Interview Fridays – Jitendra Jain of TalentJungle.Com & HoteleMarketer.Com
It’s been a while since I’ve fulfilled the responsibility of a religious blogger. Apologies for the delay folks.
As a way to make it up to you guys, today’s Interview Friday episode is a double special featuring two top-flight personalities in the industry.
First stop, this is a guy I’ve looked up to in online marketing. He’s probably one of the most humble experts I know. Boys & Girls please help me welcome Mr. Jitendra Jain of HoteleMarketer & TalentJungle.
J, you’re probably one of the very rare people I know who became really successful in focusing on a niche for an online marketing career. How did you end up being the guru for the digital hospitality industry?
Thanks Dave – firstly, I think in the world of new media marketing and innovation there are no “Gurus” We’re all disciples – any other claims would be arrogance. There’s just so much happening in terms of development and changing trends that most of us barely scrape the surface of this goldmine of information, interaction and marketing potential. For me, building a career in digital marketing was more chance than anything else…I’ve always been passionate about technology and the internet, so when I had the opportunity to combine my passion with my academic background in Tourism & Hospitality, I jumped at it!
You’ve had impressive degrees on hotel & restaurant management including an MBA from London Business School. How did these help in establishing your current profession?
I’ve always loved learning – at the end of the day, degrees and paper achievements are just that. Its what you bring to the game and what you can do for your clients and employers that makes a real difference. Each degree, more than the academic content (which was great), offered the opportunity to form new connections and experience different cultures and perspectives – these are things that you won’t find in any book and are crucial to how you go about doing business.
You’re also the founder of 3 great websites HoteleMarketer.Com, The Talent Jungle, and YoungHotelier.Com, please tell us a little bit about these projects.
I created www.TheTalentJungle.com in 2003 after completing my Tourism degree in Switzerland, initially as a portal to keep students connected and informed – this has since evolved into a very different base, however the link with education and hospitality remains. www.YoungHotelier.com was created in 2007 to shine the limelight on the people that define hospitality…you hear so much about the industry but rarely about the people that make it what it is. YoungHotelier.com was also the first hospitality industry site that heavily used video content to communicate its message. I created www.HoteleMarketer.com initially as a repository of the articles I had written for offline publications like Hotelier Middle East, Hotelier India, etc but this has since evolved into a blog for like-minded ‘digital’ hoteliers.
I’ve always asked this from my guests, and I just really wanted to get a consensus from the experts in the industry. What’s your view on the Middle East’s online marketing industry particularly in the UAE?
I think the Middle East holds tremendous potential for growth and innovation in the online field. As internet and credit card penetration increases and consumer habits evolve, we’re likely to see a much more active online social, mobile and buyer community emerge. The Arabic online niche also remains under-tapped – but the recent acquisition of Maktoob by Yahoo! just illustrates the immense potential in this area.
What are the challenges that you face regularly in being an online marketing professional especially in this part of the world?
I think when it comes to the online field, the Middle East is not very different from most parts of the world. The niche, being so new, encounters the same problems in most places – lack of ample resources and training. Education about the online world and the opportunities it presents is absolutely crucial – it falls on the online marketer to ensure his/her business colleagues are engaged and understand + support the efforts made online.
We’ve seen how the economic recession greatly affected industries, how did the online and hotel industry performed during these times, particularly in the Middle East?
The recession has impacted almost every sector – the hospitality industry is no different. However compared to the rest of the world, the Middle East has still managed to outperform many other prominent regions in the world. In hospitality, the online channel has actually been given a massive boost by the recession, as hoteliers improve their utilization and rely on this crucial source of business.
How important is it for organizations to add online marketing, SEO/SEM and social media into their business strategies at these times?
In this day and age, businesses should probably be made to explain ‘why not’! However the caveat, as with any business / marketing undertaking, would be to go in with a clear strategy and execute well. The ‘spray and pray’ method achieves very little – businesses need to analyze the fit first and then go at it consistently with ample allocated resources, measurement and steering to say on course.
What’s your take on social media as a strong partner in online marketing strategies? Would you treat them separately or as a necessary combination?
I believe social media, if utilized, should support and be in line with the overall strategy, positioning and branding of the business. Blindly jumping onto the social media bandwagon because its the ‘hip’ thing to do won’t do very much.
You’ve been actively advocating online revolution especially in the hospitality industry. What are the important points you repeatedly instill in your audience?
This one’s easy – 1.’The future is already here’. We’re all specialists of one sort or the other. We tend to get so engrossed in everything that’s going on in our own bubbles (industry, business, social circles) that we often miss the developments in other spheres. We need to understand that we live in exponential times and many ‘science fiction’ concepts will become ‘science facts’ during our own lifetimes. We need to understand where we’re headed (the evolution of the Internet is just one of these key developments) and what we want to be doing when we get there. It’s time to take off the blinders and embrace change. 2. It’s all about Passion. If you don’t love what you do…you probably won’t get very far. Learning, development, success and passion all go hand in hand. If you want to learn and embrace something new, find what you love about it and start there.
What are your predictions for the future of online marketing industry in the Middle East and specifically on the growing trend of digital hospitality?
Check out www.HoteleMarketer.com for predictions, thoughts and more!
For More of Jitendra Jain’s thoughts and expertise, you can find him in these networks: