It's not just balance. It's a larger control on the narrative of your life: Subin Sivan of Cargill India

Subin Sivan, marketing and commercial excellence leader, Cargill’s Food Solutions Business in South Asia, said, “OTT platforms today are almost at 34 percent-35 percent penetration. That's more than 400 to 450 million households in India.”

By  Kashmeera SambamurthyMay 4, 2024 6:46 AM
It's not just balance. It's a larger control on the narrative of your life: Subin Sivan of Cargill India
According to Subin Sivan, marketing and commercial excellence leader, Cargill’s Food Solutions Business in South Asia, "I think balance in life doesn't just come from intent alone. Almost everyone I know intends to have a good balance, but it requires one to actually build positive habits on a daily basis in a disciplined way. Making time for people and things that matter in life requires discipline so that you're in control of one's life."

Subin Sivan, marketing and commercial excellence leader, Cargill’s Food Solutions Business in South Asia, feels a marketer should be extremely curious and thirsty for knowing what's going on. “Therefore, keep the consumer at the heart of all the narratives and conversations and strategies that you're building here. But to be able to do that one needs to be innately curious,” he tells Storyboard18 in an interview.

Edited Excerpts

The creator economy has taken the world by storm. So which influencers and trends are you following currently?

I don't have a specific influencer as such in life. I get inspired and influenced by the personification of the ideals and passions of different people. For instance, I enjoy listening to and reading about Steve Jobs. So it's a slightly, divergent view of the common current narrative of creator led content ecosystem and the kind of influencers that we see, but I still latch onto philosophies and values that different people represent. And to me, And to me, therefore, the influence comes from the rebel in Steve Jobs, when it comes to his creative vision.

Therefore, the kind of content that I look for is essentially the content that may come from his autobiography or any old snapshots of his. On a similar note, another gentleman who's a source of influence for me is Neil deGrasse Tyson, a fantastic physicist. A great source of influence because that experience is not just driven by creator led content, but also life led. To that particular passion point, and therefore there's a lot of value that you derive when you listen to their content, both in terms of the life they lead, the discipline that they have, the choices that they make, and their functional expertise in the space that they talk about.

What marketing related content do you consume in your free time?

I like listening to a podcast named ‘Marketing over Coffee’ done by a gentleman called John J Wall. It covers and balances both the traditional and the new-age marketing concepts.

There is a lot of talk about burnout, workplace toxicity, and hustle culture. What steps have you taken to avoid the adverse impact of the always-on culture on yourself and your colleagues, and what advice would you give to your peers, colleagues and next-gen marketers on this?

I think at a fundamental level, certainly choose to work in a place that reflects your values. As long as your organisation respects and values the same principles of work-life balance, conflicts are fundamentally less. Having spent five years in Cargill, the organisation reflects largely those same values around respecting an individual's work and life balance.

But, as a personal view, I think balance in life doesn't just come from intent alone. Almost everyone I know intends to have a good balance, but it requires one to actually build positive habits on a daily basis in a disciplined way. Making time for people and things that matter in life requires discipline so that you're in control of one's life.

For instance, some professionals have spent their entire career accumulating negative habits, such as sticking around late in office, even when there is no work or being on the phone while playing with their kids. These are habits. And, it is possible to cultivate new habits and let go of negative habits.

If I have to kind of address the last part of your question on what I would advise younger marketers or professionals is that they read a book called ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. That's one of my favourite books and I think it has the potential to be a life altering book because it fundamentally argues that simple everyday habits can help an individual gain greater control of the balance or the evasive balance that they desire in life.

And it's not just balance. It's a larger control on the narrative of your life. And I think it comes down to simple everyday habits that you accumulate from the time you wake up to the time you sleep. How do you want your day to go? The example that I gave of people who choose to spend excess time in the office, even when there is no work, it's not an objective decision.

It is happening subconsciously out of habit. So, I think habit formation is a critical pillar that people need to lean on because the desire and intention to achieve that balance exists in everybody. People don't have the tools to get it.

Is there any sport or fitness routine you practice?

My fitness routine is to wake up and do some home workouts. Usually, I end up waking up early, close to around five in the morning. I have a four-year-old toddler. Then when she wakes up, I end up playing with her. So that's a nice morning routine.

What does your weekend look like?

Saturday is usually about doing some outdoors, doing something fun with the family because both my wife and I work. So we try to keep that day for doing something fun, especially activities that our daughter would enjoy.

Sunday is a day to take stock at home and laze it out. I enjoy reading. I either chill over a movie, watch a couple of shows, binge watch a little with my wife, so on and so forth.

Is there any book you're reading? Any recommendations?

Recently, I discovered an app called Wyser and I heard about it on a podcast. It's a wonderful collection of summaries of books across various genres.

In the last 10 days I've covered six books. I'm right now reading a book called 'Good Habits and Bad Habits' by an author called Wendy Wood.

So I've kind of finished out of those six. One is Atomic Habits. Another favourite book of mine is 'Quiet', which is written by Susan Cain. Very insightful narrative around what it means for organisations that have to handle both introverts and extroverts and how 50 percent of the population are introverts but the organisations are designed around an extrovert ideal.

