Wednesday, December 17, 2014

As the air gets turbulent

These may be the three most dynamic sectors in the Indian economy as they seem to flood the news every day- retail and ecommerce websites, mobile telephony and airlines. Each day there is either the rise or fall of a new marketing tactic and sales promotions to drive revenues. I already tried to establish a symbiotic relation all the three are having where mobiles and telephone networks are driving people to the internet, online retail is building the aspiration for products and airlines are making overnight deliveries and satisfaction a possibility. In the last few weeks, the skies have turned murky and the airline industry is likely to face turbulent air. 

Spice Jet was showing signs of running on low cash reserves for a long time. In fact when they launched some astonishing discounts for flight bookings beyond six months from the day of flying; I sensed they were trying to stay afloat by selling a future beyond their reach. And so it happened one day that almost 1800 flights of December were grounded and fuel was now on cash and carry. As for the passengers, well you invested too far ahead on promises to fly on a carrier whose daily operating loss even while flying was in excess of 3 Cr.

This won’t be the first time this is happening with Spice Jet which saw a similar fate in its earlier avatar of ModiLuft, which ironically had also ran out of funds. So from a full service carrier that started off in 1993, Spice Jet turned into a Low Cost Carrier in 2004. Ina typical LCC style, Spice Jet always had its parking slots away from the terminal gates with flights at wee houses in the morning or late night and the buy off the cart catering service. A positive which I definitely noted was the aircrafts were always clean, young by age and more often than not; on time as well.

So how does the 2nd largest LCC and one of the longest serving airline enter the whirl of failures? In my opinion, almost every airline in India has been suffering similar losses in a mad rush to woo customers by bare minimum fares and discounts which in most cases barely seem to cover fuel and airport charges. Spice Jet in its initial years was fighting Air Deccan on a price war of Rs 99 tickets (which after the taxes and surcharges used to come up to Rs 2300), but as far as buyer psychology was concerned, it scored heavy. All flights going full was a record that Spice Jet had in its initial years. The leadership was maintained until Indigo burst out on the scene and its offering of low cost and timely arrivals and departure made a big dent on the markets.

I had a sniff at the possible financial position last year when tickets at a cheap rate and more than 6 months beyond the flight date were being sold; a clear indication that cash flows were fast eroding and survival games have begun. The last reports have now indicated a possible government intervention to boost the airline off its blocks again. But lack of financial profitability has been the truth even with Jet Airways; which after the collapse of Kingfisher is rebuilding itself as a full service carrier and earn back its customers from the LCC’s. Adding to the mix is Air Asia’s entry into the LCC market, but its limited destinations at present makes its market position tough to decide. It now remains to see how the much awaited Vistara which is scheduled to fly from the next month will perform and affect the market.

A matter of debate may be, but one thing is happening for sure; the Indian skies are seeing turbulence and it might be only the financially fittest and consumer selected one’s which will survive the wind fall which is likely over the next few months. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The brands that make every Indian wedding

Family has been a very intrinsic part of the Indian culture and value systems. No wonder the coming together of families through a wedding is also rated as a very big event. A new beginning of sorts is marked with a hell lot of new stuff which floats amongst the families. There is a lot of shopping activity that happens prior to the actual wedding and there are a few brands which have actually carved a niche for themselves as far as Indian weddings are concerned. Yes, there are a lot of local players in each category, but for some verticals- these brands stand as the gold standard primarily through the years of advertising that they have sincerely followed.

 Amongst the unwritten rule for the groom or the majority of the male population is to be dressed in a formal suit for the reception or some occasion during the wedding. At this point only Raymond’s can make a man complete. It may be tailored next door, at a Raymond’s Made-to- Measure store or be it a readymade, the fascination with a suit in Raymond’s fabric is like a must. In more recent times, Raymond’s has tried to make the man a sensitive father, a retiring teacher, a caring son and husband; but as a brand they also have an unmistakable connect with weddings. The man in Raymond’s has the charm to break a traditional sangeet into an impromptu ball dance, express his love in a manner suited to the shining armoured knights and also turn a reluctant arranged partner fall in love. (

The domination of Raymond’s in this space is so high that competition like Siyaram, Grasim suiting’s, Reid & Taylor have all had celebrity endorsements and placed themselves in the office wear category to distinguish themselves from Raymond’s. People can be so particular in terms of the suit fabric that even a fabric worth over 10K or a final suit worth 30K is not looked upon as splurging.

