Thursday, November 15, 2012



Bharti Airtel handles around 8 billion calls daily generating humongous amount of data. Based on this it has divided its customers into nearly 100,000 segments to whom it offers customised products based on their usage pattern. Right now it is working to provide at least three services to each customer, to improve stickiness, working on the insight that customers for multiple services tend to stay on longer than single service users. Further, due to call drops it was facing the problem of churn. At nearly 40% it was a huge number. When it analysed the data it found that a customer was most likely to switch to another service provider if six or more calls dropped in a day. So a software was developed that offers customers free SMSes after the sixth call drop.

British Airways (BA) cabin crew and ground staff are now provided iPads to store, transmit, and use real time info about who is on board, their needs and expectations, preferences, and even any issue that they might have had at the airport. It realised that the premium class flyers feel delighted if they are addressed by their name. So the crew now does exactly that thanks to transmission of real time data through the handheld iPad. While other airlines can at best have current data on their passengers, BA would have the complete service history of them which it uses to draw patterns. Welcome to the world of analytics and its latest incarnation Big Data.

Analytics involves sourcing data from internal and external channels (media, blogs, image, and video sites, even sensors, and CCTVs), organise this data, generate insights, make predictions and finally produce recommendations for action. Big Data goes even beyond. It refers to a collection of information, too large and complex to be processed using traditional software tools. This processed information in turn helps the company identify untapped revenue potential, generate insights to cut costs and boost profit. For example, McDonald’s is able to understand where to locate its stores, how to layout these stores, which items to keep in each store and which items to bunch together to generate bundled sales. Shopper’s Stop got the insight that Gujaratis’ purchases are closely linked to upswings on the bourses since they would spend their gains from the stock market on purchases in the retail. Shopper’s Stop realised 25% incremental sales from them. During Eid it searched through its database of 2.6 million First Citizen loyalty card holder and singled out Muslim buyers. Then through targeted promotional programmes it earned Rs.1 crore additional revenue. Jet Airways is able to accurately calculate, track, and report aircraft emissions, so as to optimise its fuel usage for each flight. Little wonder then that an IDC Report tells us that organisations which apply analytics to data for competitive advantage are 2.2 times more likely to substantially outperform their industry peers. Companies adept at analytics enjoy 1.6 times more revenue growth, 2 times more profit growth, and 2.5 times more stock appreciation than their peers.

Marketing Matrices
According to India Retail Report (2013), private consumption in India increased from Rs.44,11,115 crore (2011) to Rs.51,26,131 crore (2012). Between 2010-2015 the estimated CAGR is likely to be 18.8% for retail sales. Consequently the share of modern retail will move up from 6.6% to 10.2%. While the total retail is likely to grow at 16% annually, modern retail will hit a figure of nearly 27%, a big jump from Rs.2,23,572 crore to Rs.4,87,423 crore during 2012- 2015. But then this will invite a lot of competition too, since the entry is easy. Who will then breast the tape first on the finishing line and who will be disqualified in the preheat rounds itself? Well, inter alia, that would depend on how customised your programme could be to suit individual customer needs, and how tightly you run your ship. Increasingly, the segment size is likely to be a single customer at a time. You need to process zettabytes of data (1 Zettabyte = 1,099,511,627,776 Gigabytes). Hence, the marketer will need the support of several matrices (Table 1).

Simply defined a metric is a measuring system that quantifies a trend, dynamic, or characteristic. Marketers need to understand their addressable markets quantitatively as well as qualitatively. They must measure new opportunities and the investments needed to realise them. They must quantify the value of products, customers, and distribution channels all under various pricing and promotional scenarios (Table 2).

Put together these matrices are designed to measure how well the firm is doing with its customers as a whole and wherein lies the scope for enhancing profitability of operations.

Share Matrices
A word of caution, however. Reams of data (or zettabytes of it, if you so wish to call them) are of no consequence unless they generate real insights. In Philippines diesel and petrol have similar price differential as in India. An automobile company was about to make the blunder of targeting the Filipino market with India made diesel cars. However, before the disaster could have struck it, it found out that the natives there were not too fond of diesel engines; 86% prefer to buy petrol driven cars. Reason: Since distances are not long, a diesel engine does not offer overall economy. Similarly, in the early to mid nineties, many Indian companies betted on CRM software. But most such initiatives flopped because these were not implemented in sync with the company’s processes and decision making norms. Tesco, which will soon retail in India, has Clubcard loyalty programme under which it offers highly customised coupons; hardly any two mailings have the same coupon. An Indian apparel major has divided its customers into over 200 micro clusters, each based on distinct behaviour. The retailer configures the segment properties and engagement content and then makes the right offer to the right product at the right time.

Remember, as always, technology is a mere enabler; it is the human ingenuity that counts.


Monday, October 1, 2012


“Hello, is that Mr. Srivastava?” asked the lady’s voice on the other end of the telephone. “Mr. Chopra will speak to you.” A pause and an interminable hold for 2 full minutes before Mr. Chopra decided to address me. This tiresome telephonic power play is common enough. Important people don’t dial numbers (or press the keys on the mobile, for that matter), and the lesser mortals are required to wait to be spoken to.

What was different about this call last Friday was that this gentleman was not even important to me. He wanted to invite me to address a gathering of senior managers at a workshop he was organizing. Even if there was a half a percent chance that I would have accepted his invitation, after this brief encounter I declined.

Later that day I went out to meet the chief executive of a Gurgaon based company where I had a prefixed appointment for 3:15 PM (his secretary had sternly warned me not to be late for the meeting). I turned up at the office at 3:10 and announced myself at the reception. I was asked to wait, which I did. And then waited some more. After an interval long enough for the CEO to perhaps have had a con-call, written a couple of mails, made a phone call, and gone to the rest room, he made his appearance looking neither apologetic nor hurried. He too was playing “I am more important than you,” and once again I seemed to be holding the losing hand.

For the rest of the week I decided to consciously look for power games being played by people. Academic in me having got activated I realized that rules of the game broadly fall into two categories: Those which people use to make them feel big, and those which they deploy to make others feel small. For your benefit, dear reader, I outline them below.

