Buland Bharat Ki Badalati Tasveer

I know I haven’t written for a while now. Happy to have received some small notes from those who have missed my random musings. Well, here’s one more. Trust you’d find a little bit of yourself tucked away in this note too. I did.

KodakA few weeks earlier, Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in United States Bankruptcy Court in Lower Manhattan. The 131-year-old film pioneer succumbed to the onslaught of the digital world. What is ironical is that it was Kodak’s engineer – Steve Sasson – who actually invented digital cameras (in 1975) and put it back in the closet, to focus on what was their core strength – films!

Surely, with a 20-20 hindsight, they should have turned all their energies onto digital films and become a world leader in it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to happen.

NetflixThe bookstore chain, Borders, lost out to the online giant Amazon and e-books. The movie rental market leader, Blockbuster lost out to its online counterpart, Netflix. The Walkman lost out to iPod. The laptop seems to be losing out to iPads. Data on local devices such as hard disks seem to be losing out to information on the Internet (which has a fancy name called ‘Cloud’).

Closer home, our age-old trusted kirana store owner is truly facing difficult times. A good part of our groceries for the month get bought in bulk at what are known as modern-trade-outlets. Only some select few items then get bought through the old kirana store – and that too with the expectation of a near-immediate and free home-delivery. Old CRT-based televisions are making way for LCD/ LED ones. Tailors are making way for readymade garments. Landlines getting replaced with mobiles. Mobiles getting replaced with smartphones.

Lots of changes. Yes. So what?

Here’s the thing: We all know that sooner or later things have to change and the new world order comes in place of the old. It becomes imperative for organizations to anticipate correctly and realign their businesses to capture the market that is coming up in the future. And, do it decisively.

McDonaldsFor instance, if we are to think in the context of the recent ‘health’ wave around the world, some real questions that some brands may be facing right now would be: Should McDonalds get into healthier foods and to what extent? When should Pepsi invest serious advertising monies in fruit-drinks and related food products? Let me pose these questions in relation to my favourite joint: Should Sardar Pav Bhaji reduce the butter dollops he generously adds or add salads to his menu? Should Pizza Hut start serving whole-wheat pizzas; or would Subway quickly overtake them otherwise? Should Cadbury’s launch sugar-free chocolates?

There’s another similar – yet far more serious and wider problem – which almost all Indian brands are currently facing and that is: Do I get on the digital and social media bandwagon and, is it relevant in the Indian context?

digital marketingIs this digital marketing and social media thing for real? Does it impact the real India, which goes far beyond the cities? Is it beyond the tipping point in India? Is it going to totally change the landscape of India – not just Indian advertising? Or, has it already! And, do I have to take my brand up there or should I wait and watch for some more?

Let me attempt an answer: As per a reasonably reliable report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), five months back in Nov., 2011, India crossed 10 crore claimed Internet user base. Now, this constitutes about 8% of India’s population. Is this a small percentage of population enough to take Indian advertising over its tipping point (in favour of Digital/ Internet/ Social Media)?

I believe, yes it is.

India undoubtedly comprises a vast rural populace with relatively little access to even basic amenities such as potable water and electricity. However, we now have about 65 crore active mobile connections in India (more than half of our population). To cater to this evolution of sorts, mobile companies have worked out smart solutions to enable easier ‘charging’ of mobiles. Micromax launched a mobile with a battery that doesn’t need charging for a month! And just yesterday, they have launched a mobile with a solar charger. That’s how innovative marketeers have found solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. The price points have been pulled to dramatically lower levels than ever before. So, now India is ‘connected’.Micromax

Let’s look at what people do with these mobiles: they are downloading songs, listening to jokes, horoscopes and more. And here’s another excellent innovation where consumers can listen to jokes, without having to pay for it: Sponsored jokes! One could now give a missed call on a 1-800 number and get a call back which is an ad followed by a joke.

