Not Just Cricket by Pradeep Magazine

‘Book Review by Dr. Jitendra Sharma, Professor, Institute of Management Technology, Nagpur’

As the title infers – a memoir with a personal and professional touch. A chronology of events seen from the lens of a sports lover and a journalist. This book is a good reminder for the cricket enthusiast but brace yourself for the sordid scams and scandals: from the shenanigans of cricket stars to the subterfuge of selectors to the skullduggery of board officials. Magazine comes out as honest, open, and candid media personnel with a pensive personal touch.

The book is a must-read for all sports journalists and enthusiasts as it uncovers the soft underbelly of intrigue and innuendos of myriad nature ranging from crooked cricketing czars to brusque board members. The author’s professional life is interlaced with interludes from his personal life, the borders blurring and becoming bolder at the same time. You get a ringside view of cricket of our era as well as a narrative about what sets out and freezes the writer’s worldview. 

The books cover the whole gamut from sensational to sterile from the world of cricket with a sidebar always helping us to unravel the world of journalism in particular and sports journalism in particular. The all-encompassing narrative touches upon power politics, regional rifts, selection sagas, cagey captains, crazy coaches, planted pitches, manipulating members – some in devilish details while others in cursory context. The book comes out as a living document from the era of Bishan Singh Bedi to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. 

However, the author could have kept the book, a tad or two chapters short as in delving deep into the ever-controversial K issue – he loses a bit of objectivity and the reportage sounds more like ‘what-he-wish-it-would-be’ rather than presenting ‘what-it-really-is’. These last few chapters take away a bit of sheen from otherwise a wonderful and powerful memoir. 

Nonetheless, a great read for all the fans of cricket and followers of sports journalism. A peep into the last four to five decades of this ever-evolving game – from test-matches that replicates life, to ODI signifying midlife crisis to the nascent notorious new-kid-on-the-block T20 with its franchise fanfare (IPL, PSL, BBL) and fanatic fan following. A good breezy read.

(Prof. Jitendra Sharma is a voracious reader and his reading interests cut across the genre. His book reviews are widely read and have been influential.)

Dr Jitendra Sharma
Professor
Operations Management

2nd Wave of Covid-19: Economy and Business

2nd Wave of Covid-19: India Caught Unaware!

The optimistic expectations of multiple international rating agencies and IMF’s bright prediction about India’s growth recovery have come to a screeching halt disappointingly with a sharp spike in covid-19 cases across the country. However, the pattern is not unexpected and such potentially deadly spread of the virus has already been witnessed in countries abroad and the lessons are still not learned, unfortunately. Also the chief economist at IMF, Dr Gita Gopinath very neatly cautioned way back in December 2020 on the IMF portal and in various discussions that the successful recovery of any virus-inflicted country depends on how fast countries will win their war against the virus. There is a clear trade-off between containing virus spread and potentially more deadly virus mutations, the way we are experiencing now and the much needed economic recovery. In a similar vein, former India’s RBI Governor, Dr Raghuram Rajan convincingly argued in an interview with Bloomberg that “anybody paying attention to what was happening in the rest of the world, say in Brazil, for example, should have recognized the virus does come back and potentially in more lethal forms.” Now the challenge lies in controlling the virus, the pace of immunizations and getting our actions together.

The 2nd Wave: The biggest cataclysm to have struck the country in living memory

An unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases is likely to slow down India’s economic recovery and prospects of large industrial houses in general, but can further wreak havoc with the small, medium and micro-enterprises. Apart from that, migrant labour from last year virus backlash are yet to recover. The 2nd wave in India has been far more deadly than the first wave as the cases and deaths continue to rise at an unprecedented rate with erratic semi and full lockdowns, much to the distress of the nation’s informal sectors – accounting for almost 2/3rd of economic activity and a massive 92.5% of livelihoods.

India Posts Highest Single Day Deaths: Complacency & lack of foresight

The country has been reporting over 3 lakh daily cases for over weeks together. In comparison, India had not reported even 1 lakh daily cases during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. As of Tuesday, May 18, 2021, India reported the highest single-day Covid fatalities and it climbed to 2, 78,719 with a record 4,329 new victims, according to the official sources.

Shortage of key healthcare facilities, oxygen cylinders, beds and critical drugs has made the situation worse during the second wave and reports suggest that just before the Covid wave hit India, ICU beds declined by 46 per cent, and medical oxygen by 36 per cent – pointing to a drastic fall in country’s health infrastructure at a time when it is badly needed.

Expert’s opinion points to the blatant absence of proactive action on the part of government executive machinery and the leadership to prevent or stay prepared for the second wave that only proved catastrophic. Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan, who has censured the government for handling the second Covid-19 wave and has stated that the overwhelming surge of Covid-19 cases has revealed complacency among authorities after the first and highlighted “lack of leadership and foresight” as key factors that have hurt India badly during the 2nd wave. “If you were careful and cautious, you had to recognize that it wasn’t done yet,” Rajan was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg interview.  

Keep aside the proactive action, the apathy encouraged mass gatherings in the form of election campaigns, Kumbh Melas and others. Further, masses are being misled by government authorities by saying that the country emerged victorious by defeating the virus. But in reality, covid related cases in India started rising again from March and accelerated in the following months.

Given the grim scenario, many industry bodies and medical experts like Dr Randeep Gueria of AIIMS Delhi and Dr Anthony Fauci, Eminent Infectious Diseases Expert and Medical Advisor to the US president have called for a nationwide lockdown with some concrete measures in place to save the situation from spiraling out of control further. The WHO has blamed the 2nd wave of the pandemic on premature opening up, flagrant relaxation of public health measures, as well as the emergence of new variants of virus and unequal vaccine sharing. 

2nd Wave of Covid-19 hit India Harder: Economic Growth & Business Prospects

The scale of destruction brought about by the 2nd wave is impalpable, as the current deadly infectious strains that continue to take lives, overwhelm unprepared healthcare infrastructure and dislocate families of labor that bound to wreak havoc with the economy, more particularly the informal sectors – small businesses, traders and migrant labor. Though the Indian government has denied the possibility of a complete nationwide lockdown, several states are extending curfews and making restrictions more stringent to curb the spread of the virus. Hence, the economy is witnessing a contraction on the back of weak economic in response to local restrictions.

Data from the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) testifies to this. CAIT’s research estimates that retail traders across the country have suffered business losses to the tune of INR 3.5 lakh crore, while wholesale traders have faced losses worth INR 1.5 lakh crore. The unemployment rate in India has also increased,  with the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy reported on May 4, 2021, that the second wave has left as many as 72.5 lakh people jobless in India in April, taking the unemployment rate to 8 per cent which the government agencies vehemently denies. This bound to lead to severe near-term growth concerns and potentially turn the market expectations deleterious.

