’Communities Are The Next Big Thing’

Jessie Paul—writer, coffee plantation owner, active blogger and regular user of Linkedin and Twitter—will be another entrepreneur walking out of the portals of Wipro Technologies (where she is chief marketing officer) come January. With 10 years experience in the IT space, including India’s best known Infosys and Wipro, Paul is ready to set up an advisory practise, titled Paul Writer Strategic Advisory, with the prospect of scaling up several companies. Apart from that, she is looking at creating an elite event format for India Inc. and also building an online networking platform. While she is guarded about her plans, Paul shares some of her ideas and concepts with VCCircle. The author of No Money Marketing will be banking on her IT-heavy experience in areas like outsourced partnerships and the power of frugal marketing to foray into the entrepreneurial path. Excerpts:-

What made you take the entrepreneurial plunge?

It is not like a sudden thing that popped up. I have previously worked in a startup called Quintant way back in 2003 and I have also worked in large firms. I think it is a good time to try the other side as well. Through my book, I have met a lot of people and I found that a lot of them were looking at marketing help. Nobody really owns the B2B space. Most marketers are in large FMCG companies and those, who are in the B2B space, are associated with large corporates. Where do you go if you need help in scaling up a $200 million to the next level? I will focus purely on the B2B stage but because of my experience in technology, I suspect I will attract more opportunities in this space. The principles of marketing are pretty much the same but I do not want to dabble in the B2C space, which is well-served already.

IT/ITES companies dominate the portfolio of VC/PE firms in India? Would you look at joining any of their boards?

That would be an ideal situation if a VC firm came up to me and said, would you like to help our portfolio. Being on a VC advisory board would be an interesting opportunity.

I want to do two or three things and marketing advisory will be a small part of that. From a time perspective, I can handle only about five clients in a month.

What do the plans look like on the drawing board?

One will be pure advisory. Then, I will look at an execution level engagement, which is scalable. Third would be creating a networking platform.

What is your assessment of the market potential of such networking events?

I have a basic belief that on the macro level, India lacks a high-end networking forum like the just-concluded TED India or the World Economic Forum meet in Davos. I want to create an equivalent of such events in India. I have two or three ideas which I cannot share right now. The basic theme will be that these events would be Indian in origin and global in scale. India has the maturity to want that kind of networking.

Also, communities are the next big thing. TED was an amazing experience. It is the first event (I attended) in India where the audience was inside and not outside (exchanging cards). My take is can I build a community around a certain event. I am looking at possibilities of co-branded events with some international large forum format players.

What about online community building?

I have an idea but not yet ready to share. The technology part is easy. The differentiator is the content. In any community that we see today, only 10% are active contributors, 20% occasionally contribute and the rest merely read. Vast majority are passive participants. A community only functions when people are willing to participate. For instance, in the B2B marketer community, there is no platform for connection. Most networks are for FMCG CMOs. When I create my own platform, I will follow the hub and spoke model. Spokes are nice tools to get footfalls. But, people will still have to come to my platform, like a gated community, and transact.

What about the startup team and investments?

Right now, it is only me. The advisory part of the business is bootstrappable. The events part, I expect revenues to kick in within the first year, the time that will be required to conceptualise and market them. As a startup, I would not like to be locked in with a huge employee base. Instead, outsourced partnership model works as you can rampup and rampdown according to business demands.

Will we see you help create another Infosys and Wipro?

Well, there are lots of companies who want to be the next Infosys or Wipro. If a company comes to me and tells me, I do everything like Wipro but I am still small. I would tell them, please do something different. There are 100s of companies wanting to do the same thing but the need today is to be a differentiator.

What is connection between Paul Writer Strategic Advisory and coffee plantations?

Traditionally, managers of tea estates were called writers. These writers were the trusted advisors of owners and were engaged in taking the crop to market and getting the right value. I want to be the trusted writer to the owner of the brand. Besides, my grandfather was a writer and I have written a book. So, it just sounded international and smart. I also think you tend to work harder if your name is there on your door.

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