Wednesday, March 31, 2010

PAR excelLEnce

If there is one Indian Company that can be given the honours of making Indian Brands that could beat a foreign entrant hands down, I believe Parle Agro will just walk their way to the top.

Most often when we say Parle, every Indian has the quickest recall of a Glucose Biscuit. But sadly, that is not the company I am talking about- that would be Parle Products. Parle Agro is not connected in any way with Parle G, Poppins or Hide N’ Seek. This is a company which has revolutionalized India between the last 1970 to this date.

Every brand created by them is a journey into a frontier where no man has ever been before. If Thums Up, Limca, Gold Spot are their glorious past, Bailey, Frooti, Appy, LMN and the latest Hippo… all are a part of a brand list created from nothing but sheer boldness. Every brand is also a testimony to how brands in India have been built.

Thums Up for instance; an Indian Cola Brand which had a 60% market share when Coke decided to buy it for Rs. 120 Cr. A brand so strong that Coke; which at one point tried to underplay Thums Up and boost its own self, was forced to revive and make the Global Coke-Pepsi battle into a Coke-Pepsi- Thums Up in India. This might be one of the blunders Coke has done after the New Coke fiasco in 1985.

Thums Up ruled India for 16 years after its launch in 1977. This meant fighting off Campa Cola which came from the same plants which made Coke in India since 1949. Though there are stories about the manner in which Campa Cola was brought down to its knees, there is certainly nothing to take away the credit as to how they built a fortress called Thums Up. Much like Thums Up, Limca also did not lose its shine. Gold Spot was the only brand which made way for Fanta.

In 1985, no one could have imagined a drink in a Tetra-Pak, and that’s what set Frooti apart from Mangola. Appy in a Tetra-Pak in the 80s was not as successful; but its new avatar in the 2000s as a sparkling apple and grape drink is a success story. Bottled water named Bisleri came into India from Italy. But it was only when Bisleri under Parle-Bisleri came in a PET bottle, that bottled water came as a concept in India. Today, Bisleri is not only the category leader; it’s a category by itself.

Latest in line; while Lays and Kurkure, fight Bingo their wars for finger snacks, Hippo comes in as a bread snack with a proposition of not being fried but bakes. If Real and Tropicana are the choice of fruit juices, Saints is waiting n the wings.

In conclusion, FMCG is a sector where loyalties and brands can we washed away when the multinationals flood the market. For the time being, Parle Agro has made itself a class apart- par excellence in true terms

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stuck in a Moment

I have never been a TV person. Beyond movies, sports, and Discovery, NatGeo and History, there are a few select Sitcoms; I have ever had the patience to follow on TV.

TV Soaps have never really been anywhere on my list. Reason- well I cannot break free of the world and rush to a TV screen to follow certain soap. That can happen on a Sunday for an F1 race, but that too is limited to the season and only 20 days in a year. Daily follow up is even too much to ask for at work… leave apart it being a recreation.

Now, it was only recent after I completed my Masters in Communication that I actually began to track some TV channels to try and understand what comes where and when… well as marketing consultants need to do that. This was necessary to understand more the consumers rather than the programming logic of channels. Which in fact became the main agenda as I see it today… is there a programming logic at all???

While doing my post grads, I came across people who made confident statements about human psyche and that we as humans love to see suffering. That’s what we seek in movies and drama, that’s what the Oscar Jury seeks as well. Fair enough- that’s how Slumdog made it big; guess Hurt Locker has a similar underlying view. (Not sure as I haven’t seen it)

But what comes on the telly-tubes as Soap has to date not made any sense to me. It is quite astonishing that when audiences to theaters openly appreciate concepts with a strong message, a new social awakening or situations which can arise out of the new internet generation, the TV guys are still at most ease to dish out recipes with the 17th Century flavor. What is disturbing is that most renowned TV actors have come from a theater background and while an actor does a path breaking role on stage, before a camera, he’s watching his wife being questioned for not having her head covered before the elders.

This is like the epitome of hypocrisy we live in, and this is not limited only to Hindi- it’s more like Universal in India. (He He!!)I see it on Marathi channels and can get the same feel over Bengali as well. Interesting topics are taken as the storyline- surrogate motherhood, generation gaps as a result of changing life styles and working cultures. But I freak out when we pull out a ritual from the age of mummies; make them alive by reading from the book of death to make your serial seem different.