Impact: Retailers, Small Businesses, Daily Wagers worst hit by 2nd wave

Though there is not much of systematic assessment study of 2nd wave impact on small businesses but the repercussions are clearly seen from various sources and across sectors. Businesses such as malls, retailers and restaurants are in a disarray as they grapple with restrictions, including weekend lockdowns and night curfews in different states and districts, as the country braces to face the 2nd wave. But daily wagers, casual workers and small businesses, which lack deep pockets, have been hit very badly.

Sources in these businesses are concerned that the lockdown should not be a way of handling the spread of the virus, as one representative very neatly reasoned out by saying, ‘This (lock-down) is a beginning, we hope that this would not be stretched further. If this goes for more days on, it will be much worse than that of the first lockdown. When production chain breaks, it will have an impact on demand, supply and overall economic and business activity of the country’.

For small businesses, it’s a catch-22 situation

The lack of comprehensive and cohesive approach and foresight needed in crisis management continues to take its toll on these businesses and the sustenance of the working class in those sectors. With different rules and restrictions in different states and union territories, businesses are not only finding it difficult to conduct day-to-day operations but the ad-hocnature of policy intervention creating a lot of ambiguity amongst consumers leading to a rapid decline in footfalls and sales revenues across business outlets.

Frequent night curfews, last-minute decisions on weekend closures and complete lockdowns in several places are making sustenance extremely difficult and posing a grave threat to millions of those who are directly and indirectly employed in the retail sector across the nation. This is also causing immense stress to the migrant workers and potentially exposing them to disease, malnutrition and vulnerability. Lockdowns affect worker’s mobility and hence their ability to earn a living. Recent research established a clear link between restricted mobility and loss of livelihoods – in Delhi for instance, a 50% drop in mobility led to a 39% fall in earnings. One can only imagine the fate of the very poor and vulnerable sections of the population.   

Businesses are grappling with a different set of issues based on local restrictions. In Maharashtra, retailers are asking the State government to open up online deliveries for all goods, while in Delhi, restaurant players have raised concerns for not being able to get e-passes for movement of staff and deliveries during the weekend lockdown hampering their business operations. In Delhi, dine-in is not allowed and restaurants only source of revenues currently are home deliveries. But most restaurants are either not getting approvals for e-passes or facing a high rate of rejections by the concerned authorities. This only calls for more of a cohesive and a responsive approach to these very concerns. 

The way forward – Foresight, Prudent Governance & Responsible Businesses

The RBI Governor on May 5, 2021, announced a slew of measures to offset the economic impact of the second Covid-19 wave on informal sectors and small businesses. To incentivize credit flow to MSMEs borrowers, scheduled commercial banks were allowed to deduct credit disbursed to new MSME borrowers from their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) for calculation of the cash reserve ratio (CRR). But, the issues that are unique to small businesses should be considered while devising any such policy support.

Apart from the monetary support, so far the dearth of policy action remains in terms of active income infusion directly into the pockets of those very poor and vulnerable and it has been very inadequate. India spends just 2.2% of GDP compared to 12% provided by the similarly afflicted Brazilian government. Such policy support becomes so imminent especially when India leads the global Covid-19 triggered poverty projections, with World Bank estimating about 12 million of its citizens will be pushed to the very margins – “extreme poverty”, with less than US$ 1.90 per day – in 2021, a direct result of the pandemic’s economic destruction. These are the difficult times when Indian corporates further reinforce their CSR activity and pitch to help the vulnerable to tide over these tough times and help support their employees well. 

While the policy plank seems to realize the urgency and in support of the ground realities, what matters is how agencies coordinate while devising an integrated strategy both at the national level and also at the sectorial level, especially those of informal sectors and small businesses which are vital to sustaining incomes and jobs. At the same time, problems are specific to local settings as the intensity of the virus is varying in nature across the nation. This only calls for proper coordination and optimization of medical infrastructure by the related agencies. It’s being reported that in some places medical facilities are very much available but badly lack skilled manpower to operate the equipment while other places face acute shortages of basic medical facilities leading to avoidable fatalities and an opportunity to save precious lives. It’s equally critical to have proper foresight and a holistic approach to the pandemic problem in terms of ramping up much-needed testing and immunization drive as a way to stop the spread of the virus further and allow much-needed normalcy to return. This would seem to be the only way forward for the economy to return to its trajectory which in turn not only brighten-up country’s growth prospects but save the travails of small businesses and the most vulnerable a great deal.

Dr Gajavelli V S
Professor, Economics and Finance

Preparing for a Post-Pandemic Business world: Managerial Essentials

Covid-19: A transformative phase for you, me and all

With the global economy facing persistent uncertainty, most businesses are grappling to come to terms with the impact of the COVID-19, with a future seeming both uncertain and risky. For several businesses globally including those of India, the next few quarters will have only one important challenge, that is, how do they survive and grow in these challenging times. For some, there may be an opportunity to focus on how to emerge from the crisis much stronger, better positioned and as a highly valued business. Whatever goals the corporates might set in this new normal, organizations across are now convinced that it is essential to take steps to position their business model for the post-COVID-19 world, while taking care of their employees and stakeholders.    

Industry experts are predicting colossal economic losses for industries like hospitality, aviation, construction, manufacturing, MSMEs sector besides the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector, among others. This would lead to lay-offs and declining incomes. Societal disruptions are underway and Governments of various countries have announced unprecedented financial and monetary measures to ease the damage wreaked by the virus. Intransigent extended lockdowns and slow-paced unlocking are only adding to these uncertain times.

Innovative strategies undertaken by individuals and organizations have been a boon in navigating through these uncertain times. The Federal Reserve very recently warned that the largest market economy in the world, the US faces a ‘long road’ to recovery, but the Fed Chair Jerome Powel has committed to keeping interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future.

An Element “Unknown” – A tricky thing, but not hard enough to crack

There is an element of uncertainty – a conundrum, lots of unknowns, as to how the world will transform after the novel coronavirus is brought under control, but it is extremely unlikely that things will just go back to the way they were before. The workplaces are bound to change and some tech giants like Google and Twitter, among others, are already encouraging their workforce to operate from homes for the long haul. So the changing landscape only demands those unique skills that corporate professionals need and the strategic rejig companies embrace the way crisis affects various sectors and industries and most importantly consumer behaviour and investor psychology. A recently published study of Gallup global consultants revealed that all members of the Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) Roundtable believe that the economic environment is likely to be changed for some time, and their leadership is preparing their companies for today’s needs as well as the post-pandemic business world. The CHROs Roundtable as an organization represents over 700 of the world’s largest enterprises and how they diagnose the virus-triggered business impact matters a lot while seeing how businesses are proactively restructuring their business models with the kind of skills and people talents to manage the crisis and emerge victorious.

So, what are the strategic and tactical policy shifts and skills that will take individuals as well as organizations forward in a post-pandemic world? Here, we discuss a few intricate aspects as well as some attitudinal changes for managers to reshape and reposition market entities and assure success in this emergent scenario.           

