Sunday, May 21, 2006

India Post : Chitti Aayi Hai

Brand : India Post
Company: Government of India

India Post is the backbone of India’s communication structure. This juggernaut reaches the nook and corner of India . The system of carrying messages were said to exist even during the time of Allauddin Khilji in 1296. The first Post Office was established in 1766 by the East India Company . They opened the PO in Mumbai Chennai and Kolkatta. It was Mr Warren Hastings that made the postal service available to general public.

India Post is functioning under the Ministry of Communication. This huge organization haver around 1,50,000 offices and around 500,000 Post boxes. Till recently India Post was enjoying the Sole Supplier Status in this market. With the popularity if E-mail and the competition from courier companies, India Post is facing a crisis.We have long being taking this service for granted. But some point of time India Post have to change other wise it will collapse. India Post has been making loses continuously and is surviving on subsidy from Government.

With the private players taking up major share in the 1200 crore Courier market in India , India Post is left with the unprofitable business.

India Post has a huge advantage over the private players in the reach factor. No one can match the reach of post offices and our very own “ Post man”. Through these postmen, India Post reaches all over India. It is these Post Men who is going to save India Post.

To survive, India Post has to redefine its business. It is a paradox that even with this reach, India Post have not been able to convince the corporate players to give them business. The problem was with the service delivery. This public sector giant has not yet learned the art of marketing. To my knowledge there is no marketing people running around to capture business for this company. With the postmen taking a visit to each locality everyday, India Post has not used this reach to capture any business.

Let us look this business in another angle. Here is a company who knows each lane, each house and each corner of India have its staff visiting the houses and is more often welcomed by the households. If you are in charge of such a business, what will you do?
Would you like to sell some thing to these households? Yes India Post is selling financial services like Insurance and savings. Infact Postal bank is one of the largest savings bank in India with a whopping 120 Mn customers. But I haven’t come across a single person who tried to sell me a Savings account or a Kisan Vikas Patra or a recurring deposit. Yes I get mail from ICICI bank to invest in PO savings scheme through them!!!!!!

Just like the resurrection of Indian Railways by focusing on the profitable freight business, India Post has to wake up and leverage on the massive network they have created. It requires a cultural change in the organization. The cutthroat competition calls for cutthroat selling attitude. With the Postman reaching the houses everyday, India Post has to refocus their business strategy for mere delivery of letters to doing business with the households.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Apache : Mean Machine or Teen Machine.

Brand : Apache
Company: TVS
Agency ; MCCann Erickson

TVS is a company with a resilient attitude. When Suzuki motors decided to severe ties with TVS, most of the market expert wrote off this company. But TVS came into the market with much more strength with their flagship brand Victor. Victor revived the company’s fortune and since its launch, Victor has maintained its position in the executive segment.

TVS was known for the lower priced bikes. When it had a joint venture with Suzuki, the best selling brands were its Max 100. TVS tried its hand in the performance category with its Shogun and Fiero but was not successful in cracking this segment.

2006 saw the bold new initiative from TVS with the launch of Apache. Apache is in the premium performance segment in the market dominated by Bajaj Pulsar. With Apache , the company is trying to reposition itself as a new generation motorcycle manufacturer. TVS is trying to emulate the success of Bajaj with its Pulsar.

Apache has got rave reviews for its performance so far. Most of the auto mags are giving it a positive review proving that TVS have a winner in Apache. Apache is going to compete with the established Pulsar. The recent relaunch of Pulsar 180 Black was a preemptive move by Bajaj to counter the threat of Apache.

TVS Victor has proved the company’s capability in offering excellent value for money motorcycle. Although the subsequent launch of TVS Centra bombed, the company is trying to reinforce the position of Victor with its new variant and the new brand Ambassador : Mahendra Dhoni.

Apache is expected to give serious competition to Pulsar. Since the initial market noises show the acceptance of the brand and the lower price of Apache making it more attractive can either shake the position of Pulsar or will expand the market of premium segment bikes.

TVS has got the product right but how about the promotion. The latest TVC of Apache is a dampener and will erode its positioning as a premium performance bike. The brand is now promoted as the ultimate bike with the baseline “Its now or never”. I feel that Mccann have completely killed the positioning in its TVC. Pulsar was successful because it clearly differentiated itself as a mean machine with its “ Definitely Male” campaign. Although the TG are College students and young executives, the campaign essentially talked to the “Man ” inside. The latest campaign of Pulsar 180 DTSI also is trying to give that Macho appeal.
But the ad of Apache shows not Man but Teens. With some funny Hindi song (which the south Indians are not going to understand) and lot of visuals, which we have seen enough, and with kids riding the bike, the ad is sure to position this brand as a teen machine. The baseline “ Its now or never” also is not creating any impression in the mind of the customer. The ad try to talk about lot of things but if you ask me what this bike stands for (USP) I don’t know.
It is really " Now or Never" for TVS. It has a good product but will have to get its branding straight. There is bound to be initall hiccups but with a product like Apache, TVS can do what Hero Honda could not. For that it have to create a unique position of Apache in the customer's mind. Without a meaningful USP, Apache is not going to give Pulsar a serious competition.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Appy Fizz : Cool Drink To Hang Around

Brand : Appy Fizz
Company : Parle Agro
Agency: Grey World Wide

In the 7000 crore Indian Soft drinks industry dominated by the cola majors, Parle Agro is fighting for its share with its mango- drink Frooti and the apple drink Appy Fizz. I have talked about Frooti in one of my earlier blogs.

