India is home to more than half a billion smartphone users. Coupled with factors like a developing telecom sector and more affordable internet connectivity, the smartphone revolution has propped more sources of information and interaction for users. The opportunity has also paved the way for digital marketing wherein brands are leveraging digital adoption to reach out to their targeted audience.
It has emerged as an effective tool of brand engagement that uses technology to offer businesses actionable insights about consumer behaviour. In that context, Jaipur-based Drive Digital is working towards empowering local and international brands with digital marketing and helping them scale by widening their user base.
The company was established by Prakash Mishra in 2011 while he was just 18 and pursuing his Bachelor’s degree. He first got to know about digital marketing while assisting his father in his carpet business. “My father had several international clients and he had roped in a digital marketing company to boost the company’s online presence. While helping my father, I started exploring digital marketing and then got interested in it,” says Prakash.
While observing what digital marketing could do for businesses, Prakash saw a business opportunity in a niche sector that India was just about waking up to. “My family didn’t want me to start a new business as they wanted to join my father. But, I went against them to launch Drive Digital,” he adds.
More than a decade later, the company is making strides by working with over 600 active brands and helping them with Google Ads, Facebook marketing and even creating content to help with brand promotion in different languages including Spanish and French.
“I barely knew anything about digital marketing or search engine optimisation. Back when I started, the internet was just a means of making friends on social media or playing games. Also, I never had a technical degree that could help me in this field, so I learned a lot on the go and by trial and error,” he explains.
Learning the ropes to scale ahead
Talking about the difficulties he faced while launching the company, Prakash says that initially he found it difficult to get clients to trust his team as he didn’t have a formal education in the field. “I had a master’s degree in mathematics. So, clients were hesitant in working with us. We are still facing the challenge but now we have our work to speak for itself,” he adds.
Over the years, the team managed to tackle these challenges with their dedication to deliver and help clients ramp up their audience reach. “We strive to offer simple solutions for complex problems by leveraging technology. Moreover, we analyze our clients’ assets and business before drafting a suitable digital marketing strategy to ensure the best outcome,” he adds.
A key pillar of Drive Digital’s success story is its .in extension. “I had settled on the name ‘Drive Digital’ for my company and it was only available with a .in extension. However, over the years the decision has worked well for me in more than one way. For starters, a .in domain has helped us establish our identity as an India-based digital marketing company. It is an instant reminder to people and even our international clients,” he says.
Prakash also says that the .in domain name has boosted Drive Digital’s SEO presence which makes it easier for the company to reach out to international clients.
The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has helped hundreds of businesses across sectors and sizes distinguish themselves as a brand with its .in or .Bharat domain — which is India’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). It’s among the few internet exchanges in the world to offer a ccTLD in multiple languages.
Prakash believes that a .in extension gives small businesses and brands the advantage of defining their niche on the basis of their geographical location. “Apart from helping a business establish itself as an Indian entity, it also offers the advantage of good and quality traffic and audience reach.”
Why the future of marketing is digital
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a gamechanger for the digital marketing industry. From leading brands to explore online marketplaces to pushing existing e-commerce brands to pivot almost overnight, the crisis catalysed digital marketing as an effective communication tool.
Talking about his experience of running a business during the pandemic, Prakash says that COVID-19 took everyone by surprise and has accelerated digital transformations across industries. “Earlier, small brands didn’t feel the need to launch e-commerce stores and there were several doctors who shifted away from online consultations. However, the pandemic changed all that. The crisis made them realise the importance of a digital presence in getting a customer to trust them,” he explains.
He also said that he saw several businesses shutting down because they hadn’t anticipated the surge in digital adoption and weren’t agile enough to undergo a digital transformation almost overnight.
“We had a hair transplant surgeon as one of our clients. When COVID-19 struck, the surgeon and his hospital faced some challenging times as the patient count dipped massively. It was then that we suggested that the hospital maintain a digital presence. We launched some of their medicines online websites . He says his team created buzz about the product through engaging articles and posting interactive videos about the product and its benefits.
If there was one lesson that the pandemic taught businesses it was that brands can’t ignore digital adoption any longer. “They need to have an online as well as an offline presence to survive changes in consumer behaviour. Most people like to know a bit about a brand before giving it a try and the internet is often their first source of information.”
In the near future, Drive Digital plans to roll out engaging digital marketing strategies for Assamese startups and businesses.
The Shaping India Inc’s Online Growth series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.