The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown hit all businesses, especially the real estate sector and the job markets. In a situation where businesses are still looking for solutions to continue operations, Info Edge, the company that runs 99acres, naukri.com and Jeevansathi.com, has managed to tackle the situation carefully and has returned to pre-pandemic levels of business.
In an interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, Sumeet Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, Info Edge, said all their businesses witnessed a sharp dip during the initial lockdown months. However, with normalcy returning, green shoots are visible now.
“Both naukri.com and 99acres saw a huge dip in platform metrics, including traffic and new jobs and listings. Our own Naukri JobSpeak index saw a decline of 18% in hiring in March 2020, followed by a steep decline of over 60% in April. All businesses were witnessing this for the very first time with no playbook to look up to. The current crisis hit everyone much harder since it was closely related to health and personal well-being and not just limited to the economic upheaval. As the new normal seeped in, we started seeing green shoots across our businesses post three weeks into the lockdown. At Naukri, the job-seeker traffic and engagement metrics picked up,” she said.
Asked how businesses have picked up ever since the lockdown restrictions were eased, Singh said activities on the three platforms are back to 90% of last year’s levels. “We have seen a 25-30% increase in Jeevansathi traffic during the last few months. Of course, the situation is a little different in different cities. We are growing 25-30% in the emerging markets already but in the big cities like Mumbai and Delhi, we are still down 25-30% because they have probably been impacted more by the lockdown and the crisis.”
Singh said they have explored different strategies for the three platforms and are giving more importance to technology to reach out to consumers. “Across businesses, we continue to invest heavily in product development and analytics. We firmly believe that this is the right time to leverage newer technologies like AI/ML to improve our product offerings backed by huge data that we assimilate and analyse from our consumers and clients periodically,” she said.
The company recently developed and launched the ‘Step-Up’ initiative to help the job-seeking community during these times. Apart from the live company hiring tracker that could help job-seekers find relevant jobs, there is curated useful content and courses that could help job-seekers up-skill, build optimism and inspire them.
“HR heads from top brands across India give practical advice on job search and hiring trends through live webinars conducted weekly. We also offered a free bouquet of hiring services to recruiters in critical industries such as medical, healthcare and pharma. In addition, within Naukri Resdex, which is India’s largest resume database, we created a separate filter for all laid-off employees who mark their profiles as ‘Immediately available to join’, thus expediting frictionless recruiter discovery of these profiles,” said Singh.
They also ventured into outplacement services on naukri.com as many businesses were forced to let go of their workforce. “A lot of our clients approached us for this service and given the circumstances, we found it to be a feasible business proposition. Naukri FastForward Transition services are designed to support employers in outplacement of their employees, thus helping them in every aspect. The services include motivational speaker workshops, specialised one-on-one counselling sessions with experts as well as job assistance services like resume writing, resume display and mock interview sessions,” said Singh.
For 99acres, they conducted surveys to understand the consumers. “In our real estate business 99acres, traffic as well as listings were badly hit as the government made the lockdown announcement. However, one month into the lockdown, we started seeing weekly green shoots in our metrics. In our endeavour to understand and help our stakeholders, we undertook detailed dipsticks with them periodically. While in the first wave in April, the sentiment wasn’t upbeat and a lot of consumers told us that they would postpone buying a house by a year. The trends reversed in the second wave in June. Many of our clients confirmed to us that serious buyers are back in the market and the conversion rates have improved drastically.”
Singh said unlike the other businesses, Jeevansathi was not hit and witnessed a 25-30% increase in traffic. “Interestingly, we had launched the video profile and video calling feature in January, backed by extensive consumer research. The usage of these features grew by almost 5X during the lockdown where physical meetings were not possible and a lot of consumers went ahead and explored video calling with their potential matches. Many consumers have written back to us with their success stories on finding the right match even in these times, thanks to the brand.”
Speaking about the marketing strategy of the three brands, Singh said importance is being given to performance and content marketing. “Across naukri.com and 99acres, we had stopped advertising after the lockdown announcement, given that all key metrics declined sharply at that time. However, as we started seeing week on week improvements, we started pushing the pedal on our performance marketing initiatives. As far as the marketing mix goes, we shifted from brand building to heavily focusing on performance and content marketing.”
Discussing how companies like Info Edge must communicate in such situations, she said marketers should focus on communicating the right message to the consumers and stakeholders in such a situation. “In this situation, what has worked for us foremost is conserving cash, watching how the new normal played out and re-aligning our strategy accordingly. Apart from this, forming deep connections with key stakeholders is the key. Constant communication with the right messaging to your consumers, be it job-seekers and buyers on one hand, or recruiters and builders and brokers on the other, is very important. While you might not be able to spend huge monies in advertising but still connecting with key stakeholders through other mediums like digital can have a lasting positive impact.”
Asked if there is an over-dependence on digital, Singh said the digital medium is important to them. “All our products across recruitment, real estate and matrimony are digital products. Specifically for us, we have product offerings at serious life-stages of our consumers. Hence, the digital medium becomes key for us and digital and content marketing form important pillars of our marketing strategy,” she added.