First, listen only callously. Actually try to monopolize all the opportunity to talk; don’t allow the other person to speak, especially when he is narrating events from his own life. It is fine to ask inane question: “How’s your family?” But the moment an answer is forthcoming start looking over his shoulder or peer into the screen of your ultrabook which may at that moment might actually be displaying the picture of Snoopy, your pet dog. Second rule is about e-mails. Actually there are three sub rules here. Get other people to send your e-mails for you. Do not reply to anything except ofcourse those messages which if unattended may put your job at stake. And, finally, if you do choose to respond, don’t bother checking whether your response addresses the issues raised in the other person’s mail. Third, your alter ego, the latest Blackberry handset. Always keep it on and use it often to interrupt conversations by taking calls and read e-mails. This will establish how hardpressed for time you are; without multitasking you could not have accomplished what all you already have. Fourth, your office. While a corner office with sleek leather bound furniture and your pictures with P.Chidambaram and U.S. Ambassador would be nice, there is a lot you can do with something less too. In a smaller cubbyhole put the visitor at a disadvantage by seating him on that squidgy sofa that is hard to get in and get out. Actually, even if you have no office at all, make sure that your junior answers your phone and starts off: “K. K. Srivastava’s office.” As regards your mobile number, ideally don’t hand out your number even if someone asks for it. Or if you receive a call on your number choose to ignore it. Finally, while talking, choose one of three options. Talk almost in whispers so that the other person has to strain to hear. Or, talk incredibly loudly so that people have to listen whether they wish to or not. Finally (perhaps most appropriately), talk aggressively slowly so that you waste the listener’s time and leave him with an uncomfortable feeling that you think he is too daft to understand normal speech.

I am sure you have not taken the above advice seriously unless you have already built a comfortable nest-egg and wish to retire early! Actually, there is a different, more advanced version of the game too that you must learn about. I recently met the Director, H.R. – a Japanese - of a multinational consumer durables company. When I reached the reception area the gentleman promptly came to receive me and escorted me into his office. On conclusion of the meeting he came out yet again upto the foyer to see me off. While for Japanese this is a part of their cultural fabric, if an Indian high up does this, you can be sure that he is playing, even if subconsciously, a top level game called, “Let’s pretend I am not more important than you.” If you play this well, the world is your oyster. Be warned, however. To be a master of this game, you really have to be dead important already. Else, for example, if I start playing this game, being the editor of a niche magazine, I will sound rather phoney.

There exist definitely superior ways to establish your power. For example, achieve excellence in your chosen field (like Tendulkar or Aamir Khan), create high value (like Naresh Trehan and Yash Raj films), convert potential into possible (like E. Sreedharan and Capt. Gopinath), make human service part of your mission (like Dr. Devi Shetty and late Dr. Kurien), and invent future (like Bill Gates and Mahatma Gandhi) Power is equated with success in all walks of life. If Salman can give five hits in a row, Sachin can decimate the other nation’s team single handedly, and Sonia Gandhi can decide the path that Indian polity and economy should tread, you could be anointed with success too. Only that what works for one does not necessarily work for the other. The ‘real’ you may cringe at the prospect of adapting to the stereotype that you may have originally decided to don to climb the ladders of success. So why should you emulate? The essential thing is to know oneself fully well – the strengths and the weaknesses – to fly high in the cut and thrust world of today. Zero in on your strengths and never wear chinks in your armour on your sleeves. Even if you are street -wise, assertive and blunt, remember it also pays to be sensitive and diplomatic. And before everything else, harbor ambition. Then chart out a plan of action and execute it to taste power and success.

Ambition is essential. Else, how will you become a high flier? But there is one proviso-your ambition should not be of the personal, self centered, conceited type that pays no heed to others’ wellbeing. Acceptable ambition is one where you have awareness of your own good qualities and therefore know that you can do a high-level job well. This should be followed by taking an inventory of your strengths and consciously playing to them – utilize them to the full. You should know equally well what your weaknesses are and try to remedy them, avoid situations which crucially expose these weaknesses, and attempt to get ‘cover’ (Say by asking someone for advice) in situations where you are weak.

This shall be the real power play!

It is for you to choose how you opt to succeed at success, by conning others or by fawning them with your inherent power.

P.S: This issue carries 7 case studies covering a wide palette. 4 of them are long ones which would need multiple readings to arrive at resolution of issues raised therein. Rest 3 are shorter caselets which can be deployed to provoke an immediate discussion among the participants in a workshop/class/ brainstorming session. We at Theory i are of firm conviction that management cases don’t admit of one single ideal solution; depending on the context multiple – and equally potent – approaches may be perfectly justified. Hence your magazine does not append ‘solutions’ to these cases.


Saturday, September 15, 2012



Initially the melodrama and colours of Parsi theatre on one hand and Indian mythology on the other inspired the making of Hindi cinema. So hero would always be virtuous, villain loathsome, and women hapless victims of circumstances. But now we have Chulbul Pandey, the corrupt cop (Dabangg), slacker (Vicky Donor), buffoons (Golmaal), rule bending cop (Singham), thieves (Dhoom), all finding acceptance. Rom-com (Band Baaja Baraat), juicy scandals (No One Killed Jessica), dark underbellies of Indian society (Love Sex aur Dhokha), or the bawdy comedies (Singh is Kinng) are all formulae for success. The new breed of filmmakers don’t want to push fake stories about nonexistent perfect (heroes) or totally flawed (villain). The hero may be crass and corrupt, mom swigs rum, while the heroine is feisty. The value system is changing, so are films, which mirror them.

