Thursday, August 30, 2007


Interactive television and a bird called Kingfisher!

Kingfisher is a Bird!

Q: Television channels seem to be getting more and more interactive. What’s the big idea?

-Sudha Deshpande, Mumbai

A: Sudha, a most positive trend for sure in many ways. The medium, in many manners of speaking, is the message.

Look at the way the various mediums in our recent year lives have morphed. In the beginning it was print. And then there was radio. Television. The Internet. Word of mouth. And everything else that will follow.

In the beginning, newspapers believed in communication that was one way. The purpose of the publication was the top-down dissemination of news. Along with comes the adjunct and more commercial purpose as well, the dissemination of advertising material as well for a price paid for by the advertiser at large to reach to the consuming masses.

As the days went by, the newspaper business found itself evolving around the needs, wants, aspirations and desires of consumers. The newspaper got interactive. It invited response. It acted on this response as well. Newspapers even encouraged columns from readers who seemed to enjoy all the attention. Advertisers similarly hopped onto the bandwagon of what content was driving thus far. Advertisers put out contests which had readers actively participating. The newspaper got more and more interactive in terms of both content and advertising.

A similar movement was seen in radio. It is now the time of television to get interactive. Albeit in a different manner altogether. Interactivity in Television in many ways has always been there, right from the days of Tabassum and her very highly appreciated chat show of yore. Viewers were invited to call in and chat.

Today’s interactivity on television is a different model altogether. Television channels today invite you to share your mind, mood, sentiment and participative vigor all together on the public channel at large.

Take the case of the Jessica Lal murder petition that NDTV spearheaded. Take the case of Zee TV and its many cases and causes. Take the case of CNN IBN and its recent light a candle campaign for the Mumbai blast victims. Television channels today encourage interactivity that has the consumer involved very closely with the current affairs of the day. The CNN IBN Citizen Journalist initiative is another interactive measure that will have the rather thick and deep line between viewer and participant blurring.

Channels of the future will take consumer activism forward as well. All this will of course come at a price. The price you the viewer are willing to pay spending on that SMS you will send the channel. All this will result in a margin as well. The margin the channel shall make on the premium SMS rate agreements the channel will have with the telecom service provider at large. Interactivity is fun. Interactivity can be profitable as well.

Q: Is India going to be the next hub that will produce brands that the world will franchise? Or is this fancy thinking?

-Rohini Kubal, Mumbai

Rohini, India will produce brands for the world to consume for sure! So will all of Asia. Let’s enjoy the glow!

I do believe this will be true particularly in the category of Service brands. Not so much in the category of products. Our strength lies in the Services sector. As we do see in the IT sector, we are great in Services and quite terrible when it comes to products!

Why services? Very simply because we have a heritage that supports the services mindset. Take the Indian home for instance. The guest is very, very welcome. Even surprise unannounced and over-staying guests. This is not quite so in the US for instance, where you need to take a prior appointment to visit a home, and worse still in Japan, where you are not invited home at all....for a long, long time.

Our Eastern heritage, which spans all of the Indian sub-continent, Thailand, China and most certainly many other parts of Asia(except Japan) are excellent at the category of service. Walk into a Thai store, buy something, and before you leave, you have been thanked all over in a most humble and gracious manner!

I think Asia will be a creator of the future brands that will dot the globe. This will be so embracing some of the ancient practices that Asia has used for many years to success.

Yoga, Vaastu, Unani Medicine, Ayurveda, the Art of Living, and spiritual reliefs of every kind will be the brands that will dominate the Western hemisphere more than ever.

Add to it everything in the services category, such as brands of restaurants and food and beverage solutions of every kind. Add beauty and health solutions to it. Add the retail effort of every kind, including Chinese pedicure as a practice, Thai massage as an art that can be branded and replicated, and we will see Asian brands doing it in the future.

The American dominance in the realm of branding took the ‘clonal’ path. Branding from the American perspective was a static entity that moved millions. The brand had to be consistent, factory produced, consistency-led and literally the output of a conveyor belt. This 'massified' approach will not help the Asian brand in the future.

