Anupama Sajeet
Feb 27, 2024

The CMO's MO: Work culture is the freedom to critique - Nitin Mehta

Bharti Axa's chief customer officer and head – marketing, digital and online sales underlines the need to break free from 'made-to-order working cultures' while highlighting the 'rampant mis-selling' in the insurance sector that needs to be curbed

The CMO's MO: Work culture is the freedom to critique - Nitin Mehta
The CMO’s MO (modus operandi), spotlights some of India’s top CMOs as they share their marketing mantra, trends for the future, and what keeps them up at night. Here we chat up with the who’s who of the country’s leading marketers, keep the tone conversational, crisp and throw in questions that allow leaders to shine a light on their personalities, plans, and passions projects for the year ahead. 
This edition of CMO's MO has Bharti Axa Life Insurance, chief customer officer and head – marketing, digital and online sales, Nitin Mehta on the hot seat. 
In a career spanning over two decades across geographies such as India, China, Indonesia and Thailand, Mehta has been associated with organisations such as Amway, KPMG, and Aditya Birla Group. An alumnus from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Mehta is also a qualified chartered accountant.
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1. Marketing maestros or growth gurus: Are chief marketing officers the new chief growth officers?
Yes, this is likely to be true as meaningful engagement - customised or rather hyper-personalised, both with respect to the content and also the medium - would determine whether a customer would respond to your nudge. CMO is the rightful custodian to draw these inferences and drive this agenda with business. Furthermore, as this space is likely to be more and more dynamic enterprises would need someone who has this “outside-in” view and can influence the internal organisation rapidly.
2. What do you feel separates your brand culture from others?
Our ethos as a brand is making it simple and that’s what makes it distinct. We find solutions not to answer problems, but to make problems simple and enable our customers to find their own answers. This attitude of our brand makes it an easy choice for people who are today confused with enormous offerings and don’t know where to go.
3. What needs to change in your industry when it comes to working culture?
We have to stop defining everything. We as professionals have gotten so used to creating frames for every problem that these frames have become our biggest trap and have insulated us from the real world.  This innate desire to standardise everything, including having a definition of culture is something that ought to change. Culture is the freedom to think, freedom to question, freedom to express, freedom to critique, freedom to take charge. We ought to simply accept, that we are who we are, nobody needs to define us, we don’t have to have similar beliefs to work in the same company, we need to look out for the best companies and not necessarily the best in the same domain.
4. Complete the sentence: “Today’s CMO must be ….”.
Business leaders. No CMO can sustain the tag unless he/she is a business leader.
5. What kind of a CMO are you? Answer using a maximum of three adjectives.
Simple, nimble and swift.
6. What’s your favourite brand campaign that you participated in or wish you had?
HDFC life campaign - this came around the Covid pandemic, wherein a student reflects on being part of the ‘Covid batch’ and, pretty much, on life during the pandemic. The campaign connects emotionally well and instils a sense of being financially well-prepared in hard times.
Addressing the gathering at an internal event of Bharti AXA
7. Name another brand (can’t be yours) with an amazing customer experience that you really admire. Why is it great?
Amazon Prime. I had some issues with my device and the customer service agent patiently stayed with me for over 30 minutes without a single frown. The individual had all the answers, didn’t put me on hold, and didn’t say ‘will check and revert’. It was pretty much like instant gratification.
8. What keeps you up at night as a CMO?
While life insurance is essential, it is not the most trusted. As financial literacy is limited and life insurance is packed with technical jargon and complex terminology, understanding the various products can be a daunting task for most customers. Instances of mis-selling are rampant and customer complaints are choking management bandwidth across the industry. When we think retrospectively we could have done more on this front as soon as we started. While we have done a lot as a customer-centric organisation to deal with this menace, this is one area where it will never be enough. This area has the potential for many innovations and a lot more can be explored to smoothen the customer experience.
9. Tell us one personal thing about yourself that others might not know.
I dream a lot, I am a dreamer.
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