In poverty-stricken India of 1950s and 1960s the hero belonged to masses, conformist and virtuous. In 1970s he started taking on the establishment, expressed his resentment (Deewar), and even flirted with law (Sholay). However, he still retained the heart of gold, never turning baddy out of choice. 1980s presented before us superheroes, raunchy songs, and, what film critics prefer to call, decadent cinema. First whiff of liberalisation of 1990s, and behind the glitter and glamour of metro multiplexes it was presumed that the old cinema of lower working class was to be replaced by YRF’s glamorous realism’ depicting modernising India. Hindi cinema started projecting values and aspirations of emerging middle class, including NRIs who had become affluent in US and UK but were unable to snip away the umbilical cord joining them with traditional Indian family values. Lavish lifestyles of the yuppies and puppies became de rigueur (HAHK, DDLJ). But these films could connect with only niche middle class. The common man, still visiting single screens, found it phoney. He wanted to see one of their own – the mofussil town man – as hero. Hero who wears unfashionable clothes, swears and utters profanities, and exhibits inyour- face machismo. He is the real Mc- Coy-Robinhood, Rambo, Shahenshah, Singham – who stands up and fights against all odds and emerges victorious. When he is ‘one of them’ these masses begin to believe that anyone can cope any challenge. So the eighties formula of loud action and melodrama is back even if film critics criticise that era. The hero has to have a macho physique, attitude, and personality. That is why when Salman was shooting for Bodyguard at Patiala his gym equipments arrived in two truckloads, which he used to workout daily for five hours, besides doing 2,000 plus abdominal crunches and a 5-6 km run everyday in between the shoot. All this to execute the mandatory shirtless scene in the climax of the film Bodyguard.

To be sure this kind of cinema exists alongwith the small budget out-of-thebox films likes Gangs of Wasseypur, Paan Singh Tomar, and Vicky Donor, multiplexes ensure that ‘modern’ films like Dil Chahta Hai or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara too do reasonably well. All these genre cohabit because there is a clear audience divide. The small films with unusual premises are fit for multiplex audience. Their makers may be from metros or mofussil towns, but they come sans hypocricy. Biggies, riding mindless formula, however endear themselves to the masses. Many of these movies are actually rehashes of south blockbusters, trademarked by loud dialogues, raw action, suggestive dances. They provide a good escape from the daily drudgeries of life.

The alpha male caricature has always mesmerised the working class audience. Their hero should live his life on his own terms. He is imperfect, mercurial, but large hearted, friend’s ally but enemy’s foe. They don’t want their hero to be cute. They would much rather prefer someone whose dialogues are laden with a thick regional accent, who grooves on folk beats, mouths expletives, gulps down desi booze, flaunts his chiselled body, and can bash up a dozen baddies alone. Let the suave male protagonist who lived in a mansion, may be abroad, spoke fluent English, wearing designer clothes be someone else’s idea of a hero!


That’s why while Aamir scores high on talent & technique, SRK has charisma & unbridled energy, only Salman has five hits in a row – Wanted (2009), Dabangg (2010), Ready (2011), Bodyguard (2011), and now Ek Tha Tiger (2012) – the last one having already grossed Rs.194 crore in mere three weeks of its release. Only he is everyone’s hero, who is there to entertain, not to build his reputation or charisma. Today, when nine out of ten films fail to extend beyond the first week, mostly because these film producers are not cued in to viewers’ preferences, which anyway are ever in flux, and when the number of available weekends for releas- ing a film is diminishing (thanks to IPL), giving five hits in a row is no mean task.

It was actually Salman who reminded us that the ‘alternative’ (to multiplex variety) was still desired. Salman co-starred with Govinda in Partner, a movie that presented the viewer the worldview of the lower middle class. In his last few hits a new star persona has evolved which is closely linked to his off screen image. His muscular shaven physique remains central to the male working class ideal of the body. He dresses in Indian style with earrings, bracelets, bright clothes, patchwork designs, lives in same building in a one bed room apartment with his parents; this is where he grew up. Although a Muslim, he participates in the Ganesh festival.

His star persona embodies many of the values of the lower middle class, such as devotion to his family and his generosity towards his friends and people who work with him. He is seen as more emotional than rational, not intellectual, who expresses himself in painting. He tweets in Hindi or broken English. Unlike Aamir, who becomes the character, Salman always remains the star, bringing his own mannerism to the role.

Chulbul Pandey of Dabangg is a flawed hero, like Salman in real life, with a heart of gold and an irreverent sense of humour. The film clicked because it became difficult to distinguish where the real life superstar began and the character dominating the reel ended. Salman is both endearing (to masses) and enduring (five hits in a row), the twin qualities that help differentiate a star who inhabits his time from the one who lives beyond. In fact, there’s an interesting mobile sms which is doing rounds: “Hollywood has Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Ironman, while we have Salman.”


While being alpha male has worked for him, Salman should really be called an alpha beta male. Because he runs Being Human campaign, focusing on providing education and healthcare to poor. At any point of time 30-40 people are standing outside his home waiting for some kind of help. Money or assurance is regularly doled out from Salman to them. This makes him noble, likeable, and wanted. While on screen he is a macho man, off screen he is approachable. The two traits in tandem work wonders for brand Salman. That is how he scores over even, say, Rajesh Khanna and SRK, the pure lover boys of their time, or Bachchan Senior and Aamir, the social crusaders. He does both, but without a great deal of fuss.

So will the good times last forever? Well, soon we will have Dabangg-2 to find out. For now, we can say that he has hit upon formula number one for delivering hits. According to Kaveri Bamzai of Today Group: One, his movies have catchy songs with easy recall. Two, he wears affordable clothes in his movies, something any tailor can copy. Three, he adorns cool, inexpensive accessories like the heart shaped glasses of Dabangg. Four, in each movie he makes a dramatic entry in the first frame, say by kicking open a door. Five, Khan always rescues a girl in peril. But only he can be the sex object, not the leading lady. Six, he does not disappoint his fans who love to see his bare 42 -inch chest. Seven, his dance steps are very easy to copy, like the biceps dance of Bodyguard. Eight, he cracks silly jokes (I am not a fool, you think I am in a nursery school) which invite laughter from his fans. Nine, his onscreen names – Lovely Singh, Prem – reflect his professional transition. And, Ten, with a deadly squint he sizes up his opponent first and then delivers a deadly dialogue, of the Mujhpe ek ehsaan… type (in Bodyguard).

Salman has reached a state of adoration among his fans where they happily ignore the routine requirement of the film – story, character, coherence, craft. He dwarfs everything. So much so that even if Salman, the secret agent of Ek Tha Tiger, forsakes India for Katrina, his Pakistani lady love, in the film released on Independence Day, people still love him. Besides he has ascended a pedestal whereby, like Rajinikant, his fans watch his movie simply because Bhai appears in it. So if Amitabh Bachchan can endure, through reinvention, without doubt Salman can too. He sure can teach a course in self branding at Harvard.