I fail to understand how the most popular serial today be Balika Vadhu- considering child marriages are a criminal offence. How can a serial like Sajan Ghar Jana Hai even co-exist with today’s times? How can an on screen woman professional are showered a line demanding her to return home before sunset. If media was a powerful weapon, I see it being applied in a manner that’s more destructive as I see it.

I understand that since normal people will be too boring for people to watch; there always has to be someone who is mentally challenged, a widow or at least one lady who might be not able to conceive for multiple reasons. But how sick is it to include dialogues like “Oh, you can't conceive; you should not even cast your shadow on a pregnant lady”…. Not to forget, this same lady might be a super woman running the family business.

What’s most alarming- we tend to pick up things very easy from what we see in films and TV. I don’t think there was a Z+ security needed for a Grooms shoes before the 90s. Point to be noted: there is high possibility that something we see on TV can trickle down our skin and cause damage.

I find it really tough to understand what kind of people we all are. There is some part of our practical mind which is seeking itself to rise up as a Global Giant. But then there is also this demand from us to retain our identity by doing things the Indian Way- no matter how impractical it might be. Who knows, if anyone was to despise the Women’s Reservation Bill-well, in all likelihood, they will termed as MCPs. I am not sure what we should be calling this media which is putting the chains back onto our society.

We are kind of Stuck in a Moment, one foot in the past and one in the future- where we go next will be decided only once we which foot did we rely on next….

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Pursuit of Excellence

Possibly the first thumb rule a person is taught through any kind of teaching; formal or informal, try to do the best at whatever you try your hand at. Then it might be sports, academic or building your hobbies. Knowingly or unknowingly, we all do become slaves of the rat race called the pursuit of excellence

People across the world have built their reputation of excellence in almost anything you will find on the planet. A French Wine to Italian Leather, a Persian carpet, a Cuban cigar, the production efficiency theories from Japan or even the Marketing practices out of US. Each one has held its own unique association- a matter of pride. So who can carry the accolades as a country known for its engineering excellence? Of course, Germany!

German Engineering- take any car brand, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen… and by now
you already have a shiny car before your eyes. Each one has defined themselves to a high level of aspiration- no matter where you are. Germans take pride in the fact that they can create master pieces when it comes to machines.

But here comes the flip side of it. Sometimes this pride can become a passion and become the reason for downfall. The Pursuit of Excellence can actually become the most dangerous cause of self destruction. I just came across two examples where the tides just turned from bad to worse when excellence became the operative word rather than what the need of the hour was.

Take for instance the Tanks in World War II. Search the net and you will find a lot of people saying that the German Panther and Tiger tanks were superior in terms of specifications compared to an American Sherman or a Russian T-34. But major tank battles like the Battle of Kursk saw Germany actually lose out to supposedly inferior competition. How did this happen?

The American Sherman was more like an offshoot of the road truck, simple adaptation prepared for war. The T-34 was a hasty production and was coming off production lines that made farm equipments. But the German tanks were designed war machines. Engineering marvels- master pieces that took time to make. They had power trains that can draw the awe of an engineering brain any day.

But when the average life of a tank was down to 150 kms on a battle field, the Panthers and Tigers were simply outnumbered. Inch by inch, the Allies just got closer as the Germans suffered in their cause to excel in their work.

Well this is certainly not the only example where pride became the reason for losing out in the bigger race.

Let’s talk about Motorola- a Company boasting its Six Sigma standards. The Black Belts becoming consultant to organizations throughout the business circles. Motorola actually has a university dedicated for Six Sigma. But sadly, this became a passion that they just could not get rid of.

Motorola became a world leader in Analog Telephony and Communications in the late 90s. No one could match the sound quality of a Motorola. It’s a Walkie- Talkie... oh... must be a Motorola. It’s a Pager, Must be Motorola.

But the times were about to change. Cellular technology was taking the World over by storm. Transition from Analog to Digital should ideally have suited the leaders much better than the followers. But it certainly didn’t happen. Motorola never became a leader in Mobile Phones. The Six Sigma in sound was no more a priority. The big shift in technology got in something called Short Messaging Service. So while Motorola was busy creating the Crystal Sound technology, Nokia came out with robust models for every country and flooded the markets.

Samsung got a camera into a phone; Kodak did not bother to add a phone chip to its Camera. Today, Kodak looks at shutting down its Camera Film Rolls manufacturing as globally more pictures are now taken on a mobile phone camera.

Bottom Line….. In Pursuit of Excellence cannot be a Goal if it is not the need of the hour.

People did focus to the last digit accuracy in Pursuit of Excellence - what they missed while they played with a Vernier, was the competition going past them by the meters.