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Digital Transformation

Conversations on Convergence—Nikesh Arora

President EMEA, Google



As President of Google EMEA, Nikesh manages and develops Google’s operations in the European, Middle Eastern and African markets. He is responsible for creating and expanding strategic partnerships in these regions for the benefit of Google’s growing number of users and advertisers.

With a background as an analyst, Nikesh’s main areas of focus have been consulting, IT, marketing and finance. Prior to joining Google, he was chief marketing officer and a member of the management board at T-Mobile. He has also held management positions at Deutsche Telekom, Putnam Investments and Fidelity Investments in Boston.

Nikesh is a graduate of the Institute of Technology in Varanasi, India. He also holds an MS and CFA certification from Boston College, and an MBA from Northeastern University.

Q.     What is your assessment of the current state of the convergence space?

A.    If you Google the word “convergence,” you get more than 30 different definitions of it. So if you’re asking me if convergence is going to happen, I say: Absolutely! Just choose your definition, some of them are certainly going to come true. “Convergence” is one of those evergreen words, we’ve been talking about it for ten years already, and we’ll be talking about it for the next ten, too.

People talk about network convergence, device convergence: I work for a company that spends a lot of time thinking about the Internet, and we think the Internet will become a point of convergence. We try to learn from what people are doing on the Internet, and look for convergence opportunities.

Q.    So, what are people doing on the Internet?

A.    They are searching for information: There are over 1 billion searches done every day. They are communicating: People today speak for about 1,800 minutes every month, they send 60 billion e-mails every day, they exchange 23 billion Instant Messages every day. They are participating in e-commerce in some way, whether it’s selling, buying, or posting an opinion about a product. And of course, they are being entertained with videos, music, games and more. The Internet has gone from being a “nice-to-have” to being a “must-have” for so many people. People are doing most of the same activities as before but are now doing it on the web.

Q.    What are some of the implications?

A.    I think that many marketeers in the world today do not understand what is going on around them. What’s happening now is a revolution as big as the Industrial Revolution was. Something huge is underway. There are 1.2 billion people on the Internet today — that means if the online community were a country, it would be the fifth largest country in the world. Think about it: A billion people connected by the same need! This is new, this is big. Marketeers have never really had access to so many people in one place.

Just think about advertising, for example: Advertisers want their ads to reach as many “eyeballs” as possible. A billion people is a lot of eyeballs. “Regular” advertising has been growing at around 2-6 percent for the last few years but online advertising has been growing at 30 percent. Surfing the Internet is now the second most popular activity after watching television, so it’s logical that television advertising is now starting to experience a shift in focus. It’s very much like what happened in the music industry with the rise of music downloads on the Internet. Advertisers are also now starting to focus on smart phones and what they can offer as a medium.

The opportunities to engage this community are endless, and that’s what really needs to be done. Companies need to engage their users. They need to learn from their users, and take that information and transform it into actions that help their products and their brand.

It works the other way, too: The Internet is the first global distribution channel without cost. With the Internet, for example, a music group can grow its fan base and demonstrate its success without being signed to a record label. The entire distribution model is shifting—now you find successful talent and market it, rather than finding talent and marketing it to try to make it successful.

Q.    What are the human capital implications

A.    In the next couple of years, a group of people will emerge with first-hand experience of convergence who understand how to leverage multiple platforms and geographies. This group will be highly in demand but the real premium will be on those individuals who can combine this knowledge with cutting-edge innovation. The challenge as organisations grow is to remain an attractive employer for these more entrepreneurial innovative individuals.

Q.    What do you see on the horizon?

A.    Every element of the “Four Ps” we learned in marketing class is going to be impacted by the Internet. It’s no coincidence that the top three new brands that have developed in the last 10 years—Amazon, eBay, and Google—have developed online. Product performance is going to become even more relevant, because people seem to be getting better at ignoring advertising.

At the end of the day, strong brands tend to stay strong. Innovation is key. Your competition probably won’t come out of a large cap company—it will arise out of a small innovative player. The founders of Google still behave like start-up entrepreneurs, looking outside for innovation through acquisition.

All of the changes we’re talking about are going to take eight, ten, even fifteen years to happen. You need to ask yourself: Where do we want to be positioned ten years from now, and what do we need to do today to get there? Because ten years from now it will be too late to take action. Someone else will have figured it out already.

Our Digital, Media and Entertainment​ Practice

The Russell Reynolds Associates’ Digital, Media and Entertainment Practice sits at the intersection of dynamic digital content, which is reshaping the way we work and play, and wireless and broadband networks, which keep us connected seamlessly around the globe. We also have significant experience in helping our clients recruit in the managed services and outsourcing areas. The combination of our experience with service providers as well as infrastructure solution providers (who design, build, and deploy their platforms and networks) allows us to work at the forefront of technologies including IPTV, WiMAX, FTTx, IMS, Ethernet, 3G/4G and VoIP. Finally, our success with assisting media and content providers and aggregators to leverage these powerful new technologies positions us at the heart of the convergence movement as the key human capital solutions provider on a global basis.

Learn more about our Digital, Media and Entertainment team >>

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Conversations on Convergence—Nikesh Arora