Thursday, August 09, 2012


Malls. deodorants and renting brands

Sweat Driven India

By Harish Bijoor

Q: How do you view the Mall development of India? What seem to be the mistakes?
-Rohit Patra, Mumbai
A: Rohit, the development of Malls in India is not a recent phenomenon. This has been going on for the last 22 years. We have however not yet learnt the valuable lessons we are meant to have.
Most malls in the country have been constructed with a very B2B focus. The idea is to sell space to retail brands. Once that has been achieved, most Mall managements have abdicated the responsibility of bringing in customers. This is the grass-root level reality.  The point really is that the core competence of the developer is really not in the space of bringing in customers. Some focus on this arena would help.
 There is a Pareto you can do on the Malls of India. 20 per cent of them bring in 80 per cent of the customers. The others just about languish. Some successful Malls are really about professional managements and a lot of scientific planning and thinking, whereas a few are successes despite everything else being adhoc, except location. 
Malls can attract more footfalls by getting more and more community proactive. It is important for a mall to emerge as a destination location that can take care of the entire family and its entertainment, shopping, eating and drinking needs. Malls will replace the parks and public spaces of yore, if only they are able to achieve this. This is a sad fact, but that is what has come of modern consumptive society. The Mall is the new place to hang out at. Not the park.

 Another key issue in a Mall development is the tenant mix. You not only need an anchor tenant who offers visibility to the location, but a good and healthy tenant mix that thinks of every constituent of the family. A Mall must think of the toddler, the child, the man, the woman and most certainly the Senior citizens in a family as well. And this must cover every need, want, desire and aspiration of each, pertaining to entertainment, food, drink, medical and more.

Q: The deodorant category is a high visibility category today. Why?
-Shweta Gopal, Tiruchy

A: Shweta, the deodorant category is a high-value and high-volume potential growth segment in India.  India is a sweat-driven country. In a country such as this, the deodorant category grows in tandem with need and most certainly in tandem to the growth in buying power. Smelling good has been a universal need of man and woman alike.

This category is today image led. Imagery and brand propositions will morph in this country from the functional to the emotional to the ridiculous. The dominant imagery as of today seems to be the woman-magnet and man-magnet theme alike. Use this deodorant and you will have women sticking to you! This is a basic first-generation deodorant market brand proposition. We will evolve. Later than sooner. To higher end benefits and needs.

The challenge in this category ahead is one of market clutter. The challenge is equally to stay relevant, original and innovative to a changing consumer profile, which gets fatigued with the brand and the scent a bit too fast. Faster than before. The deodorant category is therefore young, aggressive and on the morph all the while. A marketer who keeps pace with this is the marketer that wins.

Q: Are rented brands going to be a reality in India?
-Siddharth P Raju, Hyderabad.

Siddharth, why not? The key consumer idea is simple. Why buy, when you can borrow?

When you buy something you get locked into the product for its entire lifetime. There is fatigue and there is indeed a feeling of being locked in. The innovative idea around is therefore of marketing things out to borrow rather than own. This works for both low end and premium products alike. Take for instance the case of a cosmetic accessory such as a ladies bag. When a lady spends a fair (and in most case, unfair) amount of money and buys a bag, she gets locked into it for well nigh nearly a decade. Instead, if she joins a lending library of bags, she gets variety, and she looks different with a different accessory at every party she attends. The idea therefore works on the key insight of the consumer being a variety-seeking animal! And animals are not loyal to the same look, the same design, the same color and anything that has sameness about it.

Q: What’s the problem with the Franchising industry?
-Suhail Ahmed, New Delhi.

A: Suhail, your question pre-supposes that there is a problem. I will answer from that perspective.
The big problem is that we are yet to pay enough attention to the end-user and end-consumer dynamics in Franchising.

There is an important need for the industry to be besotted not with the Franchisor or Franchisee. Instead, one needs to be devoted to the consumer who brings in the money. One important thing to remember is that Franchising as a business with potential is not about the Franchisor or Franchisee. Instead, it is about he consumer at large.

Focusing on the delight end of the business is important. Delivering seamless service that is consistent is the imperative. This is where the failure lies. And this is going to be the big emerging trend as well.

The Franchising industry will progressively start relying on the practice of delivering high quality service. This is an experiential business. Creating the right experience for the right segment, and staying one step ahead of the consumer and his expectation is going to be the cutting edge, if not bleeding edge stuff to focus upon.

The industry faces the key problem of people as well. That is the biggest challenge to handle. This industry is unable to keep its hold on people. People remuneration practices are also antediluvian. There is a great emphasis on out-sourcing, which is not necessarily a great practice as well. Add to it attrition numbers in the industry, and we have a potent cocktail that points at business inefficiency at the point of consumption. And that is the biggest challenge of them all.

