Big Brands – Bigger Purpose


 

Commitment to quality and values

The above statement isn’t a mere vision statement that companies put on their walls but a mark of authority that is etched into brands like Tata and Aditya Birla Group and forms the core of each of their endeavors. Both these groups have been a beacon of trust for years and have set standards for everyone else to follow. They are the fulcrum and the inspiration on which New India has been built. Today we’re going to take a look at one dimension of the brands to try and decode why they are what they are.

Like all other practices, Tata Group’s communication also puts ‘people’ at the heart of it. Long time back when Tata came out with the corporate campaign for Tata Steel, it connected with people on a socially relevant basis without taking away the relevance of its brand. Tata Chemicals’ ‘Desh Ka Namak’ campaign for Tata Salt was based on bringing back values like honesty that have been long forgotten in our country. Over the last two decades, Tata Salt has lived up to its claim of being ‘Desh Ka Namak whether its change in behavior or business numbers’. According to Nielsen Retail Audit, March 2011, each month more than 50,000 metric tonnes of Tata Salt is sold through over 12 lakh retail outlets reaching 50 million households across the country.

Perhaps one of the most defining campaigns of the last decade was Tata Tea’s- Jaago Re. Jaago Re was a cause based initiative taken by Tata Tea in 2008 with other NGOs and non-profit organizations to create awareness on certain issues plaguing the country around elections. The aim was to awaken the nation to the fact that they tend to hold the government accountable to various mishaps and encouraged them to participate in the functioning of the country’s politics by voting. The campaign received numerous accolades and was an extremely successful campaign.  Taking the good work of Tata Tea forward, Tata Capital positioned itself on the platform of ‘Doing Right’ and putting people above oneself. The brand and its communication propagated the virtue of selflessness- projecting right values, putting people first and preaching what is right. Coming to jewelry, the recent Tanishq campaign from Tata celebrates the second marriage of a woman which has always been frowned upon by our society. It is a brave and progressive attempt by Tata which has always been the agent of change in this country and showing the way to others.

Tata’s commitment to the nation and the society for all these years without losing focus of its business has led to it being one of the most responsible, credible and transparent brands in the world. This is a message to other businesses and brands who are not consumer facing to take a leaf out of Tata’s book and make a social connect along with the business connect. There’s something in the DNA of Tata to build brands which have social commitment and respect for the same values. Apart from this, championing acts like Tata Nano to empower the middle class is really magnanimous and commendable.

Another brand which has set an example for others to follow is the Aditya Birla Group. Whether it’s their corporate campaign which in spite of its larger than life feel, yet retains a strong connect with the masses or its Birla Sun Life Yuvraj Singh campaign which aimed to inspire mass India with the personal triumphs, trials and tribulations of Yuvraj, who like a Phoenix, never accepts defeat. The biggest triumph for the group came in the form of Idea Cellular. Idea has always come up with campaigns which have been for a greater cause.

In 2007, the brand came up with a campaign ‘What an Idea Sirjee’ taking up the caste issue plaguing the society. This series included campaigns like ‘Use Mobile, Save Paper’, ‘Walk When You Talk’, ‘Education for All’, ‘Democracy’ et al. Idea took up several causes plaguing the society and provided brilliant solutions to it without the brand losing relevance.

The world is changing very fast. And in this changing world unfortunately, values are taking a backseat. Fortunately, for us there are brands like Tata and Aditya Birla Group which stand tall and firm like a lighthouse showing us light amidst a sea of doubts while guiding us towards the right port.

 

-Published in Business Standard  09th of december 2013

 

 

“Purposeful Inventions”


A purposeful invention will always find a place in people’s lives. History endorses this view; there are many great inventions like the Q-Drum, which never found a place not because the invention is not great but because it did not solve the complete problem of the people it intend to solve.

I believe there are three kinds of inventions: 1. Stems out of the inventors intuition, which will be awarded and hailed by the scientific community. 2. Stems out of a perceived need by the inventors, which may or may not find a place in people’s lives but will be appreciated nevertheless.  3. Stems out of deep understanding of a human need, this not only solves the problem it often changes peoples lives.

Forgetting inventions for a while lets look at some new brands and their appeal; lets travel back and look at Air Deccan, what went right? Why a self-proclaimed cheap airline succeeded when a cheap car like Nano failed? Why Go Air is considered an efficient airline not a cheap one? Why pundits are excited about Bajaj’s RE60? Why supersonic Concord failed?

All enterprises start with people and end with people, if you view complex business or marketing problems through human lens, you’ll see a more realistic, relatable human problems and to solve them you need to understand the basic human need not greed, for instance human greed says more people want to fly faster at higher price thus born Concord, whilst human need says more people want to fly for lesser cost thus born Airbus. Now it’s obvious, who was successful? Therefore the moral of this story is Airbus was a purposeful invention and Concord was an intuitive assumption of an inventor.

