EXCLUSIVE | Amita Karwal, HH Global India: Urgent need for refreshed thinking, thoughtful innovations

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Amita Karwal, Managing Director, HH Global India, in an exclusive chat with Mediabrief, discusses HH Global India’s procurement and creative production services, its commitment to sustainability, how the pandemic disrupted the retail sector, and shares her learnings from 2020. And more. Read on.

Amita is an industry veteran with more than three decades of experience in the marketing and media industry. She has been instrumental in making HH Global one of the largest marketing solutions companies in India, by leveraging her multisectoral proficiency in unlocking value for clients. Under her leadership, HH Global India has acquired marquee brands, retained legacy relationships, and has developed a unique management culture that is client-centric and has an impetus on making the company future-ready through technology-driven solutions, automation in processes, and AI-driven data analysis.

Amita has worked across categories and segments in the space of marketing solutions, aggregation and brand communications. She has handled several leadership roles in the media, consumer electronics and FMCG industry working with market leaders such as Dentsu Aegis Network, Omnicom, ZenithOptimedia, Samsung, and RB.

Tell us about the various services HH Global India offers and what sets it apart from its competitors?

HH Global (India) is a leader in marketing solutions, and a trusted partner to leading brands across 50 countries. HH Global offers agnostic and assessment-led outsourced procurement and creative production services to deliver maximum value for the clients, that not only boost economic profits but also balance environmental savings. Its solutions and service lines range from customer experience, content development, print, retail environments, procurement services including POS, luxury packaging, promotional products, and guarantee savings delivery through a transparent model.

What makes us different is our ability to adapt, evolve and respond to new opportunities. In this age of digital disruption, emerging technologies and changing retail environment, HH Global’s procurement experts, track record for innovation, and commitment to sustainability, make us the first-choice partner for the world’s leading brands.

Tell us about HH Global India’s client roster, the team, and its footprint in India?

Founded in 1991, HH Global is a leading global outsourced marketing execution provider to some of the world’s largest brands. Applying proven processes, industry-leading technology, and the deep expertise of over 3300+ employees, we develop innovative solutions that drive down the cost of our clients’ physical marketing procurement and content development, while improving quality, sustainability, and speed to market.

In the outsourcing sector, HH Global India has been a reliable marketing solutions partner for about thirty years now. We provide omnichannel marketing execution services across 50 countries (across Europe, US, Latin America, Middle East and Asia-Pacific), 6 continents and supports customers in over 90 countries. We boast a long-term relationship with fortune 500 businesses including some of the largest and most progressive global brands and a track record of holding outstanding client retention.

HH Global Istarted operations in 2008 in India and has a presence across 22 states with employees stationed across 16 states. It encompasses over 172 experienced creative production, print and POS management staff and a strong audited supplier network of 700+ suppliers.

How does HH Global India help brands become more visible amidst the disruptive retail environment? How have you been creating next-gen omnichannel customer experience journeys across the retail sector?

In this age of digital disruption, emerging technologies and changing retail environment, HH Global India is at the forefront helping brands with digital solutions at all retail touchpoints including content management systems and AI driven point of sale analysis. We are helping brands in ensuring that their brand is visible amidst the disruptive retail environment and help in managing the last mile delivery to enhance the customer’s shopping journey and experience.

Further, we have kept our ears to the ground, building strong shopper insights that have helped us to create immersive technology solutions that will allow consumers to interact with our brands seamlessly and safely in the new normal. Our agile culture has helped us to create a diversified supply chain that brings in unique interactive technology interventions at different steps of the shopper journey.

How has HH Global India been disrupting marketing supply chain workflows to create value for clients? Owing to the Bricks and Mortar model taking a hit during the lockdown. How did HH Global help its clients navigate through the pandemic?

The pandemic made it more important than ever for brands to optimize their spends and improve their business bottom line, as they invest millions in ‘above the line’ (ATL) media to boost brand awareness and recognition. Today, marketing and procurement leaders are finding themselves needing to accomplish more with less, stretching themselves further to keep budgets manageable and competitive edges sharp.

HH Global India ensures that marketing collaterals are managed in a cost-effective and sustainable manner with agile turnarounds, thereby acting as a key lever in optimizing the marketing spend and unlocking value to the brand’s bottom line. We are reinventing the industry through an innovative business model that delivers increased efficiency in the marketing execution process, reduced costs, less wastage, faster time to market, consolidation of spend, innovation, and creativity, without compromising on risk and quality.

The print and POS management category in India has been largely commoditized over the past many years with a limited value proposition to brands. HH Global has raised the bar in terms of client satisfaction by ensuring that print, POS aggregation and outsourced procurement becomes a key initiative for clients to optimize their bottom line.

How have brands and customer expectations changed post-COVID in the retail industry?

Pandemic has disrupted the retail environment like never before. The yesteryear Kirana stores which accounted for 75% of the segment have emerged as HEROS. As these stores became the neighbourhood lifeline, we now see many of them getting transformed from cluttered shop environments into safe, contact-less self-service stores with speedy delivery offered as a convenience to customers.

