Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ajanta Quartz : From Clocks to Tiles

Brand : Ajanta /Orpat
Company: Orpat Group
Agency: Mudra

Brand Count 157

Ajanta Quartz was established in 1971 and the story reminds us of a typical rags to riches kind. Starting as a small establishment at Morbi in Gujarat , Ajanta rose to become the world's largest clock manufacturer in 1999-2000 clocking 1 crore time pieces in that year.

The company was founded by Odhavjibhai R Patel ( O.R.Patel) who started manufacturing mechanical clocks under the brand name Ajanta. During the mid 1980's , Mr Patel was wise enough the foresee the end of mechanical watches/clocks and the evolution of Quartz technology in clocks. The company was quick to change over to quartz clocks .

Ajanta in a way changed the entire clock market in India. The market for watches and clocks are estimated to be around 30 million units. Surprisingly Ajanta during the eighties was the only Indian manufacturer of clocks. The brand came into limelight by creating a price disruption in the market. The clocks were priced ridiculously low and came in wide variety of shapes and sizes. The ever value conscious Indian consumers did not waste any time to lap up this brand. At one point of time Ajanta clocks were a favorite gift item in marriages. Favorite for the giver, because the product was cheap and had reasonable quality. For the receiver of this gift, he would be left with too many clocks that sometimes you can see more than two clocks in the same room! After my marriage, I was left with too many clocks that some of them are now still in a packed condition. The brand was also clever in coming out with various designs and the blockbuster religion based designs that was highly popular in the Indian market.

But competition was starting to create problems for this brand. Many Indian firms started to emulate Ajanta's business model and the market was flooded with cheap clocks. Added to that the low cost clocks was dumped to Indian market from China. Sensing that the business may soon become unviable, Ajanta tried to set up a manufacturing facility in China to balance the cost equation and to compete with cheap imports. At one point of time Ajanta commanded 70% of the market share.

Ajanta also ventured in to the manufacturing of calculators under the brand Orpat (derived from the founder's name O.R.Patel). In this market also the brand faced competition from the cheap imports.Then came the telephone set market where also Orpat has established itself as a major player.

2003 also saw the company diversify to totally unrelated areas like FMCG. Ajanta launched its toothpaste with much fanfare and tried to repeat the story in clocks to this segment. Ajanta shaked the toothpaste market with its low price of Rs 18 for 200 gm pack while the FMCG majors like Colgate retailed for Rs 54 for 200 gm. This caused ripples in the market and the Goliaths were to a certain extent humbled by the Davids like Ajanta, Anchor and Babool. But this story also went sour with Colgate and Hll flexing its marketing muscles with launching low priced flanker products like Cibaca Top and ended up regaining market share from these price warriors.

The Patels were unfazed by these setbacks and their entrepreneurial spirit should be really appreciated . The group then ventured into small appliances and then to CFL lamps under the Orpat name. In the CFL lamps segment, Orpat quickly established itself again using price as an advantage and is reported to have a market share of 50% in that segment fighting out with Philips. Now the company is venturing into Vitrified Tiles segment under the brand name Oreva. All these diversification are banking on the model of Low price, high volume and Economies of Scale.

Orpat has evolved into an umbrella brand for many product categories . The brand is positioned on the basis of "Low Price " platform. The brand is also facing challenges because of this positioning. Every company which is using "low cost " of production as a competitive advantage faces the problem of sustaining the cost advantage. With the trade barriers becoming a thing of past, most of the companies can take advantage of outsourcing from low cost countries to compete with low price warriors. The problem become dangerous when the Brand is being positioned as a " Low Price " brand rather than a " High value " brand. A classic example of High Value Positioning is Tata Indica where the company is not raving about its price but the value that it delivers.

Ajanta has relied on the distribution strength to build its business with low brand building activities inorder to cut costs.In the initial phases, the brand was very aggressive in promotions. But now the brand is facing competition with brands like Samay who is more aggressive in the promotions front.Ajanta now faces the issue of differentiation because the Price is now not a differentiating factor. The brand also faces competition in the technology front interms of the LCD clocks may replace quartz in future.Theoretically Ajanta should be pioneering the digital clocks if it want to get the first mover advantage.

Orpat as a brand in the electronics and small appliance market will have a bright future if it position in the platform of Value rather than price.

Source: orpatgroup,economictimes,agencyfaqs,businessline