To be young and king of your domain is a happy probability if you choose to work in digital marketing. Here is where 20-somethings get to tell senior executives what to do. Digital marketing experts are in high demand. They help companies go online, and make businesses visible through various ways, like search engine optimization and social media advertising.

Digital is the official mantra too—the Union government will launch its “Digital India" programme on 1 July. The programme aims to digitize government records, promote digital literacy and make citizens “digitally empowered".

We speak to three professionals, who tell us that digital marketing is more than just designing Web pages and advertising online.

Mithun Cotha, 29

Manager, social media analytics, Autumn Worldwide, Bengaluru

Cotha began his career as a social media analyst in 2009. “It was a difficult job market then. I had just completed my MBA with a specialization in supply chain management (from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, US). I gave a lot of interviews, but nothing seemed suitable. Then Autumn, a newly opened digital agency, was hiring for a new project in social media marketing for a large IT company," he says. He joined as the first analyst, working on two-three brands, and became a manager in 2011. Today, he heads a social media team of 24 people and works on 12 brands, including Microsoft, Wipro, PepsiCo and Burger King.

Typical day: Cotha’s first task is data analysis. “This data comes from multiple platforms and is highly unstructured. A snacking brand may have 300 conversations on it," he says. Cotha uses algorithms to analyse the data, and prepares a daily email report for the brand manager.

If there has been an alert the night before—say, a negative comment on Twitter for one of the brands Cotha works on—he prefers sending a more personalized response than the standard one of “Thank you for your comment. Our customer care will get back to you".

After the daily analysis and reports have been sent out, Cotha starts work on a measurement system for a new advertising campaign for, say, a food brand. Then there are client meetings, presentations and more analysis.

Trends in the digital space: The potential in social media advertising is huge, says Cotha, because you are reaching the right people at a fraction of the cost. “Today, the feedback is instant. You can upload something and measure reactions and responses to it. We have 300 million people online in India. That is not even 20% of all Indians. So you see the potential," he says.

People he follows on social media: Internet guru Jeremiah Owyang, entrepreneur-author Seth Godin, and digital marketing analyst Brian Solis. He also follows websites like ScoopWhoop, Social Samosa, Lighthouse Insights, Storypick and TechCrunch.

Biggest achievement: Getting an innovation award at Autumn in 2014 for devising an approach to analysing data. The team looked at 30,000 conversations and devised parameters like brand health, imagery and consumption, taking qualitative data and finding a way to put numbers on it.

Skills needed: Apart from technical skills like excellence in statistics and Excel programming, a digital marketer must be willing to learn—because things in this medium change every day and everybody’s knowledge suddenly vanishes if there’s a new project. “Patience, because if you lose patience with the data, it’s disastrous. Also an attention to detail," he adds.

Compensation: With four-five years of experience, a manager can easily make 9-15 lakh per annum.

Sidharth Rao, 35

Ceo and co-founder, Webchutney, Mumbai

Sidharth Rao dropped out of college in New Delhi in 1997. He made a portfolio of his creative work (“really kiddish in retrospect," he says), and made rounds of advertising agencies in the Capital, looking to intern as a copywriter. Three months into his job search, he found a position at Grey Worldwide in the Capital in 1998. This was the time when digital advertising had just begun and Rao, who enjoyed working in advertising, noticed that digital firms in the US were doing well. “I was tracking firms like (Boston, US, headquartered) Sapient Corp. and getting excited about it."

So in 1999, when Rao decided to start his own agency, digital was the logical growth space to specialize in. This was just before the dot-com bust and digital was an expanding sector and a less competitive space. Rao and a senior colleague, Sudesh Samaria, left Grey Worldwide to start Webchutney.

The start-up didn’t earn much initially, but Rao was unfazed. The company weathered the dot-com bust and things began to pick up in 2004. It started becoming known for its trendy digital ads. Besides e-commerce companies, Webchutney began working with companies like Airtel and MasterCard. In May 2013, media and communications network Dentsu India acquired majority stake in Webchutney.

