Interview with Arbab Usmani UppSkill

Reshaping India’s Digital Marketing Education – In Conversation with Arbab Usmani, Co-Founder & CEO of UppSkill

Hi Everyone, this is Animesh & once again I’m back with another knowledge packed episode of the Marketing Mavericks Interview Series.

Through this initiative every week we try to bring such personalities who are not only experts in their subject but they are doing something really remarkable for the Digital Marketing community.

Today I’m going to interview one such person who is an Engineer by Education, Digital Marketer by Passion & Torchbearer of a Transparent Digital Marketing Education by Vision. Arbab Usmani, Co-Founder & CEO of UppSkill.

He says,

The lack of skills and the current system of Institutes which often fails to give the students, the skills which they promise, inspired me to launch Uppskill.

So in this session, we are going to discuss some really essential & fundamental things related to how you can make a rock-solid Career in Digital Marketing, its Future Scope, Prospects & other important points.

So let’s roll the interview,

Animesh: Hi Arbab, It’s a great pleasure to have you today with us at the “Marketing Mavericks Interview series”.  We all want to know about Arbab Usmani in his own way, with a bit from his personal note, not just from his professional byline.

Arbab: Keeping my professional life aside,  I am a very ordinary person with lots of love and empathy for people.  One who enjoys reading books, watch TV shows, and loves almost all forms of arts.

Animesh: How Digital Marketing happened to you? What Transformed an Engineer into a Digital Marketing Ninja? Please share that story.

Arbab: The story is a bit long.

I completed my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from ITER, Bhubaneshwar. I got job offers from a few companies with the same profile but I wanted to do something in IT, so I chose not to take up any of the jobs offered and moved to Bangalore to learn JAVA. It was a 3 months course. Meanwhile I floated my CV to a few friends so they could recommend me somewhere.

During my JAVA training I got a call from a company based in Chennai offering me the role of “SEO Trainee” with 8000/- INR as monthly salary.

I joined them after doing some research about Digital Marketing, and believe me,  the first two months were tough for me.

But after that I started liking it and then I started working hard, did some incredible stuff and here I am giving this interview as one of the best teachers of Digital Marketing in our glorious nation.

Animesh: What inspired you to Launch UppSkill? Because prior to this you had worked with some renowned brands, so you could have easily started your own agency or something aligned to that but why exactly you ventured into Digital Marketing Education?

Arbab: Again a long answer to this question, in fact I did a 22-minute rant on my Youtube channel following the same question last year.

First how it started – After quitting my job I wanted to start an agency but my Co-founder who I already knew from a startup network came up with the idea of UppSkill.

I thought this is something interesting why not “Dig Deeper”

Problem statement 1 – Lack of skillful people

While I was in the job I used to make my own team, I replaced teams from companies like GroupM and built my own team and performed 20X better in terms of metrics they had given us to work upon. I always love to have my own team, but while hiring people I faced a problem and I am sure a lot of your readers also face a similar problem i.e to hire 1 good talent I had to interview at least 50-100 people. That is when I identified the problem that there are enough people in this field but we lack “skillful people”.

Problem statement 2 – People who train they lack many things

Then I did a 6-month long research and spoke to various people like Institute Owners, Teachers, Students, Companies that hire students from various Institutes, etc.

I figured out some problem with it,

  • Many institutes lie to the students and they throw a bait to students to get enrollment
  • Many Institutes lack the support system which is a basic system in building a knowledge base
  • Courses of many Institutes are outdated
  • There is a shortage of talented faculty in institutes
  • Many institutes talk about ‘ Get Rich Quick Scheme’ rather than ‘focusing on the career path in job sector’
  • There is a lack of understanding of what role a teacher plays in the nation-building

We found problems like these and started working on it.

We took an approach of design thinking and designed everything according to that only.

Our core thought is based on solving these problems

  • We do not lie to our students even if we lose business
  • We support students even after they complete their course
  • Every year we completely refresh our course. Right now it is called “Digital Marketing Masterclass 3.0”, the 3rd revision in our 3 years of journey
  • We focus on faculties who have done it all in a single field and he/she will teach only that subject, I personally take feedbacks from the students time to time to improve
  • We are a career-oriented Institute, we do not talk about ‘ Make money online’
  • We understand our duty and work on the mindset of our students as well.

To summarize,

The lack of skills and the current system of Institutes which often fails to give the students, the skills which they promise, inspired me to launch Uppskill because this is the only industry that gave me everything. I absolutely love it and what you love helps you to become better.

Animesh: Can you please share some recent data/ statistics that will inspire people to understand the scope of Digital Marketing in India?

  • Digital media crossed the total ad spend value of traditional media in 2019 itself, companies and agencies need more skillful people to run their ads
  • Google data – 75% of people who search for a local business, visit it. – Local SEO is soaring high
  • 49% organization don’t have a clear plan for their digital marketing ( Smart insight) – a huge scope is there
  • Google data – 50% of people are going to be influenced by digital in 2020 in the organized retail business – Again a very big opportunity
  • COVID-19 pandemic worked as a catalyst to Digital Transformation, now being digital is not optional for business, it is their necessity.

