Raahil Chopra
Sep 13, 2023

Natural for workforce to be overwhelmed by Gen AI: Canva's Natalie Schwartz

The global head of brand marketing speaks with Campaign India on the sidelines of 'Global CreAItivity Survey' launch

Natural for workforce to be overwhelmed by Gen AI: Canva's Natalie Schwartz
While 97% of marketing and creative leaders are comfortable with the rise of generative AI, 75% of them in India are overwhelmed by the learning curve of adopting it according to its 'Global CreAItivity Survey' published by Canva.
The survey further adds that 72% of leaders in creative agencies and marketers say generative AI is saving their teams at least two to three hours per week.
Marketers also worry about the risks of using generative AI, with 77% of marketers and creative leaders in India concerned about the loss of customer data while using it.
On the sidelines of this launch, Campaign India caught up with Natalie Schwartz, global head - brand marketing, Canva, to learn about the findings, the marketing efforts of the brand, the size of operations in India, and more…
Edited excerpts:
Can you tell us about your role at Canva? How big is the global marketing team?
I’ve been at Canva for about two years. I lead the brand marketing, strategic partnership and events teams which are of 18 members.
Overall in marketing between marketing technology, performance marketing and analytics, we have more than several hundred people. We have marketers all over the world now and an in-house team that does all our creative work.
While the company has gained prominence over the last three to four years, it's a decade-old company. How has the company evolved?
We have been growing organically since our inception. We have been listening to our community and continuing to launch different products that help people design. We have seen a tremendous amount of growth organically. We started marketing efforts only in the last four or five years.
Our founders Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, and Cameron Adams started with the vision of making design simple as they thought it wasn’t accessible enough. The belief was that requiring professional designers to make things look good and express ideas was holding people back. So Canva’s vision is to empower the world to design and our product has started to chip away at different design products and features that help make design easier.
We gained prominence with the ease of use to create social assets and then we launched an amazing presentation product several years ago which has taken off with teams and larger companies. We launched video products too and are continuing to expand what’s possible with Canva and have seen a tremendous amount of growth from there.
The product itself has a lot of virality in it because people share designs and can collaborate on them, and it’s easy to get started. We have seen users share their designs with friends and colleagues and it’s just taken off from there. We’ve been lucky to have an amazing product market fit that has created strong growth globally even before we had teams in regions all over the world because it’s such an amazing accessible tool to pick up and get started.
There have been some acquisitions on the way too?
A few of the companies we have acquired have kind of brought us into the AI space. These technology companies supplement our vision and help make our product better.
We acquired Kaleido, a company based in Europe in 2019 for its AI technology and have embedded that into our product.
We also acquired Flourish, which has data visualisation capabilities that make data designs incredible.
You stated that you’ve got consumers in countries where you’re yet to establish teams. Does Canva have an Indian team? 
We’re putting together a marketing team for South East Asia and India will be one of the key markets there.
How big is the Indian market for Canva?
We can’t share exact numbers, but our Indian market is one of our fastest-growing markets across the world. We have a Facebook community for Canva advocates in India and that has 1,90,000 members. It’s the second-largest community globally. We are hoping to tap into that community and help us grow.  
We are excited to see and scale our efforts there over the coming years.
So will we be seeing India-specific campaigns being rolled out in India soon? 
I hope so. Since 2021, we have been running campaigns in India through multiple channels. We don’t have billboards or TV advertisements yet, but are using digital to introduce various new Canva products to different audiences.
We hope to connect Canva to India through more cultural moments by tapping into the local market more.
Your free to paid users split globally and India?
We do have over 135 million active users monthly globally. This includes free and paid users. We have over 16 million paid subscribers overall, so we are seeing great adoption of the paid products which are Canva Pro and Canva for Teams. It’s a huge focus for the company now.
A lot of our growth has come from individual users and now we are seeing a tremendous amount of teams adopting it well. We have 85% of the Fortune 500 companies using Canva.
Our focus for this year and next is to introduce the world to Canva for Teams because right now our perception is a little bit more on the individual product and user. We want to shift this perception and introduce to people how Canva can supercharge their creativity and productivity.
What’s your strategy to get more paid users?
It’s an upgrade strategy that introduces new premium features, more templates, more content and essentially just a better and more robust Canva experience.
We are seeing people upgrading for those features and that content. We have an upgrade strategy around that and we are seeing that many of the teams that are adopting Canva within companies start with several of the users using it individually and then recognising that they want to collaborate on designs with their colleagues.
The survey mentions Generative AI is enhancing a team's creativity by 70% and saving 2-3 hours per week. So does this help talent or does it in the long run replace creative talent like designers?
AI is a tool that’s going to supercharge the workforce. It’s a huge technological change and revolution that we’re at the cusp of. I see it as something that’s going to augment human creativity and enhance it. I was likening it to when personal computers first came out. Everyone was worried about it and was wondering if they’d be taking our jobs. Personal computers are doing a lot to enhance our creativity and move society forward. AI is a little bit like that.
There are some concerns about it overall, but I think marketers are bullish about it and are excited about the future when it comes to AI. I think as marketers, we are being asked to produce more and more assets and AI can help us scale our creativity. It’s not about replacing humans, it’s about increasing productivity and output for everyone. From a creative perspective, it’s also about driving ideas forward.
It also mentions that 75% are overwhelmed by tech. How can this 'overwhelming' or negative feeling towards tech and gen AI be countered?
Any new technology needs time to get used to and it’s natural for people to feel this way. People are hearing a lot about this in the media and they are wondering if they’re behind the others if they aren’t using it every day.
Canva is trying to help combat this feeling of overwhelmingness because we are embedding it within our products in a way that is completely accessible. Just like our mission is to make design accessible, we want to make AI accessible. We are putting it into products so that the user doesn’t need to think ‘should I be using AI for this’. 
For example, our magic background remover is a simple AI tool that’s completely embedded. People won’t even recognise that AI is being used for this.
There will be more education over time about how this works and that will go up a learning curve around the best ways to use AI.
I bet if we repeat this study next year at this time, we’ll see a big drop in that feeling.
With changes in tech coming fast, if not gen AI, it could be something else that will overwhelm them?
It could be, but we should know gen AI is not a flash in the pan trend and it’s here to stay. It’s proven itself to be so valuable in so many different use cases that you’ll see many more technology companies jumping on the bandwagon of leveraging it. It’s a question of how can they use it in a way that’s natural and enhances the experience.
In terms of challenges for Canva. Would educating users about this be a challenge or do you think your target audience is well aware of it already?
It’s about raising awareness, introducing people to our products and helping them discover how it can supercharge their workplace, whether that’s in the classroom, working in a school, or a non-profit or a Fortune 500 company. It’s about introducing Canva to the right people who can benefit from creating the usual content.
Campaign India