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Are digital marketing courses helping the Indian online industry?

by Satrajit Sen

The growth of digital media in India has led to the need for trained professionals who could not only understand the nitty-gritty of digital marketing but also execute critical campaigns for clients on the internet. To cater to this growing need and also to help the professionals already working in the industry to keep up with the growing horizon of digital marketing, the industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and a number of organisations have started providing training programmes and certificate courses on digital media.

by Satrajit Sen

The growth of digital media in India has led to the need for trained professionals who could not only understand the nitty-gritty of digital marketing but also execute critical campaigns for clients on the internet. To cater to this growing need and also to help the professionals already working in the industry to keep up with the growing horizon of digital marketing, the industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and a number of organisations have started providing training programmes and certificate courses on digital media.

AlooTechie spoke to some of the course providers to understand their objectives of providing digital marketing training programmes in India and why do they think their students will gain an upper hand in digital marketing after taking these courses. We also caught up with some of the digital agencies to know what they think about these programmes and whether they have benefitted from these courses.

Mahesh Murthy, founder and chief executive officer, Pinstorm, a Mumbai-based digital marketing agency that also runs Digital Marketing Institute, said, “We know digital marketing will explode in India — not just because Indian marketers are taking to it but because overseas marketers will increasingly use Indian firms to deliver these services. And, guess what, no one here has learnt how to do digital marketing. So, who will staff the agencies and the clients if no one is trained?”

According to Murthy, the digital industry needs people who can understand social media, digital brand strategy, search marketing, search optimisation, impression-based media plans and more. “We looked around to see if any industry body was doing this and we got the support of IAMAI to offer our first courses. We need to create the industry from the ground up and you can’t do that without training,” he added.

Shraman Jha, business head, NIIT Imperia, which runs Advanced Programme in Digital Marketing in association with IAMAI, said that in India there is a gap that exists between digital marketers and their peers in conventional agencies and advertisers. “Unless this divide is bridged quickly and substantially, the internet and mobile platforms in India are unlikely to see a quantum leap,” Jha added.

Vivek Bhargava, managing director, Communicate2, is also in the process of launching digital marketing courses targeted towards senior digital professionals and senior management. According to Bhargava, the digital industry globally has grown from a few hundred million US Dollars to 40 billion USD and the digital industry in India is also expected to grow from Rs 500 crore to a few thousand crore rupees and there is also going to be a severe paucity of digital professionals in the country.

Bhargava further said that training must be a combination of expertise gained while executing digital campaigns in India and global best practises. “We have found a format of training that would allow us to deliver this and the format would be completely different than what is available currently,” he said.

Speaking on why his students will be in advantageous position while seeking jobs in the digital industry, Pradeep Chopra, co-founder, DigitalVidya, said that there is a very little entry barrier for a new comer to enter into this industry and that is the biggest challenge everyone is dealing with. “There is a scarcity of practical training and that is what we deliver in our BootCamps. At the same time, we can’t compensate for the industry experience,” Chopra added.

Tarini Mohinder, general manager, Ignitee Digital Solutions, which also runs a digital marketing programme called Ignition, said, “Ignition has been designed in such a way that interns first get a comprehensive understanding of what role each department of the agency plays. They can then choose to specialize in the field of their choice from client servicing, search and social marketing to online media. This gives them a firsthand understanding and experience which is very different from just learning in a classroom. They can add value to any organization right from day one.”

Mohinder further informed that Ignition is a ten month programme, where during the first three months the interns work with various online divisions, including creative, web development, client servicing, business development, strategy, search marketing, social media optimization and online media. For the next six months, the interns choose their area of specialization in client servicing, search and social marketing or online media and work on live projects. The last month is dedicated towards gearing up for placements, where the most interesting and promising aspect about the program is the guaranteed job in leading online agencies and companies. The interns receive a joint certification from Ignition and IAMAI at the end of the programme.

