Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bamboo Cluster Village - Assam

Recently had the chance to visit a village which was into production of products out of Bamboo. Each house was specializing in some product. One has to see the skill level to actually appreciate it. A few photos from the visit..

Entrance to the Village

Sofa Sets being made

Bangles being made

Smaller Stools

Finished Smaller Stools

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Uber - throwing the Service Provider Away with the ....

I have been reading a lot of reactions on the banning of Uber in New Delhi after the unfortunate happening. I would agree that there would have been fault at Uber's end in verifying the Driver but does that mean that we will ban the service.

Let us come to the basic issue , why is suddenly that one finds these app based services becoming popular across cities in the country, first is the poor state in which our urban transport infrastructure is in. Second, is that the other formats of public transport like Auto or Cabs are very expensive and one has to rely on the whims and fancies of the drivers to reach your destination,. Anyone who has travelled in a Auto in Chennai or Bangalore will testify for that.

I was reading an article in the TOI in which the author lamented the fact that the incident had snatched away the sense of security which women use to have when one travelled through these app based services.

In terms of the verification process, we all know that how difficult it is to get a genuine verification from a authorities and the other way round too...

I think the solution does not lie is just banning these services but to reflect back on what processes can we have in place where the verification processes are more reliable and of course the overall safety levels improve....

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Forgotten Brands

It must be true for the other markets also, but I find this a little surprising when I see very good brands languishing in neglect in a market where there is a dearth of good brands. I saw one example yesterday in a shop and that triggered this post. The brand which I am talking about is catch, it use to a quite well-known brand a couple of decades back, but now I do not think many people would think of it is a strong brand. 

A more recent example is a brand in apparels - ColorPlus, it again use to a  very strong brand in cotton apparels , but now today I do not see it occupying the mindshare as it use to 10-12 years back.

One of the reasons is that these two brands were bought over by larger player like Raymonds bought Colour Plus, but then rather than leveraging the brands name , it has left to die, maybe some the internal dynamics of the organization would dictate that or the brand gets lost amidst  the numerous brands that the acquirer has.

The list of the forgotten brands is very long, Uncle Chips, Deccan Airways, Kelvinator...

Nokia will also join the list soon, at least in the mobiles....

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sachets and their role in increasing category penetration

Sachets are perhaps the most important innovation to happen in the Indian market in the recent times. They say that litmus test for a real good innovation is that after it is executed it seems very simple and apparent, that is true for the use of sachets in India. Another reason could be the fact that we are naturally used to buying in smaller quantities be it buying cigarettes in sticks, oil in loose , one just needs to go to the hinter lands to see what can be sold in smaller quantities.

The overall role of small packs in increasing penetration of categories like shampoos in rural India is an old story.

A few days back saw the small packs of Hershey's Syrup. My guess is that this is an adaptation for the Indian market. Will surely promote the trial of the product especially in India where familiarity with the category is low.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Nokia feeling Nostalgic

Yesterday was the last day for the Nokia factory in Chennai and when I saw the article in et and the models shown in it ...

The significance of the factory in terms of the output is not known to many of us

Monday, October 27, 2014

Can toothbrushes be further Differentiated?

Whenever I have think of tooth brushes, the first image which come to my mind is that of the toothbrush salesman moving from one shop to the other walking with bundles of toothbrushes.....

And feel that all that can be differentiated in a toothbrush has been done, no further ways to make your toothbrush different from the other..

But then time and again I see examples which remind me that a marketer can find ways and means of differentiating and continue doing it

The zigzag bristles, additional tongue cleaner and so on....are the usual ones

The most interesting one which I found was the idea of putting an indicator in Oral-B. It made sense because it helped both the company as well as consumers who would be reminded that it time to change the brush and the company obviously in sales...

The last visit to a large retailer brought to my attention a new offering from Colgate which is also equally interesting , the SlimSoft Charcoal , the website enlists two advantages, first the micro slim-tip bristles help reach deeper between teeth & along the gum-line and second  the charcoal infused bristles remove plaque bacteria.

The other toothbrushes also had something to offer, but this one stood out....

If some much can be done on a simple toothbrush, then the scope and limits are which are set by a manager not a product....

