Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Road to Madfest: Rakesh Narayana, Global Director of New Ventures, Reckitt

Ahead of Mad//Fest London 2021, official media partner NDA is chatting to some of the brilliant line-up of speakers before they step on to the stage (for real) at the industry’s first big in-person event in the UK in over a year. In this edition, we speak to Rakesh Narayana, Global Director of New Ventures, Reckitt

Why are you most excited about being at Madfest and your chosen topic?

This year’s line-up of speakers has it all and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in person – finally!

There’s no denying the impact the last 12-18 months has had on the importance and awareness of our health and hygiene. Reckitt’s brands have played an instrumental role in tackling infection during the pandemic and I’m really looking forward to hearing from potential partners how we can use new methods to keep our consumers and community safe and illness-free.

What disruption in your market have you been most awed by in the last year?

The first is the global recognition that good hygiene is mandatory to good health. From masks to sanitisers, there is now more emphasis and awareness of prevention, which is great. This has also led to lots of interesting new startups – like our friends cleanedup who are here today.

The second is ‘software as medicine’ – one of the most incredible things to come out of the pandemic – the process of technology used to cure not only symptoms but entire diseases. These technology-first solutions to hygiene and healthcare issues are enabling self-care and giving people access to understandable, accurate health information, personalised to them. 

I’m excited to see how the boundaries in the healthcare sector will continue to be pushed in the coming years.

What has kept you smiling in your working life during the last year’s turbulence?

The hustle and determination of the founders we invest in and support. We’ve seen how their brands and business models have pivoted to keep members of the public both at ease and protected from COVID-19 infection. 

For example, laundry startup Oxwash quickly pivoted their business to provide COVID-19 disinfection, working closely with the NHS to disinfect hospital gowns and medical equipment, and providing laundry for garments worn by scientists in the Oxford University vaccine trial. I’m in awe of the tenacity of some of the founders I know and what they can achieve.

What positive impacts on long-term consumer behavioural shifts will the pandemic have?

Understandably, there has been a heightened focus on the importance of hygiene at home, in the workplace and in public spaces, extending beyond surfaces to products and interactions.

This increased awareness for hygiene will remain long after the pandemic, and ultimately customers are looking for solutions that enable them to access hygiene on demand.

What technology, innovation or market development are you most excited about for the year ahead?

Companies of all sizes have had to adapt and evolve quickly, with the world almost entirely shifted to e-commerce. I think we’ll be seeing even more advancements made in interactive commerce as businesses look to find new ways to engage customers and provide the best experience possible. 

I also think we’ll be seeing vast movements towards products, services and sectors that promote positive change. As a society, we’re increasingly aware of the negative impacts technology has on us – ‘The Social Dilemma’ Netflix documentary captured this perfectly and now there’s a need for digital products to be designed to create good outcomes, rather than encouraging time spent on a device.

Madfest, Opinion

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