Ashish Babu | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2020

Ashish Babu

CMO, Europe & UK

Tata Consultancy Services

“Innovation happens in everything you do in daily life - and that one idea which can be scaled to create impact. You need the right team, belief and vision."

Ashish Babu has played a key role in developing the TCS brand so its reputation reflects its capabilities, transforming perceptions of the global IT services provider within the European technology and business communities from an undifferentiated ‘IT cost and operations’ firm into being seen as a growth and transformation partner that is helping its clients embrace the digital revolution. Leading on growth marketing and communications for the UK & Europe, Babu – via his infectious energy – has developed campaigns that have won more than 45 awards around the world, reaching the wider C-suite beyond the CTO with storytelling from CEOs that spoke to their peers about how digital transformation could advance business goals. This innovative approach to communications helped create a pipeline worth €500 million for the firm. Before joining TCS in 2008, Babu headed communications for Tata Sky and has also worked agency-side at Burson-Marsteller, MSL and Weber Shandwick. He started his career in Hyderabad and has since been based in Bangalore, Mumbai and London, and now Amsterdam.

Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry? 
Understanding the mood, message, and metrics to develop reputation in an evolving landscape.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
As comms professionals, we are constantly evolving and innovating with ever changing media landscape. The next innovation must be on working with AI and machines to drive insights and outcomes. 

How have the events of 2020 impacted innovation in the PR and communications industry? 
2020 has helped our industry to lead from front and centre. During any crisis people, tend to hunt for answers and solutions. We all had to fight hard to get the best stories, perspective, and ideas in front of the readers.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
We need to capitalise on the opportunity 2020 provides us. The next innovation has must focus on driving outcomes for your business and community.

What is the ideal working scenario for innovation? 
Innovation happens in everything you do in daily life and that one idea which can be scaled to create impact. You need the right team, belief, and vision within an ecosystem. 

Has 2020 changed the way you define/approach innovation? How?
2020 has been about agility, humility, re-skilling, inclusivity and being decisive. This has fundamentally changed the speed of human’s ability to innovate and scale. As a company, we communicated our 25 by 25 vision very early in the pandemic: that in 2025 only 25% of our workforce will be working from offices at any given time. As marketers, we have developed the ability to develop content at the speed of Netflix and deliver to an audience with customisation. As we go along, content appealing to the heart and mind will get best engagement.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen this year? 
The Uber ‘Thank You For Not Riding’ campaign was very innovative, relevant and heart-warming.

What is the most important lesson you've learned this year? 
Helping is the new selling. At TCS we have supported our colleagues, clients and community through the pandemic. It has been extremely humbling and rewarding.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative? 
I think some of the best ideas come while speaking and listening to our clients and colleagues. One such campaign we ran was on making our clients famous in their communities, organisations and among peers. It was easy to plan but hard to execute, but with support from the business and my teams. We made it happen and won a few global awards.

Any habit/activity that you have added to your life this year that you hope to take forward post-pandemic? 
I played padel tennis four days a week. Its is a mix between tennis and squash. I had to reinvent myself from tennis to padel. It helped me balance my work and life.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and what is the biggest obstacle?
It starts with acknowledgement first, having an honest dialogue with colleagues and industry peers for wider awareness. Lastly, have a plan to act towards the progress. 

What are you thinking about most these days?
Feeling more optimistic about our future with a vaccine in sight. Looking forward to seeing my parents and friends in real life. I am thankful to the technological innovation which has helped us to stay connected to everyone across the world. 

Your bold prediction for 2021… 
The world will become more inclusive, collaborative, and green. Companies that are brave in embracing this change will be rewarded. As marketers we need help shape narrative.