  • Leadership, work teams and value creation

Leadership plays a crucial role in every aspect of the organizational preparedness to endure and manage a crisis well. During these times, people with strong leadership qualities can lead work teams and organizations to success. As the trends suggest that work-from-home (WFH) is going to be the next big thing to be managed,  major technology giants have already planned for the WFH scenario until the end of 2020 and beyond. So professionals with strong leadership abilities who can manage distant teams, keep them motivated, inspire collaborations, ensure smooth functioning and bring out the best in team members would be the best bet for organizations to thrive.     

The gig economy, a job market characterized by freelance or short-term contacts as opposed to permanent jobs, is only going to grow in a post-crisis world and people will be working in more fluent teams allowing them to lead at different times and different levels. As organizations are convinced about WFH as a viable long-term option, professionals with strong leadership skills, capable of taking teams along and contribute to companies value creation will be in greater demand.

Studies reveal that C-suite leaders through a combination of organizational and human-centred initiatives, can help make the transition to – or expand reliance on – a virtual workplace model that’s effective and satisfying to employees and all other stakeholders. Studies further point out that virtual work practices are for sure going to strengthen business resilience

  • Emotional intelligence, managerial proficiency and organizational endurance   

Closely linked to leadership is another ability of a successful professional that is critical in crisis management, in these challenging times, i.e. Emotional Intelligence (EI). The ability to be aware of, express, and control our emotions and be aware of others’ emotions is what EI is all about. Great leaders who successfully lead organizations are great empaths and can easily gauge the mental and emotional health of an employee very well. At uncertain times when an employee or any other stakeholder feels insecure about their jobs and the future of their organizations or their businesses, at such a time it is important to connect with them on an emotional level, raise their self-confidence and provide assurance. So professionals with strong EQ (emotional quotient) will be sought-after by organizations of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy, simply because they significantly raise the chances of survival for organizations in times of economic stress. So, it’s a win-win situation for organizations and their stakeholders.

Emotional Intelligence Domains and Competencies

SELF- AWARENESSSELF-MANAGEMENTSOCIAL AWARENESSRESLATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT
 Emotional self-control Influence
 AdaptabilityEmpathyCoach and mentor
Emotional self-awarenessAchievement orientation Conflict management
 Positive outlookOrganizational awarenessTeamwork
   Inspirational leadership

Source: What Makes a Leader-MORE THAN SOUND, LLC, 2017.

  • Tech-savviness and digital transformations

Experts and practitioners believe that hyper-automation is where the market is heading towards. That’s not a reason to fear, rather it’s an opportunity to prepare for the post-crisis world as acquiring these very technological skills will help one remain industry-relevant. As WFH becomes indispensable, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, big data, virtual and augmented reality and robotics will be the future that will help industries grow more resilient. Hence, it becomes imperative for professionals to develop an aptitude to learn new technologies and develop skills to use those tools comfortably as well as be able to work with them effectively in their day-to-day operations. More importantly, those professionals who help support companies exploit these technologies and create value will be in great demand, and for them, the rewards will be high.

  • Winning consumers: A scenario of temporary to transformative consumer behaviour 

The economic costs of a pandemic will be huge and long-lasting, leaving an impact on the way people spend that last penny earned. IMF is projecting a global recession as bad as or worse than the global financial crisis. Consumer confidence has plummeted across major global markets. During the Great Recession of 2008, people were quick to cut back on a host of discretionary expenses such as eating out and travel and they continued to do so for several years. Further, they also resorted to a variety of cost-saving strategies like using coupons and waiting for discount sales. Similarly, recent lock-downs already forced COVID-19 consumer behaviours – spending less on out-of-home eating and entertainment. This trend is bound to grow further as the pandemic lingers on. At the same time, experience also shows that people spend when they can and hence job protection is a critical element of crisis management from the point of view of policy stance and market resilience.     

Life after the pandemic will emerge as a new normal in many ways and it is critical to understand consumer behaviour. By observing the shopping pattern in countries like China that have witnessed both pre and post-peak phases of COVID-19, the private consumption in industries dealing in luxury items, such as the apparel and dining industries, has still not picked up significantly. In the US and elsewhere, people have stopped visiting public places, are stocking up on non-perishable goods, shifting their purchases from physical stores to online, preparing meals often at home and delaying routine doctor visits and other personal service appointments and are preferring to spend less on travel and entertainment.

So, companies and marketing professionals need to focus on understanding the changing consumption patterns, identify opportunities and provide innovative business solutions. Solutions that benefit consumers without compromising on value creation will see endurance and assure good results even in these challenging and transformative times. Be aware that customers will remember you and your actions well during difficult times like these. Jacking up the prices as people face shortages, say, could have a significant boomerang effect on your customer relationships. So be compassionate and express solidarity with your customers.    

  • Product portfolio and asset optimization across businesses

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented disruption across markets and the economic impacts are bound to be long-lasting. Undoubtedly, the post-crisis world is going to be different. Across markets, online retail and direct to consumer offerings have seen a significant rise, with Nielsen estimating that 600,000 households tried online grocery shopping for the first time in the UK during March 2020. At the same time, gig economy shopping models like Glovo in Spain and Buyme in Ireland have seen a surge in demand. Takeaway.com has witnessed a dip in order volumes during the early months of virus spread. Another Nielsen study from China shows they are emerging with more of a “homebody” mindset, where health and technology are the factors that will influence consumer spending and shopping habits in the short and long term.

On the other hand, many physical non-food retailers have had to suffer from prolonged closures. Many hotels, restaurants and bars are unable to operate until restrictions are lifted. Studies in mainland China show that 86% now expect to eat at home more often than before the pandemic. We see consumer preference changing rapidly and on an enduring basis.   

Experts and analysts in India are expecting a change in market leadership in the post-crisis business world in which telecoms backed by WFH choices and surge in data usage, healthcare, speciality chemicals, among others, to do well as compared to other sectors. 

Understanding transitory changes from those of structural, turn out to be critical, to position products and businesses to succeed in the post-COVID-19 world. For across businesses and more so for big enterprises, the corporate ability to dynamically assess which assets are bound to thrive, is bound to give them the leverage to benefit from the much-awaited recovery and a chance to prosper. For business buyers as well as private equity alike, the current subdued market scenario is the right time to plan for a target list of assets where a future investment or partnership may be mutually a win-win situation.

The Post-Crisis: The Way Forward

The COVID-19 crisis is an unfolding event bringing uncertainty to every aspect of professionals, organizations and the societies at large. So the element of ‘think the unthinkable’ aspect of 21st century professional life to be perceived with a lot more positivity and the same to be embedded into our attitudes and approaches in managing uncertain times. The other vital aspects of pre-requisites in these special times are adaptability and flexibility, creativity and critical thinking abilities besides the fuel of the 4th industrial revolution, i.e. the data literacy go a long way in pitching for better prospects. The right data and professionals with expertise to understand the data ensure that organizations respond in the right way should a future pandemic occur again by allowing them to understand business trends and shifting customer needs. Similarly, digital skills such as digital and coding skills, web development and digital marketing become even more important as the current crisis pushed the organizations to embrace digital transformation even more. 

