Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why e-commerce ad spends will be runaway success this festive season

E-commerce space took off spectacularly well last Diwali with small as well big e-commerce players in a no holds barred ad spend spree, and if media reports are to be believed both Flipkart and Snapdeal are looking for 1 billion dollar (Rs 6,300 crore) funding each from their current investors. Negotiations have been going on for more than six months now and as per industry sources; they are expected to close the fund raise typically by mid-August or late August, which will be before Diwali. So, with more money coming into the market, it will fuel ad spends during the festive season.
Also reportedly, most of these e-comm portals, including Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong and others, reported poor Q1 sales numbers. As a result of this, there will be immense pressure on the top e-tailers to offer good discounts, so that the e-comm players can make the most of it during the Diwali season. 

Media planners and ecommerce players we spoke to said that the ad spends by the e-commerce sector alone could go as high as Rs 1,300 crore in 2015.
Higher ad spends this festive season is the popular industry opinion

Sam Balsara, Chairman & Managing Director, Madison World said, “Yes I am amazed at the number of businesses that are coming into the advertising market and they want to advertise with quite decent size budget for start-ups. This is the key and the new phenomenon which kind of began to happen about two years back and is now slightly happening on a wider scale. One of the reasons why most of the growth will happen this year is because of business. Otherwise there could be de-growth, because last year whatever the growth was, 7-8% was because of the Elections and this year the money is going to go away.”

Nabendu Bhattacharya, MD of Milestone Brandcom highlighted, “I keep on reading reports everyday that the e-comm majors are eyeing for funding. So it is like the flavour of the season and everybody is trying to build their brand and visibility is the key. During Diwali, there is a huge clutter in the market and we have clients, who have started asking us to book the space for the September to the November time frame. Many of these e-comm players work on a weekend module, and all these players would want to move into the Diwali season, when a lot of buying happens for the household. There is a huge demand this time; otherwise, booking space for the festive season from now on is not the typical OOH phenomenon. My belief is that all the advertisers will have a fantastic time this festive season.”

Rajiv Dingra, Founder & CEO, WATConsult feels that the entire 1 billion dollar will go in ad spends alone. He informed that, “In digital, you need a month’s time in advance, so if you need something by Diwali, which is on 11th November, then you should start working by October 11. So in another 15-20 days, when these players will have their funding in place, we will get to see a lot of pitches happening. In many ways, they may not change their creative agencies so much, but there could be a room for a lot of these individual creative agencies to get projects.”
He further added, “Ecommerce will be an always on function, and it may differ from quarter to quarter, I think the reason where they have reached is because investors have the vision that, come what may, we have to grow the pie, in this case, funding actually becomes irrelevant. It is a market making strategy and they want everyone to buy through e-commerce. As the e-comm system, user base and inventory is built up, people will buy from places where it is available. As this attitude becomes more common place, the pie will grow and they will get more investments. Look at it from the investor’s point of view, I am happy putting, a billion more where I have already invested 2 billion, than investing 10 million, where I have not invested.”

Shamsuddin Jasani, MD, Isobar, said “Absolutely, with Diwali approaching there will be a huge spike in terms of all the e-comm players spending, both in terms of mindset of the consumers, when they would like to spend money in buying things, as well as the e-comm guys, who would like to drive home the point that e-commerce is here to stay. And this Diwali is going to be a blockbuster season and you are going to see records being broken, in terms of sales.”

Echoing similar views, Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-comm feels that there will be more ads spends. “Infact many of these e-comm portals hardly did any kind of advertisements, till they got funding. Funding is all about getting eyeballs and customers, so unless you do advertising, you won’t be able to get that. “I have heard from a lot of these brick and mortar brands and the strong ones infact, that they have been quite concerned about the e-comm sites offering discounts. But all these e-comm sites should try and do advertisements differently; right now it is completely discounts and offer led. The merit of advertising is not in bringing the name of the brand across, but in building an affinity towards the brand. Probably there is pressure from the VCs in getting more sales and footfalls, that is the reason the ads are more discounts led.”

Mobile, digital to benefit more?

Bhattacharya stated that, today advertising is all about being in consumer’s mind space and whoever shouts the most, will win the battle. “Also Diwali for brands is no longer those 2 days when the consumers will be at home, it starts much before that. So placements on the way to office, near the malls will be very important, also apps are turning to be a huge rage. Today, investors don’t mind spending money, but they will like to know, what will be the return of their investments- in terms of the sales and the leads.”
Dingra is of the opinion that, since today it is all about creating the buzz, so lot of mobile impact innovations will get leverage, brands like InMobi and Vserv could get business, because mobile is where these e-comm players are all going. Since Diwali communication is mostly about being visual, ad spends will happen over a lot of mobile-led ad networks and video led ad networks.
According to Sridhar, a lot of these e-commerce brands are now using YouTube for their promotions. The recent one was Myntra’s Anouk ‘Bold is Beautiful’ and since they chose the topic of homosexuality, it helped them to grab eyeballs and the video became viral. So I think we will see more brands using YouTube now on for their advertising.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Go digital