Thursday, July 19, 2012



In the recently released movie Cocktail Deepika Padukone plays Veronica (remember Archie Comics?): glamorous, sexy, yet feminine and stunning at all times. For her, the dress mantra is: the skimpier, the sexier. All the time, she shows off one or the other part of her body to her advantage. Her hair is of an auburn/coffee shade and is puffed up with a volumizer. Her body is always glowing with a bronzer. As a fashion trendsetter she mixes & matches patterns, adorns adventurous silhouettes and chooses unusual designs & labels. All accoutrements – from her hair clips to handbags to shoes – make a style statement by standing out in colour and design.

And then we have Diana Penty a.k.a Meera, much like Betty from Archie. She has an easy, simple & earthy fashion personality. Her hair is of a darker shade of brown. She wears little makeup, goes for anti-fits, androgynous or functional clothing, and dresses more for comfort than getting noticed. So no bright colours, prints, or form-filling silhouettes.

Aki Narula, the costume designer, went and bought a phiran from a salesman – which he was himself wearing – for the rockstar Ranbir Kapoor. Jordan’s intricately styled and unusual wardrobe reflects the character’s journey and the various phases he goes through.

I quote these facts to emphasise that the Indian audience is veering towards realism. Conviction about the character in the film comes in part from the clothes and accessories s(he) wears/adorns. The costumes are fundamental in allowing us to make decisions about the character. And this is mandatory for storytelling.

Big budgets demand careful scrutiny of changing profile of consumer, and then devise and execute a marketing strategy accordingly. Since July 1, 2012 Channel [V] is no longer a music channel, even if earlier it was airing about three hours of Bollywood music. Why this about-turn? Well, India is the world’s second fastest growing mobile market. Indians aged 15-24 spend an average of 13.6 hours on the net, a lot of that on music videos. Digital music in fact grew by 24% in 2011 while physical form fell by 19%. Hence the channel wants to reposition itself as a youth general entertainment channel. Even MTV is concentrating on building original programing in the form of MTV Coke Studio, MTV Roadies, etc. to engage the viewers. As a matter of fact a youth channel can remain relevant only if it is present across all platforms that youth engage with.

The Indian youth is getting fitter and is demanding slim, super slim, and skinny fits to accentuate narrow waistlines, broad shoulders, and well toned bodies. So Raymonds has launched slim fits and super slims. Now these two account for 60-75% of the overall business. Whereas at Allen Solly, earlier sizes 40 and 42 were lifted off the racks most often, now 70- 80% sale comes from the 39 and 40 sizes. The Indian male is getting health conscious, pays enough attention to grooming, and is no longer speed shopping. He is eager to receive information about styling, fabrics, and colours to create customised look for himself.

Wedding frills too are undergoing changes in colour and scale. So the demand for professional wedding planners is rising by the day. While the rich are going in for concept and destination weddings, the middle class is assigning the management of the event to specialised professionals. Men and women both are willing to go under the knife for cosmetic reasons. So the short-stay medical centres dealing in less complicated surgeries and needing a patient stay for less than 24 hours have started mushrooming even in Tier-2 towns. Earlier ‘extra’ coaching was for ‘weak’ students; now a whopping 78% parents believe that it is unavoidable to ensure that their child stays ahead. 60% of primary school children and up to 83% of those in high schools now receive private tutoring.

Since Indian cinema audience is becoming more accommodating to alternative opinions and views that it may not agree with, movies from Maqbool to the Dirty Picture have attained box office success. The women in them are real with their sense of individuality, greed, determination, ambition, and sexuality. Mother India and her league have had a serious makeover therefore. The halter blouse has replaced the white saree. The pout queen does not bat an eyelid before indulging in abusive verbal diarrhoea. Younger filmmakers are discovering new formulae for success. An ‘A’ certification is welcome, even if not actively sought. The song in a movie may be sung by housewives (O Womaniya in Gangs of Wasseypur); it need not be melody driven. Lyrics may be in bol-chal ki bhasha so that people can relate to them.

Then at times a marketer wishes to change the consumer behaviour in favour of his brand. It is another matter whether he succeeds or not. For instance, Kara Skin Wipes face a tough challenge since these are trying to force a change of habit so deeply embedded in Indian psyche. Besides, the brand is seeking to promote a ‘use and throw’ product which again is culturally not acceptable to the Indian consumer. That too at a price of Rs.30-35 for a box of 10 wipes when much cheaper options are available.

Nevertheless, the Indian consumer is changing. And this is prompting marketers to change their spots too! But wait a minute! The more things change, the more they remain the same! Marketers need to tune their antennae for discriminating between right and wrong signals. Savita Bhabhi, the porn toon character on the Net, was forced to go into oblivion. Yet Sunny Leone’s porn background is of no concern to the Indian audience. The colour of her skin, her accent, & her passport stand in her defence. And why not? In India, gods are fair skinned while demons are dark. What’s more? There is even a cream available to whiten a woman’s private parts. Bollywood junior artistes now are foreign ‘Goris’.

Talking about Indian cinema, neither the audience nor the cinema has evolved; it has merely got segmented: On one hand, it is made for the metro multiplexes, Net, and DVD consumers; on the other, single screen audience is still alive and kicking. For a brief while, the working class male vanished in the late nineties in the face of glamorous realism of the Yash Raj films kind. Then came Chulbul Pandey and Lovely Singh (and now Rowdy Rathore) to remind us that a large chunk of consumption of Hindi cinema comes from lower middle class for whom Salman’s muscular bare chest represents body ideal. Salman dresses in Indian style with earrings, bracelet, bright clothes, lives in the same building as his parents, and thereby his star persona embodies many of the values that have endured over time for the Indian lower middle class. Movies like Agneepath are still about maa ka pyaar, behan ki izzat, and bete ka badla. Katrina reminds the audience of raunchy eighties’ style dancing. The dialogue-baazi of Singham will never be over the top for this audience.

