Saturday, June 02, 2007

Popy Umbrella : Dancing In The Rain

Brand : Popy
Company: Popy Umbrella Mart
Agency : Jelitta

Brand count : 237

Popy is the market leader in the fiercely competitive umbrella market in Kerala. Looking at the number of umbrellas it sold every year, I think that Popy is largest selling umbrella brand in India. Annually this brands sells more than 2 Lakh umbrellas.

Popy has a legacy that is associated with the rise of the product umbrella from a staid ugly accessory to an interesting product. The brand comes from a family that is credited with branding a product that once was considered commodity.
In 1954 Mr Thayyil Abraham Varghese established St George Umbrella mart with its base in the Alleppy District of Kerala. Soon the brand St George began aggressive marketing which made the brand number one in the market. In 1995, the family business split into two : Popy Umbrella mart and John's Umbrella mart. The competition between these two companies marked the umbrella market in Kerala - a haven of innovation and smart marketing.

Umbrella market is a highly seasonal one ( not a big discovery from my part !) and selling a seasonal product is any marketers nightmare because he may have to sell all the inventory during the season and also device methods to tide over the seasonality factor also. On the top of it, the product category was considered a commodity.
But Popy and Johns did wonders in the market. These brands made brands out of commodity through sheer innovation. But Popy got a headstart with its successful campaign that caught the attention of the consumers. The popular malayalam jingle " Mazha mazha kuda kuda mazha vannal popy kuda" became an instant hit in the market.

The brand Popy ( also Johns) is more interesting because it was able to make the product from a lousy dull product to a lifestyle product through sheer innovation. The brands made innovations that are aimed at all segments of customers be it kids, young customers or older ones. Some of the innovations are include auto-open/close umbrellas,walking stick like umbrellas,5 fold ones, umbrellas with steel rims water gun umbrellas for kids, umbrella with torch, umbrella that is too small in the size of a Ray Ban?,umbrella that has UV protection,umbrella in different colors etc.
If I have to write all the innovations, it will take two blog posts because that is the extent of innovations that these brands have done.This season the brand has come out with a Laser umbrella aimed at kids.
On the marketing front also the brands have carefully segmented the market according to the age and demographical variables and innovated to suit their needs. For example, one of the common problems faced by lady commuters is the problem they face with the closing of umbrella when they board a bus. The auto-close umbrella will close the umbrella with the click of a button. Also the brands come out with another umbrella that will resist heavy wind. For the older ones, the brand has umbrella that double as a walking stick.These small but customer centric innovations have kept the product an exciting one.
These innovations also has helped the brand to command a premium over the usual black ones.The brand comes in different price range from Rs 59 to Rs 35000. Popy has tie- up with Futai umbrellas of Taiwan mainly for the sourcing of cloth. The brand has more than 140 varieties of umbrellas in the market.

Despite these innovations and smart marketing, the brand faces issues from the entry of cheap umbrellas from China.These can take away the mass market from Popy because mass market is price sensitive and the product is seasonal. The life of umbrellas are less than 2 years and customers may not be brand loyals. Both Popy and Johns are on an overdrive to build the brand equity so as to sustain the imminent price war.