort that transcends individual brands, demanding unity and concerted efforts to inspire and engage audiences,” says Schneider Electric India’s Rajat Abbi.

Forget product, price, place and promotion. Marketers have a new set of 4Ps in their playbook—purpose, partnerships, planet and performance. Several companies are mapping their brand responsibilities keeping these new cohorts in mind. At Schneider Electric India, the marketing efforts are in the direction of doing good for its customers and for the environment.

Sustainability has transitioned from a mere choice to an absolute imperative that cannot be ignored, believes Rajat Abbi, vice president, global marketing, and chief marketing officer, Schneider Electric India, Greater India. “As brands embark on their sustainability journey, the role of marketing assumes ever-increasing significance,” opines Abbi. In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Abbi shares Schneider Electric’s marketing priority list, insights on how the company is working towards it, and his take on AI. Edited excerpts:

What has been on Schneider Electric’s marketing priority list this year?

At Schneider Electric, sustainability has been at the core of our DNA, and this commitment resonates throughout our marketing endeavours. We have strategically crafted a new B2B marketing playbook, aligning our efforts with responsible marketing for our customers, partners and the ecosystem at large.

With a global presence spanning 100-plus countries and a successful 60-year journey in India, we cater to a diverse audience, ranging from electricians to CEOs and everyone in between across various regions. Our marketing strategies are meticulously tailored for each category/segment of customer, a task of significant magnitude given the intricate nature of our offerings and the extensive range of services we provide.

Our approach leverages the power of storytelling, PR, digital marketing platforms, social media, account-based marketing and cutting-edge martech (marketing technology) solutions to connect and engage with our customers. In 2021, to help the country in its path towards sustainability, we launched our flagship Green Yodha sustainability drive. The campaign aims to create an ecosystem of eco-warriors for taking decisive climate action. Over the past two years, our marketing efforts have revolved around this initiative, witnessing considerable momentum and success.

Notable brands such as Titan, PepsiCo, JK Cements, UST Global, Haldirams, Marriott Hotels, Club Mahindra, Capgemini, Titan, Noida International Airport, Voltas, HP, 3M, Sobha Developers, Puravankara, Dr Reddy’s, Tech Mahindra and Embassy Services have enthusiastically embraced this cause, endorsed the Green Yodha campaign and pledged to be champions for our planet.

Furthermore, for two consecutive years, we have proudly served as the sustainability partners for the Rajasthan Royals IPL (Indian Premier League) team, with a significant focus on our marketing efforts revolving around this partnership.

Currently, we are preparing to launch one of our most significant campaigns in the country, commemorating our 60 years of presence and our substantial contribution to the nation’s GDP.

Schneider Electric does both B2B and B2C marketing. How, according to you, has B2B marketing evolved in India over the last few years? How is Schneider Electric adopting new trends in the B2B space? How different is B2C marketing for a company like yours?

India’s evolving B2B marketing landscape is driven by growth, globalisation and tech advances. With a population of 1.3 billion and a thriving business scene, India is a promising market.

At Schneider Electric, we have created 11 customer personas to provide customised experience to unique customer segments and address the expectations of both B2C and B2B players.

Our Green Yodha initiative uses content marketing and data-driven outreach, in alignment with our mission to be the digital partner of sustainability for our partners and customers.

We prioritise regional connections, combining local interactions with customised execution. To strengthen digital and traditional marketing synergy, we host the Green Yodha Yatras in major cities across the country to reinforce regional ties with local authorities and stakeholders. Further, we make our messaging keeping in mind the regional sensitivities of a geography to reinforce our vision of being the most local of global companies.

Retailers are one of the most important parts of Schneider Electric’s ecosystem and we constantly strive towards empowering and enabling them to do more. Our retail strategy empowers partners, with 500-plus SE Retail Pavilions expanding to 2,000-plus by 2023, providing training, loyalty programmes and digital marketing support.

Schneider Electric’s brand Luminous Power Technologies is associated with Rajasthan Royals. How has it been associated with cricket? How has it helped the brand?

