Active customer engagement crucial for growth: Prof. Tejpavan Gandhok

Prof. (Dr.) Tejpavan Gandhok has the nomenclature: serial entrepreneur. He comes with varied experience as head honcho of startups in F&B, Education, and Non-profit sectors. 

Pavan has several years of experience as:

  • CEO and founder of Lite Bite Foods
  • International Senior Partner, Country & amp
  • Regional Head, Strategy consulting & amp, with roles across Australia, US, South East, and Middle East Asia 
  • Advisor for Halycon, AT Kearney, Stern Stewart & co. and the Boston Consulting Group. 
  • Corporate portfolio and business unit strategy advisor for blue-chip Indian, South East Asian, and global MNC clients
  • Director, Monsanto, responsible for business development and growth strategy in Asia-Pacific, ICI Australia, and the University of Melbourne. 
  • Co-founder and Lead Director of Natures Bounty, an alcoholic beverages marketing company
  • Co-founder and managing trustee of Madadghar, a charitable trust. 
  • Clinical Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Indian School of Business
  • Professor of Practice, Jindal Global Business School


  • BE from the University of Melbourne
  • MBA from UCLA, Los Angeles
  • Ph.D. from Singapore Management University

Research area:

His applied research interests include

  • learning innovations
  • leveraging immersive engagement, and biofeedback based objective measures for better strategic thinking 
  • better appreciating the role of subconscious cognitive processes for Adaptive Strategic decisions under high flux and uncertainty.

Published work:

Pavan has published articles in journals and newspapers; he has addressed issues on start-ups in the digital world in his podcasts. 

Excerpts from one of his articles:

What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement is the customer’s connection with the brand. Digital connect with the customer is growing in India today. What can brands do to tap this potential market? 

Taxi services and e-commerce sites boast millions of users in a day/month/year, the numbers they cite may be misleading. The taxi platform’s database shows an inflated number of customers, but the number of active users tells a different story. The difference between acquired and active users spoils the party. 

More than one factor contributes to the customer’s reluctance – 

  • income disparity among the many customers
  • companies wooing new customers who remain inactive
  • companies failing to offer customers value in active usage 
  • stressing on brand loyalty rather than product/service benefit
  • companies floundering on soliciting one big discounted spend instead of continued usage
  • companies not building any emotional connect

How do you convert the customer to active usage? You need to convince them to spend their money. AI has shown ways to charm the user and keep them actively engaged. 

  • Work on bridging the emotional bond.
  • Hoist your product/service in the customer’s day-to-day life.
  • Engage the customer in non-transactional endeavors – get them to participate in new product launches, campaigns, slogans, etc.
  • Involve the customer via matters that they feel emotional – the environment, health, pets, food, community, etc.

India now enjoys faster internet speed at an affordable cost, leading to more data usage. As entertainment goes digital, advertising budgets have shifted to digital platforms. 

Sports leagues in India and abroad

Sports federations in India are poised for the right amount of digital engagement. Sports leagues seem to have the largest slice of the digital pie and naturally spend more on advertising in digital media. They stand a good chance at maximum fan engagement. 

Sports leagues in the US and Europe have grown exponentially both in rampant fan-base and augmented cash-flow. 

Compare Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United, and Real Madrid with the Indian Premier League, Indian Super League, or the Pro Kabbadi League. 

Most leagues in India barely break even after paying salaries and paying for advertising and publicity.  

Conducting matches and bagging broadcast rights bring popularity, but revenues remain limited. The league needs to show capital gains to earn harvest. Profits need a global reach of fan-base with swelling growth of engaged fans. The franchises must focus not only on broadening their fans but also on keeping them engaged. 

Most monetary prizes may go to the team’s top level, but the lower rung might not get to enjoy the spoils. The team must also work on profit sharing for all team members, thus boosting their confidence too. 

To quote Pavan:

“For real competitive advantage, franchise teams will have to drive actions around boosting fan engagement beyond mere audience/ eye-ball metrics. A lot of inspiration can be taken from the initiatives of leading US and European clubs in this regard.”

Over-the-top media service 

While live sports coverage is lucrative in India, OTT platforms are not far behind. During a particular month, Hotstar claimed more users than all its competitors’ combined users. Hotstar had one hundred million active users against Voot – 22 million; Amazon Prime – 11 million; and Sony Liv and Netflix – 5 million each. 

Companies must concentrate on two strategies:

  1. Pick out and tap disparate spheres. Put AI analytics to optimum use, engaging fans/customers beyond cumulative likes/shares/tweets. Engage them actively in innovative ways.
  2. Boost brand imaging via sustained emotional connections. Check for breakthroughs in engagement periodically.  

Pavan’s words of wisdom:

“Rather than chasing the chimera of half a billion users all across Bharat, India’s digital players in other industries interested in economically sustainable business strategies should focus more on consumer engagement of their higher value customer segments with discretionary spending power.”

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