Thursday, August 14, 2008


Branding Business Management education

The Business of Business education

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What do you believe is more important and cutting edge? Branding or distribution? The obvious answer seems to be branding.

-Rana Tripathi, New Delhi

A: Rana-ji, there is nothing obvious about it. What looks obvious is a wee bit deceptive.

I do believe aspects of running a business such as product quality, new product development and brand building skills can be bought. At times these can be outsourced as well. What is difficult to manage and buy and monitor day in and day out is a good distribution system.

Let’s take the example of the two big players in FMCG space today. One an existent major player: HLL. And another a wannabe of serious intent: ITC Foods.

In relation to HUL, ITC is a laggard in distribution strengths. But let’s credit the company for having set up what it has in such a short time of being in existence as a biscuit player for a start.

Distribution essentially requires three parameters to be governed carefully. One is the width of distribution. How far and wide you reach. Are you able to cover the 16.2 million retail outlets in this country altogether? Remember, India is a nation of shop-keepers. A nation of Mom and pop stores. The density of retail outlet to population is the deepest here in the world. The distribution task is therefore tougher here than in the US, where a marketer just has to cobble together a total of 23 chain stores to reach out of 92 per cent of the country’s masses.

The second parameter of significance is the depth of distribution. It is not enough to be present across outlets. It is important to be present in each of the outlets with a depth of stocking of your product as per need. Every outlet need is different. This needs to be assessed and catered to carefully without a stock out situation.

The third parameter to monitor is consistency of distribution. The need to touch every outlet with the distribution call every week is paramount today. Retailers do not like to hold inventory of stock that lasts more than a week. Distribution companies must therefore be able to touch every outlet every week. Companies such as HUL are now touching a whole host of outlets twice a week even! That is efficiency!

HUL has over the decade’s mastered efficiency in this realm. ITC needs to clone that process. ITC needs to tackle the issues of width of distribution, optimal depth across all outlets and indeed the consistency of distribution it will offer. Give it time. It will.

God is indeed in the details of good distribution. This is a process that demands a sheer labor of love. It cannot be bought overnight and put into place. Distribution is a mindset. A mindset that requires a focus on labor and continued excellence. Distribution is a culture.

You can have a great product, very good R&D, excellent advertising and branding inputs, but if you don't have a good enough distribution system, you can mess up your brand on offer.

Distribution is therefore the cutting-edge of it all. Touché!

Q: What is Retail branding? How is it different form what we already know of retail and branding?

-J.S.Saroj, Mimbai

A; Saroj, Retail branding is a different subject altogether. I have been evangelizing this for the past three years.

Retail is one competence. Branding is
another. Retail is a competence that the modern format retailer is good at.
Branding as we know it in India is best known by the FMCG and durable
marketer in this country. Retail branding is a cusp subject. Something that
is not yet mastered by the retailer. Further still, the traditional brand guy
in the FMCG and durable space finds increasingly that what he has learnt in
traditional space cannot be implemented here. Retail branding is therefore
a new science altogether. Something we need to invest in to master and use
to advantage. Markets of the US, Germany and indeed Japan are rich in this
experience. We need to learn retail branding shedding our pomposity as brand
people and retail people alike.

This is new space. Master it differently.

Globally, there are bench-marked practices we can learn from. Ikea is a
classic example. So is Harrod's. And a host of others for sure.

Q: There seems to be a lot of action in the space of Business Management education in recent years. Where is the opportunity and how is it panning out?

-Dr. BL Khera, New Delhi

A: Dr.Khera, I do see two big realms of opportunity ahead. One is in the space of Business education and another in assisted Medicare and Medical services. Both these terrains are demand-terrains of the present and the future.

At the macro level, I see both these opportunities that can earn the rupee and the Dollar, the Euro and whatever equally.

There is an inherent internal demand for business education in the country, just as there is an opportunity to leverage on the possibility of Education-tourism, as I would call it. A whole host of prospective students who look forward to quality business education at non-Amercian prices can actually gravitate to India.

Business education is a high value education enterprise. What's more, this business is a complete experiential business that earns its repeat custom from word of mouth of satisfied and well-placed individuals in Corporate and Business enterprises.

India already witnesses a layered Management and business education industry. Right at the top sit the A Grade Management Institutes such as the IIMs and the ISB. Just below this is a layer of the B grade Management Institutes. And just under it is a layer of C grade Institutes.

Each of these have a role to play. Each of these segments has possibilities.

As of now we have a total of 2816 Management Institutes of all these kinds. I see this going into a mode of over-drive with newer and newer Institutions emerging.

I also see new verticals emerging which are specialized and niche. Schools of Retail management, Telecom Management, Petro Management et al!

I do also believe there is a huge opportunity for Rural management education. Out here we need enterprises that will offer rural students the best of management inputs to build business enterprises of significance in the rural environments that dominate Indian space today. Remember, three fourths of our people live in the villages of this country.

