Exertis’ Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, Vish Chhatralia

PCR Feb issue big interview: Exertis’ Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, Vish Chhatralia

PCR talks to exertis’ Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, Vish Chhatralia about its latest digital strategy

What does your role as Chief Digital and Marketing Officer involve?
I’ve been at Exertis just over a year now and I’m responsible for devising and implementing our digital strategy focusing on customer experience, marketing, digital services and operational efficiencies to drive frictionless trade and expansion of digital technologies across our organisation.

Digital is changing society, creating big opportunities for us to win at what we do. We believe tech is helping to create a more dynamic and exciting society for all – and we aim to be at the forefront of this, helping our customers and their consumers embrace the incredible opportunities ahead. Digital is also central to new ways for us to deliver better value for our customers. Developing customer engagement and loyalty, driving additional revenues and achieving new operational efficiencies are all key goals as well.

Fundamentally, this is about ease: our aim is to develop a fit and agile business that has all the tools to deliver value in a way that reflects a fast-changing world. That involves every aspect of the business: how we go to market, how customers trade and the data we use to make better decisions, as well as helping our people become more digitally literate. All of this will make us a digitally fit organisation.

How do you define ‘digital transformation’?
We believe we have an exciting opportunity, which gives us the chance to be of genuine value to society. Digital is a powerful way of making that happen, helping us evolve the way we go to market, and the way we use data to make real-time intelligent decisions.

It’s all about leveraging digital technology to enhance all aspects of our business and how we do things. The digital transformation has of course been well under way for many years, but 2020 and Covid-19 has drastically accelerated the movement of many consumer’s behaviour online. This presents challenges to our industry, but it’s also a huge opportunity to drive new innovations and efficiencies, as well as working with our customers and through our large portfolio of value-add services, helping them to adapt to live in the more digital-first, post-crisis world. Our recently launched Cloud Services Proposition is just one example of this. Digital gaming is another. The more we can use data to decide how we are going to deliver value, the more successful we will be.

What does Exertis’ digital transformation journey look like?
Exertis has grown a lot over the last few years and driving digital innovation and transformation globally is a key strategy. This is a very much a real team effort across the business, and we have lots of super-dynamic people driving it right across the business. This aspect is key: we’re building a digital business, not just a digital function.

We’re starting to do some really exceptional digital marketing, with powerful digital propositions like our Cloud proposition and Ztorm (to name just two). We’re also starting to use data in more powerful ways, as well as working on recruitment and development to drive a more digitally literate talent base and culture.

We launched Exertis Cloud at the end of last year and this is an important part of the company’s wider digital journey, focusing on customer experience, innovative marketing and digital services to drive trade, as well as the expansion of digital services across the organisation. We also executed a major migration for the business onto SAP, which also helps in giving us better access to the data on how we can drive value for customers.

Why is the shift to digital so important?
The growth of partners’ networking/device/cloud requirements – transformed since the pandemic caused the huge growth in WFH (working from home) – represents a major change and opportunity along with the transformational pivot to online shopping we’ve seen this year. Because of Covid even supermarkets are seeing their online sales massively transformed.

Does digital transformation affect the culture of a business, and if so, how do you manage change for employees?
Digital transformation affects all aspects of our business and it’s really important for all employees to be on board.

We’ve recently implemented a new set of diversity and inclusion initiatives as the business is driven by an understanding that diversity makes an organisation stronger.

Tell me more about Exertis’ new D&I initiatives?
We’ve recently launched a new set of diversity and inclusion initiatives, to demonstrate our strong commitment to fostering a diverse culture across the business. The initiatives are to be driven by a diversity steering group, with representatives from teams and roles in every region we operate in, aiming to share and learn from best practices across the group.

As a business, we’ve made two big strides, one is recruitment: senior roles have been recruited with a greater focus on bringing in new members from diverse backgrounds, with increases in female talent and talent from ethnic backgrounds. Second is our ‘always on’ education and communication programme focused on the importance of diversity and what we can do as an organisation to better understand and encourage diversity in recruitment, everyday operations and as a leader.

In recognition of the differing needs of employees, Exertis has increased maternity, paternity and adoption packages as well as offering flexibility in terms of location and hours, which we believe will encourage diversity. This global strategy demands cross-collaboration across the group’s global network, which will aid the new initiatives.

We are in unprecedented times and the pace of change will only continue to get faster. In these times it will be those that are able to see and empathise with their customers’ needs who will win. We must continue to build a diverse organisation, which matches the diversity of those customers and partners who we serve. We believe we have the opportunity to bring technology and innovation to the market, which really helps people, businesses and society to grow and progress. It’s also, simply, the right thing to do.

Do you think that all things digital will continue growing after Covid?
The picture for the channel is positive overall and the trend towards all things digital will continue. Customer’s preferences will have changed: working styles have become more flexible, and many of these factors will not return to the way they were pre-Covid.

In this new landscape, Cloud and unified communications (UC) are major growth opportunities. Looking forward, there may be more emphasis on moving computing off-premise to the cloud, and businesses preserving cashflow by opting to pay monthly for the cloud server space they use or deciding to rent or lease devices such as smartphones. Whatever way our partners want to adapt to this shifting landscape, we will be there offering meaningful solutions to help them do it.

Gaming will also continue to be a great success story. The gradual shift of consumers’ buying habits into the digital space has been massively accelerated by the pandemic. By embracing that change fully and providing services and tools that help our partners and customers to embrace it too, we can grow, add value to our customers, and win.

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