Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mumbai Dabbawala - A Sucess Story

A year back I had an opportunity to listen to a presentation made by Mr Manish Tripathi of Dabbawala from Mumbai. He shared his ideas with us on the working of the model and he kept the audience totally glued to his presentation inpite of limitations of English. Later on he shared with me that he had made similar presentations in many Ivey League schools overseas also.

For more on Dabawabawala visit thier official website, link

I have made an attempt to document Indian success stories in my blog and felt that this one is on top of the pile. The model is totally designed for India and provided its utility and efficiency over many decades. Now many companies are trying to leverage this network for pushing their sales, be it the telecom companies to sell their re-charge coupons to the clients of dabbawala or the insurance companies trying to reach these people during the March end rush. I found a very good presentation in slideshare so thought would upload that here..

But one of the learning's from the model which at times gets unnoticed by people is that there one can achieve record efficiency levels(beyond six sigma)by using simple basic coding. Most of us when told about this level of efficiency would associate it with a extremely sophisticated modern way of working backed with a lot of IT....

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Indian Consumer buying Habits 2 - Aversion to Credit

Again this is also more of a cultural issue, we have been told since our childhood days "one should spend only within his/her means", so we have had a general aversion to credit and more focus is one savings, as can be seen from our high savings rate.

Now this has changed with the younger consumers, the generation which has started working after liberalisation is more open to idea of taking credit to buy TV, Fridge, Homes. And marketing has also contributed to this shift in consumer habit, with credit card companies and banks aggressively promoting the 'spend today and pay later" philosophy. But if one were to appreciate the values the older generation still holds against the idea of credit one needs to flash the plastic in front of their parents and ................

Though just when one thought the days of being conservative with the use of plastic were gone, the slowdown in the economy has again brought this issue back into focus. The stories of how many consumers took up large loans to buy flats and cars and are now struggling with their repayments either because of pink slips or salary reduction. This would force many consumers into their shells and become more cautious in availing credit and so though not back to square one but atleast a small step back....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Promotions

I saw a print promo ad for Mercedes-Benz E Class Cars in the newspaper today,

A car which is priced at more than Rs 40 Lakhs and the promotion talks about 0% interest rate. I was left wondering if the buyer of such high priced luxury car be interested in a 0% interest scheme, maybe yes for a TV, fridge I can understand....

But then many I have seen these Mercs being struck in the by lanes of Bangalore , where the owner is trying to take a short-cut to reach his office and save some fuel !!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Low Cost Airlines- Yo -Yoing fares

Low Cost Airlines as an industry was at one point in time the poster-child of liberalised India, the example quoted to show people what happens when an industry is opened up to competition and you let market forces take care everything. The results were there for everyone to see, the air fares could be compared with the AC Train fares, and at time it was cheaper to fly than catch a train and spend a whole day travelling. These reduced fares brought people in droves to the airports, pushing the basic primary demand . There were instances when the first-time air travellers brought with them tiffin boxes to eat during the journey, as they use to do in the trains, though the low cost airliners were not amused by this as they wanted to increase their revenues by selling food also.

But the higher fuel prices brought the honeymoon to and end, and we saw the pioneer of the concept Deccan Airways giving way to Kingfisher Red. And in all newspapers the headlines were the stories of the losses which all the airlines were making and the layoffs and all. The fares sky rocketed and the number of air travellers dropped. Add to this the impact of slowing down of the economy and even corporates started rethinking their travel plans.

But then with the drop in the fuel prices the fares were again brought down, infact many of the low cost airlines reintroduced their 99/- fares on popular routes. But consumers do not act just on price tags, especially the first-time travellers , who would be the target for these promos. The perception of what is being charged is what works, in the initial days of the low cost air travel there was so much of hype on the fact that air travel has become affordable. This hype was not the just because of the paid promotions that were being done by the air line companies but also by the positive press coverage it was generating. Now when the prices were hiked this perception has been altered and people have started perceiving air travel to be expensive. This might explain why in Jan inspite of almost 50% reduction in the fares there was a negligible increase in the passengers (from 33.73 lakhs in Dec to 33.76 in Jan 2009 , vs 39.34 lakhs last Jan), though slowdown in the economy might also be contributing to this.