The future is bright but remember, only those who have skills will survive and go further.

Animesh: According to you what is the number one reason that someone should choose Digital Marketing as their career option?

Arbab: If they understand humans and their emotions, this is a perfect industry/platform for them.

But, if I talk about the number one reason, it is such a job profile that comes with lots of fun and knowledge.

Animesh: Currently, due to this global pandemic situation the Economy is also slowing down. That’s why companies are also desisting from hiring new resources. Now, in this circumstance what is the state of the digital marketing industry? I want to know an Insider’s perspective.

Arbab: We can’t say anything without the data, data is important, so I am making assumptions here which might be true or might fall flat.

People will do business no matter what the situation is. To do business they need marketing. Now since the world is not the same, people will avoid going out. Therefore all the budget which was previously spent on the offline world will shrink, and some of the budgets will be allocated to digital media.

So the future is big and we need a lot of resources in the future in Digital media.

Animesh: What advice you want to give to all the newbies’ who want to start their career in Digital Marketing? How they will prepare themselves better for the coming days?

Arbab: You need to remember a few things in Digital Marketing apart from your passion,

  • Analytical mind – Data is your eye and to see properly you need to train your eyes extremely well. If you don’t understand data you will be stuck in a position for many years
  • Read a lot – If you absolutely hate reading then this job is not for you, we read a lot and understand things, we read
    • What problem product or service solve
    • How they solve it
    • Who is their targeted audience
    • Where is their targeted audience
    • How their audience think
    • How the audience use their product or service
    • What our competitors are doing etc.

Remember, research is an essential part of Digital Marketing

  • Those who do not want to speak or talk to people –  In this profile, you need to convince people, you need soft skills for that
  • Those who do not want to upgrade themselves in technology – Technology is an essential part of our job profile

Apart from that I would say choose a mentor lead program and learn from it, yes YouTube has good quality videos but it has extremely poor quality videos as well, if you find a good video on a particular topic then you will also find 5 bad videos on the same topic, so learn things properly.

Animesh: How do you see SEO compared to paid marketing?

Arbab: They both have different roles, SEO is a long term game and part of Pull marketing whereas most of the paid marketing is a part of Push marketing, we are comparing apples with oranges here, they both are important to make a salad.

Animesh: Blogging vs Vlogging! What do you recommend to marketers for creating Influence, reach & result standing in 2020?

Arbab: If you want to work on personal branding then go for videos, whereas if you want to do it for something else then you can go to blogging.

for personal branding you can also choose podcasting as well.

This is my personal opinion, others might have different opinions and I am completely ok with it.

Animesh: Can you please shed some light on Neuromarketing & How Neuroscience can revolutionize the Digital Marketing Industry?  

Arbab: We are probably the first institute in entire India to bring this concept in 2017.

Basically neuromarketing is done on the basis of how your brain reacts to certain content. Scientists use machines like MRI etc to track brain data and activity.

On the other hand we can also say that whatever study done on the brain by neuroscientists, we used that study in marketing also comes under neuromarketing.

For example almost all lead generation companies use ‘Social Proof’ to push users to drop their lead, it is based on the ‘ Bandwagon Effect’.

People can search both terms in Google and understand as there is a lot to write about it and we have a limited space here.

Animesh: As a veteran in this field you have worked with several well-known brands like Microsec/ SastaSundar. So can you please share any one of your Case Studies from which our audiences can learn some real Tricks of the Trade?

Arbab: I coined a term called “Death period of a lead”, basically if you are in lead generation then calculate some data

  • When leads come to your CRM
  • When your sales team called them
  • When conversion happen

Now this data will define the average time where your sales team calls the lead and you get the conversion, always call before the average time after you get lead.

If you push it to half of the average time, your lead conversion rate will be even more.

Animesh: Do you believe that Digital Marketing Courses are the new MBA?

Arbab: MBA is a study of business, and marketing is part of business, so if someone is from MBA ( Marketing) then it is absolutely necessary for them to learn digital marketing and let me tell you even top B schools in India don’t have effective courses on the same. I have given lectures in those institutes as well so I am telling by the experience of mine or my students who were invited by top B colleges of India.

Animesh: You have said a very valid point. Now one last question, would you like to share a few words about the work we are doing at JobsFrontier?

Arbab: First of all I love the idea of a niche-based job portal especially from the industry I belong to, I think this is an amazing work and most importantly an amazing opportunity for digital marketers in our nation.

I wish you guys good luck and extend my hand for any sort of help you need 🙂

Animesh: Thanks Arbab for your time & sharing such wonderful insights with our community. 


I hope this Interview will help you all to think through & take a clear decision regarding your Digital Marketing career.

So, if you have liked this interview please share with your network & spread the message.

Marketing Mavericks