Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Business Leaders Penning Highly Successful Books On Various Subjects

Business leaders of India are turning authors and penning highly successful books on various subjects. The Business bigwigs of India like Raghav Bahl, Ramanujam Sridhar, Subrato Bagchi, R. Gopalakrishnan and of course Narayana Murthy & Nandan Nilekani have proven themselves over and over as visionaries.

Sunday Chronicles brings out an exclusive, highlighting the Indian business legends and what has aspired them to pen down their thought into books.

CNBC TV 18 Covers exclusively Airtel's New Brand Identity & Experts Opinion

Mohit Beotra - Head of Brand & Media, Bharti Airtel talks about the reason behind the change in the logo.

Experts from the field of Branding, Management feel that the heavy investment made by Airtel in re-branding was of no need. I felt that there was no need to have changed the logo, for Airtel did not bring in anything new for the consumer i.e., nothing significantly different is being offered to the consumer. Elsie Nanji feels the new logo resembles the logo of Vodafone & Videocon. Santosh Padhl feels that the logo could have been much better.

The consumer also feels that the new logo was not promoted enough and that the logo resembles other brands like Vodafone, Videocon.

Airtel is trying to push its new logo awareness by inviting users to suggest a name to the new identity.

Source: CnbcTv18

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Embracing Gen Y

...continuation from last week "Of older marketers, young consumers", how older marketers can communicate with their young target audience, a different beast altogether..

The average Gen ‘Y', if research is to be believed, changes its jobs an average of 29 times and the average time in one job is as long as 1.1 years!

With an eye on the future:Candidates line up for a written test and interview being conducted by top BPO companies. These jobs have brought about a sea change in lifestyles and mores.

People of my age on occasion have difficulty in remembering the names of their own children, so more for my benefit than for yours, dear reader, let me quickly summarise some of the key points we addressed in the last issue (November 4, 2010) on the subject of young customers. The biggest challenge facing marketing in India today is the fact that heads of marketing are in their forties, managing directors are in their fifties while the customers they are wooing are in their twenties! What is it that makes these twenty-somethings tick and how can marketers use this knowledge to woo them?

India's youth wants to improve itself by education and keeps attempting the IIT entrance and the CAT, even if the odds are stacked against it. Others wish to look better - an insecurity that the fairness creams market literally lives and feeds off. Older people wish to appear young too, mothers get tickled pink when someone says that they look like their daughter's sister and fathers go out to pubs with their young sons. The space, which was exclusively youth at one point in time, has now become more inclusive with older people too jostling for elbow space and attention to the chagrin of their younger wards.

Reality shows and attempts to acquire national celebrity status through programmes such as Indian Idol are common, particularly in people from smaller towns, and it is not uncommon for youngsters to drop out of college to prepare better for these shows and then they do go back reluctantly to their old, mundane lives. We also spoke about the ability of youth to multitask, their ability to be connected 24/7 and finally of how different their sleeping habits were from older people. Young India sleeps late, to put it mildly. But is every young Indian coming home with the milkman after a night of revelry or is something else happening?

The BPO revolution sweeps young India

The BPO brigade is a million-strong today and the people who work in this sector have no alternative but to synchronise their work timings with that of their counterparts in the US or the UK, if not Venezuela. It is not uncommon to find people working from 11 p.m. at night till 7 a.m. the following day. To confuse the issue, there are also some companies that call themselves KPOs. While KPOs claim that their work is not as mundane and dull as their BPO counterparts, it still warrants unearthly times and my limited understanding of the difference between these two ‘O's is that those in KPOs cop less abuse from their customers! Abuse notwithstanding, this sector like no other demonstrates the tremendous change in terms of the opportunity that presents itself to educated youth.

Of course, the word ‘education' has to be taken with a pinch of salt. It basically means an ability to communicate in English and it is not uncommon for household help to put their daughters into classes to help learn and improve their English.