Adding to the mess , low-cost airlines abruptly hiked their fares last week citing drop in passengers , and today they have again reduced it by 20%. This yo-yoing of fares by the airline industry is also not helping the perception issue. The regular traveller would anyway take the best out of the price reduction and you are no longer in the consideration set of the first-time travellers a catch 20-20 situation . a time for a drastic shift in the approach of the airlines companies towards their pricing policies ?????

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pizza Hut in India - Localisation of Menu and Communication

We have come a long way from the initial days when some of these fast food giants like KFC were attacked, to the situation where no mall in the country is complete without the presence of these food outlets. Though many of them made their initial entry with their international menu but today after staying here for many years their menu has changed to serve the Indian palate.
First among them was McDonalds which changed its kitchen and menu to suit Indian tastes, on which I have written earlier too, link. But the same is being followed by Pizza hut , a look at their menu shows us how many special exclusive Indian pizzas they have , for vegetarians they a host of Panner offerings and for Non-vegetarians the Kabaab and Chicken Tikka Pizzas.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baldness Market in India

Bill Gates says that the amount of money put behind finding cures for baldness is higher than what is spent on malaria research, for more on his TED talk, link .

But I suddenly find that baldness is becoming quite a serious issue in India, especially among the younger lot. One can see the hair loss which use to happen much later happening quite early and this is corroborated by my interaction and observation of many of this young people.
And then this problem of rapid and early hair fall has not gone unnoticed , marketers and entrepreneurs are jumping in to cash in the opportunity or should one say loss. The increase in the number of hair-fall clinics across the country and the positioning of major shampoo brands in the country is a proof for this. Dr Batra's Clinic has grown to their current size mainly based on hair-loss treatment that they offer through their clinics spread across the country. And hair fall reduction has become the new plank on which shampoo brands are competing against each other, from their earlier focus on dandruff , cleaning and nourishing.

There could be many reasons why there is sudden increase in interest on this issue, one the quality of water and food has deteriorated over the years and we actually have people loosing hair early, and alternatively earlier even if some one were to loose hair he would not care much about it , but today with more disposable income and options maybe it is giving rise to that the bald market..

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Indian Consumer Buying Habits 1

As Indian's we hold a lot of value for the 'old', maybe it is also culturally driven where we have been asked to respect 'old' rather than look for new. Though this is changing very fast especially among the younger generation of consumers, but it will take a lot of time before we actually catch up with our western counter parts. And it is even questionable whether such a transition is a good one. Anyway without getting into 'consumerism' debate I will like to look into this aspect in detail from a marketer's perspective.

Most of us have an uncle who would proudly show of his old watch, " I have been using this watch for the last 30 years , this was gifted to me when I was in class 10" . This is a nightmare come true for a marketer, if every consumer were to use his watch for eternity then ......

Similarly most housewives collect the used containers of flour, ghee ,,, which she would clean and use it to store cereals , and other items in the kitchen and so on till it is sold to the scrap dealer . Companies like Pilot , when they launched their Pilot pens in India, were surprised by the demand from consumers that they wanted a refill for their pens. This was unheard of in the Japaneses market as the pens were designed as 'use and throw' . The local partner of the company had to produce inks locally which could be used to refill the pens.

This value which we hold for anything old in our house has been quite successfully exploited by many marketers. Their solution to this issue is offer an 'exchange' scheme' to the consumer. By doing so the company is giving some value to the consumers in return for the old. Most successful was Akai and it's exchange scheme which ended up changing the face the TV market in India. Even Bajaj use to bank on this value for a long time, its ads use to exclusively talk about the money one would get when it is sold later.

A more recent example is the annual "The Great Exchange Offer" by BigBazaar, with an offer to buy all the old scrap material (Kabaad) at prices much higher than what prevails in the open market, like Rs 25 per kilo of newspapers , old tires at Rs 50 and so on. The condition being that one has shop four times the value of the old scrap which they sell there to able to redeem the value of exchange.

There are many more unique consumer buying habits which i would try and cover in my later posts, but will look forward to suggestions and observations from readers...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

L K Advani a la Obhama !!!!!