The urban landscape too is changing. Haven’t we ‘urban dwellers’ in India gotten far more comfortable using our credit cards on the Internet than ever before? Marketeers on the other hand have done their bit by providing options of cash on delivery. One only needs to look at the sudden surge of Internet businesses in India – almost reminiscent of the Internet boom during the early 2000s. Flipkart, Snapdeal, Flickr… to name a few. Payments of utility bills have moved online. Banking has made deep strides in the online world. One cannot forget the success of online travel businesses. And Shaadi.com. The Indian Government has also done its bit in relation to online options: railways, tax payments and a host of other services.

The digital world is, therefore, all around us and there’s no escaping that. And so is the need for digital marketing, including the new social media universe. And if that be true, there’s no escaping the fact that marketing has no other option than to move in that direction. We are a reflection of what transpires around us in the society, aren’t we? (In fact, currently, media seems to be ‘driving’ social change. But that’s a different story altogether. 🙂 )

social mediaLet me also share my two bits on the key question that a lot of all-India brands face: would social media be worthwhile even for brands which go far beyond urban India – Lifebuoy, Nirma, Dettol, Colgate, etc.? In my view – admittedly with limited experience – it would. The urban India is connected with rural India through places, which act as connecting bridges. Also, with increasing education you are having smart kids from villages who build ‘connections’ between their houses in a remote village to a villa in San Francisco and no less. Lastly, with a slow but surely steady increase in penetration of electricity and Internet in India, there’s a lot that consumers will expect from the brands. They will expect to be a part of conversation with the brand quite unlike the unidirectional communication approach of the traditional media.

So, all in all, the Internet is here to stay. So is Digital Marketing. And Social Media. I am placing my chips there. Are you?

All the trademarks and copyrights belong to their respective owners. Eggfirst doesn’t claim ownership of any trademarks used in this article.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.7/5 (9 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +9 (from 9 votes)

Who killed these brands?

Who killed these brands?

Last time, when I wrote about product excellence, it wasn’t lost on me that some of my friends who are in marketing would read it. And my friends in advertising would read it. And so would my boss! And it’s appraisal time. So, let me set the record straight. Product excellence or product quality by itself is only half the battle won. The other critical component being marketing and advertising…

Now, almost all of us know the role of marketing and therefore, there would be little value in extolling the need for marketing. Let me take this a step ahead and chalk out the consequences of ‘failed’ marketing. Let’s talk about some failed brands. The debris strewn along the way and the scary, grim quiet surrounding them now is unnerving, to say the least. Just imagine a brand that used to re-stock on shelves almost every alternate day, now finding it difficult to find movement for weeks together. Sends a chill through my spine.

Before I talk about these failures, I must state some disclaimers: I am neither related to Kotler nor Piyush. My two cents will therefore, be exactly that much only. Two cents. Secondly, I do understand that in hindsight, our vision is always a clear 20-20 and therefore, it’s easy to ‘analyze’ failures and pass erudite remarks. All I intend to do here is to derive some learnings with the singular hope that I don’t repeat the same ones. And lastly, I submit that marketing is a rather difficult art with no accurate science or a set success formula. It is about taking a stance. It is about taking calls. So, whatever I say about these brands, is in fact with a deep sense of admiration for the people who took the calls and failed.


It is actually great insight in advertising coupled with bold conviction that led to the unmatched success of the brand Onida. It challenged all established advertising norms: it showed the product in a broken form, used a devil instead of a suave model and spoke about an intense negative sentiment – envy. It succeeded since it struck a chord with Indian consumers who were just getting introduced to color television in the 1980s and everybody wanted to own one (rather desperately).
However, a few years later and with a little help from the expertise (!) of a rather large ad agency, the devil was abandoned in 1998 (again, another bold move) but this time the new message wasn’t anything even remotely as strong as the devil’s. And the brand couldn’t regain any of its lost glory. While envy connected strongly with the audiences earlier, Onida failed to capture the new sentiment of its consumers and therefore, it missed the connect with its audiences and consequently lost out. As of today, with newer agencies and newer messages (‘Nothing but the truth’ and now ‘Designed with you in mind’), Onida is still far from being an enviable brand.