Most of the successful leaders are voracious readers and life-long learners and highly positive and energetic in their engagements. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), in just five years, about 35% of the skills deemed essential today will change. Hence there is only one way to remain robust and relevant in any adverse market scenario in post-crisis business world which is   to commit to a lifetime of learning.

The virus has ravaged the world and the worst is yet to come. Organizations and managers running them must act today to ensure their present and future sustenance. Doing so will help global society as a whole to recover from this crude shock and surely become more cohesive in actions and gain much needed resilience in the process.  

Certainly, a more enlightened and integrated approaches are needed on the part of governments to manage the COVID-19 crisis effectively and create a right environment by bringing mass awareness and putting just right policies in place. As earlier rightly stated much of the economic and social stability come from protecting jobs and the incomes, especially of those not part of the policy discussions and consensus – vast number of small businesses, traders and migrant laborers  – ,but adversely affected by the pandemic and constitute major stakeholders.   

 ***

Dr Gajavelli V S
Professor, Economics and Finance

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel – A Book Review

I was scouring Amazon’s vast library for a fiction to read, as it has been a while that I read a good ‘whodunnit’ or its ilk. While searching, this book jumped up on the suggestion list (though it is not a fiction) and as it was ordained, I just had a glance at its blurb and inhaled a whiff of its contents. I forgot fiction for a while and within seconds I ordered it.

After having finished it, the following are my independent observations: A book for all seasons and a plethora of reasons. A succinct way of saying things that matter and doing it in a way that rises above the usual chatter. The author weaves his magical lessons through anecdotes and stories, he keeps the narrative interesting and grounded. He soars through his wit, wisdom and wordly take on the ‘happenings’ around us. He makes us travel the whole of the earth’s geography via the pages of world history.

The lessons in the garb of stories and narratives are easy to comprehend and follow. The biggest plus of this work is the author’s ability to speak the lingo of the reader – covering the whole continuum from a low lying layman to a loftily levitating learned. His ability to pick up tangled threads from our life-finances to straighten them up with minimum of fuss, just takes us readers on an enlightening journey into personal as well as professional finances.

To sum up, the reasons to read this book are: amazing clarity about complex concepts; real, working but unheard mental models; simple and easy to grasp perspective; sanely sensible and insanely intuitive.

A book for the young to follow, the middle-aged to learn from and the veterans to mull over. The best part about the book is that the author is unpretentious and has no grand illusions of his expertise and experience about money. It is an honest version of a man who believes in – “no one knows the right answers” and humbly accepts it as the sole universal truth. I couldn’t concur more.

Grab a copy: read it for fun, read it to learn and read it to earn. You won’t regret it.

Dr. Jitendra Sharma is a Professor at IMT Nagpur and teaches Operations and allied courses. When not teaching, he dabbles in reading, writing and binging on movies and web-series.

Dr Jitendra Sharma
Professor, Operations Management

Myth 8: Branding = Advertising

“Ninety-nine percent of advertising
doesn’t sell much of anything.”
– David Ogilvy

This is another commonly held myth about marketing. Many, entrepreneurs and amateurs alike, think of branding only as a way of creating image. Ask them and they will say that they are practicing branding. Probe further and it will be revealed that they have a logo and release some ads here-and-there.

Now, that’s not branding. It’s merely advertising.

Branding is indeed about creating image. However, it does not start or end at that. In its true sense, branding is about a ‘business philosophy of an organization with respect to the product category represented by the brand.’ The entire process of branding can be divided into two parts- one, that happens in the outside world; and the other – and more important one – that happens within the company. The one that happens in the outside world has to essentially focus on AIDA, i.e. creating Awareness; generating Interest; developing Desire among the target consumers; and finally ensuring Acquisition of the brand by the consumers. In this entire process, what advertising does is only helps in creating awareness about the brand. If the other things (of AIDA) are not ensured, acquisition of the brand by the consumers may not take place, and the very purpose of branding may get defeated. What David Ogilvy – the much respected and celebrated personality of advertising field – has described in his above referred quote is unfortunately true even today. And the crux lies in the myth of ‘branding = advertising’ that is widely held.

The process of creation of a brand starts with the STP which has already been discussed in some of the earlier articles in this series. Based on this, a ‘brand personality’ has to be crafted. It is now a well-accepted fact that brands also have ‘personalities’ like human beings. In fact, they are created on the same personality traits as human personalities, such as trustworthy, honest, suave, sophisticated, stylish, rugged, no-nonsense, etc.

A logo of the brand, must truly represent and depict the desired personality of the brand. The font used for logo as well as color combinations used should reflect its personality. For instance, Lakme brand has a personality of being sophisticated, delicate, feminine, etc. And its personality gets truly reflected in the font as well as colors used in the brand logo. On the contrary, Hummer is rugged, dependable, confident, which again gets reflected in the font and colors used in the logo.

It is also necessary to develop a ‘tag line’ for your brand. This in strategic brand management terms is referred to as ‘value proposition’ and also as ‘brand promise’. This value proposition is a ‘shorthand summary’ of what the brand stands for. When Amul says: ‘The Taste of India’, it not only conveys the variety in culinary tastes of India but also a sample of cultural tastes of India and how Amul fits into all this. In fact, if you think of it you can write an essay, if not a book, on what ‘The Taste of India’ could mean in Amul’s context.

There is another related myth: that to make a brand successful, you must have celebrity endorsing your brand. I have a friend, who changes job almost every three years. And as soon as he joins a new company, the first thing he does is rope in a brand ambassador. I am sure, many brand managers have a desire to rope in some or the other celebrity for their brands, but may not do so because of financial constraints. They may feel that the only dividing line between them and success is the lack of celebrity endorser. This is probably a bigger myth than the myth of ‘Branding = Advertising’. Let me remind you of a very reputed Indian brand of worsted suiting- Raymond. Do you recollect any (big-ticket) celebrity associated with this brand? On the contrary, there is a competing brand which is endorsed by none other than Amitabh Bachchan. In many of my lectures on branding, when I ask the participants to recall the brand, they fail to do so without any prompting. The brand I am referring to here is Reid & Tailor. Now, which is a bigger and more respected brand of worsted suiting- Raymond or Reid & Tailor? Mind you, Raymond does not have any celebrity brand ambassador whereas Reid & Taylor has one of the most celebrated one. So the bottom line is: do not waste your always-scares resources on a celebrity unless there is a strong case for one.

Let’s try and understand the importance of the second part of branding- that is about doing certain things within the company. To understand this, let’s take a look at some of the successful brands. For instance, McDonald’s is one of the most famous and trusted brands across the world. Its brand promise is: ‘I’m loving it’. This should ideally imply that a consumer stepping into a McDonald’s outlet ‘is’ loving the experience. However, to turn this into reality, what McDonald’s does relentlessly is to train its each and every employee in ‘living’ this philosophy. So when a consumer encounters any employee of McDonald’s in its outlets, she finds them ‘loving’ the entire process of serving the consumer, in turn making the consumer ‘love’ her own experience.

