Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The Real Estate Bubble

The Bubble Breaks

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Developers of Real Estate properties are in a bit of a fix now, with rentals going down and sale prices coming down. How is this panning out? And what are the reasons for this?
-Parag Mehta, Mumbai
A: Parag-bhai, yes, retail rentals are taking a dip. Real end sale prices of both residential and commercial properties is on the down-swing. The reasons are all in the commercial and financial environment all around us.
What has happened is simply this. The prosperity indices of the last three years, led by the robust growth rates in the Services segment of the Indian economy, new wealth in the hands of young people with incomes from segments such as the IT, ITES, Biotech, Banking and Retail, the young demographics of the country itself (54% of the population below the age of 25 and 72% below the age of 35) and a yen to spend which was hot, created a forever-prosperity bubble all around.

This bubble has been responsible for a lot. Overt spending, overt consumption, rise of the branded product and branded retail, investing ahead of the curve as a mentality and much more. This caused for the realty market to go on a boom mode.

In return, the realtor saw this trend and invested ahead of the curve. Invested in both residential and commercial properties in a big manner. Without necessarily looking at the plans of others in similar space as well.
A kind of herd mentality prevailed. Mall developments are a sign of this. There are a total of 423 projects in full steam adding millions of sq feet of Mall space. There has been a 'mallification' of India and the Indian at large.

Now, reality bites realty. International financial institutions have collapsed. The US is in a 700 B USD recovery plan mode. Jobs are at risk. There is plenty of uncertainty around. In such times, Singh is not King, but cash is!

Everyone divests. Plans get stuck. In such a market, ready spaces have no takers. Time to cut rentals for sure. The trend is down. And will continue to be so over the next 12-18 months.
Rentals are already down 15-18% in the big 8 cities. Flat sale rates are down by as much as 25% if you are able to show the cash.
There certainly is a glut in the markets. Commercial office spaces, Mall spaces, residential spaces and micro-office spaces are all glut territories.

The no-glut areas are theme resorts and theme destination malls. Not enough investments here. This is a niche growth area over the next decade.
Q: If there is a niche in Tourism that is yet un-exploited, what is it? I am interested in investing in this space.
-Raghuram Raja, Hyderabad
A: Raghu, there are many niches yet to be exploited. On of it is Commodity-tourism. It figures prominently as a sub-vertical of potential in India, along with other profitable verticals such as Medical and Sports tourism.

Commodity tourism is all about un-locking the true-blue potential of our coffee, tea and rubber estates alike.

Plantation owners and managements are sitting on a powder keg of opportunity. Our plantations are variegated plantations. It is not only about coffee, tea, rubber or the primary cash crop in question. It is about Teak and Silver-oak and pepper and rivers and animals of every kind. It is equally about paddy and vanilla.

These estates of ours are located in varied terrains, spanning from the North East of the country to the verdant South.

Commodity tourism is about unlocking our captive estates to tourists from all over the world who find it most unique and different
Home-stays in particular are and can be a big hit with foreign tourists, who are fed up of staying in man-made hotels with manicured lawns that look as artificial as they can!
Q: Sales volumes across categories are down, particularly durables. Why? And how long will this last?
-Shanthi E, Chennai

A: Shanthi, these are tough times. Different companies that operate in different verticals of commerce will find differing degrees of impact on their sales volumes.

Advertising elasticity is being tested thoroughly in these tough times. The first ones to be hit by a postponement-of-purchase syndrome is the durables category. Relatively mass use, but postpone-able decision categories such as refrigerators, kitchen gadgets, air-conditions, etc. will face the brunt of it.

The replacement market will also slow down due to the down-turn in the mother of all economies, the United States!

This is the primary reason for the slow pace of volume growth.

Companies will however have to continue to invest on advertising to remain in the popular mindset. Those that don’t will be myopic in their approach and will hurt their brands in the long term. Recession comes and goes. Brands have to live forever through times good and bad.

Q: What's the best way to make a brand stick in a person's mind today?
-Ravi SS, Trichy

A: Ravi, simply by merit of its product and service offer. By dint of its emotive content. By dint of its perennial utility and by dint of its repeat value to a consumer that is real and not frugal.

Q: What does 'Brand Mumbai' do for the city's economy?

-Shalini Goel, Mumbai

A: Shalini, Brand Mumbai is the defining palate of the city's economy. Every aspect of the city's economy is a sub-set of the brand template and image the city enjoys. Corporates park moneys in the city basis this. Builders invest in promoting new ventures, be it commercial or residential, basis this. People at large decide to settle in the city basis this. The brand is a bias factor in economic decision making on a city. In the case of some cities, it turns out to be a positive bias factor, and in the case of some cities it turns out to be a negative bias factor. Kolkata in the eighties and early nineties suffered from this negative factor. Mumbai today enjoys its prominence due to a positive bias. As of now. Despite all the chaos of last week.

