Friday, July 13, 2012


Kingfisher, coffee and tea...

Is Kingfisher Kaput?

By Harish Bijoor

Q: I’m curious. What’s next for Brand Kingfisher? Is it all over?
-Samantha P Cox, New Delhi

A: Sam, good to be curious on the whole.

Kingfisher is a dominant brand in the Indian context. The brand for a start is a beer. And from there on has developed the brand equity of brand kingfisher airlines. To that extent, the recent set of issues in aviation tends to hurt the equity of Kingfisher airlines more than the beer. The airline is a service brand that touches the lives of hundreds of people. The beer is a product brand. To that extent there is less of an issue there. There is no transference of negativity from aviation to beer for sure.

The negative publicity that hits Kingfisher airlines is really about the pains of the traveler more than anything else. A traveler faced by flight cancellations at the last minute is impacted the most. This is where the biggest pain point of the brand equity of Kingfisher airlines lies.

Public memory is however short. Do believe me, but this proverbial short public memory is a brand’s best friend.

To that extent, all the current woes of Kingfisher Airlines will be forgotten faster than we do believe it will. Remember all the issues that Jet Airways went through, with its employees protesting and venting their ire in public on national network television? Everything is forgotten today. Everyone lives happily ever after. Till the next fracas.

In reality nothing succeeds like success. I do believe this is a temporary blip in the brand equity fortunes of Kingfisher Airlines. With some degree of fund infusion, it will be business as usual. Just wait and watch for FDI in the aviation sector, and you will see the King of good times soar again. And how!

Right now, Kingfisher needs to get off the pedestal of being a brand and talk and emote with its users and those sitting on the fence of its usage. It is important to be transparent and admit folly where folly lies.

The Kingfisher brand is one that has been designed carefully with a lot of patience and passion. It would be unfair to write it off so soon and so quick.

Q: Nokia is still topping brand charts in India despite its completely low growth and loss of market shares. How?
-Seenu Venkatesan, Mumbai

A: Seenu, the reason why Nokia does get repeatedly listed in the top ten is simply because of what I call the "ubiquity effect". Please do note that the largest numbers of mobile handsets in use as of now in India is quite likely to be the Nokia handset in the middle and upper-end segment. Add to it the fact that the mobile phone is a 24 X 7 device that people do not switch off even when they sleep. Mobile phones live closer to people than their own wives and husbands do.
This ubiquity gives a halo effect to the brand that is used by most. Many swear by their mobile phones. Many can't stay away from them. Many touch them a lot more than they touch their spouses. And a lot more intimately even. This proximity adds to the halo effect of the hand-phone brand. And Nokia is a benefactor, as of now. Give it five years more for the Samsung effect to set in. Samsung is the next big guy lurking round the corner.

Q: How do coffee Café chains globally ensure consistency in terms of delivery? And what is the learning for me to take?
-Rohinton P Malla, Mumbai

A: Rohinton, the issue is all about scale. Once scale develops, you can look at central sourcing. And central sourcing is all about consistency offerings. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts globally believe in the mechanics, efficiency and delivery of central sourcing. Their systems are totally integrated to technology and what it can deliver in terms of back-end efficiency.

What is it that you can learn from the business model of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts then?

From Starbucks, Indian companies can learn the power of a brand and the power of consistency delivery, the power of pulsating with the consumer mind, mood and movement. From Dunkin Donuts, the best thing to learn is the fact that the consumer has little time to sit and dawdle in the future. On-the-go coffee is a format whose time will come in the future. Prepare for it aggressively and morph your sit-down models to talk the language of stand-up and on-the-go coffees as well.

It is important to remember that every Cafe market has a glass ceiling. This glass ceiling is all about saturation in terms of numbers, boredom with ubiquity, lack of differentiation, the consumer in a state of recession, and a continuous lack of value-for-money propositions. Most Western markets have reached this level over the last three decades. India to that extent is still a nascent Cafe market and this is a market that will grow. Café Coffee Day, the market leader has shown us that success can be made to happen.

Q: How is tea such a big drink in India, far bigger than coffee?

-Sapna Khanna, New Delhi

A: Sapna, tea is India's favorite beverage. The per capita consumption of tea is a multiple of 11 to that of coffee. India's mass beverage of choice is tea.

All this has happened progressively over the decades with the painstaking effort of the early companies in this space that did yeomen work. Brooke Bond and Lipton were the two companies that did hard work in this space.
The heritage of tea plantations run to painstaking British norms in the North East regions of the country helped establish an origin status for tea as well. Early work in this space had pioneer marketers go village to village in the country to popularize the drink. The edifice of tea consumption was built brick by brick with painstaking marketing effort. I would call this early tea evangelism. That created this big status for tea in India.

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

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