The Asian brand will need to follow unique ways of reaching out to the market. It will need to be that much more customized, personal and in-touch with the myriad and changing needs of the consumer at large.

Q: What is the real power of a brand name? Is it not all a lot of hog-wash?

-Swetanshu Garg, Mumbai

A: Swetanshu, firstly sorry for changing that expletive at the end of your question to “hog-wash”! Forgive the British sense of correctness.

Now, let me illustrate the power of a brand name to you simply.

If I ask you what is Kingfisher? What will your answer be? Think.

A quick answer from you will say it’s a beer. A more thought out answer will say it is also an airline today.

The real answer: Kingfisher is a bird!

Dr. Vijay Mallya and his team have made you forget this basic fact that kingfisher is a bird, and your first responses are a beer and an airline!

That is the power of a brand name, and indeed the power of a brand! In your mind!

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


Rural Market Realities

Of Bellies and bladders

Q: What are the major changes that you have seen in the rural markets in the last decade in terms of size of market?

-Pobbathi Rajshekar, Hyderabad

A: Dear Raj, the rural market has always been a big one for India. Three-fourths of all consumption lies here in sheer population terms. Only less than a quarter of the population lives in urban areas.

The population numbers occupying rural spaces have however shrunk over the last several decades. This is what I call “Creeping urbanization” affecting rural masses in a state of market and habit transition. The rural population, over the decades, has shown a trend wanting to move into a state of gradual urbanization in terms of exposure, habits, life-styles and lastly consumption patterns of goods and services.

In rural areas, we have key issues with the populations that live on and off the land. As the generations go by, land holdings are splintering, with successive generations getting less and less land to farm upon and live off. This is causing for a gradual urge for better life-styles, as seen happening in urban centers. This movement and aspiration is further accentuated by mass media, which today penetrates 98.9% of all areas Urban and rural. This media is not segregated media for urban and rural. This media’s dominant visual, tone and tenor is the urban lifestyle. This is actually making for a salivating generation in rural India that wants to migrate physically, emotionally and aspirationally for sure to the urban mode of living.

Back to the size of the market then. The market size has always been large. The largest numbers of bellies and bladders and indeed every organ part that requires marketing satiation lies in rural India. The size of this market is well over 700 million! All these individuals have needs, wants, desires and aspirations that anyone in Urban India has. The fulfillment of these needs hitherto was on an un-branded commodity format thus far. Today however, there is a rampant craving for the brand offering for a host of needs. This craving is suddenly giving the market a boost as brands find takers in markets that hitherto frowned on the branded produce that lacked value differentiation in their minds.

The size of the market for branded goods and services therefore looks suddenly big.

In sheer comparative terms, the rural market size is exciting by a factor of 1:3 for sure. For every color television set that is demanded in Urban India, three will be demanded in rural India.

The market is a very involved market as well. Not as cynical a market as most modern urban economies where brands are suddenly being seen as entities that do not necessarily pack value. Brands in these urban markets are seen to pack premium, and not necessarily value. Not so in the nascent emerging rural markets of India. Therefore the market size is large, involved and has the potential of packing great marketer premiums for a while to come.

Q: in the recent past, there have been a lot of logo changes. Why do companies change their logos?

-Rajeev Sikka, New Delhi

Rajeev, many, many reasons really. Here are five for a start.

1) One is certainly the need felt to re-define corporate culture within and
without the organization. In such a case, companies suddenly find their
existing logo to be a burden it is carrying. A part of the old heritage of
organization. Something that was thrust on it by a very old founding
management that believed in a different credo altogether.

In such cases, the company believes it must change tack and move away from
the definitions of organizational purpose and reinvent itself. As it
reinvents, it wants to shed the old logo and adopt a new one.

2) Yet another reason is when a company finds a logo too frivolous for the
intent of organization. We must realize that when most old logos were
created (ones that have been around for more than 50 years), the fonts
available were basic and so were the colors. Half tones were not
encouraged, leave alone quarter tones. In the bargain most logos did not
look solid enough and some even had a basic frivolity around them. Companies
therefore want change.