Rasna was once a generic name for the soft drink concentrates (SDC) category. However, in the early 90s, competition from international cold drink brands and the new convenience culture hit Rasna hard. Rasna initially relied on loyalty and the emotional connect.

But learned the hard way about the fickleness of Indian consumers. Later, it tried to reposition itself as a premium, health drink with launch of higher-priced brand variants. But it was too late to recreate the magical connect.
The same product that was once a ‘loved’ favorite failed to evoke similar feelings as earlier purely because of its inability to connect appropriately with the changing market situation. Though, last heard, they’re trying to make a comeback.


Everybody loves Raymond. Or do they? In the 80s and the early 90s, the fabric market was flourishing and Raymond was far ahead of the race.
However, times changed and readymade garments became the norm. Raymond however, continued to portray itself primarily as a formal wear fabric (to be stitched and not ‘readymade’) and especially for special occasions such as weddings. The company however, was swift to identify the shift and launched Parx and Park Avenue in the readymade garments category. Albeit, with little marketing and noise.

I must also add that Raymond does have formal garments in its product basket, however, the marketing doesn’t convey that. I’d rather they would have used the flagship brand Raymond in the relatively larger product category of readymade garments as against the current smaller category (to fully exploit the brand value). So, while Raymond may not categorize as a failure per se, it does come across a brand that could accomplish far more.


Even a seasoned marketer like GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals (Iodex) could not withstand the onslaught from Paras Pharma (Moov).

For more than 80 long years, the brand Iodex rested on its laurels and continued with the same product – the distinct smell, the greasy feel, the unattractive dark color and a glass bottle packaging. Moov realized this and it launched an onslaught in an attractive tubular packaging, with a white ointment and a not-too-pungent odor. It had also positioned itself as a back-ache specialist, as against the multi-purpose Iodex. And the clincher: a stain-free balm. Sharp marketing decisions like these quickly became a pain for Iodex and its market-shares went from ooh to aah to ouch.

Latest: Paras Pharma, the creators of Moov, recently sold itself to Reckitt Benckiser for Rs. 3,260 crore – about eight times its annual revenue of about Rs. 400 crore. Primarily the valuation was on account of the iconic brands created within an incredibly short span of time: Moov, Krack, Dermicool, D’Cold, Livon, Set Wet and more. By the way, some of these brands were created against formidable competition from entrenched players such as Vaseline, Nycil (Heinz) and Vicks (P&G) and others created their own categories!

Needless to mention therefore, marketing does wield incredible power to lead a brand to success or failure. To make or break an organization’s future. On the other hand, product quality too wields a similar power. Clichéd as it might sound, two sides of the coin, aren’t they?

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)

The secret ingredient in Mucchad Paanwala’s paan

The secret ingredient in Mucchad Paanwala’s paan

Mumbai would possibly have more than 5,000 Pav-Bhaji outlets and at least thrice that number of Vada-Pav stalls. However, there are just a handful that compare with Maruti Pav-Bhaji, Sardar Pav-Bhaji, Kirti Vada-Pav and Kunju-Vihar Vada-Pav. Likewise, there’s little that comes close to the quality of Bade Miyan, Mucchad Paanwala, Haji-Ali Juice Center, MM Lassi and the likes. Needless to mention it’s their product quality – or should we say product e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-c-e – that has taken them in a different league altogether.

And surely, it’s not a mean feat to have achieved and maintained that for decades now.

So, what is it that makes them so successful… I decided to meet with some of them and figure it out myself. (Of course, it also meant an excuse to visit these outlets and savour some of the delectable stuff.)

