In Conversation with Gunjan Soni

Head of Jabong.com & CMO, Myntra
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
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Gunjan Soni is the Head of Jabong.com since Feb 2017 and the CMO of Myntra since Dec 2015. Prior to this she was the Executive Vice President at Star India from Feb 14 to Nov 15. Gunjan joined McKinsey & Company in Jun 08 as an Engagement manager. She became the Associate Principal in Jan 11 and quit McKinsey & Company in Jan 14 as the Principal, to the post which she was promoted in Apr 13.
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Gunjan Soni is the Head of Jabong.com since Feb 2017 and the CMO of Myntra since Dec 2015. Prior to this she was the Executive Vice President at Star India from Feb 14 to Nov 15. Gunjan joined McKinsey & Company in Jun 08 as an Engagement manager. She became the Associate Principal in Jan 11 and quit McKinsey & Company in Jan 14 as the Principal, to the post which she was promoted in Apr 13.

Jabong Mood Store, which was announced recently, is the latest initiative by the brand. How was it conceived? How has the online consumer behaviour changed? 

The idea of the Mood Store came from consumer insight. In a way, it is a reflection of our average consumer set. Jabong’s Mood Store is rooted in fashion consumption behaviour. Our thought behind this strategy was simple: To use fashion consumption behaviour as an inspiration for how fashion shopping should happen.

We have more women consumers, a higher proportion of them belonging to the affluent, SEC A, category. She is better travelled, more informed, with more exposure on a range of issues. Additionally, she is a fashion forward consumer. She is the consumer who will not say, “I feel like wearing a top today.” She is more likely to ask herself, “What am I in the mood to wear today?” Fashion, we have found, is mood-led. The fashion shopping experience is no longer led by just “categories” or plain vanilla-led experiences. At Jabong, our strategy has been to take the consumer behaviour and embed it in the shopping behaviour. Our strategy was to look at deeper consumer insights and behavior, to offer a holistic solutions.

How should brands ensure that they roll out winning strategies?

Rolling out strategies for any brand’s growth shouldn’t depend solely on marketing teams. It is important for various stakeholders or departments to come together to create big bang strategies. In the case of Jabong Mood Store, for instance, we ensured that all teams came together for brainstorming sessions. Typically, campaign planning or new strategies are led by marketing. In our case, however, there was supply chain team, store-front team, research, creative and, of course, the marketing team. We saw the power of cross functional thinking as a result of that and that’s how Jabong Mood Store was planned. Besides focused teams, we had actual consumers sitting in the consumer testing groups. These consumers gave us more ideas, making us understand the concept better.

Brands should encourage cross functional thinking, be mindful of consumers and engage all the stakeholders while planning strategies.

How should brands engage consumers while planning strategies?

At Jabong, we believe in consumer-backed innovations. The consumer is a core part of what we do, in terms of planning initiatives or strategies to drive our growth trajectory further. We typically come up with one new innovation every quarter. That’s why it is essential for us to use consumer insights all the time. We ensure that consumers are consulted all the time for our innovations through our consumer testing groups.

Brands should understand that for strategic concepts to be thought out qualitatively, they need to engage consumers. Strategies have to be formed by what the consumer is thinking and saying.

Between drawing a blueprint and rolling out strategies, should brands be prepared to tweak strategies? What’s the way to tweak?
Brands should be prepared to tweak strategies once they are rolled out and reactions start coming in. In the case of Jabong Mood Store, we were almost ready with our strategy. It was only when we received consumer feedback that we understood that we required to further tweak the initiative. The addition of the “Shop Look by Price Point” came from consumer feedback. While consumers were happy to shop an entire look they were fearful of overindulging or overspending. It was an important insight.

How important are advertising agencies for the growth of the brand; for communicating effectively, to the consumer, the message of the brand?

You can do an innovation but if nobody knows about it, it is of no use. Equally, I think, doing campaigns without a clear objective is not healthy because it does not create the biggest bang for the product or the brand. At Jabong, we punch above our weight. We use every marketing dollar thoughtfully.

There is a need to combine marketing campaigns with innovative concepts and that’s why brands should involve advertising agencies right at the start of an initiative or strategy. They should be aware of the business goals of a brand. Instead of bringing creative agencies on board for ideation later, they should know the annual roadmap of the brand, how it plans to grow, etc. At Jabong, we share, almost for the entire year, the objectives and plans with our agencies. When we do our in-house annual operating plan exercise, we make it a point to bring our agency partners, whether it’s the media buying agency or the creative agency, on board. Brands should walk agencies through the objectives and plans of the year. It is important for agencies and the brand to be in sync. That makes the biggest difference to any brand / product.

Don’t see agencies as merely creative partners. Treat them as intelligently creative partners who understand the brand equally and who will come up with better ideas and solutions once they are onboard.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

That’s the toughest question, actually. I have been looking after Jabong since the beginning of this year so balancing the personal and the professional life is harder, undoubtedly. But here’s what keeps me going. One, I’m very genuinely passionate about the consumer and understanding consumer habits. And that joy keeps me happy 24/7. Two, I am very fond of reading and I deliberately read a lot of fiction, especially fantasy. That really inspires me. Some of the best creative writing, in my view, is in the fantasy genre. It has the power to create parallel universes... It allows me to forget the world I live in, even if for a short while. I also love to solve puzzles but I am not getting enough time to do that. I try and solve Sudoku puzzles on the flight.

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