3) And then there are companies which want logos changed when there is a
split of business. This happens mostly in family run businesses. Take
Reliance for instance. The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group versus the Mukesh
Dhirubhai Ambani Group. Both need different logos. One inherits it, and
another creates it anew.

4) Companies further want to look contemporary. The Wolf Olins re-creation
for the Tata group was one such effort.

5) Name changes of companies necessitate logo changes as well. A company
that goes for a drastic name change, where it moves away from a generic
sounding name, might call for a logo change as well. Take for instance the
rather hot InfoTech Enterprises based out of Hyderabad. Despite its very
varied and prosperous lines of business, it remains in generic name space
and hence gets reasonably lost in recognition space. If it changes its name
in the near future, it will undergo a logo change as well.

Q: Would you agree that the Indian consumer is more
promiscuous today than ever before?

-JS Manian, Chennai

A: Manian, I think the Indian consumer is certainly more promiscuous than ever before.

In any society promiscuity is essentially polarized between the two
ends. The higher income group at one end, which can afford the best of
brands, and at the other end to the lower income group, which quite doesn't
care as much about brands. The middle income group (the large middle class)
is the most loyal of the lot.

The reason for this promiscuity is the fact that the Indian at large is more
and more exposed to media of every kind that offers the best of range and
variety. The Indian is getting very range-conscious and is getting rather
impatient with brands. The brand experience one wants to secure from brands
is also getting broad-spectrum in appeal. Brands that offer narrow solutions
are getting the raw end of the consumer action that results in dumping of
the said brand.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Email your questions to:

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Of Yoga and the Snack-food market

Of ‘Dahi Bhalla’ and Organized Retail

By Harish Bijoor

Q: How transferable are Western ideas, products, and business models
into emerging markets like India?

Ravi Poonen, Chennai

Ravi, at the very beginning, I do believe markets are about consumers and money. Both these aspects largely hold the same dimensions in most markets. Consumers are essentially mavericks and their minds and moods change dramatically. Money on the other hand is limited, and the splurge of money is dictated by an approach that is reasonably rational. Marketers vie for the attention of the consumer and her money.

Having said that, this does not mean that all markets are level. Markets in developed countries depict a pattern that is different than what we see in developing or emerging markets. Developed markets speak of an ability to absorb anything and everything international that has succeeded in a market quite like it. Developing markets however have a habit of rejecting clonal marketing strategies that have worked elsewhere. Developing markets demand a very unique and individual understanding of local reality, desire, aspiration and passion.

India for one, is a very different kettle of Pomfret altogether. It is as "aclonal" a market as they come. Our diversity patterns are humongous. This market demands customization. Acute customization.

The western idea is welcome, but the idea needs to be morphed to adopt an avatar that is completely acceptable to the local mind and mood of the consumer.

Early MNC entrants in the category of footwear realized this to their utter surprise. What they had worked beautifully in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was not working as well in India at all.

There is an exception though .The premium category. In categories such as a Swarovski, premium cars and high end perfumes the market is entirely different and more accepting of the global thought, the global marketing campaign and even the blond haired model who will ask you to own a Gucci! The mass market is different. It is more about customization and local tweaking.

2. Can you think of some Indian brands that are poised to make a mark globally?

-Swati Menon, Mumbai

Swati, let me think!

Take Yoga. It is doing well.

I can't think of too many brands from the manufacturing sector though. For the past sixty years we have flogged the "Made in India" line that has not delivered at all. I believe we need to focus on the "Served out of India" line and most certainly the "Grown out of India" line in the future. We are great at service and our agri-practices are ancient and time-enduring. We need to package these for the future.

India and BPO is a brand that is clicking well. The services sector can offer hospitality and Indian holistic healing systems as offerings that will cause for the truly global Indian brand.

I do believe we can cause for and create a truly Indian offering in aviation space. Jet Airways can surely compete in this space. And so can Kingfisher in the future!

Q: I am just about to join a savory snacks major who has big ambitions for India. May I expect some ‘gyan’ on this market sir?

-Rajeev Reddy, Hyderabad.

Rajeev-sir, yes you may!

The savory snacks market then.

This has evolved over the years. Every new MNC entrant (do we call them that
anymore?) is actually upgrading from local taste profiles.