Likewise, when Samsung adopted the brand promise of ‘Next is what?’ a few years ago, it made sure that its entire organization in general and R&D in particular was fully geared up to line up products where the next was better than the previous one. This ‘living’ the brand within the company, gave Samsung a distinct edge over its established rivals and made it the market leader. 

For a brand to be truly successful, it should be well understood that the brand promise is integrated into the organization as its culture. Every employee of the organization and also its channel members (dealers, etc.) should conduct the business of your brand in sync with the ‘brand promise’.

It is well known fact that brands live far longer that the products. The products may change their forms with time due to change in consumers’ tastes or changes in technology. However, the brands may last virtually ‘forever’. Sony Walkman changed its form from a compact cassette player to a compact CD player to a MP3 player and remained relevant as a brand of ‘music on the go’ for three decades, before it lost its track and gave up against the impending onslaught of smart phones. If you are also one of those who thought ‘branding = advertising’, face the reality and accept the fact that you are not doing justice to your brand. Adopt the strategic branding approach and see your brand grow in strength, day by day.

“An image is not simply a trademark, a design, a slogan
or an easily remembered picture.
It is a studiously crafted personality profile
of an individual, institution, corporation, product or service.”
– Daniel J Boorstin 

Prof Rajeev Kamble
Associate Professor
Marketing

                                        

Myth 7: More the expenditure better the Marketing

“If one does not know
to which part one is sailing
no wind is favorable.”
– Lucious Annaeus Seneca

Some time back I was advising a real estate development firm on marketing. Their project was a self-content township in the outskirts of the city. Around the same time another project of similar size was launched, again in the outskirts but on the preferred side of the city. In terms of expenditure on marketing, this competitor had outdone my client several times. For instance, while we had 20 odd billboards across the city, they had 50 odd, that is in a 1:2.5 ratio.

Going by the simple logic and common sense, the project with inherent advantage (of location) should have had a distinct edge over any other. To top it, they also spent at least twice the amount on overall ‘marketing’.

However, the reality was far from this. Measured in terms of sales as well as brand recognition and reputation, my client’s project had a distinct edge over its competitor’s. This again is no stray incidence. There are ample examples of this kind, where despite more expenditure on marketing the success is not achieved or is not to the extent of money spent.

So, where is the catch? Why doesn’t the extra expenditure on marketing always fetch higher returns?

The answer to these questions lies in deep understanding of ‘marketing’. Many people look at marketing merely as ‘advertising’ or as ‘pushing the product through promotion schemes’ (for consumers as well as trade partners). And these add to the ‘expenses’ on marketing. Unfortunately such expenses do not guarantee ‘returns’ in the form of enhanced sales or better brand recognition and brand equity.

If a closer look is taken at ‘marketing’ activities conducted by such firms, you will observe that there is a complete absence of strategic plan for marketing their products. They would not have identified the ‘target customer’ for their products at all, leave alone ‘positioning’ of the product. In the absence of this, their product offering would be too vague for any customer segment to identify itself with. Their pricing also will be completely off the mark resulting in necessity of offering price corrections by way of discounts or promotion schemes all the time. Their distribution channel will also be ‘undefined’ due to this lack of clarity. And most importantly their promotion will be too general forcing them to utilize any and every media of promotion. This is where the ‘costs’ get escalated.

On the contrary a marketing oriented (rather focused) organization will have its ‘strategic marketing plan’ firmly in place even before going to the market. They will go far beyond advertising and sales promotion while drawing out their strategic marketing plan. Moreover, all their marketing efforts will be in sync with each other which will result in optimization of money spent on every marketing activity. In fact, for such organizations every single penny ‘spent’ on marketing will work more as an ‘investment’ in their brand from the long term point of view.

The marketing focused organizations derive a ‘gestalt effect’ out of their all-round activities on marketing front. They plan their media advertising in such a way that each media ends up supplementing the other. They also do not have to resort to ‘carpet bombing’ when it comes to advertising, since they clearly identify their target audience and communicate with them without wasting their resources on ‘general awareness’ campaigns. There is a misunderstanding among many entrepreneurs as well as amateurs that ‘more the visibility better is the brand recognition and hence sales’. This statement is just partly true. Partly because, visibility of a brand through mass media alone is not enough. In today’s times, equal amount of efforts are required on every aspect of marketing. And all these efforts need not necessarily get better with higher spends.

I have already discussed in some of the previous articles in this series that marketing comprises of several actions around your product (or service) offerings. To make a success out of your product each of these actions should be well thought out and in strategic sync with each other.

For instance, if you have not defined your STP (i.e. Segmenting, Targeting & Positioning) then how will you decide which media to advertise your product in? Media selection largely depends upon your target audience and the desired positioning of your brand. Selection of media without this homework is like grappling in the dark, which not only leads to higher expenses but is also detrimental to the brand personality.

Coming to the 4Ps of marketing, if you introduce a product in the already cluttered market without any apparent and sustainable differentiation, no amount of marketing expenses will make the product successful. A few years ago Haier launched its product line with much fanfare and huge promotion budget in India. But more than a decade on, the brand is nowhere in the top slot in any of the product categories it operates in. To start with, their ‘positioning’ itself was very vague, giving them no edge, whatsoever, over their already established competitors. Same was the case with Uninor, which entered the market with huge promotion budget. However, their messages in different media were different and quite confusing resulting in confusion in the minds of potential consumer as to ‘what the brand stood for?’    

On the contrary, think of a brand like Raymond. It has a very well defined segment of target customers. It remains in touch with them constantly, without wasting its money on mass media advertising. Its product offering is also very relevant to its target customers. Same is the case with brands such as Lakme, Samsung and several others.

It must be understood well that there cannot be a ‘general’ way of marketing any and every kind of product or service. The ideal mix of various efforts on the marketing front will vary from product to product or service. Invariably what works for ‘x’ product category, does not work for ‘y’ product category as it is. Hence, efforts must be made to first understand the marketing needs of your product category before getting down to ‘spend’ money on them.

“The secret of business is to know
something that nobody else knows.”
– Aristotle Onasis

Prof Rajeev Kamble
Associate Professor
Marketing

                            

Does Tata Tea Boost Community’s Immunity?

A Chinese doctor, Li Wenliang, was in news recently for endorsing the benefits of drinking hot tea as a preventive for and relief from Corona virus infection. Sadly the doctor succumbed to the virus later. He claimed that an element in tea known as Methylxanthines substantially reduces the impact of corona virus. Some Chinese hospitals have been reportedly serving hot tea to COVID-19 patients three times a day to minimize the impact of virus infection 6. This news spread like a pandemic in social media within a short span. Myself being a teaholic (a term I coined on similar lines of alcoholic, in relation to tea), I felt it was party time, and treated myself with a buffet of tea variants and delicacies of Tata Tea – as a diehard fan and brand loyalist. First among my favorites was always Tata Tea Veda– a tea variant spiced up with tulsi, brahmi, cardamom and ginger. The awareness campaigns of Tata Tea are equally relishing and inspiringly aromatic. You may delightfully recall the campaign of voter registration, Jaago Re! (Wake-up) run by Tata Tea in collaboration with Janaagraha. Most of us might have been amused by the spirit and social engagement of the campaign. Subsequently the company focused its campaign on preventing corruption. The Jaago Re website was designed to support extensive debates on social issues. Even in the present social crisis, Tata group announced a liberal financial aid of Rs. 1500 crore for the corona virus relief fund, walking the talk of its credo which says ‘give back to people what you have earned from them1.   

