Growing urbanisation and digitisation to fuel HP's expansion in India: Neelima Burra, Country Marketing Director, HP Inc.

Technology brand HP has partnered with Royal Challengers Bangalore to build an emotional connect with consumers through passion marketing. In an interview with, Burra talks about ROI that IPL brings in, the commoditisation of technology and how to make non technology users to use technology in day-to-day life

Akansha Srivastava
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Growing urbanisation and digitisation to fuel HP's expansion in India: Neelima Burra, Country Marketing Director, HP Inc.

Nikhil Sosale-Head of Business Partnerships-RCB, Ashish Nehra-Bowling Coach-RCB & Neelima Burra-Country Marketing Director-HP India

Neelima Burra, Country Marketing Director, HP Inc. India, is highly focused on connecting her consumers to the brand through emotional and local ties. She has a strong belief that it is emotional connect which will ensure that the consumer stands by a brand.

On the sidelines of an event to announce HP’s partnership with Royal Challengers Bangalore, BestMediaInfo caught up with Burra to understand more about the marketing strategies behind this association.

Burra termed this as a part of ‘passion marketing’, a term which is comparatively new to the Indian market. She said, “Passion marketing is one of the ‘in’ things. Till now, we have only explored reality shows and Bollywood. But globally, look at how sports, especially e-sports, is building up. In India, it’s still growing. It is all about how you engage with your consumers more passionately, through the genres they are associated with, due to their passion and obsession.”


What do you intend to do with this partnership?

India is the youngest economy with 27 years being the median age of the consumers in India. Hence, we call it a millennial economy. As a leader brand across the globe, while we want to be relevant for all generations, today’s association is about connecting back to millennials and the cultural context of the country.

This connection intends to talk about the new values that the brand wants to communicate. Brand HP is for the young India who is shaping the country’s economy, who wants to shape their careers, life and work better. It’s our ambition to partner with many such activations in the country.

How will this partnership with RCB benefit HP?

This is not the first time we have associated with sports. Back in 2009, before acquiring Compaq, we had sponsored this. There are three mega things that drive the culture of this country – cricket, Bollywood and festivals. We have always been associated with Bollywood through Shah Rukh Khan and then Deepika Padukone. We have also been doing a lot of communication around festivals. What we have not been doing of late was cricket.

Since this is something inevitable and connects 70% of the Indian population – be it SEC A, B or C, male or female, tier I or II – to the language of cricket and hence it was important for us.

What kind of ROI are you looking for?

Ashish Nehra said in his address during the event that he is not a technology guy. All he knows is how to use the green and the red button. Biggest RoI for me would be if I can make him use technology for taking his coaching and mentoring sessions. That will be success for me.

Nehra is just symbolic to India where the penetration of technology is still not more than 15%. If I am able to convert him to use technology and acquire more people to do that, that’s my RoI. It will take me a little longer, but that’s what I am looking for. I am looking at expanding the market, expanding the usage and acquiring more consumers to really use technology in order to make better decisions.

Also, how much investment has been made in this partnership?

It is an expensive property, yes! But which brand association is not expensive. This is more like ‘one-time investment’ that goes into it. IPL has consumer connect, viewership and the quality of viewership is very good. People are glued to this medium.

Awareness is not a problem for the brand, with about 97% of the people saying that they know HP. But the bigger thing is to promote the features that will attract you as a non-technology person to the brand. With this platform, we will try to showcase and enable – be it consumers or cricket on social media or on-ground – how you can use HP for day-to-day purposes. To me, that is the RoI. Of course numbers will happen.

The partnership is invaluable since all big brands are involved here – be it RCB, Virat Kohli or HP.

So how would HP go beyond logo presence, in case of RCB association?

We have a complete 360 degree media plan around it which is digital, social engagement and on ground with channel partners and consumers. We have BBDO on board which is our global agency. We have multiple agencies working for the digital bit for us.

We are seeing that more and more tech companies are now partnering with sports events. What’s the main reason behind it?