The 'Bhujia' market is largely sewed in by Haldirams and Bikanerwala and a
host of local players much smaller than these two as well.

Some insights (call it ‘gyan’ if you will), I believe in personally:

1. Snack-food upgrades need to largely keep in tune with the existing market
and its taste. Even a Lay's chip has to have the profile of 'Chaat' as a taste
variant if it is to attempt to be relevant to the local consumer.

2. There is a generic possibility of upgrading from wet snacks in the market
like 'Chaat', 'Dahi Bhalla' and even medium-wet snacks such as 'Kachoris' and
samaras in the market to dry [packaged versions. These snacks will need to
maintain taste profiles intact, but can offer product variants that are
different....for instance hard dough items that taste like 'chaat'....but keep
longer. The USP of this category is all about hygiene and consistency in
taste delivery.

3. There is a possible market for the baked savory, just as long as it is
not advertised to be baked. The moment you do that, there is alienation in
the market. Health is an issue and a non-issue in the market at the same

Consumers know a low fat crispy is good for the heart.........but really
don't prefer it, unless advised by the doctor with a threat.

Q: Retail is a growing industry. What’s real and what’s hype?

-Shiny George, Mumbai

A: Shiny, good question and good timing.

We are just about going through the birth pangs of organized retail in this county or ours. This is really the nascent stage of organized retail. At this stage, every player in the market is out to create all the hype there is necessary to create in the category.

I do believe organized retail has a larger than life image in the country as of now. The media is engrossed in this category as well. It makes for sexy copy!

The reality is that the size of retail needs to be defined before we get excited about it or put off by it. The secret lies in the numbers.

India is a big retail market. The world churns out a business of 6.8
Trillion USD in the retail segment. India is a 2.8 Billion USD retail
market. However, the important point to note is that in India, trade is
largely disaggregated. 98.3 per cent of all trade in this country is handled
by the small shop-keeper. Only 1.7 per cent of businesses are with the large

The growth prognosis for this industry is as varied as the vested interest
in the category touting the growth percentage.

There are numbers that are pessimistic and put organized segment retail
growth at 4 per cent per annum. And then there are numbers that predict an 18
per cent growth per annum!!!!

Whatever happens, fact of the matter lies in the reality that small retail will not get flushed out of this country in the next 25 years for sure. The “small is beautiful” model works well for this country.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Email your questions to:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


SMS Advertising works?

Coffee Cups and Brand BSE

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Is SMS advertising going to become a success or not? What’s new here?

-Prasad Matoori, Chennai

Prasad, SMS (short messaging service) is a great marketing tool. Provided it is used with intelligence and caution. An over-usage of this medium can be catastrophic to the medium itself for a start.

Let’s trace history. In the beginning, when SMS as a tool became available, marketers salivated at the potential of being able to reach out to consumers on their phone. This was a different phone even. This was an instrument that was kept very close to the body of the consumer at large unlike the landline which was left behind when one went to the movies.

The mobile phone with its visual display was seen as a medium with immense potential to deliver. Here was an instrument which was 24 X 7. An instrument that was perennially on the go with the consumer. So marketers went berserk.

You had messages that were insensitive. Messages that mass-bombarded consumers with offers and schemes and messages that told every one of the events that were happening in a particular city. And then in came consumer irritation as an issue to tackle.

Consumers hated being buzzed by messages that seemed intrusive. Marketers woke up. SMS is surely a less intrusive format of marketing than tele-marketing. All the same, intrusive it is, as it gobbles up the time and attention of the user who retrieves the message on his mobile.

Intelligent use of the SMS in a very data-base targeted manner is what works best. What’s the use of sending an SMS message on Valentine’s Day urging someone not on the love-circuit to send out those red roses? And asking a diabetic to try out the latest Hot Chocolate fudge offering?

The true blue use of SMS technology in marketing will emerge when customized messaging of the 1:1 variety can be sent out. Imagine a situation where you are just about to buy a refrigerator, and the marketer of the competing brand can target you specifically at the point of purchase with an SMS message that offers the better fridge with the better price.