L’Oreal realised, as did Amway, that in India there is big masstige segment. So L’Oreal has decided to offer a lower priced hair care range, including sachets for its shampoos. Elle from France recently launched women-wear at Indian prices. While usually, facilities at a typical international budget hotel are at best of the basic level, in India, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Inn or Formula I all provide multi-cuisine, including regional cuisine, restaurants in their properties, dustbins in the rooms, as also full length mirror for the convenience of saree draping women. So what is the takeaway?

The Indian society, economy, and psyche are changing. But there exists a continuum. At the same time, deep-seated values, beliefs, and habits are hard to change. So a marketer has to understand that the Indian market is an aggregation of many diverse sub markets. Some evolving, some transiting at a fast clip, while some are already globalised.


Friday, May 18, 2012



So how do you buy Desh Ka Namak? Well, the loose salt (a commodity) is converted into a quasi brand (purity factor), later a full fledged brand (Tata Iodized Salt), and finally a super brand (Desh Ka Namak). While a commodity has 100% functional value and zero percent emotional pull ( for instance, a toothpick), a quasi brand offers some distinctive feature and appeal at least (e.g. Suguna eggs without odour). To become a brand by itself it should have an unparalleled advantage (Amul Milk with no milk powder added). Finally, a super brand is typically 100% emotions and zero percent unique functional value (a Harley-Davidson). The aim of every marketer is to morph his offer gradually from an undifferentiated (at least in the perception of the buyer) product into a superbrand, when he suspends his critical mental faculties for comparing alternatives on functional grounds. TV advertising helps in this since it takes a brand through a six – as process wherein the brand seeks (initial & sustained) attention, awareness (recognition and recall), assimilation (comprehension of claim of the advertiser), acceptance (liking and preference towards the offer), action (purchase), and adsorption (voluntary recall in future).

For records, the overall advertising pie is growing at a rather modest pace in India. During 2011 as against expected 17% growth in media ad revenues, the industry could manage only 8% taking the size to only Rs.25,594 crore. The outlook for 2012 is also modest, and is expected to hit only Rs.28,013 crore.

Pit this fact against another one. Running a Hindi GEC costs approximately Rs.2 crore a day or nearly Rs.750 crore a year. News channels and regional channels can be run with average spending of Rs.250 crore per year. But then they have so much less viewership too. By 2011 India had 623 operational channels, as against 552 in 2010. 50% of viewership, however, rests with Hindi channels while another 10% viewers patronise English channels. Out of these 163 are pay channels accounting for a lion’s share of Rs.11,600 crore worth of commercials revenue. At 146 million households the Indian TV distribution market is already the third largest in the world, with pay TV penetration at 80%. This last mile of distributors belongs to a very fragmented industry with nearly 6,000 players who, ironically, however, enjoy local monopoly clout. They are very cash rich since they pocket 80% of Rs.21,630 crore subscription fee paid by the viewers.

So the TV channels’ revenue model has come apart as these cable operators and distributors create an artificial bandwidth shortage so that they can carry channels as per their own whims, demanding usurious monopoly rent (carriage fee) from the broadcasters. Resultantly, between 2007 and 2011, dependence on advertising by pay TV channels reduced merely from 76% to 72%. In an attempt to balance the books thus the channels are resorting to more and more advertising, volumewise. In 2007 itself TV ads exceeded 60,000. These are growing at a CAGR of nearly 50-60%. But the subscription rate has been capped at Rs.5.30 p.m. for DTH digital TV. The cable TV Network Rules, 1994 say that maximum 12 minutes (20%) of every 1 hour of airtime should be used for commercials. But during 2008-2011, on some channels during prime time (7PM to 11PM), advertising even exceeded (60% of total time) the programming content. Five of the six news channels under scrutiny had used 18 minutes (30%) for commercials. The viewers naturally suffered in terms of duration, frequency, cluttered screen, and even deafening audio levels.

In a controversial proposal recently TRAI has suggested that duration be restricted to only 6 minutes per hour, more so because the proposed digitisation of television broadcast will certainly mean higher subscription revenue for the channels.

Obviously, the industry thinks it has a very strong case against the proposed move. It says that, first, restriction on ad air time will create acute shortage of inventory; ad rates consequently will go up considerably. This will also mean that only the big boys will be able to afford them. Second, if ad rates cannot be raised to make good the revenue dip for TV channels, low cost programming will have to be produced; this in turn will tell upon quality (no KBCs). The cost of producing some of the most watched shows is as high as Rs.1.5 crore per episode. But this ironically will reduce TVRs and therefore advertising revenue further. Third, these ads may shift to other media (online/ print/cinema) which may not be perfect replacement for TV; in any case, then those media will be accused of carrying excessive advertising. Besides, TV is perhaps more suited for rural audience than online or print media. Fourth, according to TV channels, self regulations are the best. Also, it is suggested, let the audience decide whether a channel carries excessive advertising.

On the flip side supporters of such code have an iron cast case too. They point out that firstly many developed nations have such hourly caps, viz. Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Philippines, UK etc. Besides, in actual practice the TRAI regulations might not become suffocating anytime soon. Except for the leading broadcasters in each genre (GEC, Sports, News, etc) the rest are nowhere close to the 20% cap. In India 66% of the revenue for TV channels is from subscription while 34% comes from ads. But for major broadcasters this gets reversed to 35:65. TRAI wants that for these channels 70% revenue should come from commercials against current 36%. Secondly, in other countries, UK for example where such regulations are already in place, TV commercials have not extinguished. Third, as regards self regulation it has seldom worked in India. Any self regulation requires high degree of accountability, responsibility, and discipline. But, for example, in print media where such regulations are in place they are observed only in their breach. Besides, while in the print media you can ignore an ad, on TV you can only switch channels and there you face ‘road-blocking’ tactic by the advertiser; escape is virtually impossible. So is there no way out of the impasse?

Well, one way is to decrease above the line (ATL) advertising and increase activations (BTL – below the line). Unlike mainstream intrusive advertising content branding requires either buying of the content or creation of the content by the advertiser himself. It is less intrusive and therefore less offending too. In film placement, social media, Internet, activities on the ground (Coke Studio) all can be deployed for these purposes. This kind of advertising ‘message’ will enhance mass media ad recall. Besides, creating an independent property gets lot more respect as against sponsorships. Airtel realised this by releasing short films on YouTube (for Har Friend campaign).