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Markets blooming during Diwali

If one wants to experience the festivities during Diwali one needs to move away from the Malls and shopping centers into the traditional markets. Went to two of the older markets in lucknow, sharing some photos from the visit. 
Candles being Sold by Kilos

People busy Buying
Diya's Being Sold
Brisk Sale of Pooja Items

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Interesting full page ad

Saw an interesting print as so sharing

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Season of full page Ads continue

A full page by mobile store talking about off line advantages

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Will Online Retail Become Bigger than Modern Trade

After seeing the aftermath of the "The Big Billion Day" Sale an interesting thought is coming to my mind, will online retail overtake Modern Trade or Organized Retail in India? One of the reasons this question came to my mind looking at the reactions which came from the members of organized retail. They have all queued-up to complain against the 6the Oct sale and the fight in Mobile retail and online has been on for quite some time. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of the issue, I will move on to the moot question.. 

I will briefly summarize some of the key challenges which organized retail faces , prohibitively expensive real estate for setting-up retail stores. Internationally large format retailers would locate themselves outside the city where real estate is not that expensive and people would drive to buy from them. India we have challenges of people willing to travel long distance for shopping: one is the challenge of travelling along with the widespread smaller kirana trader…

Added to that the fact that no one has cracked the format which would suit India, so we still do not know which format will work. Lack of clarity on regulations, especially on the entry of multinational players. and most of the retailers are bleeding....

On the online front, there are challenges too, but somehow I have feeling they have the potential to challenge the Big Bazaars and Reliance Retail's. And perhaps the low priced "android one" phones might be the bridge that ecom players are looking for. And add to that the regulations are not very clear for ecom, though the government is making the wrong noises...

Though organized retail has been around for quite some time it not managed to breach the double figure mark in market share. Internationally the online players have become an additional channel, and co-exist with the large format retailers, but in India because both of them are emerging simultaneously the scene might turn out to very different in the next five years. 

I am confessing that I am going with the hype, the bubble….. but then that is the fun in being part of the hype and sticking your neck-out…

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Season of full page ads 3

More full page advertisements, this time it is Big Bazaar, on flipkart sale.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Flipkart's Big Billion Day Sale - Sale with no Logic?

Typically every festival season marketers burn the mid-night oil to come up with block buster offers. For many years this responsibility was shouldered by LGs Samsung’s in the Durables Business and then the Mobile marketers, which lined up new products and offers during the festive season, but this year it is the ecom firms which are hogging the limelight or should I say the front pages of newspapers (albeit through full page ads)….

This post is specifically about the flash sales and the one-day sale model which flipkart has been using. They have had a series of flash sales for the Motorola and Xiaomi mobiles. Today morning they have tried a similar model with the one day sale model where they have ridiculously priced products up for sale like a Samsung Tab2 for 1,390, hand blender for 1 and so on

And this was backed up a fairly aggressive TV and print campaign and obviously numerous reminders on Facebook and where not...

But even at 8.02 AM in the morning what you can see is "Sold-Out" for these products, I think flipkart is playing with fire, what does it want to do with this kind of sale, create awareness? Then let them be warned, these limited stock deals create more heart-burn than any long term customer loyalty and if they think consumers cannot see through their tactics then they are again very wrong.

Do they want to clear old stocks,  or do they just want more people visiting their site??? Hopefully they are mature enough to think beyond the eyeballs model.

And even before the event I can see a lot of negative posts about them on social networking sites and even in the earlier flash sales , I could read more negative

comments than good experiences being shared.

I use to be a loyal flipkarter till some time back, but have shifted out to their nearest competitor, but even then I am worried about the direction which flipkart is going....

Season of Full Page Ads - 2

Today the full page ads were even more interesting, especially the response by snap deal on flipkart's special sale day..

 And Snapdeal responding..

Season of Full Page Ads - 1

For the last few days I have been seeing full page ads , these were the ones which were put up for the Swachh Bharat Campaign

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Swachh Bharat - Onus of Success Lies with us..

Whenever we travel out most of us are struck by the cleanliness in cities likes Singapore, Seoul or a Hong Kong and come back home thinking - why are our cities dirty...

We try to console ourselves saying they are much smaller places and so easier to maintain perhaps, income levels are higher and so on....

