BHARATH SASTRY, CEO of Vistaprint India, talks of innovations in the mass customization space, launching products relevant to COVID-19 and the importance of being authentic at all times
What are the big learnings in your life – right from your days at IIT Madras and IIM Kolkata to Mondelez and now Vistaprint India – that stand you in good stead as a marketer?
Some of the big learnings that I took forward from campus to sales and marketing were collaboration and teamwork. I had always been interested in building brands. At Mondelez, I had the good fortune of handling iconic brands, relaunches of brands like 5 Star, Eclairs, Gems… and launching Cadbury Dairy Milk in Indonesia. Focus on improving well established brands – that’s my take-away from Mondelez. Even for a big brand like Dairy Milk or 5 Star, there's always opportunity to grow. And to grow really well, one should improve on some fundamental aspects of the brand. Another important business lesson that I learnt at Mondelez is that you really need sharp focus coming from the leader at the top - identifying what you’re really good at, what you can deliver to the customer that is obviously not delivered by other companies, and so on.
It's more than six years that Vistaprint came to India. How do you describe the journey of the brand in the mass customisation space? How do you perceive the market?
In the last five years that I've been here, we’ve had a great run as an online player for mass customization and customized products. We have a diverse customer base. Getting the right focus was important. We did a great job expanding our portfolio of products, and innovating in the last 3-4 years. We added new categories; within categories, we added variants for customers, both in the affordable as well as premium ranges. The next focus area was expansion - we expanded to many towns in new geographies in the country, and now we are able to deliver to all cities which have an online presence. The market for product customization is really huge, but it is mostly offline. Our USP is that we are an online player. You can order from the convenience of your home; you can even order a single unit and have it customised. We are by far the market leader in the online space.
What are some of the recent initiatives by the brand and what are the challenges before it at this critical time?
We have been consistently building the brand - not just building engagement with customers through advertising, but also ensuring a great user experience and easy mobile experience. Also, improving the quality of products that we deliver. The immediate challenge is low demand. But I’m positive that when the fury of COVID-19 dies down, we will be able to get back to the demand we used to have earlier.
What has been the uptake for brand Vistaprint so far in 2021? What are your plans going ahead?
Obviously, it was a tumultuous and turbulent year. But, we rebounded pretty well. From August-September, 2020 onwards, we were back to almost 75% of our earlier average. From December, we were almost back to our pre-pandemic phase. We introduced a lot of innovation, launching products relevant to COVID-19, for example, posters which people may use to communicate COVID behaviour at hospitals. We made templates that are very relevant to COVID-19 - like washing your hands and maintaining hygiene. Just three months back, some customers suggested that we should look at photo frames, where people can upload their photos, and get the framed product delivered to them. So now we actually print your photos, put them in frames and send it to you. You don’t go anywhere; just order it online. I am extremely positive about the future, seeing the way the whole team adapted to the current scenario, our innovations and ability to meet evolving customer needs.
Tell us about Bharath Sastry beyond the realm of work. What is one motto that defines your work as well as personal life?
I used to play a lot of football; that’s something I miss in the pandemic time. I also enjoy singing at home. I like poetry and I attempt to write verses, with my wife as guinea pig! I just enjoy whatever I do; it adds to my performance. I've also seen this in my team – a person who really enjoys his or her work brings a kind of meatiness to the role. I also strive to be as authentic, as human as possible. When I’m that way, it brings out the best in me.