While everything else in Franchising can be bought off the shelf, customer service positive strokes can only be earned. Earned by hard work, consistent delivery and very high standards and norms that are Internationally benchmarked, and more importantly, delivered.

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

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Saturday, August 04, 2012


E-commerce, QSR's, Islamic Branding and Boards

The e-commerce Gold Rush

By Harish Bijoor

Q: How do you explain the spree of Private Equity funding in e-commerce start-ups? Is this another bubble waiting to burst?
-KP Sundar Moorthi, Hyderabad

A: Sundar, I really hope this is not another bubble. We have had too many going bust in our faces in the past. We don’t want another.

I do believe there is going to be a fund-Darwinism at play. Only the fittest will survive. Yes, in the bargain categories will look like the dotcom bubble categories did, but that is the reality of transition in any space that is funded by PE funds. To overcome all this, PE funds need to believe in research at the consumer end before making key investment decisions. Gone are the days of gut-feel decisions in this space. Stop feeling up your stomach and gut and making key investment decisions.

I see this new trend of consumer research taking off. Let me give you a statistic. Between 2002 and 2009 my company got an average of 6 requests for consumer end probes and research, every year from PE funds wanting to invest. In 2010 we had a total of 17, in 2011 the number grew to 21 and in 2012 as of the first quarter itself, we are on active work on 9 PE investments wanting to probe the consumer gut before making an investment decision! This means PE funds are getting more and more rational in their investment decisions. Rational at the consumer end of affairs. They look today at more than exciting elevator pitches and gushy PowerPoint presentations of idea-evangelists.

Q: Quick-serve restaurants (QSR) like mine are on a constant struggle mode for consumer traffic. What’s the best thing to do there?

-Sonal P Singh, New Delhi

A: Sonal, It’s all in the menu. Remember, a QSR is all about food first. Don’t get carried away with your International brand name, your service, your ambiance, your advertising and all that jazz.

India is tougher still. India is a young market, and young markets are change oriented. There is a higher degree of flavor and offering-fatigue in younger markets. QSR’s in India cannot be standard-menu oriented anymore. This causes for consumer boredom. The strategy of a constant menu churn is one that is relevant for a market like India. QSR's need to think different when it comes to standard and standardized International menus. Change can be in the form of taste, packaging, shape of product and more. Menu-change works wonders, adds zing to the offerings, creates a talking point, and most importantly stops making your QSR look like a ration-shop QSR.

Q: What is this ‘Kolaveri’ about Islamic Branding today? Must my company embrace it as well? I am in FMCG exports.
-Rohit P Ganavelu, Mumbai

A: Rohit, marketers are today looking at newer and newer ways of reaching out to their existing and potential brand user groups. Marketers are seeking high-end goals in markets where the lowest common denominator appeals have dried out or are showing signs of drying up. Such high-end goals are typically being sought more in hyper developed and developed markets, rather than in emerging markets.

Marketers today want to appeal to issues such as green and inclusive in a big way. The idea is to embrace every cause that is relevant to the well being of the consumer at large. Marketers therefore want to be inclusive in every manner. Economic inclusiveness movements are typically followed by socially inclusive movements and these are then followed by religiously inclusive movements. Islamic branding is a part of this effort.

Islamic branding is really not only about the Halal branding movement. There is much more to it than food. Islam in many ways is a way of life. To that extent, Islamic branding is all about using brands as good deeds. What starts with Halal foods, can move on to Halal practice in every industry, be it the pharmaceutical or the entertainment or the cosmetic industry even.

And there's lots more to Islamic branding than food alone. Islamic branding can embrace broader pastures that cover business practice even. Islamic business models are in place that look at how a business has been funded. Islamic banking is a very old practice even, and it's tenets find acceptance in good Islamic business models.

In short, Islamic branding is an idea whose time has come. Hyper developed and developed markets will embrace it in their business models and marketing plans. Over a period of time, expect a unique Islamic branding mark to emerge as well, a mark that will tell you the entire story of the brand, it's generics, it's contents, it's business practice and more. Islamic branding is therefore more in the DNA of a brand, rather than only in Halal certification marks. It’s a good practice. Embrace it.

Q: How does being on the Board of Directors of a company help an individual? Is it a career-enhancing move?
-Shilpi Dutta, Kolkata

A: Shilpi, I have personally not found being on the various Boards that I sit on, as a career-enhancing move at all. It does not add to my career, but it does add to my personal exposure for sure.

I am dealing with issues at the apex point of different organizations. One day I could be dealing with an issue in core technology and on another I could be dealing with Media and entertainment or on the core issues facing a durables company. This exposure is value-add.

Further, on most boards that you sit upon, there is a deep level of experience and exposure you sit around with, with some 9 plus directors sitting around with perspectives that can be mind-opening in many ways. This is learning and exposure. Very valuable on the whole.

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

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