It is not uncommon for people to start work early and significantly young India believes in the value of work experience even while in college as the fact that you have worked in events during weekends and in your spare time reads well in your bio-data and denotes a seriousness of purpose. It is not uncommon to find college students hanging out at golf courses handling the registration of old fogeys and providing them their high point of the day even as they make a few cool bucks. Yes, young India wants to move up in life, look better, earn more.

Of course, there are social implications as well. The BPO culture is something that has its own implications in terms of ‘thank God it's Friday', quick money and a lifestyle that is very different from what the average middle-class Indian is exposed to in his or her own home.

Rather than going into a needless harangue on the falling moral standards, I think it probably makes sense for us to say that the BPO pie presents an interesting option to the marketer of people who probably live at home and have a fair amount of disposable income with a propensity to spend and often experiment with risky stuff that people in more traditional jobs might baulk at.

Parents live in fear as they wonder what their children, who go to work after they have gone to sleep, do. Remember the Motorola commercial where the parents worriedly ask the kid who has a new flip phone whether he is doing something that he should not be doing?

What is the big deal about change?

Old India was reluctant to change and often paranoid about it. It worked in the same company for 37 years and left it only because it was forcibly asked to at the age of 60! It might have hated the job, lived in dread of the boss but still had the hypocrisy to make a virtue of this fear of change. They lived with the same person not because they loved the person but merely because the possibility of leaving the person, while it certainly must have crossed their minds, was not acceptable to society.

While today's generation ‘Y' is not exactly the opposite, it certainly has a different outlook to work and relationships. The average Gen ‘Y' of today, if research is to be believed, changes its jobs an average of 29 times and the average time in one job is as long as 1.1 years! Of course, it does pose a counter question to employers whether they really understand this generation or are too willing to write them off as unstable and “like that only”.

Forget about jobs, people at least in the cities get into and out of relationships with the ease with which cricketers change from flannels to pajama cricket. My generation used to go into deep depression if the girl in the bus stop did not look at them at 8.15 and swear eternal love to someone who had the misfortune of smiling at them, while this generation wants to “move on”. The Fastrack commercial where the guy and girl return all the trinkets and gifts given by each other when they break up (without too much heartburn) is perhaps an indication of the times that we live in.

They are unafraid too of showing their emotions and maybe the Fastrack bag commercial with Genelia and Virat Kohli where the saucy Genelia finds a new use for her bag is a newer side of generation ‘Y' that may shock the “oldest member” but I don't see young India caring too much about us.

On a more serious note Gen Y does not seem to think that marriage is sacred either — marriages tend to break up a lot easier than before. They often seem to expect a lot more from relationships and people and have neither the patience nor the inclination to see things through. Who knows? Maybe they just don't have the energy to go through the charades their parents go through in front of them day in and day out!

So where do we go from here?

Generation ‘Y' is here to stay, rule and buy. So rather than merely accept them, let us embrace them! And here, of course, I speak figuratively. We do know that they have the attention span of nanoseconds and get bored easily. (At times they remind me of some of my clients.) So we need to engage them, not lecture to them. The communication principle of “be quick, be friendly, be gone” comes to my mind. And yet I find most advertising dull. Generation ‘Y' has a sense of humour and is willing to laugh at itself and most certainly at the older generation. The challenge for us is to entertain even as we sell.

David Ogilvy might have thundered “People don't buy from a clown”. But the only thing that we know today is that there are no rules, though you must certainly know the rules before you break them! Each young Indian is different - the student of St. Xavier's, Mumbai, is different from the student of Bishop Heber's College in Tiruchi even if they are of the same age and study the same subjects. The person in Ranchi is different from the person who lives in Boat Club Road in Chennai. Gen Y is saying “I am not just a bl***y demographic” and I do hope we are listening. Generation ‘Y' is saying “I am wired” while it secretly seems to be saying that we have our wires crossed! Generation ‘Y' is saying “I am not a scaled down adult”, “Neither am I your unrealised ambition”. But to me, at least, Generation ‘Y' is also saying “If you engage me, I could be your customer for life”.

