AiThority Interview With Sanjay Sarathy, VP of Marketing at Cloudinary
Journey into Tech
Hi Sanjay, tell us about your journey in Marketing.
I actually started in marketing, and high tech marketing at that, quite by accident. A classmate of mine from business school introduced me to the CEO of an application server pioneer called NetDynamics. He took a chance on me given that I had no marketing background and no high-tech experience, but I was hooked right away. I’ve worked across a variety of different functions – from business development to product marketing to developer programs – before I landed my first job as a VP/CMO. Have always focused on trying to work with great teams/people and in environments where I’d continually learn, from both a technology and a go-to-market perspective.
You have led Marketing teams for some of the most renowned IT and SaaS companies. How much have Marketing technologies evolved since you first started in the industry?
Enormously. When I started my marketing career, there were no SaaS tools, virtually every marketing software product was on-premises, laptops weighed three times as much as they do today, and we used spreadsheets far too much (that part still hasn’t changed). These days, almost everything we use is a SaaS solution, entirely new MarTech categories exist, and we’re awash in data as well as analytics tools to make sense of that data.
Which marketing, sales and communication tools do you use at Cloudinary?
Our foundational marketing automation and sales automation platforms are Marketo and Salesforce, respectively. We have a number of tools that are built on top of or integrate closely with those products including Outreach, gong.io, Google Analytics, Lean Data,Terminus and others. For internal collaboration we use Confluence, for corporate business intelligence we use QlikSense and our web CMS is built on top of WordPress. And of course we use our award-winning Cloudinary Digital Asset Management (DAM) product for managing all our marketing brand assets. And like most organizations today we also rely heavily on Slack and WhatsApp for our day-to-day communications and team alignment.
Which tools and platforms did you really miss having in the initial part of your career?
Tell us more about your alignment with the Sales and Product development teams? As a VP Marketing, how do you ensure that your Sales and Customer Service departments are able to solve unique challenges for customers?
It goes without saying that marketing needs to be very closely aligned with both sales and product management. The alignment starts at the executive team level around business goals, both long-term and yearly. That cascades into specific OKRs (objectives and key results) for each functional group that impact revenue, market expansion – both geographic and verticals – as well as product line priorities. Given this alignment, it becomes a lot easier for functional teams to create and get buy-in for specific and focused yearly and quarterly initiatives.
One of the investments Cloudinary made early in its existence was in customer success. This was driven by the belief that if we solved developer and customer problems – no matter how much you paid us – that would not just help that customer, but improve the overall engagement with the broader developer and customer community through positive word-of-mouth.
What kind of coordination do you maintain with your CIO and CTO? What are the usual points of disagreements in these functions?
Our CTO, Tal Lev-Ami, is also a co-founder of the company. Our engagement with his team is focused on creating visibility for the innovations his team has developed. For example, our annual State of Visual Media report was a collaboration between the CTO and marketing teams to identify the trends occurring worldwide across the entire media space. Similarly, we’ve been working with Jon Sneyers, who is one of the creators of JPEG-XL, a new image standard, to help educate the “what” and “why” behind this new emerging standard.
We don’t have a CIO per se, but do work closely with the data and IT teams help build the right data and tooling infrastructure to support marketing’s needs.
We’re seeing a rampant adoption of AI, Blockchain, and RPA in the ad tech businesses. What approach do you take in digitally transforming your operations with AI ML and RPA techniques? Have they borne you satisfactory results?
We’re not specifically in the ad tech business, though ad tech companies are large users of our product portfolio. AI plays a huge role in how Cloudinary customers and users get value out of our product line. For example, cropping videos to fit specific landscape or portrait aspect ratios, removing backgrounds from original images, or detecting specific objects in your image or video, are all use cases driven by the use of AI in the Cloudinary platform.
What are your predictions for digital asset management tools in the Americas, and APAC + ANZ markets for 2020-2024?
Digital asset management (DAM) is rapidly evolving as a category, primarily because the trends associated with the visual economy and cloud computing have made DAM solutions even more relevant to businesses worldwide. What we’re seeing from recent customer inquiries is that they are looking for a DAM to act not just as a central source of media truth, but to also help with the dynamic components of managing these assets.
There are four key trends we’re seeing: 1) the ability to automate various aspects of the media publishing workflow, often through AI, 2) the flexibility to engage with the DAM through multiple means – “headless” APIs, a user interface, or even via “widgets”; and 3) integrations with CMS, e-commerce platforms, and upstream creative tools, so customers don’t necessarily have to leave their favorite environment of choice. The fourth trend, partially driven by the onset of COVID-19, is the rapid recognition and relevance of video to long-term customer engagement. DAM tools need to continue to improve to support this surge in video interest.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Marketing Leader?
AI is here to stay. Given how much data is floating around most organizations today, marketing teams should be excited about the emergence of AI to more efficiently generate insights into that data, especially as it relates to how customers engage with your product or service. AI will help us make faster and better decisions. Probably the best way to prepare the team and getting them comfortable with is consistency with how we use these tools and showcasing how it should be part of your everyday work.
This Is How I Work
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
Not much inspiration is required since we have a team that enjoys engaging with technology. The one way I try to help is by showing how its use can be both a time-saver and a potential enlightener in their daily work.
One word that best describes how you work.
One superhero character that you idolize or profoundly connect with in your life and at work —
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
Candidly my time is pretty full with what we need to do at Cloudinary, so can’t say I focus on tracking other startups in detail, though I always enjoy hearing from friends who work at startups about the problems their companies are solving.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Not that this trait is unique to me, but I’m pretty calm which helps the team when things aren’t going well and we need to problem solve.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Jen Jones – CMO of Dataminr
Thank you, Sanjay! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Jen Grant is the CEO of Turbo Systems. She has spent the last 15 years building companies from the ground up and taking multiple companies to over a billion-dollar valuation. As CMO, Jen Grant led Looker’s marketing until the 2.6B acquisition by Google in 2019, led the rebrand of Elastic and built the team that took the company public for 2.4B in 2018, and grew Box from a small start-up to an industry-leading enterprise content company with a 1.7B IPO in 2015. Prior to that, Grant spent 4 years at Google leading the Google Apps EDU, Gmail, and Book Search marketing teams. She holds an MBA from Wharton and a BA from Princeton.
Cloudinary’s mission is to empower companies to deliver visual experiences that inspire and connect by unleashing the full potential of their media. With more than 40 billion assets under management and 7,000 customers worldwide, Cloudinary is the industry standard for developers, creators and marketers looking to upload, store, transform, manage, and deliver images and videos online. As a result, leading brands like Atlassian, Bleacher Report, Grubhub, Hinge, Lyft, NBC, Mediavine, Peloton, Petco and Under Armour are seeing significant business value in using Cloudinary, including faster time to market, higher user satisfaction and increased engagement and conversions.