Behind the veil of my crush on Tata Tea is my enchantment for and fascination with Tata brand itself. A cursory glance at the group’s persona reveals the secrets of its beauty. The philanthropic trusts created by Tata family hold about 66% of equity in Tata Sons (which owns Tata Group of companies). Our country’s first science center and the first atomic research center are the offspring Tatas’ social agenda. In 2004, Tata Steel (TISCO) committed itself to refrain from dealing with companies not conforming to its CSR standards. Sponsoring twelve Lifeline Express trains in collaboration with the Ministry of Railways, Impact India Foundation and the Government of Jharkhand, serving over 50,000 people is another feather in its social cap. Yet another member of Tata’s corporate family, Tata Motors is the first Indian Company to introduce vehicles with Euro norms.

There are many such companies across the world that stood up to the social need of the hour responding in different ways.  A peek into the social album of Merck & Company reveal snapshots of its commitment to develop Mertizan, a remedy for treating onchocerciasis (“river blindness”) investing tens of millions of dollars despite having no commercial market for the drug 2. It is a tropical disease afflicting 340,000 people with blindness in the most impoverished regions of the world. Another million or so had some form of visual impairment while 18 million were estimated to have been infected. Merck gave away the drug for free, while collaborating with WHO, the World Bank, and others for its distribution. Close to 25 million people were treated in a year under a program to prevent premature blindness 3. Turning another leaf in history, we find that Merck supplied the drug, Streptomycin to Japan at no profit, helping the country to fight tuberculosis in the aftermath of world war-II. Similarly both GlaxoSmithKline and Merck continue to donate extensive medical supplies under the auspices of WHO to tackle Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis), while Novartis donates medicines under a leprosy eradication program 4.

From the times of yore, social responsibility was practiced as charity to the underprivileged and deprived. Since times immemorial, sacred scrolls of India emphasized the practices of sharing with and caring for the necessitous strata of society. The Adharva Veda for instance extols that money and resources are primarily contrivances the perennial stream of which should flow towards social wellbeing (Atharva-Veda 3-24-5). Indian culture is deeply entrenched in the values of care, compassion and service which are reflected even today in the work culture of companies like Taj Hotels, which is again a Tata group company.

Social responsibility has its religious roots as well. Several religions mandated and extolled such practices. In Islam there is a mandated practice called Zakaat which imposes a sacred duty on every individual to share a part of their income with the poor in the form of charity. Hindu texts of code uphold benevolent practices like giving alms (daana), providing shelters for the homeless poor and building water resources (dharma). There is a practice called Dharmada in Hindu tradition wherein every manufacturer and trader collects a levy from the buyers at specified rate which in turn is used for charity. Similarly, the Sikhs follow Dasvandh or Dasaundh – the practice of contributing one-tenth of their earnings for common causes of the community 5.

Being a hard nut to crack, I myself at some point was tempted to believe that business and social responsibility are poles apart, having no logical connection. But an undeniable fact is that business and society coexist in the same world entwined in an inseparable bond of reciprocal interdependence. Corporates have a social responsibility and society on its part has a responsibility to reciprocate corporate support by sponsoring and patronizing products and services of such entities, reinforcing each other. Even in the present crisis of covid-19 crisis, a cursory glance at some of the big ticket donors for relief activities include the following:   

  • Tata Sons and Tata Trusts – 1500 crores
  • Azim Premji Foundation – 1000 crores
  • L&T (Engineering & Construction giant) – 150 crores
  • Wipro companies – 125 crores
  • Adani Foundation – 100 crores
  • JSW Group – 100 crore

(the list is only illustrative but not exhaustive)

The intent of presenting these facts and figures is by no means an attempt to publicize or promote any corporate entity or their social identity but to reiterate an important INDIVIDUAL SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (we may term it as ISR, in line with CSR for the corporate) that all of us have as social citizens. Indeed it is our moral responsibility to strengthen this link of reciprocal bond between corporates and society – our collective being. We have a binding obligation to patronize the products and services of corporates that support us as collective society by various ways and means, in addition to specific assistance in times of distress such as the present crisis. When we buy any product or service, let us not allow our choices to be guided by product labels, impulsive fantasies or advert attractions but by the value of social responsibility shouldered by the company offering them. We ought to commit ourselves to patronize products and services of such companies who patronize us as a society, as part of our Individual Social Responsibility (ISR)

Hijacked by my passionate indulgence in the above discourse, it slipped off my mind to update the readers on the news about the Chinese doctor and tea referred at the beginning of this discourse. To the sheer disappointment of Indian tea-lovers, the BBC News announced on March 25, 2020 that the claims about hot tea being a preventive remedy for covid-19 are baseless and fictional. However the news bureau confirmed that an element named Methylxanthines is present in tea as well as in coffee and chocolates, but denied having any evidence about Dr. Li Wenliang’s research on their effect upon corona virus. The news agency also confirmed that the said doctor was in fact an eye specialist and wasn’t an expert on virus and that the rumors about Chinese hospitals treating covid-19 patients by giving them hot tea, were false and baseless 6. So let us end the debate on whether or not hot tea is a remedy for corona virus. Instead let’s follow the tagline of Sprite soft drink, “First drink then think”. Just savor and relish sipping our favorite hot tea along with a bite of a crispy snack enjoying its soothing effect on our nerves while activating our brain cells. Let us tune in to our work at hand while humming our favorite tunes – holding a cup of our favorite hot tea. Let us celebrate the tagline of this discourse, “Tata Tea boosts community’s immunity”.

Dr Vikramaditya Ekkirala
Associate Professor

Human Resources Management

Myth 6: Marketing = Selling

Every moment is a golden one
for him who has the vision
to recognize it as such
 – Henry Miller

This myth of ‘marketing = selling’ is probably one of the most commonly held myths about marketing, by amateurs and entrepreneurs alike. This is also one of the most dangerous myth since its potential damages to the organization could be far reaching. In this article, an attempt is made to burst this myth.

There is an oft-told story of two representatives of a footwear manufacturing company, who were asked to visit a new territory and submit their reports independently. One representative wrote in his report, “No one wears footwear. Let’s not waste our time on this territory.” The other one wrote, “No one wears footwear here. Let’s enter this market immediately.” This story is often told in the context of ‘optimism versus pessimism’. Whereas, I think it is more appropriate in the context of ‘vision versus lack of it’.

For the same issue, two representatives had two radically different perspectives. Though both observed the same thing- ‘no one wears footwear here’. The way they interpreted it was very different.