Customer for life! What an entrancing concept! Let's view Generation ‘Y' not only as our future but the present and future for marketers. What we need is a change of attitude. But are we ready?

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand – comm.
Read my blog @ http://www.brand-comm.com/blog.html
Facebook: facebook.com/RamanujamSridhar
Twitter: twitter.com/RamanujamSri

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Most Advertising Does Not Turn On A “Madrasi”

Ramanujam Sridhar was invited by CNBC TV-18 Storyboard to write an article on their guest blog. Please find the same article below.

It is festival time. Diwali is almost upon us. While Diwali is a festival that all of India celebrates with varying degrees of intensity, several other festivals are regional and not celebrated with the same fervor in all parts of India. Like Onam for instance which happened a couple of months ago, which to Malayalis (the people from God’s own country) is a big thing. Well a friend of mine remembered me on Onam. He is from Mumbai and really likes me (or so I believe) and he woke me up at an unearthly hour (it was seven thirty for God’s sake) and said at his cheeriest best “Happy Onam! Isn’t today a big day for you?” Whilst I grumpily thought that it might have been a better day if I had slept a little longer, I realized that this guy actually meant well. What the hell, he did not realize that I was a Tamilian; after all we are all Madrasis aren’t we? So what’s the problem? The problem is most (oh okay a lot really) of advertising that is created in the North of India (oh okay include Mumbai as well) has a similar haziness about the people of South India and consequently has little impact on people like me.

Can’t read, write or speak

I was born and brought up in the city (?) of Madras as it used to be called in those days. My generation grew up right in the middle of the ‘anti Hindi agitation’. Several of my friends favorite slogan was “Hindi down, down”. Now it is not that we felt strongly about the language but used the situation to just not learn the language. Many people of my generation don’t read, write or speak the language. Of course I am one of the few that can speak a sort of language that may pass for Hindi after you have had a couple of really stiff ones. Several others of my friends would not even try. And while the next generation may be marginally better, it neither shares the prowess nor the interest of my North Indian friends in that pleasant language. So here is my question to some of the best creative minds in India. How relevant is a lot of your advertising that is conceptualized, executed and released in Hindi to most of us? Of course I need to clarify that the problem is not as intense in Karnataka or Andhra as it is in Tamil Nadu or Kerala.

The real thing takes a bus to Chennai

I am sure some of you have seen the Coke commercial. Let me with my limited powers of expression try to explain the script to you. There is a young man who wants to go home to Delhi for Diwali and is stuck without a mode of transport except a battered down bus. The people around him seem from Shillong or thereabout look at him blankly. He opens his Coke only for life to be transformed. There is music, dancing, the bottle assumes magical proportions and the bus driver who looks a lot like Hashim Amla at the age of sixty, suddenly smiles and takes him to Delhi in the same bus which now looks like a golden chariot. I am sure you get the drift. Now I am hardly the target audience for Coke, so I don’t want to get into the effectiveness of the ad, but am only going to talk about the same ad in Tamil. Everything else is the same. The same cute kid stranded in the Himalayas, the same bemused Tibetan faces, the same Pathan driver and what is the difference. The kid wants to go to Chennai? From the Himalayas? Give me a break or better still a Pepsi! And mind you most Tamilians like me have seen the original and the translation (?) if you can call it that.

Is there a better way?

The average commercial conceptualized in Hindi and translated into Tamil is badly done. The translators must have been banished from Tamil Nadu in the sixties, so stilted are their expressions. It is compounded by Shah Rukh Khan speaking Tamil, or someone doing a passable imitation of him. The Khans mean nothing in our neck of the woods which Coke realized years ago. Our celebrities are different as are our aspirations, as someone said “it is a different country”. While that may be an exaggeration, there is no denying the fact that it needs attention. Asian Paints did a Pongal commercial over twenty years ago, which was created in Tamil for Tamilians. The same Asian paints did a wonderful translation of the Sunil Bhai commercial which became part of the local lingo. The Cadburys Dairy Milk Diwali commercial is a brilliant example of communication that is targeted and created for this market. Tamilians want to be spoken to in their language. Period.

