Jessie Paul, CEO Paul Writer, the Biggest B2B Marketing Community in India: Three Golden Rules of Frugal Marketing

The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series continues with Jessie Paul, author of the book No Money Marketing, Founder & CEO of Paul Writer, India's premier B2B marketing hub.

In addition to offering marketing advisory services, Paul Writer is India's largest peer-managed community of marketers.

Jessie was formerly Chief Marketing Officer, Wipro IT Business and Global Brand Manager at Infosys Technologies Ltd. As CMO of Wipro, Jessie managed the branding and marketing for Wipro's technology business worldwide. 

We spoke to Jessie about how it feels to be a tech entrepreneur in a BRIC country; her golden rules of frugal marketing; and how entrepreneurs can increase their online presence.

TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch Paul Writer Strategic Advisory?

JP: I am passionate about marketing, which is still a fledgling science in India.  We have a lot of good products, but they rarely extract the brand premium they should because of a lack of branding and marketing. 

I wanted a business that I was passionate about, could work towards perfection, and be profitable. 

So the idea of Paul Writer is to become a hub for marketers in India - whether it is through consulting, providing thought leadership, or just building a vibrant community.

TNW: How important is technology to the success of your company?

JP: We are a modern firm and embrace technology - particularly open-source and cloud - both for ourselves as well as for our clients.  Our website is built on Joomla, we use cloud services for managing our outreach program, surveys and workflow.  Paul Writer is also very active on digital media, both as a means to reach our community as well as to gather insights and learn.  Our community on LinkedIn was featured in their Hall of Fame.  Technology helps us to stay efficient and reduce our cost of sales.  We are also a catalyst for embracing technology in marketing - both through our consulting advice and by creating conference platforms such as The Futurist CMO

TNW: How did you monetise the Paul Writer site in the early days and how has that changed as the site has grown?

JP: PaulWriter.com is a crowd-sourced portal.  We are curators who facilitate the creation and selection of the best in marketing content.  We initially saw ourselves as a site focused on Indian businesses, but we now realize that we have global appeal for all marketers with an Indian mandate.  The site itself is not commercial - we use it to showcase thought leadership, develop our community, and drive interest in our conferences and advisory services.  We are in the process of revamping our site - in time for our second anniversary in January 2012 - and the new site will have sections for commercial association.

TNW: Paul Writer is India's largest community of B2B marketers. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to increase their online presence?

JP: a: Focus on providing value to the reader. Avoid self-promotion. b: Provide a platform to like-minded people - it is very hard to provide original content in the volumes required to sustain interest c: Take an integrated view - be present in all viable social and digital channels in addition to investing in your own website

TNW: What is next for Paul Writer? How do you see technology as a key growth driver?

JP: We’re revamping our digital presence.  I’m much clearer now on how I want to grow, drive and monetize the community, what are the right metrics. 

And of course, much has changed in the last 2 years on the technology front and we want to benefit from that.  We rely so much on digital and social media that yes, technology is a big part of our future.

TNW: You’re an expert in frugal marketing. What three golden rules of marketing would you give to entrepreneurs with limited time and budget?

JP: Rule #1: It is always a trade-off between your time and your money.  If you can’t buy marketing space, you’ll have to invest your time in earning it

Rule #2: Globalize your marketing.  A lot of work can now be done virtually and remotely - the best place to source your marketing may not always be your home country.  With cloud technology it is often opaque to you where the service is being delivered.

Rule #3: Be interesting. Do exciting things. That gives you a momentum that a boring brand - no matter how rich - can never match

TNW: How does it feel to be a tech entrepreneur in a BRIC country at the moment?

JP: It’s a very positive thing to live in a country where the majority feel that the future will be better than today.  The global economy certainly does affect India, and of course, we have our domestic problems such as poor governance, high inflation, and inequality of income to deal with, but as a small business addressing a fairly broad audience, we are mostly insulated. In a market as vast and as rapidly growing as India finding 100 or even 1000 customers for any product is not that difficult. The issues we deal with are more to do with increasing profitability, sustainability, derisking.

TNW: What was the most useful lesson you learned from your MBA studies and how did you apply it to founding Paul Writer?

JP: I found Jim Collins‘ take on the hedgehog and the fox very useful in guiding my choice of what to do.  When you start a business after a corporate career of 15 years, it’s better to stick to your specialty.  I also used his venn diagram on finding the intersection between passion, perfection and profitability to determine the areas of play.

TNW: Do you find that your technical background means that people take you more seriously as a female entrepreneur?

JP: My professional credentials, and being an author are what help me the most, rather than my engineering degree in computer science.  In India, both technology and marketing have a fair number of women, so being an entrepreneur in these spaces isn’t remarkable.

TNW: How would you describe your leadership style today? How has your leadership style changed over the years, and why?

JP: I’d say I was much better at letting go today than I was a few years ago.  I think it is logical to move from a controlling, micro-managing style at a junior level to a more nurturing, empowering style as you become more senior and manage teams. 

Strangely enough, I also find entrepreneurship less stressful than a corporate job because here more or most of the variables are in my control. 

I waste less time, feel more in control of my destiny, and manage my day better because there are less interruptions, meetings and bureaucracy.  We’re a small, all-woman team at present so a softer leadership style is what works.

TNW: How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your business? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN?

JP: Dell has been very supportive.  They invited me to speak at the DWEN conference in Shanghai and that was a very energizing experience.  They also gifted a Dell Vostro which is going strong two years later.  Dell also supported The Futurist CMO conference and were instrumental in making that happen.

In a mixed conference it is harder to break the ice.  The usual questions are “Where do you work” or “What do you do”.  But in an all-women’s conference like DWEN, it’s ok to be natural and start the conversation with “I really like that scarf you’re wearing,” or “I love that outfit”. It’s easier to connect and make friends.  I’ve never felt at a disadvantage in my professional or business career because of my gender so I don’t see all-women conferences as a support group, but I do think that women often have different priorities and areas of interest from men, and these networks help us to leverage that rather than submerge them like we usually do.

The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The NextWomen is in partnership with DWEN to bring you a series of 40 interviews with the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers: The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series.

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