This is where the Swachh Bharat  nitiative of Prime Minister Modi is significant, as it brings the issue of cleanliness back into focus, on the top agenda in your to-do-list. This is something which I sure do not remember happening in my life time, yes we have read about it in Gandhi Ji experiments with truth and so on,...but it is something which we read and ... Whenever I read something about Gandhi Ji the first thing which strikes me is the vision that the person had and clarity of thought ( things which he spoke about and wrote and so relevant today) ...I think in the recent years it was the “Munna Bhai” Movies which had the maximum impact on making the youngsters remember the principles of Gandhi Ji than anyone else,

Coming back to the campaign I sincerely hope we succeed at and we get our Swachh Bharat...and the onus lies with each of us, and a lot of MNCs are also eager to pitch in ....

Let us start with our offices, homes and then expand and hopefully change our habits of treating our homes sacred, but the road on which the dorr opens as the responsibility of the Munciplaity. The three cities which I spoke about in the starting also were as bad as many of our cities a few decades back, but then today …so we do have hope

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

On to the next orbit in Customer service

On many occasions I have used this blog to vent out my frustration on the poor quality of service which we get.  It is a very sensitive issue and if I touch this issuer in a class it would ensure that for next 10-15 minutes everyone is sharing his/her service horror stories.

I would try to justify telling them that marketing is new in India, categories are unsaturated and so on... And sort of conclude that things will improve as time goes by,

And yes in the last few years the customer service levels have improved, but this improvement has not come from the traditional older firms, but it is the ecom firms which are setting up the new benchmark.  

The best experience is from firms like Amazon which has a stated aim of becoming the world's most consumer friendly company.  And for the first time other firms in India want to follow the international standards, so our own flipkart and myntra also provide the same exceptional customer support services.

I think historically companies have competed to reach the bottom rung in delivering customer service, and this would apply to both domestic as well as multinational firms. With the MNCs I guess when they start-off they do set high standards and then over time decide to compromise or match the lowest denominator in the industry. 

But with the consumer getting a chance to experience best-in-the-class service he/she will demand the same from the traditional older firms and they will have to respond if they have to compete and survive

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More on channel shift

Continuing on the previous post on how traditional channels are being threatened by online channels this post tries to understand the impact across product categories.  The example which I often talk about is the closure of Gangarams Store in Bangalore.  I think most of walking on M G Road would visit the book store to look for new books.  And for a die-hard book fan its closure marked a major milestone on how people would buy books in the future. But one question which I still think about is that even today I first check-out books in the physical stores and then buy them online unless there is a real urgency or I am traveling with no books. So the importance of the physical stores in the experiential part even in a category like books is still strong, but how long will the physical stores manage to survive. In a period of six years I have seen a Landmark Store open and close down in Lucknow.....

Books as a category are the most favorable for online shopping, so consumers taking to online buying of books are not surprising.  But more interesting are categories like jewellery where traditional brick-n-mortar stores like Tanishq have worked for many years to move the consumers away from family jewelers to their stores. The new online options like bluestone . com are ones which will face the uphill task of convincing consumers to buy online.  Books and Jewellery perhaps form the two ends of the spectrum of online buying..
But one thing is sure we as consumers are in for exciting times.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Channels Shift

In the early ecom days people said it is traditional channels which will be threatened  the most, it was predicted that they will be replaced by ecom channels.  The utopian world of no intermediaries in between the consumer and the manufacturer.  That was in the early 2000. But the way the market played out in the next 15 years was very different,  first came the burst and then the second life,  and in the second life with a wave of new ecom firms booming the dire predictions for the middle man  are back. But this time it is not just in thin air, the first signs of what could happen in the future can be seen with many firms using only ecom sites to sell their products with no physical  presence. With the Moto Gs and Mi3s being sold only thru flipkart. 

Will it mean the end game of traditional channels, beginning of the end....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gap between Promise and Execution in Marketing I

As a marketer we spend a lot of time and energy on conceptualization - how to position, advertise the brand. The message strategy, the right celebrity for the ad... and the list is long 

But do we put enough effort on execution of what gets promised..???