The first on the list was Maruti Pav-Bhaji, Vile Parle. As you approach the modest setting, the ‘butter’ in the air is unmistakable, as the aroma serves as the appetiser. And when the bhaji itself arrives, you look at it in complete amazement. The colour, sinfully dark, is unlike any other bhaji one has ever seen. At first you’re sceptical; after the first bite, you’re smitten, and after the entire experience, you’re a total believer.
I spoke to the proprietor, Vaibhav Mhatre, whose grandfather – Maruti Mhatre – started this outlet way back in 1972 (39 years back!). Within minutes of the discussion, Vaibhav’s passion about his Pav-Bhaji was apparent. The intensity with which he spoke about what he served was so palpable that it seemed for him the Pav-Bhaji was not just Pav-Bhaji – it was a mad passion. His singular purpose in life seemed to build on the legacy his grandfather, Maruti, had created. His singular customer feedback monitoring mechanism: “Sa’ab, khaane ke baad dakaar aana chahiye.”

Next on the list was the fabulously nicknamed, Mucchad Paanwala (Kemps Corner). What started off as any other paan shop has today become a legend in its own right. Jaishankar Tiwari, the humble and the proud owner of the legacy, now apparently owns a Mercedes (unverified!) and his kids go to some very expensive schools (we’ve heard that his son studies abroad, an unverified fact though). One of the first things I noticed about him is that he was an amazing conversationalist. Of course, the quality of his betel-leaves was quite delectable, but in his own words, his customers came back also for his conversations. He has an amazing view on life and shares them liberally with the who’s who that frequent his outlet. The net result is that what was once a meagre Rs. 100 a day business, is today an empire worth, in Tiwariji’s own words, “Zaroorat se zyaada”.

And another three interviews. And all of them confirmed my hunch. They all started with a mad passion. Wanting to do something really nice. And once that succeeded, they felt like doing more and more of the same. Live and die for product ‘quality’.

However strange it might sound coming from an account planner in an advertising agency, product quality hasn’t received a fraction of the attention that has been paid to ‘marketing’. How many product managers fight tooth-and-nail for superior product quality, genuine product differentiation and innovation that could be of any modicum use? No wonder then that you need no less than the handlebar-moustached advertising guru to wave his magic wand.

Somewhere amidst the powering persona of marketing, product quality has been overshadowed. You hire a firebrand ad agency, they conceive an attractive creative, throw in a celebrity, do an international shoot and up the media budgets. Voila! You have a brand on your hands! But, what about Product quality, Product innovation, Product e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-c-e?

Surely, I admit it is not product quality alone. (1) You need to create appropriate awareness – people need to know about your product. (2) You need to create appropriate distribution – people need to be able to conveniently buy your product. (3) You need to create appropriate branding – people need to know what is the product and why should they buy it. But I guess these simple requirements have now been so overdone that instead of focusing on the end-objective (of enabling businesses succeed), the journey (of advertising) itself has now become the focus. We’ve forgotten Arjun and his singular focus on the eye of the moving fish.

Let me get a little specific here on what I mean by product quality, excellence and such:
How many products have the ‘edginess’ of an Apple product? Did you know Apple Macs don’t need an anti-virus? The battery life can actually exceed 10 hours? The boot-up time is just a jiffy? The stability and reliability is unquestionable? Not to mention, the looks!
How many organizations boast of the distribution magic of Asian Paints?
How many organizations have been able to create the beauty of the user-interface and the experience of Facebook?
How many movies have the characters as well-defined as in Sholay?
Needless to say, it is difficult to maintain ‘quality’ while scaling newer levels but it’s not impossible. If there is a passion – a mad passion – that is willing to sacrifice growth and much more, to maintain winning quality.
So what is the secret ingredient of Mucchad Paanwala and the likes? Kung-Fu Panda, a cute little animated movie, perhaps sums up the philosophy beautifully: “There is no secret ingredient. To make something special, you have to believe it is special.” Yes, believe madly.
I’d say, the secret lies in the madness. I am reminded of Jagjit Singh who in one of his concerts had shared an amazing couplet.
Log poochte hain humse ki ishq ka kya fayda,
Koi jaakar unse pooche ki fayde ka kya fayda.
And believe me, it isn’t difficult or anywhere close to being a rocket-science. I am just going to quote another superb couplet I once came across (and which has stuck to me more than my ‘permanent’ tattoo).
Kaun kehta hai ki aasmaan main chhed nahin ho sakta,
Ek tabeeyat se patthar to ucchalo yaar.
And now I guess, it’s time to take a KitKat break? Or would it be a paan from Mucchad.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.5/5 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)

Kuch meetha ho jaaye!