With the general election clouds gathering in the horizon, all political parties and their leaders are gearing up for the Mega Event. Historically the role of marketing in an election campaign inIndia has been quite minimal, especially when seen in the context of the US Presidential elections. But the advantages of the leveraging social media and technology to connect directly with people has not gone unnoticed and our political parties , their leaders are trying to ride on the technology wave especially to connect with the 100 million first-time voters who would start voting from this general election.

Though the attempt to connect to people directly is a very good idea on paper, but how does it get implemented is some thing which needs to be seen. All across the internet on most of the websites that one would visit regularly one can see the campaign of L K Adva

ni BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate . I was tempted to write more about it after I read Gaurav's post almost a month back, but resisted it. But the fact is that wherever you go on the net , blogs, websites you have the banner ads of  L K Advani's election campaign floating, estimated at 200 websites. So thought as the blog is supposed to share observations on what is happening the Indian market I thought I should share some of my thoughts with readers.

Starting with what is good about the whole campaign, the idea of having a well designed webpage, a blog and book are something which fits into what is needed to start a campaign like this. But there are a series of negatives which I have observed in the campaign,

Firstly,  I am pretty disappointed at the level of creativity, which can be seen from a 'We Can Do it' to a  'Its Possible' tag line in the banner ads , through this sort of campaign you would want to connect to the younger consumer who are net savvy and this is the best you could think of. How much time does it take to see the similarity ????

At the second level I also see the approach towards the campaign seems to be more of an extension of their mass marketing intrusive approach. With banners ads all over the net they are trying to do what a typical mass media guy will do buy all good spots on the TV and Radio and keep sending the same message over and over again, but that is where social media is different. Though the idea of creating a buzz is right but you cannot create buzz in a Blogsphere by forcing your presence across internet by putting banner ads all over, I see more negative fall out this than anything else... 

But hopefully from a marketer’s angle the campaign would improve with time and realization of how to operate in the internet domain would evolve, and will have more observations to write.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marketing Books Update

'Buyology' the new book based on Neurological studies by Martin lindstrom. Through the book Lindstrom shares the insights from the series of neuromarketing studies which he conducted. In the book he goes on to disprove many of the popular beliefs that one holds about things like the utility of product placements, and anti-smoking ads. Many of his ideas are also there in his video blog, on his website

Second on the list is Rohit Bhargava's 'Personality Not Included' where he talks about how companies are increasingly becoming faceless - without a personality. He elaborates the idea of how one could build an authentic personality for an organization, a combination of a theory and a how to are combined in the book. A very good read.

Next is David Scott's book 'The New Rules of Marketing & PR' a little dated book especially in the context of the issues covered in the book about various emerging forms of media, but still is quite relevant.

Guy Kawasaki's new book Reality Check is an compilation of many of blog posts, which is slowly becoming a trend- writing books out of the posts which one has written. The book is a collection of thoughts on various issues from presentation and public speaking tips to suggestions of how to make good sales pitch to VCs. The number of issues which the author has covered can be guessed by the number of chapters the 450 plus page book has - 95...

Two more books on social media and their influence on marketing, 'Always On' a book which elaborates the turmoil which traditional media is going through after the advent of Internet based consumer generated media. Paints a scary picture of the changes which are coming up.

Second is Groundswell which is also on similar lines which discusses the concept of how customers are taking over the conversation about your company and brand through blogs , wiki and youtube. The authors are also have a very strong presence in the blogsphere through there popular blog ground swell.Both these books are on the best books list of Strategy & Business.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tata Tea and Jaago Re Initiative

I have been trying to document cases wherein marketing principles have been applied to non-typical contexts in India. One of the more recent cases which I had observed and documented was the promotion of the usage of condom . The campaign is is very well designed with website , games, mobile ring tones and a mass media campaign all revolving round the concept. link to my earlier post.

In today's post I would try to document two more similar on-going initiatives. The first is the Jaago Re campaign in which they are promoting voter registration across the country and targeting the younger generation of first time voters. The campaign revolves around their website which facilities the process of voter registration by enabling voter registration online for the first time in the country. The website claims to be a 'one-stop-solution to all your voting needs'. And they have managed to get 320,000 youngsters registered through the website.