Ingenuity is what is required to increase effectiveness of promotional messages, and not making more noise and irritate the audience.


Friday, March 9, 2012



When you set sight on a potential companion, your brain releases a potion of chemicals which activates the brain’s pleasure centre. For long-term bonding this must further be followed by two more compounds, oxytocin and vasopressin. Lust, on the other hand, works on testosterone and oestrogen for men and women respectively. Apparently, the mind of the ‘millennium generation’ is irrigated more by the latter than the former. Love and lust are now interchangeable. But are marketers ready to factor in the new norm and cultural orientation?

The recent trends reveal quite some statistic. In a phase of transition, the 18- 25 age group remains quite confused on issues like falling in love, getting hitched, or rolling in hay. 55% respondents in a recent survey declared premarital sex to be no big issue. Yet, 62% wanted their future spouse to be chaste. For 41%, a ‘pragmatic’ youth family background (and possibly, family’s nod) is very important. And 51% had already savoured sex before they turned 25. No debate between having raging hormones vs. being financially correct.

Google Trends shows that the search volume index for the word ‘porn’ has doubled in India in the past two years. Seven Indian cities are among the top ten in the world on porn search. Apparently, nearly 50% students discuss porn everyday. The lifestyle of the new brat pack reflects the change. They date with a gusto with even tier-2 towns having campuses strewn with embracing couples. Discotheques in Mumbai, Delhi, Noida and even Chandigarh throb through the night. Nearly half the lot dates regularly. But they don’t have time for the attendant niceties.

In a poll commissioned by Debenhams, Marilyn Monroe beat Kim Kardashian, Kelly Brook, and Christina Hendricks in winning the crown for having the best beach body of all times, since most women voted for a fuller body so as to show it off in a figure hugging bikini and win the men over. The clothing company has already successfully launched the range based on the analytics collected in the poll.

In another international survey, a majority of the young women (18-25) commented that they would opt for large frontal assets than high IQ; a third were willing to swap intelligence for more ample assets, while a quarter felt bigger busts would make them feel happier. Nearly 60% respondents believed that men would be more interested in them if they were well endowed. Naturally, in your face women’s sexuality is ubiquitous – on ramps, big screen, idiot box, videos,even on the street.

Now, there are emergency contraceptive pills being advertised on mainstream TV channels, which are actually used as morning after regular contraceptives. Condoms have started giving tough competition to roses on Valentine’s Day in terms of sales. This February 14, one online portal revealed that it had sold over a lakh of condoms; incidentally it had hoped to sell nearly 20,000. Exciting Lives, a shopping portal, offered glow in the dark intimate wear and lingerie made of feather during this Valentine. Animal Planet presented a special programme titled ‘Love in the Wild’ capturing scenes of tenderness from the jungle.

Sex is no longer under wraps. The body has become a temple and a seat of power. Cosmetics, surgery, health foods and supplements, gymming – everything is tried. Beauty has become a big business today, with huge time and money being spent in parlours.

With earlier social mores and norms fading away, a bold & beautiful lifestyle – glamorous girls, handsome guys with multiple credit cards, fast bikes/cars, high flying society – inspires the urban middle and upper class youth. The gender divide is crumbling. The interaction has added dates to a teenager’s schedule and in many cases ushered in multiple relationships in life.

In essence, the mores and norms that the culture of yesterday embraced are changing – internationally faster, but the change in India too cannot be ignored by marketers. It is time that Indian marketers started creating positioning concepts that become iconic not just on the levity factor (on which Indian ads even currently qualify quite easily) but also the lust factor.


Friday, February 10, 2012



David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the Michigan University, concludes in his study, ‘Tactics for Promoting Sexual Encounters’ that men prefer the direct approach. But women find men with a subtler approach sexier. So lines like ‘I really love you’, or ‘I care about you deeply’ might work better, he mentions, than flatfoot statements conveying the need for physical relations. Aggressive tactics shown in most Hollywood movies, he again suggests, are unlikely to help.

Perhaps. Or, on second thoughts, perhaps not so in India.


1991 was certainly a watershed year in the annals of Indian economy. The nation took the first diffident step towards freeing the economy from the clutches of socialism. Unconnected, but as if on cue, KamaSutra condoms were launched the same year focussing not on planning the family but for enhanced pleasure. The year divided the market into BC and AC eras – before consumerism and after consumerism. Post 1991, social austerity did not anymore remain a virtue.

Now, we have ‘First World’ hospitals, shopping complexes, resorts, schools, spas and condominiums in ‘Third World’ India. You can buy any car here. India belongs to the so-called Internet and Global Village. The similarly titled technical revolution seems to have been ushered in. Men spend hours and small fortunes in salons and spas. Seafood sampler with pickled beetroot chutney or corn pea cake served with tomato compote is what you get to cleanse and rejuvenate your body. Chefs are on a health mission, serving to the wellheeled a detox diet. Age – both on the lower and ageing side – is no bar to visit parlours and gyms. Everyone is fighting age with cosmetics, surgery, potions and lotions, and protein shakes; each one is reinventing himself.

Money has acquired a sensuous quality. Greed is good; actually it is God. Epicureanism abounds. According to a media report, the three food habits we are likely to see in 2012 will be home cooking based on exotic ingredients, consumption of ethical food which has to be tasty as well, and visits to the celeb restaurants like Le Cirque and Hakkasan. Instant Nirvana, new age spirituality, fad diets all are new rage along with the reining alternative therapies like Reiki or Feng Shui. Such are the things that excite consumption saturated Gen Xers and Yers.

To have physical relations is no longer under wraps – at least not as it was before. The age of innocence metamorphoses into adulthood sooner now. Live-ins are more de rigueur than same sex relationships – which also seem to be catching on quite fast. An aspirational society is offloading traditions.

On the plus side, of course, there is a new kindling of the can-do mentality in a nation dictated by Kismet and the sense of fatalism. Young India is proud of the country and things Indian. Optimism and the ‘feel good’ factor are getting stronger. The future is even brighter for marketers too.