This is where the difference between ‘sales orientation’ and ‘marketing orientation’ lies. While the first representative – who was clearly a sales oriented person – interpreted the situation as lack of opportunity, the second one – who was a marketing oriented person – interpreted it as a distinct opportunity.

The organizations which are overly focused on sales – no matter how efficient they are at planning and executing sales – will always be focused on ‘serving the markets’. In the process, they may outdo their competitors. However, this focus of theirs – of revolving around the short-term – has a potential pitfall of becoming counter-productive.

Such organizations, while being busy with planning and executing the process of ‘serving the markets’ most efficiently, end up ignoring not only the sight of what may lie in the future but also some ‘opportunities in disguise’.   

On the contrary, a marketing focused organization will not only ‘serve the existing markets’ efficiently but also work on ‘making new markets’. In doing this, while they look at developing new markets for their existing product line; they also contemplate developing new products for the existing markets.

There are enough examples in the annals of corporate world, which will substantiate the fact that those organizations which were overly focused on merely selling have been overtaken by their marketing focused competitors – albeit much smaller than them. Some of them have even become history themselves in the process.

Having understood the results of ‘sales focus’ versus ‘marketing focus’, let’s look at the fundamental differences between these two approaches and how does an organization become one or the other. The main aim of a ‘sales focused’ organization is to ‘sell’ whatever is produced. At the face of it, there is nothing wrong with this approach. This is how it should be for any organization to sustain. However, there is a major pitfall in this approach. In a bid to achieve this target, such organizations often overlook some important factors which contribute to the success – mainly long-term success – of any organization.

As we discussed in some of the earlier articles in this series, marketing begins even before the 4Ps. It begins at ‘Segmenting, Targeting and Positioning (STP)’. This is necessary to make your product relevant and appropriate to a section of the population. This is one sure way of creating a great value around your product (or service) offering. We have discussed in one of the earlier articles that no matter how good your product is, it cannot be relevant to every consumer.

Now, the sales focused organizations – in a bid to sell whatever is produced – overlook this basic premise and end up ruining the process of value creation around their product (or service) offering. For them the sales becomes more important than whether the right kind of consumer is buying and using the product.

Another major pitfall with focus on selling is the organization ends up compromising on ‘pricing’ all the time. In strategic terms, their focus is always on ‘pushing’ the product to the consumer, rather than creating a ‘pull’ for the product among targeted consumers. And in the absence of any strong pull (or value), the consumer buys the product only on (low) price.

Many sales oriented organizations also resort to ‘dumping’ their goods to their dealers with an idea that the dealers will have no other option but to ‘dump’ it further to his sub-dealer and eventually to the consumer. This is where the pricing gets compromised. Many times this also leads to doubtful and even bad debts. But more importantly, the brand value gets slowly and steadily ruined.

The learned consumer, these days, does not like ‘hard selling’ done by any company or its dealers. She perceives such brands as weak and does not want to associate herself with them.

Contrary to all this a ‘marketing focused’ organization ‘taps’ the right kind of opportunities not only for its existing product line but also for logical extensions into complementary product lines. It then positions the product to the identified segment of population and connects with them through brand communication. Such organizations work on a balanced combination of ‘Pull + Push’. That is, they create a good amount of pull for their products among the target consumers so that they go to the dealer and ‘demand’ it. While doing this, they also apply requisite ‘push’ at the ‘point of sale’ through dealers so that the interest of the consumer in the product gets converted into actual sales.

Such organizations also work relentlessly in developing new markets while nurturing the existing ones. To do this effectively, they also engage themselves in efforts such as consumer education. For instance, the second representative in the example at the beginning of the article will put requisite efforts in educating the consumers about the benefits of using footwear, and create a new market for his organization.

Let it not be misunderstood that the marketing focused organizations do not put efforts on the sales front. They do. They understand it very well that selling is a sub-set and one of the important aspects of marketing. Hence they integrate it very well into their overall marketing strategy and use it as a strategic tool rather than a tactical weapon.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well
that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
– Peter Drucker    

Prof Rajeev Kamble
Associate Professor
Marketing

                      

                                                       

Myth 5: SMEs cannot fight against big competitors

If you were to challenge Mike Tyson?
… Go ahead!
Challenge him for a game of chess.

On a beautiful day in October 1997, India woke up to a very catchy jingle, “Aaya naya Ujala. Char boondo wala. Ha ha!” No one, at that time, thought that history was being created. In a very short time from that day, it went on to become a national rage- first the jingle and then the brand itself. This rage shook one half-a-century old brand – Robin Blue – so vehemently that it almost got killed. (Today, Robin Blue does not find even a mention on the company’s website). The challenger- Ujala was owned by Jyothi laboratories (it still is) which was far smaller a company at that time compared to Reckitt Benckiser, the owners of brand Robin Blue. But that did not deter Jyothi from challenging a mighty competitor and prevent the history from being written.

The lesson to be learnt from this episode is- success in the market place is not about the size alone. A small challenger can successfully uproot a much mightier competitor provided he plays on his strengths and exploits the competitor’s weaknesses. Ujala succeeded in toppling Robin Blue because it exploited Robin Blue’s weakness (of leaving behind blue stains on the clothes) and played on its strength (of being a liquid whitener). Jyothi Laboratories did a great job on marketing front. It developed a better product than RB; priced it aggressively; distributed it well throughout the country and promoted it very impact-fully.

If you look around, there are a good number of examples worldwide to substantiate this phenomenon. Think of Apple vs IBM in the 70s and 80s. While IBM was a behemoth, Apple was a tiny entity. Yet the history was made- while Apple went on to become the most valued company in computer hardware, IBM changed its track from being a hardware company to a software company.

A closer look at all such examples reveal that the challenger identified its own strengths as well as the competitor’s weaknesses appropriately, and hit the competitor where it hurt the most.

This brings us to a far more important issue of ‘How to identify these strengths and weaknesses of oneself as well as that of the competitor?’

The answer to this lies in deep knowledge of marketing. A marketing centric organization will always be watchful of its own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of its competitors. It will also be mindful of the opportunities and threats in its surroundings. After all that’s the fundamental function of marketing. 

Going by a simple logic, there is no point in challenging Mike Tyson for a bout of boxing. That’s certain death for a lesser soul. That’s the area of his strength where he is among the best. To win him in his area of strength may not only be impossible but also fatal to the challenger. However, winning him in chess can be a cake walk. That may be your strong area and his weakness.

Many a times, new entrants take the competitors head-on. Now, this is a very risky proposition. Even if your product is better than the competitor’s, to succeed against an established competitor, you will have to outwit him in every department- that is promotion, distribution, dealer margins, etc. This may prove very costly, and hence may not be suitable for SMEs.  SMEs by their very characteristics have an inherent advantage and that is their small size. You will wonder what I am talking about. Because whenever a reference is made to the size, it is understood to be ‘big size’. And here I am, referring to small size of the organization being an advantage. Yes! Small size also has some inherent advantages as opposed to the big size, when it comes to enterprises. For one, small size organizations can be more flexible to adapt to the changing needs of customers. Another advantage of small size organizations could be their willingness to break away from the norms and experiment. However, all businesses in SMEs need to clearly define their own advantages (and strengths) and be confident and comfortable with them.