Not just Luminous, which is one of our group companies, we too have been the ‘sustainability partners’ of the Rajasthan Royals team two years in a row. As a part of this association, the RR team and management have pledged to become Green Yodhas for the planet.

Our driving mission is to bridge the gap between progress and sustainability, and we aim to merge the worlds of sports and sustainability. Cricket is more than just a sport in India, it connects millions of people. So our strategy was to use the voice of the biggest influencers—the cricketers—to drive the message of sustainability. It was crucial for us to collaborate with someone who shares our values and commitment.

While we have been partnering with Rajasthan Royals as their official sustainability partner for two years, this year we took this partnership to the next level, with our group brand Luminous becoming the title sponsor. Through this association, we plan to make the game more sustainable, reach the masses and drive our sustainability narrative.

This association has not only benefited our brand but also shed light on a significant issue — the high carbon footprint of sports events. We have demonstrated that with existing technology, we can offset this footprint. To provide some perspective, one IPL match generates approximately 10,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions. In response, we have committed to offsetting the emissions of one match by planting 17,000 trees across India.

This partnership, a component of our broader Green Yodha initiative, has successfully reached over 10 million individuals to date.

What’s important for brands to bear in mind while keeping sustainability at the core of its products and marketing strategies?

Sustainability has transitioned from a mere choice to an absolute imperative that cannot be ignored. As brands embark on their sustainability journey, the role of marketing assumes ever-increasing significance. It becomes crucial to harmonise marketing strategies with sustainability goals, keeping in mind the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. This necessitates a forward-thinking approach that can only be realised through responsible marketing practices.

We are living in an era marked by heightened environmental consciousness, with consumers more attuned to climate-related issues than ever before. Thus, we as marketers shoulder the responsibility of considering the social and environmental impacts of marketing decisions, practicing responsible advertising and messaging, and evaluating the effectiveness and influence of sustainability-focused marketing campaigns.

Schneider Electric has consistently positioned itself at the forefront of the sustainability movement by integrating sustainability and carbon neutrality into our marketing endeavours. We have harnessed our position as industry leader in energy management and next-gen automation to advocate for sustainability, carbon neutrality and energy efficiency across various sectors. Our flagship initiative, Green Yodha, revolves around nurturing a community of businesses and individuals dedicated to curbing energy consumption, expediting electrification, and aligning energy supply with India’s climate targets. For us, sustainability is not just a peripheral aspect of our brand; it is deeply ingrained in our ethos.

Marketers who lead communications must remember that the endeavour for a cleaner, greener planet is a collective effort that transcends individual brands, demanding unity and concerted efforts to inspire and engage audiences.

What is your hot take on AI? How is Schneider Electric using AI, especially, in marketing?

In the rapidly evolving landscape of marketing in India, which is one of the world’s fastest-growing nations with a thriving digital economy, the adoption of cutting-edge technologies is poised to bring about a transformative shift. At the forefront of this revolution are technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, machine learning, and bots, which are reshaping the marketing paradigm and enabling brands to engage with their audiences in profoundly innovative ways.

At Schneider Electric, we combine our longstanding manufacturing and domain expertise with cutting-edge innovation in AI, machine learning and deep learning to empower smarter decision-making, agility and decarbonisation. We use AI to optimise operations, helping our customers and partners achieve energy transparency and to consume less energy. AI is used heavily in programmatic media buying which is helping in significantly improving ROIs (returns on investment) from media spends. It is also being used to manage customer experience including through use of advanced virtual assistants and chatbots. It is also being used to plan and execute drip and nurture programmes which form the backbone of our sales and marketing automation efforts.

Now speaking of usage specific to marketing, we are constantly seeking ways to infuse innovation into our marketing approach. We are constantly looking at the latest martech solutions that can help us implement personalisation at scale and help with our multichannel marketing strategy. For example, through WhatsApp for Business, we are reaching out to a wide target audience and engaging with them through relevant content in the fastest possible time frame.

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