An IDBI Capital study suggests that the middle class population will grow up to 583 million by 2025 (up from 50 million in 2005) with a significantly increased average real household disposable income. 70% of the household money will be spent on discretionary purchases. The working age population will go up from 65% (2005) to 68% (2030) with more than 39% of the people being below 25 years and 87% below 60. The numbers are truly staggering as far as future potential consumption in concerned.

Well, actually what I wish to highlight is this fact: As Buss simplifies things (read the research at the start), even if sacrificing the intergroup differences, so do the above remarks about the emerging consuming class. But oversimplification is fraught with risk.


While a marketer prefers a single prototype, since it makes his job of communicating and selling a single product easier, stereotyping is always laden with dangerous overtones. Not every male is using caviar creams or undergoing laser treatment for hair removal. Nor for that matter have sarees been abandoned or red wine become the preferred drink for the fairer sex. No doubt, the androgynous sartorial style popularised in Dil Chahta Hai has its loyalists. But the muscle rippling dresses of Salman Bhai have a great degree of acceptance too. There is no single psychographic profile that can claim to represent the whole market. Broadly speaking, Indian males fall in four categories, Conformists, Hedonists, the Janus Faced, and The Evolving Ideal.

A Conformist is driven by traditional values, loves his family, and is shorn of ostentation. He likes value for money brands, and is unlikely to ‘dress up’. He finds debt as an abhorring burden. So sell him the mass marketed brands which reach out to him with images celebrating the man in control (over situation or woman in his life). Platina, Peter England or economy in Gillette shaving gel are likely to succeed with this tribe.

A Hedonist, the second type, belongs to the ‘I, me, myself’ genre. He is driven by status and status symbols. Unlike conformists he is a risk taker and pleasure seeker. Situated in metros and tier-1 towns he is perhaps single. He equates best in the class with the concept of value. Dandy looks are very important to him; in fact he is obsessed with his appearance. Credit card is something he frequently swipes. He aspires for a Harley Davidson, but sell him at least a Pulsar, an Allen Solly andthe brands of the ilk on premiumness and hitech imagery.

We also have the Janus Faced consumer who is constantly striving to project a politically and socially correct image. He is always conscious of others’ opinion about him (a Blackberry 9900 or Apple i4S) and conducts himself accordingly. For him success equates both money and recognition. He is paradoxically individualistic and yet approval seeker. Therefore he is unlikely to breach social norms. Ads built around loss of face or social ostracism are likely to be on spot for this category. It is for these people that Maruti is introducing its SUV which is actually a cross between a car and a true blood 4x4 off- roader, since he wants to set himself apart and get noticed but not very radically. So, truly innovative category creators are not for him.

Finally we have the Mr. Male of the future – The Evolving Man. He believes in tending to his kids (Nivea Man) and the family. He shares the household work with the wife, gives her the morning cup of tea first thing when she wakes up (now, which ad was this!). He is neither overly conformist nor a rebel against all things traditional. Young, professionally educated, he has a progressive outlook.

Purchases are decided and made jointly. He rarely buys on impulse and plans a lot. Naturally he is game for household gadgets, family oriented consumption items, and, when single, productivity enhancing devices. He is driven by quality and buys rationally. He truly epitomizes the Raymond’s complete man. He would like to drive a diesel sedan which is neither too flashy nor too dowdy.


Having said it all, however a word of caution. Instead of segregating the Indian males and then targeting the specific groups, a better strategy would be to find synergies between different groups. For example, both the traditionalists and the evolving are family oriented, while both the hedonists and Janus faced are selfseekers. Develop your products and communication strategies accordingly.


Friday, February 3, 2012


The year was 2005. I was consulting with a company incubated by two ex-HCL directors. It was not delivering. In the prediagnostic phase the directors proudly proclaimed that the employee turnover at the organization was a piffling less than 5%. Intrigued, I wondered whether there lay the nub: had the employees reached the trough of their inefficiency? Further probing revealed that this was one cozy joint family like set up headed by condescending patriarchs rather than task oriented bosses. Recommendation went out from me: do away with the deadwood as of yesterday and change your own leadership style. Loyalty and long tenure are not necessarily something to strive for by the HR department. See how the Government of India functions with its bunch of ‘committed for life’ pool of manpower!

The other polar extreme is, however, the CIL case discussed in the present issue of Theory i Management. A quick turnover and high attrition rate are equally jaundiced and worrying situations. This may result partly from the mercenary like attitude of the Gen. Y hires, partly due to misplaced career expectations, but in no less measure also due to the preplacement spiel being dished out by the potential employer to the graduating batch. Within the first 2 years of joining nearly 10-20%. MBAs opt out of the companies they were placed in. This has massive direct and indirect cost implications for the employer.

MBAs nowadays are loyal to their profession, not to an organization. Many quit because they are given assignments that do not seem to add value to their careers. In a growing economy like India, myriads of opportunities are available, especially for premier B-School alumni. Indubitably money acts as hygiene and a motivating factor at least up to a level; many of them resign because they feel that the job content does not match expectation or the promise made in the PPTs; disaffectation sets in early. Or the compensation package may be designed in a manner that CTC is shown to be stratospheric. But upon disaggregation the net sum realized by the young joinee falls below the threshold. So perhaps instead of recruiting the ‘crème’, HR head should look for students with the right mental fit. The company can always tap the talent in the right way while keeping them excited about their job. Or, the company can possibly structure recruitment in different tiers and visit A plus, B grade, and even B minus category institutes. Most important, the recruiter must avoid raising expectations beyond what they intend delivering; else very soon a disconnect will be created leading eventually to parting of ways.

Many MBAs anyway lack the right attitude, are unwilling to learn, and want only high visibility jobs. This cannot possibly match each profile the company has in mind for future inductees. So the companies should not only articulate what they offer, but equally, what is not there on the menu. If you are not the best paymaster or offer ‘less’ glamorous profiles, be upfront about them. Instead, balance these negatives by (even if intangible) gains that a future employee can hope to enjoy in the event he decides to join in.

Even B-Schools can play a proactive role in avoiding future alienations by ensuring that the students opt for the specialization based on individual strengths and weaknesses, and not (as is generally the practice) on such frivolous considerations as which jobs are ‘hot’ nowadays! Meaningful summer internships go a long way in enabling a student to know what kind of career he should opt for. And even rotation among various departments in the company allows the new hire to form an idea as to where his predilections lie. His competencies may be mapped and then he may be guided about the profile most suited for him.