Typical day: “I might spend the morning working on a pitch to (e-commerce company) Flipkart on how to increase mobile downloads or which category of goods to focus more on," says Rao.

Rao spends a significant portion of his time on business development and meeting key clients. An equal amount of time is spent in interacting with the Webchutney team—there are 85 employees in Mumbai, 100 in New Delhi, and 15 in Bengaluru.

Trends in the digital space: “In the next few years, online advertising is going to become irrelevant. The next 200 million Internet users will come from mobile, and mobile as a medium has not been designed for advertising. Marketers have tried to do banner ads, but have not made much headway. There’s really no innovative mobile advertising.

“So, for a digital agency to stay relevant, it has to go beyond advertising, and mutate into the tech-consulting space. Because the Internet is not just a medium to advertise, it’s a business challenge. Campaigns will be about driving billions of dollars worth of transactions through a website, to work on operational problems or on customer relationship management programmes, etc.," says Rao.

People he follows on social media: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of computer services company Netscape, Fred Wilson, co-founder of venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, and Peter Thiel of online payments system PayPal.

Biggest achievement: “We pioneered the concept of viral marketing, making ads like Chidiya Udi and Chalo Lanka for MakeMyTrip, which won the gold and silver, respectively, for digital marketing at the ABBY awards in 2006," says Rao.

Skills needed: “You need to be much more than a creative person with a ponytail; you need knowledge of social media, analytics, and to understand tech," says Rao.

Compensation: A fresher would get around 2.5 lakh per annum; salaries at the director level can go up to 1 crore

Benedict Hayes, 35

Vice-president, iProspect Communicate 2, Mumbai

In 2003, Hayes quit his selling job to join Web Diversity, a London-based start-up, and discovered digital marketing. “It (digital marketing) is selling, but there’s technology behind it. You might use the same principles like psychology, but you underpin it with data solutions," he says. And he has stayed with digital marketing since—first at Webdiversity, then at Tamar in London, and now at iProspect Communicate 2. Hayes moved to India in 2010. “I had worked in Mumbai before, setting up an India team for Web Diversity. So when Vivek (Bhargava, founder of iProspect Communicate 2) suggested I come to Mumbai and work with him, I handed in my papers at Tamar," he says.

Typical day: “My task is to question clients: ‘What is the fundamental business problem that you have? And how can I develop a digital solution to make that problem go away?’" says Hayes. He interacts with 60-70 clients at various times and various locations. “I could be in a bank talking about banking and digital solutions, and an hour later, I could be at an e-commerce website talking about how to sell dresses, it’s all very eclectic and colourful," he says.

Besides client meetings, there are digital workshops and events. Attending these help him keep up with technology that keeps changing. “The platforms we work on—like Google, Bing and Facebook—are always being built upon and evolving," he says. “With clients in the UK and the US, whom we do outsourcing work for, there are always calls coming in and emails, so I am always on my phone."

Trends in the digital space: “India is still a bit like the Wild West—it gives you the opportunity to use technologies that can profile the customer, in terms of who they are, where they are and what content they are looking at," says Hayes. “This makes it a gold mine from a marketer’s perspective, who can know who to target, at what time and where. It makes the effectiveness of media money 100x," he says.

People he follows on social media: Rand Fishkin, co-founder of search advisory firm Moz, Google Webspam’s Matt Cutts and Ankita Gaba, co-founder of social media news portal Social Samosa.

Biggest achievement: “I had a client called Purple Parking who sold parking lots at airports. He had one park. This was in 2005 while I was working with Web Diversity. We set up affiliations to other parks in other airports, and we made sure he was No.1, filling tens of thousands of parking spots a month from literally nothing. It was exciting building a business from scratch and having such a happy client," says Hayes.

Skills needed: Good analytical skills, math, good English. “I would rather not have CVs that list every skill under the sun, and then can’t back these up. I’d prefer honest CVs with candidates who have the right attitude and the hunger and ability to learn," he adds.

Compensation: A senior manager/vice-president would get 40-50 lakh per annum.

Every month, we explore a profession through the lives of three executives at different stages in their careers. Tell us which profession you want to know more about at businessoflife@livemint.com

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