Sep 01 2021. views 112
Today on the buzz I have Sanjaya Samaratunga who has created the brand Azbow which has become the solution for many online needs. Sanjay saw the gap in the market when “online” was a new word, and many were not ready to take the leap into this space. He has given solutions to some big names in our county, from music personalities to entrepreneurs and the list goes on. Today he speaks about the new normal and what we need to keep in mind during these times of change.
How is the digital marketing space in Sri Lanka? The digital marketing space in Sri Lanka right now is vibrant and thriving, even when everything else seems dark in the middle of the current situation. The smart vendors in any space switched to digital marketing as soon as the lockdowns started last year, and now they really understand the power of digital marketing. Businesses of all sizes from entrepreneurs to retail giants are taking advantage of the opportunities given by digital marketing, and people are very used to buying their products online and trust internet payment methods more. So, I guess we can say there is a silver lining in the dark cloud.
Tell me about your company Azbow? What does the name stand for? OK, so this is a pretty funny one. We have been in the industry for close to 13 years now and we're lucky enough to be in business as digital marketing evolved and grew in the past 11 years or so. When we first started, we mostly focused on creating websites and custom ERP solutions, as well as search engine optimisation (SEO), and I wanted to pick a name that had no affiliation to anything else. A completely unique name to represent us, and that’s how Azbow was born. We still do websites, ERPs, and custom web software solutions, but with the growth of the company and technologies, we are now focusing more on result based “omnichannel” digital marketing along with mobile app (iOS and Android) development.
The term “omnichannel” is important when we describe Azbow because we treat digital marketing as a holistic and synergistic process, where social media, digital ads, SEO, websites, online stores, and everything else digital is mixed together to give them the best ROI possible through our digital campaigns. I also want to talk about our customer-centric business model where we try to provide our clients with perfectly customised digital marketing solutions that allow them to get the best results for their budget, no matter how big or small it is. We also believe in creating a mutually beneficial partnership with our clients, which has incidentally led to us becoming the official digital partner for many businesses.
Where do you see the online marketing space? Sri Lanka is still reluctant to pay online - how has it changed? Well, I would say towards the beginning of last year (2020) before the whole pandemic happened and the lockdowns along with it, our online marketing space was more towards advertising and less towards online payments, where people would see the digital ads and then physically go buy the products if they could. Sri Lanka is also pretty risk-averse when it comes to online payments, and as a country, we need to learn more about online security.
So online payments and purchases were mostly done by the younger, more urban crowd. But since the lockdowns became a part of our lives, more and more people are purchasing anything and everything from groceries to clothes to electronics online, and with more businesses offering their products and services online with home delivery, I would say the trust in online payments have skyrocketed in the last year and a half. Also, some people still prefer to pay cash, and most businesses have started to offer cash-on-delivery options that go a long way towards building the trust towards that business, which converts to online payments later as that trust spreads.
When you started this company, was it hard to break into the market explaining the importance of digital marketing? Well, that’s a hard question to answer due to a few reasons. First, we went into a business where there was a clear need and a space for expansion. Back in 2008, most companies had very outdated websites that we could revamp very well so we slowly but steadily picked up businesses, some of whom are loyal clients of us to this day. On the other hand, the digital marketing and mobile app development started after we started the company, so we had to learn those things on the job and evolve with the technologies and client needs to come to where we are today, and that was hard work especially with making businesses understand the opportunities provided by digital marketing.
What do you feel local businesses should keep in mind with this closed economy? They should remember that digital marketing is always an option especially in the closed economy where they can’t do traditional marketing, and where traditional marketing has less of an ROI. Digital marketing allows them to work on a smaller budget and get sales so they can sustain their businesses and slowly grow while providing their customers with an essential service. In essence, local businesses need to evolve and branch out into the digital marketing sphere if they haven’t already since digital marketing is absolutely the future of marketing. I would even say that digital marketing is the present of marketing and that local businesses need to join the bandwagon now if they want to reap the benefits of a future that is increasingly moving towards digital marketing.
Online payments have become the topic these days, how do you see it? Online payments are not just a necessity these days, but they are fast becoming the cornerstone of businesses everywhere. We have experience in integrating all sorts of payment gateways for all sorts of businesses in Sri Lanka and sometimes out in other countries as well. Online payments are safe, secure, and convenient and if a business has an easy way to accept payments from customers, that business is already well on its way to making more sales.
Where would you place Sri Lanka on a global scale with digital marketing? Are we using it well or do you feel we need to be more out there? Again, this question has two sides. The ones in Sri Lanka that do digital marketing do it extremely well. Some of these are clients we’ve worked with for a while and by now they have really streamlined the digital marketing ecosystem, and they are reaping the benefits. On the other hand, most of this growth is contained within the Colombo city and suburbs, and even here there is a lot of businesses that have not really made use of digital marketing, preferring to stick to old methods. But the fact is that the times are changing and that the “digital gap” between the two types will continue to grow. This is true within Sri Lanka as well as between Sri Lanka and the rest of the world. So, we need to embrace digital marketing more and really become competitive.
What has been the lesson with Covid 19? How have companies adapted to the new normal? What should we do more of? As I said earlier, the lesson with COVID-19 is that digital marketing and sales are the way of the future, and online payment mechanisms are a must-have for any business. Digital marketing and online payments are relatively more affordable and give more results, so there is no reason not to do them even in normal times, but they are especially important during the pandemic when the only way to buy and sell is through digital mediums.