Kuch meetha ho jaaye!

Bring a tear to your eyes, put a soft smile on your face, make you break out laughing, may be even go hug your mother. This is what advertising does to you. And that is exactly what Dairy Milk has done to an entire nation of sweet-lovers for over the years. Their legacy of adverts speaks about emotions, feelings and celebration. For instance,

their latest series of ads echo the sentiments of how it’s a good idea to have something sweet (aka Cadbury Dairy Milk) before starting anything. The first of many, is a tale of young, budding love. The Shubh Aarambh. Absolutely adorable!
The next one holds a special place in my heart. Remember when we were all kids, and a common prank we played was to ring the doorbells of our neighbours and run away? Wasn’t it such a great time? This ad also speaks about a kid (now all grown up) going to one of his neighbour’s house with a box of Cadbury, and apologizing for all the times he’s played that prank. All this followed by a sweet tag line: Iss Diwali aap kise khush karenge?

These ads got me thinking about how Cadbury has been the undisputed market leader in India, and how its superlative communication has played a large part in getting it thus far. Considering the market conditions in the country, it is quiet a task to manage a marvelous 70% market share. And let’s not forget, they do have worthy competitors with formidable marketing prowess surely attempting to take a bite out of it: Nestle (who’ve had a similar dream run with Maggi and have
revenues in excess of 2.5 times that of Cadbury in India), Britannia (hugely successful brands in the confectionaries market with revenues in excess of 1.75 times that of Cadbury in India) and a handful of other players.
So, how difficult would it have been to retain this kind of share? Let’s take a look at another organization which was leading a while ago, but HLL knocked it off and other players too quickly grabbed their share from the now weakened defense. Yes, Colgate it is. This world-leader in oral care with a 200-year legacy, a true American brand-savvy firm lost their market to their European competitor in just a bat of the eye. Unilever’s perfectly crafted multi-prong strategy with their brands Pepsodent and Close Up got them to the top. Not to mention, Colgate further lost market share to smaller brands like Anchor, Babool, Ajanta, etc.
Coming back to Cadbury, it has not only managed to retain existing market shares, but it is also successfully doing what Kotler would have expected a true market leader to do: Grow the market. Increase the product category sales. Needless to say, the revenues would be easier to come from a larger market itself than a larger market share. One quick look at its advertising and the consistency would be evident.

All the communication that Cadbury has been doing in India has been to create reasons and occasions for consumption. Kuch meetha ho jaaye (before the start of something auspicious), Pappu pass ho gaya (upon success or completion of anything), Aaj pehli tareekh hai (no excuses not to celebrate), To share and gift (Raksha Bandhan, Diwali, et cetra), The real taste of life (adults can enjoy it too). Superb, isn’t it?

Not only the consistency and clarity of messaging, but the execution has been precise too. Who can possibly forget the ‘girl dancing on the cricket field’ ad – which went on to receive the ‘campaign of the century award’ by the Ad Club, Mumbai. The class act of the ‘Pappu pass ho gaya’ tag line, which has now become part of common street language. And now, the recent ‘Kuch meetha ho jaaye’ series. No overacting. Great situations selected.
Cuts across all age groups, social levels and geographic locations. A point worthy of a special mention is, the beauty with which they have picked up an old Indian tradition of eating sweets as a harbinger of good things and have everybody (including youngsters) believe in it. Now it almost seems like this tradition was an integral part of what we believed in and followed regularly.
All I have left to say is, like Raymond, Everybody Loves Cadbury.
While we are discussing celebrations, let me take this opportunity to share with you our very own reason for celebration at Eggfirst. Eggfirst bagged a Bronze (Print ad) at the prestigious ABCI 50th Annual Awards 2010. Shubh Aarambh, eh! Surely a reason to celebrate, isn’t it? Ab kuch meetha ho jaye…!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Zandu Balm, the Dabangg peeda-hari balm.