Lets take Captain Gopinath’s Air Deccan, which was positioned against train travel and spoke to aspiring middle-class millions to experience flying versus post takeover of Deccan by kingfisher to form Kingfisher Red spoke to regular flyers and offered a cheaper and restrictive service offering, which was rejected by the regular flyers as they did not want to feel as deprived passengers suffering from poverty and the attempt took the pride and prestige of flying away. Captain Gopi’s invention was purposeful as it made millions on train travelers realize the dream of flying. Taking a leaf out of this experiment Indigo did not use cheap flying instead spoke about efficiency and made people who secretly want a cheaper option argue for efficiency in service and on time arrivals. In fact on-time arrival is a fantastic rationale to shift from an expensive luxurious full service airlines especially in an era of austerity.

Now to my favorite Nano versus RE60. Tata’s took the engineering challenge of building a one hundred thousand rupee car and managed to deliver close to one hundred and twenty thousand rupee car. Fantastic Invention “The cheapest car in the world” Bravo. World applauded Auto shows went gaga. But the brand failed miserably, reason: no one ever asked the Indian consumer weather he wants to spend an hundred and twenty thousand hard earned rupees on a cheap car, which does not give him any status in the society? How could the brand find a place in peoples lives if it or its inventors does not understand people’s needs? People wanted a Santro, an Alto and an Indica with all the luxuries, however small they were. Indian middle class was seeking stature and pride of luxurious living, which both Maruti and Hyundai understood completely and Tata Motors with Indica to some extent.

The case of RE60 is completely different, Rajiv Bajaj is a very passionate and a smart inventor, who believes in engineering solving problems of people therefore a purposeful inventor, whose invention of DTSI technology solved an unique problem of Indian bikers who want maximum power with minimum fuel, he solved this issue with a simple invention of two spark plugs in the combustion chambers instead of conventional norm of one, which increased the combustion efficiency to give more mileage and power, people lapped-it-up and put Bajaj on a technological pedestal.

Coming to RE60. He took the challenge of solving mass transportation in urban and rural India, the current mode of transport of auto rickshaws is unsafe and relies on old technology all parties acknowledges that, be the RTO’s, Auto Rickshaw owners and the commuters, they all seek an up gradation of technology, Bajaj found a purpose. Single mindedly concentrated on Auto Rickshaws and its drivers and found a meaningful purpose in up grading the technology by adding another wheel to make a four wheeler and the life of the driver by giving him a car to drive and an extra capacity of seating and to the commuter a safer option of commuting. Thereby extending an undisputed offering to the administrators.  Bajaj kept the eye on their consumers and never let it weaver toward competing with Nano or pleasing Nissan.

Wonder why companies run by people fail to understand people.

Being Pops.


What the heck if pretty girls call me Pops? What’s the fuch if people think I was born in the same year as Zora Sehgal ? What the hell if people try to find similarities between Balki, and me thinking that I am his Pops? What the shet if Arvind Sharma’s driver introduces me as his saheb’s “papaji” ?

It’s not easy being Pops. Yes. It’s not easy to be Big B’s Popsji, Chennai’s Mr.Pops, Miss Universe Sushmita Sen’s Pops, Chiranjeevi’s Pops garu, Balki’s Pops & Tweetaratti’s kvpops. “Baap re” its difficult to take loads of affection, respect and love.

“Pops” made Kondiparthi Venkata Sridhar a brand, and proved to the world, power of naming and branding. Imagine Mr. kondiparthiji.  What did I do to deserve to be called Pops?

Simply nothing.

In early 90’s when Chax and I joined Lintas as creative heads of one of their Bombay units, Alyque Padamsee was at his wittiest best when he hired an ex- military Major as chief administrator. Now one can imagine the hierarchy and bureaucracy ruling the floors of Express towers.

In such an office there was a quite shy-ish six-foot young copywriter named Sridhar existed. Since the culture did not allow bosses to be nicknamed, poor little baby-faced Sridhar was christened as “Baby Sridhar” and me, months later by default became “Papa Sridhar” and then came a livewire called Asha Rishi an account executive who started calling me Pops.

By virtue of my personality people felt it’s an apt description of me. Chax my partner in crime need to take some blame for not resenting in fact he started a chain of jokes on Pops. Around mid 90’s advertising and marketing media suddenly became big and they took up the mission of making Pops stick in people’s heads.

In old day advertising guys used be real characters with some quirkiness, Alyque with his diction, Kersy with his suspenders, Chax with his Gandhi glass and signature beard, Piyush with his handlebar mustache, Prahlad with his cigars and hat, since I had none, “Pops” helped me to be remembered.

All jokes apart, the changes that came along with the name Pops are: made me look wiser, acquire patience, forced me to listen to people and lend my shoulder, made me stop leching at young girls once they call you Pops. Convinced me to adopt young talented kids and above all reminds me to make my bucket list every morning.

As the cliché’ goes: the rest is history.

( Written specially for Impact magazine.)