Venkatesh Babu, Chief Revenue Officer at Aqilliz, on the core skills needed for a CRO to be successful, as well as how the role is different from sales, marketing, and finance.
Q How did you get to where you are with Aqilliz, and what has been your most memorable moment with the organisation so far?
My career trajectory has seen me in the FMCG and luxury sectors with a mandate to establish and transform businesses across emerging markets in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Indian subcontinent. Before my time at Aqilliz, I was the regional sales director for Coty, the leading multinational cosmetics, fragrance, and skincare conglomerate, where I was responsible for looking after the firm’s consumer beauty portfolio across Southeast Asia. With almost 25 years of experience in more traditional business settings, I’ve found that I’ve always been drawn to a challenge, in particular when developing and implementing go-to-market and growth strategies that re-engineer businesses and ensure competitive advantages.
It felt natural to move into the digital marketing space as the industry reaches its saturation point, Aqilliz’s mission to bring greater trust, equitability, and transparency to the sector truly resonated with me. In my view, it’s time to build high-performance products to manage the rapid pace of change taking place in a sector so rife with digital transformation. I’ve found that the world of startups is constantly changing, especially when compared to the traditional corporate environment—during my first six months at Aqilliz, I’ve taken every moment as a learning experience.
Q The CRO role is a relatively new one. I understand the role is an amalgamation of what used to be VP of marketing and VP of sales. How do you differentiate your role from sales, marketing, and even finance?
Indeed, the CRO role is definitely a new one and one that’s not often seen in technology companies. I would agree that it certainly stands at the intersection of sales, marketing, customer relationship management, and even business development. My role as CRO at Aqilliz is predominantly centred on our go-to-market initiatives across the key geographies across the APAC region with the aim of scaling our business with long-term growth in mind.
I think the differentiating factor between all of these aforementioned functions lies in how a CRO needs to maximise the performance of revenue-generating business lines to ensure maximum awareness and growth of our organisation as well as the acceptance of our solutions. This entails areas such as product refinement, pricing strategies, sales optimisation, customer satisfaction, as well as B2B marketing.
Q In your opinion, what are the two to three core skills needed for a CRO to be successful?
The CRO position straddles multiple functions, so for someone to be successful in this role, communication is truly key. You’re working with so many different functions, each with their own objectives, so you need to ensure that everyone is aligned and working together as a collective whole to maximise revenue generation. Because being results-oriented is a big part of a job, being agile and adaptable is also important—understanding when and where things aren’t working and how to optimise them is a skill one needs to also master. It is also crucial for a CRO to be able to navigate the relationships between multiple stakeholders in order to develop an appropriate revenue strategy.
At Aqilliz, I’d say a unique part of the CRO position is also having a strong understanding of how technology integrates into the business. With the data-driven nature of digital marketing and the ever-changing world of technology today, CROs need to be able to communicate how the product vision aligns with their client’s goals while grounding that in relevant data points. You need to understand market positioning, product-market fit, and pricing strategies based on each individual client and what they need.
Q Can these skills be inculcated in employees? If so, how?
Definitely! I find that one of the most rewarding things about working in a startup is the emphasis on ownership and accountability—no task is too small, too large, above or below anyone’s remit. Whether you’re working on the Engineering team or the Marketing and Strategy team, it’s important to understand where we fit in the market, what our clients need, and how that ties into our revenue strategy. It’s important that employees know about the business of our business. Cross-department interactions are definitely a big part of ensuring that functions are not wholly siloed, as a means of ensuring smoother communication and visibility across an organisation.
Q How closely do you work with your CHRO, and on what issues?
One of the perks of being a startup is that we have a relatively flat hierarchical structure and the HR role is concurrently taken on by all the C-suite executives. As a small company, we take pride in our culture of openness and our willingness to experiment—we encourage team members to come forward and propose and implement HR initiatives that they feel would be of benefit to everyone.
Photo / provided