Citibank Cracks $1 Billion Challenge in India

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A Big Opportunity, and No Time to Lose

With a large, rapidly expanding economy and a deep culture of entrepreneurialism, India is one of the world’s most exciting places to do business. To western banks such as
Citi, it’s also profoundly challenging. There are heavy restrictions on branch numbers that limit reach and coverage. Investors are savvy and proactive—much more so than in the west—and they generally hold multiple accounts, flitting between them as they see fit. Money has to work hard in India, especially for business owners.

Facing these challenges while trying to attract deposits from entrepreneurs to fuel further lending, Citi engaged ?What If! to crack this challenge and generate $1 billion of additional deposits a year. Adding to the pressure was the directive to get into the market within a matter of months and deliver results in the first quarter after launch. To make it even tougher, the solution couldn’t rely on discounted pricing—it had to be compelling and valuable enough to not require cutting fees.

Money has to work hard in India, especially for business owners.

Facing these challenges while trying to attract deposits from entrepreneurs to fuel further lending, Citi engaged ?What If! to crack this challenge and generate $1 billion of additional deposits a year.

Decoding Consumer Behavior

By gaining unprecedented access to successful business people, through work on the ground in entrepreneurial hubs such as Ahmedabad and Bangalore and in the key cities of Mumbai and New Delhi, ?What If! unlocked relationships and key insights that reshaped Citi’s challenge. The conventional model of providing investment advice and corresponding services would fall short of delivering the commercial payback required. For example, local business people were so confident with their money-managing abilities that services provided by relationship managers often fell on deaf ears.

This dilemma led us to a breakthrough strategy—combining the sweet spot of unmet consumer need with high commercial attractiveness. The simplicity, clarity, and scale that this fundamental shift in focus provided unlocked a rich vein of new product concepts. Furthermore, the belief and passion of the Citi team, ignited by our engagement, helped facilitate rapid launches to market.

A Strategy with Staying Power

Developed in partnership with Citi, new financial products both hit home with entrepreneurs and had strong business cases. These include “Protect and Grow,” now available online.

The belief and passion of the Citi team, ignited by our engagement, helped facilitate rapid launches to market.

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