To a large extent, the image of Brand Mumbai helps run the city smoothly on its positive all-round economic impact.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Email: harishbijoor@HOTMAIL.COM

Friday, January 09, 2009


Boring Indian Newspapers and more

String Advertising

By Harish Bijoor

Q: If you are to identify one big trend in modern Indian advertising as of today, what is it?

-AB Joshipura, Indore

A: Joshipura-ji, many would point their trend-pointing fingers at the use of humour in Indian advertising as being something trendy. Many would talk of irreverent advertising that pokes fun at consumers and marketers alike. I will however point my trend-painting finger at serial-advertising.

Look at this new and happy trend in modern Indian advertising where the advertisements are boring no longer. Remember the times when within a cricket match telecast you had to see the same creative execution of Sehwag and his mother (“Sehwag ki Ma”) some twenty times over? How boring!

Not anymore though. Look at the series of advertising creatives that Telecom Service Providers are playing around in India today. Look at Airtel and the Madhavan-Vidya Balan series. Look at the Idea Telecom series. Excellent sets of creatives. Each one carrying the theme forward with a story line literally.

Very little boredom, a lot of method-acting, a lot of fine-tuned niceties that make you watch them again and again. All creative executions that carry the theme through very well with finesse.

This is a nice new trend. Expect lots more to jump in.

Q: The Gold-category in branding seems to be FMCG. Everyone defines branding from the perspective of FMCGs. Why?

-Revathi Balaraman, Chennai

A: Revathi, FMCG brands are essentially very hard-working brands. They are ubiquitous in their presence day in and day out. They need to be at hand, and they need to perform right every time. Their touch occasions in the average home is very very high. This makes for FMCG brands the most acid-tested brands of them all.

When brands go through the acid test of use, customer touch, satisfaction and delight, they are bound to be that much more recalled. FMCG brands are brands always at hand.

FMCG brands are quite like your husband or wife. They are that much forever compared to the acquaintances you meet now and then. The husband/wife (as the case may be) is therefore that much more admired. Albeit secretly, but nevertheless admired. This is therefore the Gold-category as you call it.

The FMCG category is seen, heard, felt and used literally every day. Your tooth-paste is used every day at least once. In many homes more than once. By every single member of the family. Therefore, it is all touch-occasion related. More the touch occasion, more the acid-test occasions as well.

Q: I have heard many definitions of a brand logo. What is it really? And why do companies change their logos so frequently?

-Bipin Moriya, Mumbai

A: Bipin, a brand logo is a visual mnemonic. A visual burr that reminds consumers and indeed non-consumers alike of the brand, its offering, its promise and its specific appeal.

A logo is a quick and crisp reminder of the brand.

While in the beginning of a brand’s journey the logo may look cumbersome and ugly at times, over time, consumers associate closely with a brand logo. Logos help build brand passion.

At times logos get old. Consumers change faster than their brands and their attendant logos. In such situations brands want to get and look contemporary. In this quest for being contemporary brands look at logo overhauls.

At other times logos tend to accumulate negative sentiment due to some brand mishap or the other. In such cases, logos are revamped due to a crisis state event.

Q: Indian newspapers have remained static and boring while Indian television has stolen the thunder and audiences with it. Would you agree with me on this?
-Anand V Sudarshan, Bangalore
A: Anand, Print in India is of a reasonably old vintage. While Television is all about 1969 onwards, Print has a very old heritage in the country. Print has always been local in the old days, and print is a medium that captured a lot of sentiment as well, particularly the sentiment that was all about the Freedom Struggle and the sentiment of being Indian. The medium has always been associated with names of doyens on the Indian public firmament.

Television on the other hand is a newer medium. It has morphed continuously with the aspirations of its viewers and their life-styles. Print on the other hand, except for a few publications in English, has remained rather static and still-born in its approach to the changing reader and her aspirations.
Particularly the vernacular Press in India has been rather static in its approach to the market, its sets of consumers and their changing needs, wants, aspirations and desires. In many ways, readers of newspapers have changed at a much more rapid pace than the newspapers they read. In this sense newspapers (vernacular ones) were left behind and saw readership numbers fall.

Readership fell first and circulation fell only much later. In many homes readership fell off and got shaved as early as eight to ten years before circulation in that home fell. In the bargain, publications did not realise the change at all, till it was too late.