To succeed in today’s marketplace, cluttered with competition, you need to know your stuff well and present it equally well to your customers. That is where the key to success lies. No matter how saturated the market place is, there is always enough room for a new entrant who has something better to offer. Think of the mobile handset market. In the last 10-12 years this industry has seen entry (as well as exit) of several players– Spice, Karbonn, Lava, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, etc. Some of them made it reasonably big for themselves. Moreover, the leadership of the industry has changed hands from Nokia to Samsung to Xiaomi.

Many people think that entering into a saturated market is a costly affair. You may be right, if you deploy conventional marketing strategies, where you will be forced to outdo your competition in every aspect of the business, which will eventually add up to your costs. However, real marketing is not about outdoing competition by spending more than them in your marketing activities. In case someone is doing this, he has not understood marketing in its true sense. A true strategic marketing is about outdoing the competition in terms of winning customers at least possible costs. In order to achieve this, a lot of innovations need to be done on all fronts of the business. On marketing front, you have to be better than the competition on Product, Place, Price as well as Promotion.

Though, I have tackled this issue at length in some of my earlier articles in this series, I would like to deal with this subject little more in the context of Ujala. What Jyothi Laboratories did essentially was- developed a better Product than the ones available at that time in the market. While doing this they took into account the consumers’ problems with the current offerings. Once a better product was developed, they went on to establish a robust distribution channel (that’s Place strategy) to ensure uninterrupted supply of the product to as many targeted consumers as possible. They also Priced their offering appropriately to ensure a high ‘value for money’ for the consumer. And they went hammer-and-tongs in Promoting it across the nation.

Success is a science;
if you have the conditions, you get the results.
– Oscar Wilde   

Prof Rajeev Kamble
Associate Professor
Marketing

   

Myth 4: Marketing is one time activity and required only during launch

“Whenever an individual or a business decides
that success has been attained,
progress stops.”
– Thomas J. Watson

There used to be two foot over-bridges in south Mumbai – one on the Marine Drive near Marine lines station and another outside Churchgate station. Both were used more as ‘advertising gantries’ than FOBs. In the late ’80s, an ad appeared on both of them. The product was indeed a revolutionary one. It was a remote control for ceiling fans. The concept behind the product was really novel and the ad itself was equally novel. The brand name was- Remo.

However, after these outdoor displays for a couple of weeks and a press ad during the launch phase, nothing much has been heard about the brand thereafter. It may still be available in the market. However, there are no ads of the brand in any media. There aren’t any signs of its availability at the outlets selling electric goods and accessories either. As a result, no one knows about it and hence no one demands it. Isn’t it a big waste of opportunity? The product was so revolutionary and far ahead of its time that an appropriate ‘marketing mix’ could have turned it into a gold mine. Imagine such a product available to us today when we want remote control for almost every home appliance we use.

There are many such ‘revolutionary’ products, which get into oblivion despite entering the markets with much hype and hoopla. If the product is really revolutionary, shouldn’t it carry itself forward after the initial ‘awareness creation’ phase? Unfortunately no product, however revolutionary it is, survives without continuous and consistent marketing support. Going by the law of physics, no momentum – however big – can last forever.

Marketing, in its true sense, is about managing your offerings to the market on 4 Ps, i.e. Product, Place, Price and Promotion. These 4Ps are the governing factors of your ‘marketing mix’.

Many people – including entrepreneurs – misunderstand marketing as just about Promotion in the form of advertising for the product. There are a few brands which have been promoted well, but since they fail to fulfill the expectations of target customer; or their price is not right; or they are not available at the right place(s), they fail to convert the opportunity into real business.

Then how should one carry out marketing on a consistent basis?

In fact, real strategic marketing starts even before the 4Ps. It starts with segmenting the market and identifying the target customer for your product. It must be understood well that no product can be relevant to all types of customers. While Dove is relevant to some customers, Medimix is equally relevant to some other customers. Once the target customer is identified, you must ‘position’ your product in such a way that it connects with your target customer. For instance, a car could either be ‘positioned’ as a basic mode of transport or a status symbol.

From positioning evolves your product strategy. Going back to the example of cars, the products offered by respective car makers must match with their positioning. Otherwise, it could lead not only to confusion in the minds of customer but also mistrust.

While managing your product offering over a period of time, it is necessary to keep a tab on changes in the tastes of your target customers or changes in technology around your product. A well-defined ‘Product’ strategy arms you with insights to keep your product contemporary and relevant through all these environmental changes. This also helps you in expanding your business by offering right kind of variants to your existing product as well as introducing new products in the market.

A well-defined product strategy needs to be complemented with appropriate ‘Place’ strategy. The distribution network for your product must be put in place in such a way that it not only ensures the logistical movement of the product but also its availability to the target customer. While appointing channel partners, care must be taken to complement (and even enhance) the desired image of the product brand. Some time back I came across a showroom of an elite brand of automobile. The brand is an object of desire for many Indians. However, its showroom was located in quite a run-down area with slums in its close vicinity.

Another important aspect with regard to ‘Place’ strategy is to keep a close tab on the evolution of channels relevant to your product. Not too long ago, Godrej & Boyce was a leader in refrigerator segment. However, they rapidly fell off from that position, primarily because all through the ’90s and 2000s, their distribution channel was undergoing a big revolution – turning into one stop shop for all home appliances. While LG and Samsung could offer the entire range, Godrej got stuck with refrigerators alone. Very soon, the distribution channel started dumping the brand, and today it is struggling for its survival.       

Many people argue as to what is there to strategize in ‘Pricing’? It is simply about recovering your costs and earning profits.

You will be surprised to know that ‘Pricing’ is one of the important aspects in managing ‘consumer psychology’. A well-defined pricing can be used very well for your strategic advantage. A low priced product need not sell the most in the market. In fact, a product with high price is most likely to be perceived as of high quality and vice versa. A new introduction in the market need not necessarily be priced lower than the competitors, unless you intend to sell a lower-quality-lower-price option to the customer. Also keep in mind that ‘Pricing’ is prerogative of and hence decided by marketing and not by finance department of the organization.

With regard to the last P – ‘Promotions’ – people seem to be utterly confused. For many, it is just about releasing a few ads in print, visual or audio media. The potential pitfall of doing promotions wrongly can be colossal. Recently, I came across promotions of a brand which talked about ‘Opulence’. As you know opulence is luxury in superlative form. How can such a brand be promoted on mass media such as radio, that too by sponsoring songs? I am not undermining the merit of radio as a media. The point I am making here is your promotions, including the selection of media should reach the target customer and gel with your overall strategy.   

Success in business is about consistency and persistence in all your efforts, marketing is no exception.

Prof Rajeev Kamble
Associate Professor
Marketing