Snapdeal, HUL and ROI – Return On Ignorance

If you are someone active on Social Media, you must have heard of the Snapdeal soap story and HUL’s response to it. Before I dwell further, let me engage you with a story which I am sure you all must have heard of. Kind of Urban Legend, not sure how true it is.

Nikola Tesla visited Henry Ford at his factory, which was having some kind of difficulty. Ford asked Tesla if he could help identify the problem area. Tesla walked up to a wall of boilerplate and made a small X in chalk on one of the plates. Ford was thrilled, and told him to send an invoice.

The bill arrived, for $10,000. Ford asked for a breakdown. Tesla sent another invoice, indicating a $1 charge for marking the wall with an X, and $9,999 for knowing where to put it.

How can we measure the amount of business lost by Snapdeal due to this incident?

How can we measure the increase in sales due to HUL’s response?

Difficult to find out but definitely more than a month’s salary of a specialist. Even today, the cost of ignorance of using a specialist, is highly underrated.

I was heading “User Communities and Engagement” at Snapdeal during 2011-12 and was responsible for Social Media, Crisis Communication and tons of other things, as the company grew from 150 people to 1500 within an year. There were many instances where we could diffuse a situation quickly by an appropriate response.

After founding my own agency couple of years ago, we meet lots of prospective clients who are looking at ROI from Social Media. Definitely, it is very important that business objectives should be mapped directly to whatever activities you are doing on Social Media but there are situations which are unexpected but add immense value and that’s where the role of a specialist comes in. If you are a brand, you need an experienced person or agency which can spot the cases which might escalate very quickly and also design an appropriate response to it. That’s what separates wheat from the chaff and then you know your money has been well invested.

Here is what we used to do at Snapdeal (can’t say what are the processes now and things have definitely scaled up since then) –

  • Social Media Team should have few dedicated people from Customer Care Team working closely or even better, sitting together
  • Most of the times, customer first approaches via regular channels i.e. Phone or Email. Constant monitoring needs to be done where serious issues are quickly highlighted and resolved. We had a mandate to the Customer Care team to contact us as soon as any issue starts becoming Red and they seeked our help in resolving even though it was not yet at “Social Media Channel”
  • Authority – Marketing team should be as much responsible for Social Media + Customer Care as much as they are for new customers and revenue figures. Allocate budgets where extra effort needs to be taken and please don’t give Coupons or Cashback! Delight the customer. Send a bouquet, give a personal call or give her an offer of an incredible experience. Fulfill her wish in that moment, as you have screwed up and genuinely want to show that you are sorry.
  • Listen – My partner Rupesh, who was heading Customer Care at Snapdeal had a mandate where every vertical head was supposed to listen to customer care calls for half an hour once a week. We could solve loads of problems and also come up with innovative solutions to the operational problems we were facing.

Social Media is not about tools and platforms. It is about people and personalization is what will differentiate you from other brands, especially in a competitive industry like e-commerce. On a side note, there was a time when customer care at Flipkart sounded intelligent and you could sense that they care. They sounded warm, non-templated, ready to help and not CYA. As things have scaled up, the charm is lost and every top e-commerce player sounds the same.

Invest in a specialist, if you are going for the long haul and you will see return on investment and not Return on Ignorance.


A communication expert, he has more than 10 years of experience in Social Media, Online Communities, Product & Marketing. A graduate from NIT Calicut in 2003, he has worked at leadership positions for various portals, which are leaders in their own space. Starting from Patni computers, he took a jump in startup space in 2005 when he joined as its 1st employee. Post that, he has worked for People Group, Snapdeal and Hoppr. Always critical of how agencies work, he decided to take a plunge in 2012 and co-founded Solomo Media ( - A Media company which loves Technology. Connect with him at