This campaign is also unique as it is being promoted jointly by an NGO 'Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, and a corporate 'Tata Tea". Tata tea is providing the funding needed to run the mass media campaign and leveraging the concept Jagoo Re to differentiate their tea brands. According to the company the campaign is a good fit to their attempt to umbrella brand all their tea brands. It seems like a win-win situation , with the brand leveraging a social cause for promoting its brand and the cause getting the funding it needs.

Link to the two TV being in the initiative 1st ad & 2nd ad

The second campaign which I have noticed in the Bell Bajao Campaign , which is a campaign which urges people to take a stand against domestic violence. This TV and radio campaign has a strong back up with the website, The links to various TV ads used,

Testimonial Ad, link
More in the series, Ball ad, Milk ad

It is good see the wider application of marketing in areas of social and societal concern, hopefully this would just be the beginning .................

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Market Update 05.02.09

Trying to update what has come in the press on Marketing in India, in the last two weeks

Starting with Economic Times, Brand Equity

Brand LIC and how it has grown in the competitive post-lib scenario, link
Brand Building in Recessionary times, link 
Bharat Nimran Campaign versus India Shinning, link
Salman Khurshid on the campaign , link and Arun Jaitley, link 
Well documented Crossword story, how it has become the largest book retailer in the country and transformed book retail, link
Piyush Pandey on the power of ideas, link 
Unilever is planning to feature it's corporate logo in British and Irish consumer ads, this is something which they have been doing in the Asian markets but not there, raises issues of the plus and minus of such an approach, link 

Business Standarad,  Strategist
Aditya Birla retail and plans for private labels, link 
One more new channel which proposes to be different from other, read the Real story, the new channel which would be up by March from Turner-Midtech, link
Counterfeits in FMCG, link 
Television viewership data, link
Bajaj focuses back on Scooters, link

Business Line Catalyst
Below the line Ads in times of slow down, The use of Dabbawallahs to sell mutual funds, link 
Marketing catching up with Bollywood, link 
Benefits of slowdown, link
Story of the growth of Club Mahindra, link 
Satyam Crisis, link 
More consumer choice, more confusion, Indian Retail also going the same way, link 
Slowdown and marketing, link

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Santoor Soaps - Overtakes Lux in South India

When one talks about 'Wipro', the first thing people think of is about their IT business. The fact is that IT is a relatively new business for Wipro and they have been into others businesses which are much older, like lighting and consumer care . In fact they started their business in the vegetable oil business. These older divisions have for a long time been under the shadow of their larger younger cousin software, but of late the consumer business is coming to age, last three years it is one the fastest growing FMCG companies in the country.

The flagship brand of the consumer care division is 'Santoor'. Since its launch in 1986 the brand has been doing quite well in the fiercely competitive soap business dominated by HUL. The industry estimates the brand to be worth more than Rs 500 crore. But the big news is that it has become No 2 brand in the south edging out Lux. (It is the largest selling brand of soap in Andhra). Nielsen data shows that it has 15.6% market share in south versus 12.4% of Lux. The fact that it has overtaken Lux is something which is commendable, looking at the history and support which a brand like Lux receives with Prinka chopra and Ashiwarya Rai being the brand ambassadors for Lux. Wipro plans to leverage the brand by extending the brand into new categories like creams, moisturizers, body sprays and washes, after the relaunch of the brand.

The company website describes the brand as "a truly unique soap that combines the goodness of natural ingredients - Sandal, Turmeric and natural Skin Softeners". The long standing positioning of the brand has been - a skin that is so healthy and beautiful, it lies about your actual age !. The product is available in three variants, Santoor (Sandal & Turmeric), Santoor White (Sandal & Almond milk) and Santoor Chandan. They have extended the brand into talc, face wash and fairness cream.

For me santoor is an addition to my list of sucessful Indian brands which have done well against competition from much larger multinational companies. And as a marketer it is obviously interesting to find out more about how the brand become number two overtaking Lux which obviously has spending more money on ad and promotions. A successful case of low cost marketing....

More on the success story, catalyst analysis, link

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rural Marketing in India - Beyond Tactics

Sharing the presentation from the talk which I had given to MBA participants of IIT Allahabad on Rural Marketing,


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