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Leader 17 Feb 2020 - 4 min read

Why this Australian CMO just chose Bangalore over San Francisco

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

Bangalore continues its rise as the "Silicon Valley of the East", loaded with talent who often have three university degrees

With a brief to run brand communications, digital marketing, data, analytics, automation and design disciplines across Asia Pacific, China and Japan, based in Bangalore, the choice between North America and India was clear for IBM ANZ board director and CMO,

"A lot of like-minded companies are settling in this part of India. Bangalore has amazing talent. There's a reason they call it the Silicon Valley of the East."

Amanda Johnston-Pell, VP, IBM Marketing Services, Asia Pacific, China & Japan

In a couple of weeks IBM will have its new regional vice president for marketing services from Australia permanently based in Bangalore. 

Upwards of 1,000 people in the unit across marketing, data and analytics work with all IBM's regional markets out of APAC's equivalent of Silicon Valley in India - a big reason Johnston-Pell says she is making the move. 

A former Telstra marketing boss with past involvement in US start-ups, Johnston-Pell has been IBM ANZ's CMO and board member for the past four years. She says this international assignment is her most compelling yet. 

"A lot of like-minded companies are settling in this part of India," she says. "The ecosystem of innovation and data analytics is pretty powerful - and this role has a big transformation agenda."

IBM ANZ's marketing team already has 20% of its resource based in Bangalore and Johnston-Pell's role is to develop the tech giant's Marketing Services Centres for the region serving internal teams and IBM customers. 

"If growth of the last five-to-ten years is coming out of China and Asia Pacific, and you want to understand and fast track your understanding of real future growth, there's nothing better than being in a market at its fingertips," she says. "For me personally, to broaden my understanding of where the growth sits is really compelling. Bangalore has amazing talent. There's a reason they call it the Silicon Valley of the East."

The search is on for Johnston-Pell's replacement here but she won't be drawn on timing or whether an internal candidate is likely. Market conjecture has former IBM ANZ chief customer officer and ex-ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster, as a possible candidate.  

Johnston-Pell says the Australian marketing team is highly regarded internationally across IBM. According to Rep Tracker, IBM is now the top ranking B2B tech brand in the country.

"It was interesting listening to Mi3's podcast with Mark Ritson and LinkedIn's B2B Institute last week about brand building, performance marketing and marketers needing to understand what the drivers of business growth are," Johnston-Pell says. "You have to do all of it. Interestingly, my new remit covers brand communications, digital marketing, analytics and automation. I know from the last four years here as CMO and a board member, there is equal value and investment in both brand and demand generation. IBM became the top B2B brand last May in Australia. That's not by accident."         

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