Attrition management adds to the bottomline of the company, remember.


Friday, January 13, 2012



Mariah Carey has insured her legs for $1 billion, Tom Jones his chest hair for £35 million, JLo has posteriors secured for £18 million, and Dolly Parton is safe with her frontal assets covered for £400,000. When people can afford to manage their assets with such financial backing you know that they command brand value. But how? Well, you have to create and sell your own persona – successfully.

Most buying decisions are based on trust, confidence, and emotional connect that people have with a product or a person. Ranbir Kapoor is eulogised even if Rock star gets low rating. A brand is the expectation, image, and perception that an offer creates in the minds of the target audience. One song from Silk Smitha and the film was likely to be a hit. Successful branding captures the mindshare and the share of the wallet by outwitting its competitors. It ensures commanding of a premium over a commoditized offer. KBC minus Amitabh Bachchan is just one more TV show.


We trust people more than companies. Accordingly personal branding is becoming more relevant than even products/ corporate brands. It is Anna’s persona – simple, direct, uncomplicated, powered by passion and conviction from the heart that has fired popular imagination. Even if important, the big idea – corruption is at the root of it all – will fail to draw sustenance without his backing. Yet most people don’t seek to manage their individual brand strategically, consistently, and effectively; in fact they don’t even appreciate that they are a brand, good or bad. And those who do manage their equity hold a flawed understanding about the process of branding itself.

Personal branding is not merely promoting oneself. A personal brand has to be meaningful, distinctive, relevant, consistent, exciting, compelling, enduring, persuasive, memorable, holistic, and authentic. Branding is about creating an identity that associates certain perceptions, feelings, and emotions with itself, and then influencing the target audience to buy an idea/offer based on that identity. A successful brand makes a credible, superior offer, and then delivers it. For this the prerequisite is to understand one’s unique attributes, strengths, skills, values, and passion, and then use them to separate oneself from competitors.

Take Sallu Bhai. The nickname for Salman Khan itself has been carefully created by his spin doctors to ensure that he is perceived as a hero of the masses. Wanted, Ready, Dabangg, and Bodyguard have ensured that he has become the most bankable star with a tremendous mass appeal. With memorable names like Chulbul Pandey and Lovely Singh, his star persona – raw, muscular, shaven physique – remains central to the male-working class ideal of the body. His offscreen image is in sync with his on-screen one. Thus he wears the same clothes whether acting or living his life. He reflects the Indian style – bright colours, earrings, inexpensive clothes, bracelet. He shares the residence building with his parents, staying in only one bedroom apartment. He participates in the Ganapati festival. He embodies lower middle class values of forever caring and giving. SRK, on the other hand, is quintessential symbol of ‘hard work leads to success’, reflected in Mannat, Vanity van, and jet setting lifestyle. As for Aamir Khan he follows three dictums: Do what makes you happy, not worrying about being successful; be courageous; and, live life on your own terms. Each one of them has a different recipe for successful branding.


You may be excused if you think that Rakhi Sawant is only good at seeking cheap publicity. But make no mistakes. All this is carefully orchestrated. She is savvy enough to spin off a show business career on the basis of so-called publicity stunts – Swayambar, breaking up with her boyfriend onscreen, or declaring her intention to marry Baba Ramdev – since they raise her celebrity quotient as also the appearance fees. Why do you think Mallika Sherawat keeps fetching good roles? Because she advances her career by using Jackie Chan, or pronouncing her more than nodding acquaintance with Obama, or simply by saying outrageous things. These girls are not dumb; they can teach a lesson or two to many aspiring brand managers.

So how do you go about building and sustaining a great personal brand? Well, for starters, you can follow this blueprint & the roadmap with five building blocks:


Bill Gates’ dream was: a PC on each desk. Now his vision is to prove Malthus (who said that overpopulated earth will see mass diseases so as to turn world population manageable again) wrong through supporting mass vaccination programme. SRK wants to be the entertainer to the world. And Anna’s vision is to see a corruption free India.


Define your personal brand statement encompassing your ambition, speciality, objective, and domain of operation. Sonia Gandhi does not merely wish to lead the nation; she wants to be instrumental in developing legislations and influencing government thinking for social engineering. Yet she is always respectful to the constitutional supremo, the Prime Minister. She always stands behind him when they are at microphone together, and always stands up when he arrives.


Assess your personal critical success factors needed to translate your ambition and brand statement into manageable and measurable personal objectives, performance matrix, targets, and improvement actions. Larry Page and Sergey Brin relentlessly work to achieve their mission – organise and make all of the world’s information available through Google search. Sergey is the arbiter of Google’s technological approach while Larry is the primary thinker about the venture’s future direction. They make an unassailable team.


When Henry Ford dreamt about a car for the masses, he introduced the concept of assembly line to mass produce cars. Aamir refused to pose for Madam Tussaud’s wax replica since he wanted no distraction while building his professional career. Salman battled excruciating pain from a nerve disorder to work out for 5 hours everyday for the mandatory shirtless scene in the climax of the movie Bodyguard. You have to commit your resources to build your brand. Bill Gates is successful in both his ventures – Microsoft and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – since he uses his excellent problem solving skills to the hilt.


SRK still suffers, by his own admission, from insecurities (of possible rejection). Malvinder and Shivinder (formerly of Ranbaxy) realised that they could not pursue their vision for Ranbaxy due to lack of funds; they opted out.

All the legends – M. S. Dhoni, Lady Gaga, Ratan Tata, Paris Hilton – thus:
• Know exactly what makes them unique, special, and outstanding.
• Identify and leverage their dreams, and have the faith and courage to pursue them through delivery of peak performance.
• Having identified their talent & genius, seek to transcend beyond it.
• Attain success by living according to their dreams.

Silk Smitha, the precursor of today’s item girl, offered huge dose of sexuality and oodles of oomph, with few inhibitions, to make any film marketable. In 1996, however, she allegedly committed suicide because while she represented the seamy underbelly, she had never herself opted for this ‘status’ voluntarily.