It’s not just technology companies. If you go closer to this, we are little far behind than the other countries in the world. Passion marketing is one of the ‘in’ things.

Till now, we have only explored reality shows and Bollywood. But globally look at how sports and especially e-sports is building up. In India, it’s still growing. As of now, we have used sports more for branding, not yet for driving passion for a genre or a brand or an activity. We have not used it to that extent, neither the tech companies, nor the FMCG, nor any other sector. It is at best logo presence.

But passion marketing is growing. It is all about how you engage with your consumers more passionately, through the genres they are associated with, due to their passion. Not on account of passive viewing.

I don't think anyone is talking or discussing about it. I am sure the marketers will be aware of this, but may be they don’t see this as an opportunity. Being a global brand, I know how global marketing is moving and how things are shaping up. We have a gaming brand called Omen. We are big in the e-sports area and I know the entire madness, obsession and passion that go with it. It is a community-based marketing which has got fan following, engagement, emotions and connect. That’s why I am going to put this across, for the first time. This is just a beginning for us to see how sports and the brands can connect and drive the brand’s affinity through passion marketing. You will hear me more talking on passion marketing that will help brands grow.

For brands, the most important things are the love mark, the emotional connect and the loyalty that I can create with it.

Technology is more or less like a commodity. What is going to remain and have a lasting impression in consumers’ minds is how they are emotionally attached to the brand. Emotions have to be at the centre and once that happens, the passion to be marketed is the only way to have a lasting impact of the brand.

It's up to the marketers to look at their associations beyond logo presence. To my mind, logo presence is a very passive way to look at it.

What are your plans to promote the gaming category?

Millennials, youth, gaming, playing and being passionate about certain field of exposure that I want to have, is an ‘in’ thing. With the youth connect, gaming and sports go together. We have a range of brands waiting to cater to that need. We are one of the leading players in that segment and we will continue to do a lot in that space.

Indians have a lot of passion for dance and music too, but we see only FMCG brands like Amul and Patanjali investing money there. The bigger and international brands are all looking at sports. Why so?

There is a lot better way to engage in sports. There’s energy, enthusiasm to showcase. The brand’s active life is far more easier here.

What is HP’s near-term goal in terms of market share and to maintain that, what would be the brand’s strategy?

HP continues to be the leader. As a leading brand, our concern is to have far more emotional and culturally relevant association. Our vision is definitely to route the brand in the cultural code of the country. That's where you will see far more associations in the future which will bring the brand closer to the life of Indian consumers.

You will see more of regional and local content associations too – whatever helps the brand to be culturally rooted.

Other than focussing on building technology and innovation, how much role does brand-building plays in the growth of any tech company?

Brand building actually enables you to ensure that whatever be the situation, the consumer will stick to that brand. This means that there is an emotional connect with the consumer which is beyond the product, commodity or pricing. It’s not just for tech companies, but for any other company which is relevant. It is more relevant for tech, because technology can be very cold. Going forward, what will be more relevant is how emotions and human touch is given to the big data and technology.

If you don't associate the brand with human and emotional insights, everything is virtual, technology and data. To my mind, the differentiator going forward would be to drive human emotions and insights into the brand building.

We see a lot of growth coming from tier II and III cities too. How does the market look in the rural areas for tech companies?

Penetration has to yet increase. It is increasing and will continue to. The next level of growth, if you speak is from urbanisation and premiumisation. This will come from tier II, tier III towns and rural markets. Even in rural, premium brands sell. Every strata of the socio-economic classification of the country will have a premium and a massy segment. That will continue to drive the economy. By 2020, urbanisation is going to be the bigger contributor to the economic growth and as HP we are far better placed than any other companies to be leveraging that.

Wherever technology usage will happen, HP will be there as a leader brand. Anyone’s first choice is HP.

What is HP’s media focus and how much budget will be allocated to all mediums?

We have higher spends on digital because that is how content is being consumed better. That continues to be our focus area.

HP Inc Neelima Burra