Appy was launched in 1986 as an apple drink in tetra pack after the mega success of Frooti. But Appy was not that successful compared to Frooti. This year we saw the new avatar of Appy in Appy Fizz. Appy changed in to nectar based drink in 1993.Appy was launched with a new bottle and communication this summer trying its luck in this large Indian market.

In the fruit based soft drinks, Apple drink is perhaps at the lowest in the hierarchy. The taste is less popular compared to the Orange, lemon, mango and pineapple flavors and in all these flavors there is cut throat competition among the cola majors. So Parle is trying hard to create a new segment with this drink.

As a customer, I was never attracted to apple drinks. The only branded apple drink I remember seeing is the Himachal Pradesh Apple drink counter at the railway station. May be the popularity of apple drink is low in South India because of the availability and price factor.

Since there is less popularity for this flavor, even after 20 years, Appy has not become a major brand in the SD market. That may be one of the reasons why Cola majors are not looking at this flavor.

Appy Fizz is now being relaunched as a “Cool Drink to Hang Around With”. With its champagne shaped bottle and smart advertising, Parle has succeeded in creating a Fizz in the segment, which is basically the Indian Youth. Going by the demand in the College canteen for this drink, Appy Fizz has been able to catch the fancy of the early adapters.

The ads created by Grey World Wide are cool and projects some thing unique about this drink that forced the TG to experience this product. The product itself is good hence there is a possibility of positive word of mouth.

But it has to be seen whether Appy Fizz can be a volume player competing with Orange and Mango flavors. It is difficult because Appy is a heavy drink compared to Fanta or Mirinda. The taste may be popular with only a segment of the market hence limiting the scope of this brand. I would prefer cola or other flavors to this drink when I feel thirsty but will take a sip of this drink once in a while for a change (my personal opinion). In my home I feel it is risky to serve this drink to the guests because you never know how many will like this taste.

These factors limit this brand to be a niche player but a profitable proposition if this brand is promoted seriously and positioned as a premium drink. Appy can ride on the health factor too in comparison with the other SD’s. Another advantage of this brand is the golden color of the drink, which makes it an ideal party drink as a welcome drink or a drink for those “tea totallers”.
The brand will succeed if it can win the palette of the TG and with the current promotions, customers will give it a try.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bajaj RE : The End Of Days?

Brand : RE
Company: Bajaj Auto

Rickshaws were a part of Indian roads as early as 1880 and the rickshaw pullers of Calcutta are famous in the West as a symbol of Indian Poor. Rickshaw originated from Japanese words that meant Human Powered Vehicle. Later these rickshaws become powered by motors hence became autorickshaw. Bajaj is the pioneer in this market with a market share of almost 95%. Auto which is the short form of Autorickshaw started off with a front engine model with 'Dolby Digital ' sound effects with petrol smoke which comes free. In 1977 Bajaj launched the rear engine Auto which bought some decency to this class of vehicle.

Autos are a source of income for lot of families.There are estimated to be around 24 lakh three wheelers in India. The three wheeler segment include both passenger and goods carrier and Bajaj enjoys a near monopoly in this segment. The other players are Mahindra , Piaggio Greaves. KAL etc.

As a marketer I feel that this segment is going to witness the same fate as the scooters and as usual Bajaj Auto, unless it wakes up, is going to be in the same situation as it was in the case of Scooter segment.

Let us look at the product first. Autos is a mode of public transport. The reason why it succeeded in India is
a. Cheaper than Taxi
b.Ideal for short distance travel
c. City maneuvering is easy
d.Comfortable than buses.

Over these years all these factors has turned against the Auto. With the rising fuel prices, the auto rates have increased and is now out of reach for the lower middle class.This vehicle was earlier fulfilling the needs of the lower and upper middleclass families of India.But with the upper middle class going for two wheeler and Maruthi, these autos now have no significance in their traveling plans. For the lower middle class, the new auto rates are now not affordable so there is a shift to two wheelers or buses. For example a one and a half kilometer trip in an auto will cost you nothing less than 15 Rs while a car will cost you around Rs.6
The pollution caused by autos have forced authorities to put stringent norms for this segment. The rash behaviour of the drivers also is repulsing the customers from this mode of transport. One has to answer many questions from the auto driver before taking you for the ride. This segment till now has not understood the ground realities.