Prasad, the medium is great. Its use needs to be intelligent and focused.

Q: Is the BSE a brand? Is the stock market boom a part
of the overall branding exercise of brand India?

-Pooja Katiyal, Mumbai

Pooja, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) is a brand for sure. This barometer of the prosperity index of a nation’s business is in many ways a representative brand in itself. The BSE is a thought. And to that extent it is a brand. A powerful thought that lives in the minds of millions of investors and non-investors alike.

By this definition, everything is a brand. Harshad Mehta is. Telgi is. Your mom is a brand just as mine is. Maybe a super-brand even!

The BSE represents and packages in its image a whole lot of sentiment, both positive and negative. And that is what a brand is all about. A powerful package that includes in it a whole host of positive goose-flesh creating positive strokes and a whole gamut of negative thoughts as well, that can equally create the very same goose-flesh in you. This time round it may be the goose-flesh of disgust, fear or anger even!

When the stock-market scam broke out, the BSE suffered in its own way. When the BSE is on this absolute vertical trajectory, it is enjoying the positive stroke of popularity. Nothing is permanent however in branding. And that’s why brand managers are important people to the game at hand.

Q: You have been a coffee person. I am one as well. What’s new in coffee marketing today? And what’s this all about coffee and IT? Where does the relationship come from?

-Ravi Bhupati, Chennai

Ravi, there’s lots new in coffee marketing today. Let me start with coffee and IT though.

A recent study I undertook for a coffee major indicates a close
relationship of coffee with the e-economy. The IT/ITES/Biotech environment
is a high-stress environment. Hi-stress environments are relatively good for
coffee consumption. Post 9-11, the US consumer market saw a huge upsurge in coffee consumption. The stress was too much to bear.

The more stressed a set of people, the more do they reach out for the legal
stimulant at hand. Coffee and cigarettes. Both go hand in hand. One in each
hand really!

Nicotine and caffeine are the two legal stimulants that stressed out folk
within IT environments reach out to frequently.

Coffee is seen to be a great ice-breaker as well. Further, IT environments
are seen to be reasonably cerebral environments. Coffee is the cerebral
drink. Tea is mass.

I have built a correlation between advanced stress -economies such as the
United States and Japan to a very deep consumption of
coffee...................and cigarettes equally!

Coffee is a stress buster.

And for new trends, here are some. I was in Miami a couple of months ago. The Miami beach shack
has designs of every bikini there is to possess; but the most popular ones
are the ones that have coffee themes on them. The funkiest design is one of
a coffee bean on each cup!

Hyper-caffeinated coffees are a big trend as well in the US. Ordinary coffee
is considered passé. When you get tired of regular levels of caffeine, you
inject additional doses of caffeine into your cup! This is hyper-caffeinated
coffee! Something that gives you a jolt! A kick! Better than Red Bull!

Coffee speed-dates. Cafes welcome speed-dating. The Cafe becomes a place
where you can find a mate. Los Angeles has three of these and New York must
have a dozen. The Coffee speed-date is a Cafe where you land up and get to
move across 15 tables in an hour. This means you get all of 4 minutes at a
table. You need to order a coffee at each table…..thankfully a small tot! You
get to talk to the man or woman at that table for all of 4 minutes! 4
minutes to decide whether both of you want to take things ahead mutually! A
lot can happen over coffee....................really!

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Email your questions to:

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Brand Bangalore and the brand of Terror

Brand Bangalore and Brand Terror

By Harish Bijoor

Q: With the recent link of Brand Bangalore to terror, do you believe the image of Bangalore has taken a hit? And what are the immediate fall-outs?

-Devika Srinivasan, Mumbai

A: Devika, Brand Bangalore is definitely shaken. But not stirred for sure!

I do believe Brand Bangalore has been built bottom up, primarily due to the effort of the IT industry and its many clients world-wide. The brand is largely a B2B brand, and damage control is therefore that much more manageable.

Some fall-outs for sure:

1.External clients who are more politically correct than correct, will want a security vetting of employees on their account to be more thorough. This will not be spoken of overtly, but expect a lot of action on this covertly for sure. No client would want his account associated with terror and its breeding space.