When we talk of traditional wear for men and women, it has been an area which was strongly dominated by local market players. The bling value on traditional clothing for both genders has always been different and varying as per the regions and customs that go around in every part. Not to mention for the ladies, sarees and their patterns have held traditional weavers as the highest authority. When it comes down to stitched wear, designers and tailoring shops still carry a high regard. It has again been a bit different for the guys as various styles of kurta are the only possible variations. Manyavar seems to be making a heavy in roads on this front. Apart from a very heavy team sponsorships in IPL, the brand has also made an impressive TV ad showcasing that they will lead the pack in organised occasion wear for Indian men. (

Now so much for men- the ladies segment has a whole lot of saree and jewellery stores which are local market chains like Roopmilan, Kala Niketan, Nallis or the PC and Ghanasingh jewellers and many more like them. Clothing somehow does not have one brand which has the kind of appeal that goes beyond the product and how it makes you feel. But jewellery has had a larger emotional and social angle in terms of brands. A bride without gold to adorn the dress is like unheard across socio-economic strata in India. So apart from the traditional and family attached jewellers, there are big jewellery brands like Geetanjali or TBZ which have added a touch of glamour and a royal appeal to wedding and occasion wear ornaments. But a national brand which may stand out in my opinion is Tanishq by Titan. I see them as a brand which had communication which went on a note that it could inspire the “not interested” to get in the marriage mode. Which other brand thought that they could also add a touch of glitter to a 2nd marriage? (

 While we are on Titan, watches were always a part of the accessories which could also be a gift for anyone in the family; father to their ward, amongst siblings, as a gift for send-off… but can you propose marriage with a watch? Well in a way, Titan just redefined that space occupied by a diamond ring with a watch in the most refreshing and ‘without words’ emotions. (

There are so many other examples I can think of which have become a part of the Indian wedding saga. The woman get a space of her own in a new environment and the first stage of trust in a new relationship is established by a Godrej cupboard. A whole lifetime of memories shifts to a new space safe and sound in VIP luggage. A lot of brands are trying to break into this wedding space; a lot have already owned this space for themselves.

There is nothing to deny, marriages in India is a big affair and with anything between a million and ten million marriages taking place every year and an average of four members in each family- it is also a considerably large sized market for brands to look forward to. Not restricted by economic conditions or political scenarios; the big fat Indian wedding is USD 40 billion industry which is here to stay and just boom on. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

When expressions find a way- the new media avenues

This weekend, one of my batch mate from college came out with a collection of short stories she has written over the year and compiled in a book. The book came out as a kindle e-book titled, “Do virgins taste better and other tales of whimsy”.  What has got me excited is the fact that she has made it to a point where her thoughts and ideas have been able to reach a larger audience circumventing the vicious nets and monopolies of publishers. The answer came in the form of Amazon and its CreateSpace service.

My class had quite a few talents with literary skills to write books and scripts, very few actually have taken it up as a full time profession. My roommate in college went into advertising, but had a compilation of photographs coupled with his feelings behind them expressed as poetry. The concept was too alien to publishers, and he was reluctant to share excessive details suspecting foul play. Another of my roommate is journalist who having extensively travelled in a riot torn UP has inside stories and anecdotes which no news channel will every carry. The works for both of the above have original ideas but the flight of expression is yet to find wings. I see the new avenues in media as a viable options in the days to come.

The story has been similar to many of the upcoming talents who have the ideas and concepts for a larger stage but find no takers. The Viral Fever (TVF) Media Labs is a sensation on YouTube as a channel which has a very steady and loyal bunch of followers. Their popularity is marked by the fact that a video from TVF crosses 100000 viewers in a day at max. But the origins of the second largest network of youth entertainment in India lies in the fact that the concepts presented by its founder, Arunabh Kumar, were rejected by MTV and other youth channels. By means of YouTube, TVF today has a reach so massive that online portals like Snapdeal, Common Floor or even movie stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Parineeti Chopra, Ayushman Khurana, Ranveer Singh have come on their shows to connect with youth and promote their movies.  

There is no doubting the fact that making a film is an expensive proposition and has a lot more in terms of financial hurdles. But some like another batch mate of mine, Faraz Ali, have taken up spending their time, effort and own savings to find a route to achieving things. The alternative he has found takers has been short film festivals. One of his first efforts, Mehrooni got a lot of critical acclaim after being shown at the Mumbai Film Festival and Royal Stag Large Shot films. The encouragement has taken him to make Makhmal this year which not only had big names like Jackie Shroff and Shafquat Amanat Ali attached to it, but also got opportunities in film festivals overseas (Including the New York 30 under 30) as an avenue to showcase his art to the world.

Another space where alternate media is making an impact is music. Recently, Vayu, a college junior of mine, launched a music video on YouTube of a song he had written and had composed almost 8 months ago. Apart from the fact that he is a lyricist having written for mainstream Bollywood, he had the desire to write about things he felt close to and ultimately wrote about dope. ( The challenge he faces now is promoting his song but with no support of a big production house and only friends and well-wishers backing the video already has more than 62K views and becoming a cult in a small way.  Not to forget, platforms like Sound Cloud are also helping him gain more popularity. 

On the whole, the sphere of media has grown in a big way and is helping people to bypass the traditional road blocks and monopolies of publishers, music labels, channels and film producers and distributors. It is now up for the people with ideas to come up with the best of their own content. Success may be defined once people get to witness what you have, but a lot more avenues to help the right talents see the light of day.