Rameet Arora, a Delhi boy at heart, calls his recent move as Zomato's CMO, from McDonald's, as a 'homecoming after 19 monsoons', referring to his long stint in Mumbai. The man who wanted to be a doctor and then an economist, calls himself an 'instinctive' marketer.
Against the flow
After graduating in 1996, while most of his batch mates went to Cambridge, Oxford or the IIMs, he was the "black sheep" that went into advertising. In those days, it was not a glamorous career option. "But my urge to do something creative made me join this profession," he says.
He started with a small agency called Arms Communication (then known as Arms Bozell) for about a year. "We did some great work there including the launch of VLCC and I was involved in designing the logo of the firm. We also launched Unitech with the Signature Towers ad, which was probably the first commercial ad for Gurgaon. I had great fun," he adds.
Deciding that advertising was his forte, he ignored the big business schools and joined Mumbai's Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) as it had an MBA programme with specialisation in advertising. He then joined Rediff where he dabbled with many small brands and Airtel, where his brief was to launch landline phones in Madhya Pradesh in 1998.
"My job was to travel around villages and small towns, talk to consumers and listen to their feedback. I got the opportunity to see the big picture. It was my real grooming," he says.
Up the ranks
During his Rediff days, he met Aniruddh Banerjee of Chaitra Advertising (now Leo Burnett) where a three-minute conversation ended by Banerjee saying, 'kal se office aa jana' (start coming to office from tomorrow). It was at Leo Burnett that Arora met his mentors, Arvind Sharma, Pops (KV Sridhar), Srikanth Sarathy and Aggie (Agnello Dias).
Arora worked on the launch of Hitachi air conditioners, visiting their factories and working on the product and pricing strategy. Hitachi became the No.3 player in AC market in India. In 2001, after Chaitra became Leo Burnett, Arora became possibly the youngest account director globally to lead a team. In 2004, the agency won the McDonald's account where Arora coined and promoted the philosophy of the 'Happy Price Menu', which turned out to be very successful.
Out of advertising
In 2008, Arora met Rajesh Kamat who convinced him to join the founding team of Colors. "His (Kamat's) dream was to build a TV brand that the entire country would watch. By 2010, Colors became the biggest GEC - it was the first time in India that a TV channel was built as a consumer brand," says Arora, who learnt how to manage big budgets and how to "spend wisely".
In 2010, Arora joined McDonald's where he managed marketing and menu management. "I left for three reasons. First, I was chasing my wife who had found her dream job in Delhi. Second, I missed the Delhi winter and the third - probably the biggest - was that I wanted to be a part of the future that will be ruled by consumer brands like Zomato."
What does he bring to Zomato? "A lot," he says, adding, "I have learnt the concept of media neutrality while devising ideas. In this age of advertising, media doesn't matter much. The ability to know what best to do in a market will determine the growth trajectory of Zomato. What's important for me is to ensure that the brand personality and promise remain constant."