2. External entities in markets such as the markets where we have had some India-bashing in the past, particularly the US, UK and Germany, will see this to be a good handle to use at appropriate moments. We in Indian IT businesses need to be pro-active on this account. I do believe industry bodies such as the Nasscom, CII, FICCI, et al, have a role to play here to avoid the cascade of any kind of negative sentiment.

3. Anybody who wants to bash up brand Bangalore has now a handle to use. Little do these entities understand that every city in the world is a ripe enough location for terrorism and the terrorist at heart to breed.

As an aside, with my international clients, this link of Brand Bangalore with Brand
Terror has been a talking point. Most conversations in the last ten days have included some reference or the other to it. Some have been just checking up, while others think it polite to refer to it, quite like talking about the weather in good old Bangalore!

Q: In the era of globalization do Co-operatives (based on the ANAND-pattern, established by Dr.Verghese Kurien) have any future?

If your answer is yes could this model be replicated in other Agri commodities and services like finance, health care, etc?

Aditya Maheshwari

In e-space

A: Aditya, you have not indicated where you reside, and I have therefore taken the liberty of adding “In e-space”. For a start, that’s the fact of the era of globalization for sure.

Now, coming to the question of the era of globalization and the relevance of co-operatives, I do believe the co-operative model is a forever-truth. A forever-truth that will succeed in any time. The reason is simple. Common people like successes that emanate from activities of any kind that involve the support, enthusiasm and energy of the common folk. The Co-operative effort, as we have seen in the highly successful Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) and indeed the many other activities that surround this highly successful model are as relevant for today as for the many tomorrows to come.

Look at the co-operative model as a People-to-people initiative. In this model, a whole bunch of people who at times have very limited resources, pool together to create scale. This scale delivers. The delivery is on the count of pooled efficiency, pooled economy and pooled marketing.

Is this relevant today? It is. There are different models of the co-operative effort. The traditional one is what we see with the Milk model used in Gujarat. In many ways even a direct multi-level-marketing system such as the one followed by Amway is a co-operative selling model. Some of the rural marketing models followed by a Project Shakti of HUL or the Self-Help-Group models followed by many companies are co-operative models as well.

Whenever a group of people feel the need to create around themselves a model of business that is inclusive and all-involving, the co-operative movement is born. It needs a nodal person of high charisma or a corporate purpose of equal charisma. In the case of Amul, it was a Dr. Verghese Kurien and in your and my case, it could as well be a need and want to be inclusive in the purpose of business.

Businesses over the years have become rather exclusive businesses. Never mind the fact that all businesses are run by broad-based share-holders. I do believe the future will pave the way for many more co-operative businesses. Businesses that will be inclusive in the real sense and businesses that will distribute profits to very-very broad-based sets of stake-holders. More broad-based than the current system that operates on dividends distributed to share-holders who play on the market for profits.

These new businesses are relevant to the category of financial products as they are to the segments of health-care, beauty, food, beverage and all else.

Q: Do loyalty programs work? Organized retail seems to be using it quite a bit.

-Gouri Sinha, Kolkata

A: Gouri, the retail brand is a relatively new development in India. Though we are a nation of shop-keepers with 16.4 million shops cluttering our lives, retail has largely been a commodity thus far. Organized retail is changing all this. Organized retail is building the hubs of the retail-branding revolution that is due to sweep our country off its feet.

The retail brand therefore needs to build its brand proposition from scratch. The loyalty program is one such tool it uses. Loyalty clubs such as the ones run by every big chain in apparel and lifestyle retail today are but slender hooks marketers’ layout in the market. When a consumer bites once, the expectation is that they will keep biting again and again, with the lure of the rewards program that goes with a loyalty card at bay.

Loyalty clubs help build communities of consumers. It is however important to ensure that these loyalty clubs are active all the time. I suggest that consumers be touched by such programs at least once a fortnight. Any touch occasion longer than that pushes the loyalty program into the back-burner of consumer interest.

Remember, every organized retail outlet will offer a loyalty club. What brands must watch out for is the tendency of these loyalty clubs to become commoditized as well.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


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