I know enough about arguments about production costs and how Tamil Nadu is just another market. But a one size fits all, cannot work in this country with its diversity, complexity and language bias. Who said advertising was easy?

Talk to me in my language and I will listen and better still buy from you. Don’t pass me hand me downs or concepts created for the cow belt! There was a time when mobile phone manufacturers shipped those models that did not sell in other parts of the world. Now what do they do? They launch here as India is the happening market. Tamil Nadu could well be your happening market, if you are ready to recognize and more importantly accept it. On our terms! We are a very considerate people you see!!!

Ramanujam Sridhar

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Of older marketers, young consumers

How should the former overcome the age gap and speak convincingly to the latter?.

India's Gen Y is a complex kind that believes in self-advancement as much through education as through Indian Idol, is unashamedly self-absorbed, highly networked and lives life in a melting pot - how can marketers, usually much older, connect?

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak at the WAN IFRA conference at Jaipur on Gen Y in India, their hopes, fears, aspirations and on how marketers could reach out better to them. When my family heard of this opportunity to go to Jaipur, they asked me in their usual polite manner: “Do you do anything other than give speeches?” The Ramanujam family can never be accused of tact! Whenever I hear statements like this and it is quite often, I gently remind them that I am in the communications business and if delivering speeches and presentations isn't communication then what is! Personally, I learn a lot more from preparations for assignments like this.

Like in this case, I was able to look at several studies such as the Nielsen-India Today study on youth which was extremely illuminating and which has been used in this piece. Be that as it may, let us return to Gen Y and see if we can crack the code. I must, however, confess that I am perhaps not the best person qualified to understand this generation. Fifty-seven-year-olds are hardly the best judges of twenty-somethings, are they? My only qualification, perhaps, is that I have two sons aged 26 and 23 and my endeavour to understand them over the years has probably resulted in my only true sign of wisdom, a balding head!

But on a more serious note, is there a simple way to classify today's youth? In the mid-Nineties, Bajaj had done its second Hamara Bajaj ad which some of you might recall. Let me attempt to jog your memory. It has images of guys in motorcycles who drive around a rangoli so as not to disturb the pattern, guys in grungy T-shirts carrying sitars, a girl removing her hand from the boy's leg as she sees an older person on the road … The whole commercial, in my view at least, represented Indian youth of that time - traditional and yet modern, conservative and yet contemporary. In one word, the youth of the Nineties was being modern within the constraints of Indian culture and tradition. They would neither go completely overboard, nor would they rock the boat. Brilliant, I thought, and a nice depiction of young India.

In 2010, however, I feel that such a depiction might be an oversimplification of a complex breed of people. So what makes young India tick, what are their beliefs and what should India do to reach out to this generation?

The marketing challenge of India

At the risk of carrying coal to Newcastle we need to remind ourselves that we have the youngest population in the world and one-fourth of the world's youth population lives here. The good news is that 50 per cent of the Indian population will be under 30 even in 2015. But then what's the bad news? The people who are marketing to these people are much older. Vice-presidents of marketing are in their forties, managing directors are in their fifties and the customers who are buying products and services are in their twenties! And how old are editors of newspapers and magazines? I would much rather not answer that! Given this reality, what should companies do? I think they should start by marshalling their knowledge on Generation Y. What does today's youth brigade believe in?

The power of education

“A person who is better educated has more power.” The youth of today strongly believes in the power of education, even if on occasion, parents have to reinforce this belief! The success rates in IITs and IIMs are as low as 2 per cent! But clearly statistics like these do not prevent four lakh students from appearing for the IIT and a few days ago two lakh students appeared for the CAT (incidentally, a smaller number than last year). This desire to improve themselves through education is as old as the hills, but it is heartening to note that the vast Indian middle-class seems to have passed down this value to the next generation as well.

