Staff Reporters
Jun 17, 2021

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Ravi Santhanam, HDFC Bank

With an already dominant position in its market, this CMO has focused on building out HDFC Bank’s digital presence and reinforcing its purpose.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Ravi Santhanam, HDFC Bank
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Ravi Santhanam

CMO; head of corporate communications; head of liability products and managed programs
New member

HDFC Bank is among India’s top two banks, the third largest company in terms of market capitalisation, and for the last seven years in a row, has been named the most valuable brand in India by BrandZ. Over the course of a rocky pandemic-struck year Ravi Santhanam has steered the bank’s marketing efforts, overseeing a series of marketing initiatives to help bolster its brand and improve customer experience. In April 2021, when the bank recast its leadership, Santhanam was rewarded for his efforts by having his remit widened beyond marketing to include liability products and managed programs. 

It would be easy for HDFC Bank to get complacent with its position and initiate run-of-the-mill marketing campaigns. After all, with more than 60 million customers, 5600 branches and 16000 ATMs—HDFC Bank is in an enviable position with few to challenge its scale. However, Santhanam saw the pandemic as an opportunity to focus on purpose and redirect his marketing budget in new ways. 

For example, to play its part in encouraging safe distancing, the bank rolled out a campaign in which it placed its logo as markers on the ground in front of essential services such as grocery and medical stores. Last year, it collaborated with musician AR Rahman to create an anthem to spread hope and optimism among Indians. Meanwhile, it released a rap song called 'Mooh Band Rakho' (keep your face covered) to advocate not only the importance of wearing a mask, but also to encourage customers to protect their confidential information in digital banking transactions.

Once the second Covid-19 wave eased in India, HDFC Bank delivered a large-scale festive campaign to help drive the economy back to normalcy. Santhanam led the creation of a branded property called ‘Festive Treats’, a platform that offers an array of offers to customers across segments. Results from the campaign were similar to pre-pandemic numbers—a significant achievement.

To grow its visibility during the festive season, HDFC Bank established a trade marketing arm with branding across 250,000 trade outlets such as electronics stores, clothing stores and auto dealerships. Digital activations ensured the bank did not miss the on-ground activations during lockdown. It claims it was able to reach over 10,000 people per digital activation regularly.

Santhanam has also expanded the bank’s use of technology and analytics to deliver a better customer experience and make marketing more of a direct revenue contributor. He initiated a net promoter system (NPS) and journey analytics to measure dropoff and customer experience throughout the customer journey, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver personalised campaigns.

Sanathanam acknowledges the importance of DEI within and outside his remit as CMO for HDFC Bank. He says he ensures a mix of gender, ethnic and industry backgrounds are interviewed for any open position—but we weren’t provided with any concrete metrics or initiatives.

Ravi Santhanam can be found on Twitter at: @ravis0710

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


Related Articles

Just Published

47 minutes ago

Let your jeans age the way you do—gracefully

A new global spot for denim brand G-Star Raw uses deepfake technology to bring a man from his youth all the way to old age in under a minute.

2 hours ago

How brands can get noticed in hyper-socialised China

The market's fast-evolving digital and marketing ecosystem can be a blessing or a curse to brands. The CEO of DDB China Group and CEO of DDB Asia provide tips on how to navigate this challenging but lucrative opportunity.

2 hours ago

'People want to do more than shop online': Shopee's ...

Winston Goh, Shopee Singapore's head marketer, talks about going beyond transactional shopping experiences and creating diverse retail journeys.

15 hours ago

Starbucks pulls brand out of Russia

The American coffee giant follows McDonald’s in exit following business suspension.