Most vernacular publications suffered this. So have many English language papers that have sat atop their perch of comfort and pomposity and ignored the consumer reader. This has been the bane of many Print brands that ruled the roost once upon a time.

To that extent, Anand you are absolutely right.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Email: harishbijoor@hotmail.com

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 02, 2009


City branding and Real Estate branding

Rotten Celebrity Eggs

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Cities are pushing themselves to the fore in India by building themselves as brands that attract investments. What gets invested in building the brand image of a city?

-BP Gururaj, Hyderabad

A: Guru, the brand is an amorphous entity. The brand is a thought. A thought that lives in people's minds.

A city's brand image is therefore the collective set of thoughts that a city enjoys in the minds of people. These minds include the minds of the people who live in the city, and equally the minds of people who do not live in it.

The brand image of a city has therefore an intrinsic aspect, which is all about the image enjoyed within the city, and an extrinsic aspect which is the image enjoyed outside the city.

A city's image is created by a whole set of disparate elements altogether. It is about the weather, the culture, the politics, the society, the people, religion, language, attitude, tolerance and a whole set of 48 other factors included. To that extent, the brand image of a city is really not an engineered one. It is an accident. A literal small part of the chaos theory that abounds in much of our lives altogether.

In a technical manner of speaking, brand-engineering is a new science, art and philosophy on its own. Creating the brand image of a city is not about creating it from scratch on a drawing board. Instead, it is all about using its positives, its history and its heritage to advantage as one builds on the basic foundations that abound.

To that extent, Brand Hyderabad is all about leveraging on the image of its hoary past, its politics, its food, and everything that is old and super-imposing onto it the modern icons from IT. ITES, Real Estate, Retail and Biotech included.

Q: The Real-estate industry is getting onto the branding format. What are the fundamentals in branding the real-estate developer?
-Rohit Bhargava, Mumbai
A: Rohit, branding is very critical to the Real Estate industry. Particularly in times when there is so much clutter all around. And most certainly in times of uncertainty such as the ones we live in today with the big names of Wall Street having crumbled over the last week itself in the US, sending tremors of uncertain economic times the world over.

Cities and their Real Estate offerings need to re-invent themselves on the path of credibility for a start. Take Bangalore for instance. The city has been home for decades to builders, developers and the entire real-estate fraternity at large. We started with a high repute developer by the name of SI . Chennai and Bangalore saw developments which were unique. This builder promised the earth and delivered the sky. The builder promised delivery on a date and did it by that date.

Today, even as I answer your question, builders in Bangalore are getting a negative image on delivery, quality and at times consistency of what is promised being delivered. There are builders who have promised delivery and have defaulted on this count by more than two years. The stories abound. This is bad for the brand image of Bangalore and the builder at large. No amount of branding input will help correct a credibility issue.

While the real-estate industry benefits a lot from Brand Bangalore, it is time for the industry to start contributing back. The first step would be to follow the basic rule of transparency, credibility and honest delivery. The image of a city is the responsibility of all its stake-holders. The Real Estate fraternity is one such key stake-holder.
Branding helps only when the offering is honest. The brand is an honest consumer statement.

Q: There is so much being written on the use of celebrities and its impact on brands. What’s your view on this? Should we use? Should we not?
-Shefali Luthra, New Delhi

A: Shefali, celebrity use in advertising has fast emerged as a lowest common denominator item in Indian advertising. When there is nothing else that is working, just pick a celebrity, use his/her awareness scores to bump up your brand awareness scores as well.

Celebrity use works. But works at one level only. And that is at the level of building awareness for the brand in question. This works when you are launching a new brand, or when you are re-launching an old one that needs to get back into the awareness mindset of consumers again.

At awareness creation it works 8.2/10. At Interest development in the brand, it works 2.2/10; at desire development it works 1.6/10, on creating the action of purchase and buy-in: 1.6/10. At creating positive cues post-purchase (and in the process of reducing post-purchase dissonance) it works 4.1/10. This is as per a very recent study of ours across categories involving 81 advertised works over the last two years.

Celebrity use therefore works best at the stage of awareness creation, and a wee bit at the stage of managing post-purchase dissonance. But that's it.

This is the reason why you see celebrities being used for categories where they have no brand fit even. The brand-manager knows this, but is desperate to bump up his awareness scores, never mind if he is using Anupam Kher to advertise a new housing project. Brand fit goes for a toss. The immediate objective is celeb-linked awareness building.

The overuse of celebrities is causing the killing of the golden goose that used to lay silver eggs at least. Now, it is rotten eggs only!

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Email: harishbijoor@hotmail.com

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?