According to Vivek Bhargava of Communicate2, scarcity creates value and looking at the growth of the digital advertising industry in India and globally, the scarcity is creating a lot of value both in terms of better salary and response from companies. “A few professionals would never be able to do justice to various digital fields such as social media, search, digital strategy, mobile marketing and thus we have tried to create a format that taps into the best experts in each field,” Bhargava said.

Voicing his expectations from these programmes and courses, Harish Bahl, founder and CEO of Smile Interactive Technologies Group, said that there is indeed a big crunch of talent in the industry especially in creative, digital strategy and social media marketing departments. “Though we have not yet been benefitted by these courses, if the degree is a combination of some text book learning and some live work experience, we might give extra weightage to someone who has such degrees than someone who is a general graduate in any field,” Bahl said.

According to Vikas Tandon, managing director, Indigo Consulting, digital media is an emerging industry and hence it is difficult to find trained and experienced people. “In the areas of strategy, account planning management and project management the crunch is more because in the digital marketing world, these roles require the combination of various skills. However, even in areas like creative and technology, while the basic skill is there, an appreciation of the brand and user experience, which is essential to write good code, is missing,” he said. Tandon also said that these courses would hopefully expose the professionals and students to the facets and basics of the various disciplines, and if nothing else, help them make informed decisions as to what discipline they would like to opt for.

Answering a query on whether Indigo would give preference to someone who has such degrees than someone who is a general graduate in any field, Vikas Tandon said, “Yes, because that person would have some basic exposure and understanding of the field and hopefully be a little clearer as to what he or she is getting into.”

According to Sumanta Ganguly, client services director, M&C Saatchi, while the talent crunch is more in the areas of people who have experience in building digital infrastructure, planning and social media, digital marketing courses currently are focusing more on design and another set of courses focusing more on technology and development. “Unfortunately, I don’t see any holistic digital marketing management or strategy course that makes the cut in the current market. We have hired students having degree in development and design but none from digital marketing. However, we really need the specialists and would prefer to hire someone who has a specialised degree,” he added.

Raj Menon, COO, Contests2Win, said, “Since we are a creative boutique, most of our work is done in flash. The crunch is more in technical areas especially flash game programming. It is next to impossible to find good programmers who are proficient in AS2 and AS3.”

Menon further said that while digital marketing courses could help to an extent with theory, there is a world of difference when it comes to practice and hence he never gives extra preference to candidates who have done such courses or programmes. “We take pride in picking up freshers and grooming them to suit our requirements. In fact, when someone senior leaves us, we never bring in outsiders at senior levels, promoting internally. We just look for passion and if passion shines through, we don’t care about degrees or graduation marks,” Raj Menon said.

Voicing the challenges in operating such courses in India, Vivek Bhargava of Communicate2 said, “Though most marketers have digital in their media mix now and spend a good 20 to 30 per cent of their total budgets on digital, it is limited to clients from verticals such as finance and travel. Thus, digital reaching a critical mass is one of the biggest challenges that need to be solved and should be able to influence marketers from verticals like FMCG, auto, education etc.”

According to Tarini Mohinder of Ignitee, the biggest challenge so far has been to create ample awareness of ‘Ignition’ amongst the target audience. Besides, there is also a lack of awareness of digital media as a career option for people keen to get into the advertising and media field. Pradeep Chopra of DigitalVidya said that in training the professionals, there is a challenge to cater to their varying needs in terms of experience, expectations and organizational goals in the same setting.

Agreeing with Pradeep Chopra, Shraman Jha of NIIT Imperia said that the challenge has been to strike a balance between the needs of the more advanced members of the class who are keen on technical depth, and those who would like to have a more strategic view of the tools being taught.

According to Mahesh Murthy of Pinstorm, their first objective to start the course was selfish as Pinstorm wanted to hire a few bright ones from their own sessions. “The downturn last year slowed our growth plans and our hiring plans and hence training got limited, but we are hiring again and hence training again too,” he said. Murthy also said that there is a great demand for Pinstorm-trained people and that is because, in some ways, what an Ogilvy was to old media, Pinstorm is to new media.

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