Modern Retail, which accounts for 18% of the pie has taken a severe beating during COVID and is now building a revival strategy around Omni channel experience, that relies on quick entry and quick exit for customers. Product displays are changing from being static to more interactive and content based. Virtual assistant, though very nascent, also will see playing an active role in supporting shopper journeys as Modern trade transforms into experience stores as well.

E commerce which has seen accelerated growth with a steep jump from 3 to 6-7 % share will continue to grow as shopper’s choice of platform for convenience as well as premium purchase.

How has HH Global been communicating about its offering, what is its marketing approach?

At HH Global, we approach our prospective clients through our professional network. Typically, we always do an exhaustive study of the category and the possible pain points of our prospects, accordingly information on our services and solutions that mitigate/ resolve their pain points are shared through personalised business communication tools.

Such marketing tools are around providing print, POS and channel insights to the target prospects through structured white papers, newsletters and research findings. Word of mouth referrals from our existing clients also lend credence to our marketing initiatives.

How can brands maintain long-term relationships with customers in an increasingly competitive market? What role does customer-centricity play for HH global?

In the last few years, the corporate world has moved from steady, planned growth to aggressive momentum which has challenged all its partners by way of cost optimization, demand for continuous improvement, result oriented performance, innovation that bring brands and consumers up close in the newest ways possible.

Today, we are seeing technology transforming business processes, replacing manpower through machine learning, data sciences building large algorithms that helps in adoption of predictive modelling. All this is challenging us to yet again rethink and reinvent our business models to adapt to client needs as well to the changing consumer behaviour.

HH Global’s philosophy is centred around customer centricity.  We have developed a unique management culture that is singularly client-centric and has an impetus on making the company future-ready through technology-driven solutions, automation in processes, and A. I. driven data analysis.

At the heart of HH Global lies its key values; acting with integrity, pursuing excellence relentlessly and love to innovate and take lead.

Tell us about HH Labs and HH Global India’s other technological innovations. How can these help modern brands?

HH Global supports its clients through an award-winning, internal idea incubator – HH Labs. It is our idea incubator for active employee brainstorming across the global business and is dedicated to delivering uniquely visionary solutions to access the next level of success. Demonstrating and delivering HH Global’s commitment to innovation and collaboration, it unites stakeholders, from suppliers to support staff, helping respond to client challenges and accelerate their own ideas.

Through workshops, themed events, and client roundtables, HH Labs promotes approved projects to the wider HH Global business, by educating colleagues and gathering feedback that checks and challenges the research. These are extended to clients through forums, Innovation Days, and “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

HH Labs rolls out ideas almost as fast as the industry creates new channels. Some of the most successful solutions offered to clients surfaced in HH Labs, including digital web keys, augmented reality, Near Field Communications, invisible watermarking, and 3D printing.

What is the Quality Printer Program, and how has it helped the company with its commitment to sustainability?

The industry is consciously moving towards creating sustainable agenda across all levels of production, be it manufacturing or while producing collaterals. I believe we are entering a world of responsible consumerism which demands us to act ethically in business and daily lives. HH Global has been rated as ‘Gold’ in sustainability rating by ECOVADIS in the year 2020. This is a testimony of our commitment in relentlessly pursuing a sustainable agenda in our services to clients.

As a company, we follow the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals to drive sustainable solutions for our clients. Most of our clients have their sustainability agenda, we ensure that our solutions are not only dove-tailed to the client’s program but go above and beyond in terms of continuous improvement of the solutions to drive change. Each of our long-term client partnerships includes commitment to cost transparency, focus on quality, delivery of new ideas, and a pledge to reduce environmental impact. Hence, quality standards are key to our commitment to the stewardship of our client’s brands.

Printers that meet HH Global’s high standards for colour consistency and quality control receive our Quality Printer Program (QPP) certification. Colour management software calibrates printers to ISO 12647-2:2013 Graphic Technology: Colour Standard and G7 standard, therefore universalizing colour and substrates around the world. The results are that products are made right the first time. This cuts down waste, avoids reworks, and guarantees consistency. In a few weeks, QPP improves the overall quality and efficiency of participating printers, reducing costs.

What were your learnings from 2020 personally and professionally? 

Over the last one year, I have seen technology transform business process like never before through the advancement of new-age technologies such as machine learning, data sciences, etc. This has created an urgent need for refreshed thinking, thoughtful innovations and reinvested business models that could not just drive growth for the company but for the entire industry to stand out, by adapting to evolving client needs as well to the changing consumer behaviour.

Today, the role that regulation and compliance has started playing in business has also increased. This is good from a future standpoint as any scale cannot be sustained if it is not managed without risk mitigation and responsible corporate behaviour. The industry is consciously moving towards creating sustainable agenda across all levels of production and we are entering a world of responsible consumerism which demands us to act ethically in business and daily lives.

Personally, as well as professionally, my journey with HH Global has been a great learning. My belief in ‘team work driven by positive affirmations’ has been reinforced in these difficult times. Furthermore, on a personal level, I experienced that adversity brings out the best in people, as in the case of my team and suppliers. Empowerment, empathy and encouragement are the three ‘E’s that have ensured that HH Global retained its leadership position, in India, over the last year.