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


Saturday, August 02, 2008


Branding Education

Branding Education and Educational Institutions

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What is the one big trend you see in the branding of educational institutions? And what are the mantras one must never forget in the branding of education?

- P Vasuki, Chennai

A: Vasuki, the one big trend I see is the verticalisation of what’s on offer. Take management education for instance.

There are programs that focus on Medical Management, Engineering Management, Construction Management, Petroleum Management, Technology Management and a whole lot of such stuff.

If I am to put down my mantras while branding the education segment, they would be the following seven sutras:

1. Integrity branding: say only what is true
2. Lack of hype: don't build your education brand as if it is a panty hose!
3. Do not advertise: When you do, it means you are touting. Don't tout
4. Follow Bottom up branding and not top-down: Let your work speak for itself
5. Invest heavily into the pedagogics...never mind the returns.
6. Patience: it takes all of 6-9 years to build education brands in India
7. Focus at two ends. The first must be the end of the Recruiter who will absorb your students. The second: the student population.

Q: There is a young and empowered segment of the population in ‘New India’ that is young, different and buying all the time. How would you typify them?

-JS Singh, New Delhi

A: Singh-'saab', typifying anyone and anything is a mistake we must never do in Marketing.

However, the segment you are talking about is really the cusp-generation between the 30 plus Gen and the Teenage generation of today. I call it the cusp-age group.

This group is essentially one that has not seen hardship at all. It is a group that was born into a reasonably comfortable era. This group is all about having seen a self-sustaining economy at large all around it. This group did not have to wait for their home phones to be connected after six years and their father's scooter being bought after a wait of 8 years in the queue.

I also call this generation the “Commode generation”. Particularly the young gen. in the twenties and below, in most urban areas is one that has never used the squatting type of Indian toilet at all. This gen. starts its morning sitting on the commode...without the strain and pressure that one has to take while sitting on the haunches.

This generation's world view is therefore of the Commode Generation, which is shaped by little or no discomfort at all!

This gen. of 21-30 is therefore a very hungry for achievement generation. Whether it be in urban areas or rural, there is a hunger to get going fast. Everything is also expected in a jiffy. Therefore, in my book, I call this gen. the "Scratch-card" generation as well. A generation of young people who want everything fast...even at the scratch of a card. Increments need to happen every quarter, and incentives must be on the spot. They do not know the joy of delayed gratification at all!

Some realms that distinguish them then:

1. Politics: This gen is politically insensitive. The key issues that haunted India, which actually engineered a high degree of political awareness in the past, have literally vanished here. This gen is not a gen that loves to vote even!

2. Spending pattern:
Very hedonistic in spends. Still value-seeking. This gen will buy their crystals from a Swarovski store...and then drive into a Big Bazaar to do the family's grocery shopping. It will splurge in some arenas and will not in some.

3. Consumptiveness
: Highly consumptive. Eat more brands, drink more brands and wear more brands. Labels mean a lot to this generation. It has convinced itself that the brand means high quality even. Never mind the price!

3. Films: Realism is in. Relationship spectrums are non-limiting in behavior patterns of this young gen.

This gen. operates on a reasonably quick swing on what I call the” love-hate pendulum” for brands and relationships equally. They will like a brand for a short while and then move to hating the same brand even. Much quicker in this movement than the generation before them. More mercurial.

There is very little patience. This young gen., by the time they have reached the age of 30 have an experience profile that is exciting in a multi-tasking life. They have been through thousands of emails, thousands of sms messages, many hundred hours of gaming and Internet experience on the whole.
This gen. wants to move fast. Things it likes, it refreshes. Things it does not, it deletes!

This is how much I will typify. No more. And no less.

The new Tata tea commercial is different. It is a take on social issues. Why?

- Rachna Sood, Mumbai

A: Rachna, tea is a fundamental and old category of beverage in India. The category of tea is quite like detergent, soap and sundry other old categories that have seen advertising inputs for decades.

Any category that has gone through the wringer of advertising for as long as these categories have, boredom sets in.

Tea is a mother category today which has tried advertising executions related to USP's that are functional, emotional and even surreal. Now, when everything is exhausted, it is time to try something new.

The "new" I am talking about is socially relevant macro advertising that has little or sometimes even nothing with the product at hand. In the case of Tata Tea, this macro stance is the heightened awareness of the Indian and his necessary involvement in how the land is governed.

The insight to understand is the fact that a people in society are largely concerned about themselves initially. As society grows in terms of economic upheavals of the positive kind, people get involved in issues that are of a larger consequence, such as socially conscious issues.

Surf tried this a couple of years ago with the "Do bucket paani bachana hai" campaign and later did an execution with Lifebuoy soap as well.

The advertising hopes to stir up a discussion...and the discussion is hoped to get a recall of the brand.

Such advertising is good for recall, but not too good in terms of anything much else.

Brands such as Tata Tea are essentially looking at maintaining their market shares with such advertising, and not necessarily increasing shares.

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


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