Executive Exchange with Subhasis Ghosh
CDP Summit 2023 (India)

  • September 27, 2023
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Lemnisk hosted a Customer Data Platform (CDP) In-Person Summit for the India region on June 8th, 2023 at Hotel ITC Grand Central, Mumbai. The CDP Summit’s aim was to make enterprise marketers understand how they could supercharge their marketing ROI using CDP-led hyper-personalization. This article focuses on the “Executive Exchange” session with Subhasis Ghosh, Joint President, Kotak Life Insurance.


Subhasis has spent over three decades in the BSFI sector. Being a valuable member of the Kotak Group, he has spent 29 years of his esteemed career with them covering Life Insurance, Corporate Finance, Treasury, Marketing, and Retail Assets. In an alternate reality, he would have liked to be either a school teacher teaching English or an Economist. He’s also a part-time student of history that has not been taught, Indic customs and stories, and the Mahabharata.


executive exchange with Subhasis Ghosh, Kotak Life


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The main takeaways from the one-on-one chat between Subhasis and Sabyasachi Mitter, Chief Founder & MD, Fulcro, are as follows:


Executive Exchange with Subhasis Ghosh


1. As a joint president of a company in the Kotak Group, how important do you see the vision of giving the best to every single consumer across the entire value chain?


When I joined the company, it had around 200-300 employees. When we became a bank in 2003, we just had 2000 employees. Today, we have one lakh employees. We didn’t have the brand of SBI or ICICI. The only thing that we could do was to gain trust by providing the right customer service and experience to customers. The moment of truth in a life insurance company is the payment of the claim. A maturity claim will come 10 or 15 years later, but a death or illness claim will come much earlier. What we decided to do was to pay the claim as fast as possible.


We realized that if we had to succeed at Kotak, we needed three things:
– the service of Jet Airways
– the trust of HDFC Limited
– the promise of service of Dominos


Jet Airways set the service standards in the Indian industry in services hospitality. When it came to the trust factor in the private sector, hardly anybody higher than HDFC is considered. The service delivery promise of Dominos – 30 minutes or your pizza is free, was amazing. So we’ve continuously aspired for the above.


Customer trust has become and is always the most important factor for us. Hence, we don’t have a choice in insurance. The customer will leave if we don’t provide good returns or service. It’s as simple as that.


2. Why do you think Kotak has also imbibed technology in marketing and its overall product offering? Is it because the customer is demanding it or is it because you believe that a merger of technology and marketing can give better service to the customer?


Yes, the second part is more correct. It’s not that we think technologies are a fad. Fads will come and go. We are very cautious about how much money we spend and the return on investment. We do not want to do experiments that blow up in our faces. Once this basic DNA is set, you just follow your DNA and to that, we found that if you harness technology and take full use of it, you will move much better.


3. You mentioned that Kotak is extremely cautious about not losing money. Yet, it has encouraged employees to experiment with technology, and solutions, and try things that were not done by other institutions. How does that culture of experimentation work?


When you have got your back covered, you tend to do the best. The reason why we take challenges is because we know that even if you fail you will not be dubbed a failure. So which is why we experiment all the time. But we always think of it as our money and not somebody else’s money. Therefore, we just put a little bit more effort to see that we squeeze the maximum out of each paisa. It’s just like if it was your own company what you would have done? That’s what we’re doing day in and day out.


3a. Any specific examples that come to your mind from your team at Kotak Life about this spirit of experimentation and what little success or breakthroughs have come out of that particular ethos?


We’ve tied up with Lemnisk. What we’ve done with them is that a lot of people visit our websites and they are anonymous. They just come through some source, visit our website, and move away. What we’ve tried to do is to try to understand which page of a website they came for. Did they come to buy protection? Did they come for a child policy? Did they come for an annuity?


The next time they come to our website, we try to approach them with a banner that takes them to where they last left off. We try to do browser push notifications if they’ve given the authority for that. When they come back, they would normally get a reminder of why they were there the last time. They can pick up the conversation from there and continue their user journey. Last year, we had a CTR of two percent of people who had dropped out completely and then came back. Although it is a small number, we did about 22 lakhs of Premium. We didn’t have to pay anybody any commission.


4. Whenever we speak to clients about customer data, they often say that their data sits in various silos, and getting a unified view of the customer is a challenge. What are your challenges in getting that unified view of the customer and how does that work at Kotak Life?


I’ll start at the beginning. We are a 22-year-old company. When we started, the customer data came through a proposal form that is filled mostly by an insurance agent. He would have got your name right but all other details may not be correct. Your email address would probably have the agent’s email ID, your age might be wrong, and your family details might be incorrect. That’s the biggest problem or challenge for us and insurance companies in general – poor data quality.


We can only correct your data if you come to the branch or contact the call center. To fix this, over the past few years, we have brought a lot of data validation to check if the mobile number entered has 10 digits, if the email address entered has a valid domain, etc. Most of our proposals are also now digitally filled.


Secondly, siloed data is the next challenge that we face. Another challenge is that insurance is a highly regulated industry like banking. A lot of things that other marketers take for granted we just can’t do. For example, moment-based marketing is popular with marketers today. But it doesn’t work for us because it takes too much time to get the compliance clearance.


5. Privacy is the other side of using data for marketing. Where do you see that thin line getting crossed?


I think it’s very problematic and when too much of you is out there your entire life can get influenced. Every footprint I leave electronically can be tracked and I can be truly manipulated to behave in a particular manner. I look at my pattern and then try to put Twitter campaigns or reach out to people who will vote or behave or who can be manipulated to vote or behave in a particular manner. Then that thin line between marketing for the good and pushing an agenda can and will get crossed.


6. As a very senior sales and marketing professional, what would be your advice to marketers today who are contemplating using a CDP or any martech platform? What are the things that they need to keep in mind?


I’m hardly in a position to advise people. But I believe in a Customer Data Platform whatever little I’ve understood of it.


You want to buy a product. So you research it on Google. Then you go through a few websites and read a few reviews. You go through a few websites of manufacturers and see what are the specifications. Then you go to the distributor and see who’s giving the best credit term or a faster delivery. On every step, you’re leaving your footprint and unknowingly you may have interacted with the brand that you’re ultimately buying from quite a few times during that day.


If they pick up the information every time you’re going to the website, you’re seeing it more personalized. That it is for me as if the brand is directly talking to me. Then you are more likely to go with that brand rather than the brand saying “I have this take it or leave it”. I think it’s very good that the brand is coming to you and saying I think we have what you want. A CDP does exactly that. Of course, there are data warehouses and data lakes but they are just data. But if you want to get close to the customer as of now I am not aware of something that could be as powerful as a CDP.


But having said that as I told you we are just scratching the surface. The CDP pilot has gone off well for Kotak Life. We’ll probably try more use cases and see how they work out. In the next two to three years, we will definitely go the CDP way.



By Bijoy K.B | Associate Director – Marketing at Lemnisk


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