The vehicle is pathetic with respect to comfort to passengers aswell as drivers. The customers are using this product just because there is no other alternative. It is a sort of De ja vu .. Till now Bajaj has done nothing to the product. No change in the shape , comfort, technology etc. Yes they have came out with diesel version, 4 stroke self start and CNG version but essentially the product is still the same.
The market size is estimated to be around 400000 units per year. Since this is a major source of income, government will not take a drastic step to kill the segment . But I foresee a disruptive change in this segment. Already some disruption is happening. The goods carrier three wheeler segment is witnessing competition from other players and the Tata motors have launched a Blockbuster product TATA ACE to take on the three wheeler goods carrier.
A similar disruptive product will easily kill Autos. Already there are rumours of Honds seriously looking into this segment. To escape the fate of Chetak , Bajaj has to once again think in terms of customer. The autos in order to succeed should deliver more value to the passenger and the owner. Better mileage, ridability, comfort for the passenger are a must to survive the next ten years. Drivers should be trained to be more customer friendly because with their Union strength it may be possible to get higher rates but not the customers.
With the public transport systems gearing up fo major changes with better buses, metro rails etc, customers have choices. Taxi's have sensed this and have changed. Now we have better and courteous taxi cabs and their business is growing.
Hey Auto : R U listening?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hide&Seek: Building brand on bull shit again!

Brand : Hide & Seek
Company : Parle
Agency : O&M

I have no personal grudge against Parle but seeing how they waste their money in so called brand building is terrible. First it was Parle Digestive Marie now it is their Hide & Seek. Parle is so scared of ITC and Shahrukh endorsing sunfeast that they are pumping in money on celebrities ( not brands) desperately.

Hide & Seek is India's first and only chocolate Chip Cookie, Although the basic difference between a biscuit and cookie is that Cookies are considered to be more Sweet and chewy while biscuits are brittle.
Hide & Seek was launched in India in 1998. Although there were certain variants of Hide & Seek like orange flavour, only chocolate flavour survived. Later Parle tried with butter and cashew variant to fight Britannia Good Day brand but failed miserably. Now Parle is concentrating on Chocolate Hide & Seek.
Hide & Seek is positioned as a premium snack cookie. The cookie market is estimated to be around 500 crore in the 5000 crore biscuit market. The baseline for Hide & Seek is " Taste itna ki Dil Aa Jaye" meaning your heart will love the taste( I suppose, since I am a south indian, these hindi baseline are sometimes difficult to understand: are marketers listening?)
With ITC tasting success with Sunfeast and the dislodging of Parle from Premium market of biscuits, Parle is trying out the celebrity game. This time the agency O&M has roped in Hritik Roshan against the mighty SRK of Sunfeast. Playing the supporting role is Isha Shravani .
I watched the TVC of Hide & Seek with horror. I am not explaining the story board but believe me it is ridiculous. Like the Digestive Marie ad, this ad does not talk about the product but its Hrithik and his dancing skills, nothing more nothing less. Celebrity should endorse the brand and the brand should be the star.... but alas. Any one who have seen that ad for the first time will miss it for a cola ad. May be the Star discovering the taste Hide & Seek in a party makes more sense than this Dance hungama. It is hyperbole at its worst form.
Hide & Seek is a good product with certain premium touch to it. You have signed Hrithik which still have some brand value but this ad is nothing but a waste of money. The ads should have talked about the chocolate and the taste and surprisingly there are no kids around? May be parle is trying to target the adults then it is competing with Lays not sunfeast. Look at how Lays is using Saif and how it had understood the youth's psyche perfectly. But the current Hide & Seek campaign is uncool.
Once again " You cannot build a brand on bullshit".

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Reva : The ElectriCity Car

Brand : Reva
Company: Reva Electric Car Co. Ltd

Reva is India's first electric car. The car that can change the way Indians transport and the car which can solve the rising oil prices and the connected inflation problem is waiting for the government of open its eyes. Reva is the brain child of Chetan Maini who conceived this car while he was studying. The company was incorporated in 1995 and the first prototype was launched in 1996. Reva was officially launched in May 2001.

Reva is so far the worlds cheapest commercially produced electric car. This is a two door hatch back that can accomodate two adults and two children. The car uses electricity as the fuel and it can be charged with a 15 Amp socket. A full charge takes 9 hours and 9 units of electricity. The full charge can take you through 80 km making it one of the cheapest mode of transportation in our country.

But so far less than 1000 Reva is sold in our country. While the gas guzzling cars are sold like hot cakes and Indians cursing the oil price hikes, how come this car is selling less? The major problem lies in the price of the car which costs around 2.5 lakh for the standard non ac model. The price is a major deterrant for the potential buyer . The government so far has not given an aota of support for this venture. Had it offered some duty cuts to this car, it would have intensified the interest of auto majors to enter this segment thereby creating more efficient electric cars which will inturn reduce the oil import burden on our exchequer.

But nothing happened. The car is still expensive and suited to small drives . Without government support , this product will remain a niche player. But I feel that this product will have a great future if it can circumvent the price barrier by inventing a vehicle that is in between two and four wheelers ( not kidding), because Reva cannot compete with the Cars, so it have to create points of parity with the two wheelers and with the current price , it cannot target the mass users. So how about a three wheeler for office goers ? If you think I am crazy, check out the BMW c1
Reva have to think out of the box to be a revolution. But Reva is concentrating more on the premium segment with new models with gizmos that costs a fortune some thing similar to VW beetle . While government is acting blind, it is the middle class' pocket that is getting drained with the rising oil prices.