By execution I will give examples, Bingo has something called Mad Angles, the product is in the shape of triangles, what happens when more than half of the pack has broken triangle? You buy an Cadbury's Bourneville chocolate and once you have moved away from the shop and start eating it you realize that the product has been refrozen. These examples are not of the serious kind which can lead to health hazards, which obviously these also have serious implications.

And coming back to the theme with which I started the post, whom would you assign the responsibility to the retailer, the distributor, or the distributor sales man who loads the packets in the morning in the vehicle or the logistics guy... 

In theory we do talk about the internal marketing where other departments are also sensitised about marketing. I will continue this post with more examples from the ecommerce domain...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Full Circle and Carbide Free Mangoes

For the last 3-4 years I have stopped enjoying the mangoes during the summer. And I stay in the heart land Dasheri mango in eastern UP. The reason is that the satisfaction I would get from eating mangoes has been going down, because most of them have not ripened naturally. They have been ripened by using chemicals. The same is true with many vegetables that we buy today. Saw the ad in that context and thought of sharing it,
That is where the issue of opportunity for marketers to capitalize on the dissatisfaction of consumers comes in. A huge market for with the organic and chemical free fruits and vegetables.....

The full circle is the topic for another blog post

Monday, April 7, 2014

Interview with D Shivakumar, PepsiCo CEO

Recently had an opportunity to listen to him at a conference and would rate him very high on his understanding of the Indian market. In the conference he spoke more about telecom  market where he has substantial experience.

In this interview he shares his view on the foods business, lots of food for thought....

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Summer Brands

With Summer setting in many marketers are rolling up their sleeves for the hot summer sales which will follow, most excited would be the Ice cream , Soft drink and AC marketers.....

Yesterday was in a typical kirana store buying the monthly regulars, interestingly the small shop is exactly on top of a larger EasyDay shop...but more on that later..

In the shop I saw the packs of Rasna ready-to-make drink, and suddenly started feeling nostalgic on how central the brand use to 25-30 years back in terms of the summer experience. The presence of the Rasna bottle in the monthly purchase bag would trigger a long elaborate process of preparing the drink, sugar + powder + concentrate (in a separate small bottle) and transferring the same into large glass bottles would mark the start of serious summer.
While I was still ruminating, my three old daughter coolly picked-up a bottle of Fanata and did not even look at the Rasna boxes… In today's world full of aerated drinks and instant drinks (sugar added) the excitement around older brands like Rasna is missing....

But from a branding perspective one does feel that the brand still has a lot of potential (not sure with the right target segment though..)

The brands which I very closely associate with summers would be Kelvinator ,  Target, Chacha Chowdry . …

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review – The wave Rider By Ajit Balakrishnan

Just finished the book so thought will write a quick review…

The author is the founder and CEO of I think most of us ( meaning my age group) would have had a rediff mail account at some point.

A short book, around 160 pages leaving out the notes, and quite well written, where the author makes an attempt at mapping out the IT revolution. The name of the book itself is interesting and somewhere an acknowledgement by the author that the rise of was the fact of being at the right place at the right time…

The book is a part history of and part author’s commentary on the rise of the internet. This is both the strength and weakness of the book, weakness because I picked-up the book or rather bought it online in the hope of knowing more about rediff, but felt let down, but then there are many nuggets of insights which the author shares on his perspective on the growth of internet and information technology.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Product Innovation for Indian Markets - LG Evercool Refrigerator

Wanted to share this ad many months back,when I first saw the ad...

Another example of Innovation for Indian consumers. For most of the tier-II city residents in the country this feature "Longest Cooling During Power Cut" makes a lot of sense...  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Emergence of New Product Categories in Grocery

Normally we assume that in grocery as a category one would not see many new categories emerge, but for the last couple of years or slightly more one can see at least 4-5 new categories emerge and become high growth categories..

The new categories are,


Olive oil

Frozen food (the likes of smiles….)

There seems to be two strong reasons for the emergence of these categories, one is the increasing health consciousness among the Indian consumers and second is the increasing presence of organized retail. The first factor heavily influences three out of the four categories, but the organized retail  impacts all the four, because for many of them some handholding is required which is easier in the organized retail domain rather the dominant mom-n-pop stores….

May be the category of energy drinks can also be added to the list….

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