It's a very interesting narrative and conversation which impacts the way we work today.

What are you watching on streaming this weekend?

I enjoy content across multiple languages. Right now, we are going back to some old content. Both my wife and I want to start introducing Harry Potter to our daughter. So we've been watching that and on the other hand, I went back to ‘Breaking Bad’ after a long time.

Any work hack or life hack you would like to share?

In terms of work hack, I would say to be authentic and empathetic. I think it simply means that you're able to kind of understand a work situation from another person's perspective.

I genuinely believe that it goes a long way in building a reliable and sustainable partnership in the workplace. It helps build a positive work culture where people generally tend to go the extra mile to help get things done when authenticity and empathy are at play.

Life hack, I would say surround yourself with the right kind of people, your spouse, your friends, your family, your mentors. They will eventually steer you and guide you towards a happier place and a more fulfilled life.

A piece of wisdom you would like to share?

I think my life hack is a piece of wisdom. I would probably add this piece of wisdom as a marketer. We're dealing with a world where consumers are changing by the day. At Cargill, we have a proprietary tool called trend tracker which tracks trends that are happening; we just completed our 2024 version and it talks about various trends.

One of them is how the mindful consumer is evolving. Someone who's a lot more cautious and careful about what they consume. And similarly, the consumer is changing in terms of the content they want to watch and how they shop. Now with quick commerce coming in, every dimension of their life is changing, in terms of how they are using their money or how they are banking.

So one clear advice as a marketer is to be extremely curious and thirsty for knowing what's going on. Therefore, keeping the customer and the consumer at the heart of all the narratives, conversations and strategies that you're building here. But to be able to do that, one needs to innately be curious.

Could you touch upon Cargill's marketing strategies?

One of our critical pillars right now is to keep the consumer at the heart of the narrative that we're building.

And the closer we are to them, the more likely it is that we're going to get it right. And this has been proven time and again. Therefore, the kind of spaces that we're working in, it's having an implication on various things that we're doing. On the business front, we are trying to ensure that we are building a portfolio of health and wellness solutions that cater to this need of the mindful consumer by giving them greater options in terms of healthier solutions.

This is happening across our businesses, both the B2B and B2C businesses. We're creating alternatives and product solutions that cater to an eventual end consumer who wants healthier solutions. And on the other hand, one of the other trends we are seeing is that consumers are also seeking more authentic conversations from brands.

This is not just looking for authenticity and transparency from brands, but they also want brands to talk to them in a more authentic manner. We recently brought this idea to life on Gemini, which is one of our leading edible oil brands in the western and southern parts of the country. If you look at Gemini, it is positioned around the notion that a mom's place is not just in the kitchen, and her identity is not limited to just being the gatekeeper of nutrition and wellness of the family.

So there's a real need to change the questions we ask our moms at home. More often than not in all our households, we end up innocently asking our moms 'Aaj kya bana hai' and the whole campaign is built around the idea of change the conversation from 'Aaj kya bana hai' to 'Aaj kya banna chahte ho?'

So recently, we launched a campaign called ‘Tai’ which brought this premise to life beautifully. It helped us win in the market and it also helped us win a few awards. We recently won the Emvies in 2024 for this campaign. And it's reflective of the evolution of our consumers because if you look at the Emvies and the clear winners this year, two of the top three campaigns spoke about a narrative, which kind of reflected this evolution in the consumer.

One was ‘Dove’, which had this whole campaign of ‘Stop The Beauty Test’. The other was Gemini, which spoke about changing the questions we ask the women in our lives. So I think, on both fronts, you can definitely expect more work from Cargill, both from a product sense by focusing more on the health and wellness narrative, targeting the mindful consumer.

On the communication front, building more authentic communication platforms and finding more innovative, creative ways to engage with our consumers in an authentic manner.

Which is the creative and media agency that handles your brand?

We have multiple partners when it comes to creative development. We work with BBDO and for media planning we have Wavemaker.

Any marketing trends you can predict for this year?

We're clearly seeing four trends. One is in the way the consumer is consuming food. So, we're clearly seeing a trend of higher penetration of health and wellness.

We clearly see a media narrative shifting and evolving significantly on the digital front in terms of overall spends while TV continues to be a dominant reach building with 70 percent penetration.

OTT platforms today are almost at 34 percent-35 percent penetration. That's more than 400 to 450 million households in India. Also, individuals in India are consuming content primarily through OTT. So that's becoming a significant shift in how marketers will be reaching out to consumers. The way the homemaker is shopping has changed. Quick commerce has overtaken the narrative when it comes to e-commerce, specifically groceries and food.

As a result, the way we market, the way we run our promos, where we do marketing campaigns and the kind of activations we do at the point of purchase will also change. So, overall marketing campaigns will evolve especially because the consumer is evolving. So on the whole, marketing campaigns will evolve primarily because the consumer is evolving around these vectors.

First Published on Apr 13, 2024 7:32 AM

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