There is another new dimension to this desire for advancement, though. People believe that talent hunts like Indian Idol are the way to self-advancement. Indian Idol, for instance, had two lakh applicants and over 20,000 people were called for auditions. It is not uncommon for people to drop out of college for a year to participate in the talent hunt that will push to them to a completely new level of recognition and rewards. Young India does not believe that education is the only way.

The other important point of view is that today's Indian youth can no longer afford to “live with what he/ she has been born with”. The desire to look better is perhaps more in evidence today than ever before. An insight that brands such as Fair and Lovely have used for years and continue to do even today. Remember the controversial air-hostess commercial? Witness too, the number of fairness cream brands and cosmetic brands in the marketplace today compared to a decade ago, and the share of shelf, wallet and mind that these brands seem to enjoy. Today's youth too seems to be far more conscious of their physical well-being (if not their mental). On the rare occasions that I have gone to the gym I have been surrounded by twenty-year-olds building their bodies and toning their muscles. That's admirable but what is not is the fact that they keep referring to me as ‘uncle' despite all my attempts to look young and “with it”. Even as we speak of the younger generation we need to mention that older people are trying their hardest to appear younger. Mothers wish to appear like younger sisters of their daughters and brands such as Santoor appeal to this desire.

No longer chilled out

Our generation had its fair share of youngsters inspired by Woodstock. We talked of ‘discovering ourselves' and admired the backpack generation, though none of us owned backpacks unlike every second youngster of today. Yet some of us were chilled out, aloof and distant. Not so the current generation. Theirs is an inclusive life and unlike our generation that stayed exclusively and was friends with people who spoke the same language and belonged to the same socio-economic classification, this generation is networked. It is an inclusive group and has friends who speak different languages, come from different cultures and accepts all quite easily. It is perhaps in this context that the Idea Cellular commercial should be viewed. Have you seen the commercial where a Malayali goes to Mumbai and a Malayali lands up in Punjab … A brilliant execution of a powerful insight which must appeal to youth, certainly.

Are 24 hours enough?

How does Generation Y spend its time? Research from the Omnicom MediaGroup suggests that youth need more than 24 hours to a day. This generation has given a new dimension to multitasking. It wakes up (usually late) and reads supplements with the TV on. Continues to chat and blog with the TV on. Reality shows seem to fascinate them. Spend time at multiplexes (usually in class time), hang out in pubs and in Bangalore, at least, make their way to Café Coffee Day after the pub closes down at 11 p.m., organises and attends college fests and contests. They are plugged in all the time – either on the mobile or on their computer. If they have a quota of free SMSes that mobile service providers offer, that is usually run through by 9 a.m.!

Of course, as a parent, I wonder when they study or attend class. But this is not about how older people spend their time worrying, but about how younger people spend their time living! There is an interesting statistic about the younger generation that will have some relevance to marketers. Almost 50 per cent of the younger population goes to sleep post midnight as compared to older people who are between 30 and 45 years, where the percentage is just about 19 per cent.

Clearly (and sadly) the older generation seems to have things to do during the day like work! But this has interesting implications for marketers. Should the definition of ‘prime time' for youth be redefined to, say, 11p.m.? Newspaper owners have been keen to get their newspapers to their readers before the crack of dawn (never mind the fact that sleepy towns like Bangalore do not have such good fortune) as that was the time that the average Indian was at his brightest and most alert. What about Generation Y? When has it been up at the crack of dawn unless they are winding up after a party! So should newspapers come up with a late night edition only for this generation?

Interesting and yet incomplete … Read more in the next issue.

Ramanujam Sridhar

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Does the chaos around the CWG harm the Nation Brand?

Ramanujam Sridhar on the Common Wealth Games and how it might harm or enhance "Brand India"