Zandu Balm, the Dabangg peeda-hari balm

The ‘Munni Badnaam’ track from the latest action flick, Dabangg, quickly made its way into the hearts of an entire nation.With nearly the same speed, Zandu Balm also made its way on to the backs and necks of an entire nation. Malaika Arora-Khan’s high voltage dance on the song, replete with “Zandu Balm” and her active rub, worked its wonders on pain relief makers, Emami, the makers of Zandu Balm. Or did it?
According to industry reports, and confirmed by Zandu Balm VP – Sales, Zandu Balm saw its average monthly sales jump from Rs. 20 crore to about Rs. 25 crore in August, 2010. Just about the same time as the Dabangg soundtrack released. (Source: Mint). Ahem.

The Zandu Balm team, however, was quick to dismiss it as a coincidence, claiming that this quarter was a peak season for them, so sales were bound to increase. Moreover, instead of savouring the sudden sales upswing, Emami went ahead and filed a case against the producers, right after the movie was declared as one of the biggest hits of Bollywood. Emami felt that the song infringed upon their trademark, and worse, Munni’s association with the brand is making it badnaam. Badnaam, really? Isn’t any press coverage, good coverage?

And now, there’s one more twist in the tale. The latest news reports indicate that Emami and Arbaaz Khan Productions have not just reached a truce, but have also signed a deal through which Munni Badnaam is actually going to be endorsing the brand!
Now, let’s not open closed doors, but at least try getting under the hood of the situation. Emami could have easily enjoyed the success of its increased sales and believed the general grapevine, echoed by a general store owner in a small town of India, “Even my wife asked about the product after seeing the song.” But, it seems Emami chose to make the most of it. They sued, screamed and propagated the controversy. The media happily lapped up the hot news and splashed it across their ‘breaking news’ segment.

Result? Zandu Balm continues to see increased sales, and for the Dabangg team, well, they have nothing to lose. In fact, Malaika surely isn’t going to be unhappy about one more endorsement deal coming her way.

Now let’s dive deeper. As we see it, this certainly seems like a win-win. Especially from the brand value and sales point of view. Without spending the crores that brands usually do to advertise, the brand has received free publicity, and the best of its kind! The one that keeps you laughing for a long time – all the way to the bank.

Secondly, there is a definitive increase in the salience of the brand. This would certainly help Zandu Balm compete against other entrenched brands such as Amrutanjan Balm, Tiger Balm and Monison Malm (popular in rural areas).‘Item yeh aam hui’ is certainly the way it seems to be as of now.
Zandu Balm, Zandu Balm, peeda-haari balm. Sardi, sardard peeda ko, pal mein duur kare. Nostalgic, isn’t it? Immediately brings the images of an old man, a housewife, a working man, each one using Zandu Balm as a magic wand for their respective peedas. Echoes the values of trust, reliability and, more importantly, positions Zandu Balm as a ‘family’, old-fashioned balm. And I must admit, the balm has remained a favourite amongst the older generations, who have been extremely loyal to it. If we were to personify the brand, the brand would be someone like, let’s say, Amitabh Bachchan – gentle, caring, trusted and very likeable.

However, the latest makeover will bring along drastic changes. The brand will get a more youthful image, will be associated with a little bit of naughtiness, and not to mention, the oomph factor that Malaika Arora-Khan brings along. It would now be personified by someone like Salman Khan – young, brash, bold and cheeky. It will definitely have its share of followers, but is it a long-term vision? And what will happen once the popularity of the movie fades away. Will we remember it as an atom bomb darling or with the of fondness of Sardi sardard peeda ko, pal mein duur kare? Whether it’s a facelift, or a face-down, it remains to be seen.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)