Want a career in marketing? Plump for digital marketing, advise Prasun Chaudhuri and  
Avijit Chatterjee
You must have seen those pop up ads (“Big Chillout Sales”, “Rocking Deals”, “How to Make Money Driving” and so on) on your smartphone screen. Ever wondered who is responsible for the ads? And who posts those notices about study centres in your Gmail inbox, Facebook page or on Twitter just after you’ve sought some career advice via the email?
This is the work of digital marketing professionals — a new breed of people who promote products or brands on one or more forms of the electronic media.
Rimjhim Ray — who co-founded Unmarketeer, an integrated creative and digital marketing company in Mumbai — is a primary example of a digital marketer. Her work is to create the most appropriate promotional campaign for new media channels, namely, the social media and mobile phones.
 “I can measure how these campaigns are being viewed, and what content works and doesn’t work — typically in real time,” she says.
How does Ray find out what might interest one of India’s 600 million users of smartphones, tablets, notebooks or personal computers (PC)? “We listen to what people are saying,” she says.
It is relatively easy to spot what people are talking about in the digital world, what they love or hate, as you learn about them from their public profiles. So you can find out what a teenage audience likes or where a 25-year-old upwardly mobile woman is going for a holiday, all from Internet queries or searches.
Analysts source the information and pass it to creative teams that design campaigns based on what's trending. “You use videos, interactive banners, social media posts, mobile phone games and animations to hook the audience. There’s an immense variety here,” Ray says.
The variety attracts young people to the field. “If you look at the placement records of top tech and B-schools you’ll find that youngsters look for novelty, challenges and the excitement of creating a new world order,” says Prapti Banerjee, a director at Blippar India, a global marketing and advertising agency.
The burgeoning field covers a range of activities — marketing in the social media, search engine optimization, web and mobile applications, data mining and so on. As Ramabhadran AP, senior vice-president, Manipal Global Education Services, puts it, “Every product is available online today — from a toothbrush to a house. So a person can choose his or her area of work from a wide variety of options.”
Digital marketing is exploding the world over, especially in the developed world. “But only 19 per cent of Indians are active Internet users — we haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg,” exclaims Banerjee. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), an industry body, digital advertisement spending in India grew by 30 per cent to Rs 2,750 crore in 2014 and is expected to grow phenomenally in the next few years.
“The growth trajectory shows that this is gradually becoming the mainstay of marketing,” says Nilotpal Chakravarti, associate vice-president, IAMAI. Agrees Shivan Bhargava, group president (skills and careers), NIIT. “These days no marketing strategy is complete without digital marketing. Almost all companies use it to build their brands and generate sales. The best thing about digital marketing is that it is specifically targeted, easily traceable and cost effective compared to television and print media ads,” he says.
The situation reminds experts of early 2000 when the IT industry was at its peak. “A similar momentum exists today in this field,” says Pradeep Chopra who heads Digital Vidya, a New Delhi-based digital marketing training institute. “Every week we get calls from leading agencies wishing to hire trained people.” Bhargava estimates that over 1.5 lakhs jobs will be created by 2016.
The online revolution happened so fast in India that there’s an acute dearth of talent, feels Raghu Chaitanya, an assistant professor at MICA, the Ahmedabad-based institute of strategic marketing and communication. “We were the first in India to introduce specialisation in digital communication management (DCM),” he says.
Although having a background in IT, which helps in the back-end of the digital ecosystem, offers a slight advantage in the field, a complete understanding of marketing fundamentals will help a professional do well, he believes. MICA has been approached by a large number of recruiters from the digital media — such as Google, Amazon and Cognizant Technologies  — in recent years.
At the managerial level, skills in both technology and marketing help to integrate traditional campaigns with the digital world, says Anthony Quigley, co-founder, Digital Marketing Institute, UK. “Marketing through mobile phones is in crying need of appropriate professionals,” he says.
To meet the rising demand one needs to groom the right talent to come up with innovative ideas, says Sudeep Sen of Teamlease, the Bangalore-based recruitment firm. 
However, few good institutes exist to train people and one must be wary of fly-by-night operators capitalising on the demand, warns Ramabhadran of Manipal Education. “These institutes offer shallow courses to dupe students,” he says.
For all the hoopla, not all are gung ho about digital marketing. Ramanujam Sridhar, head of Brand-comm, the brand consulting company, believes that it is “one of the main cogs” in the marketing of any brand, but not “all” about marketing or communication.
Some also caution those wannabe digital marketers who believe the field is all glamour and fun.
It’s not just about a few posts here and there, stresses Vismaya Jain, a student of MICA, who recently interned with a top company. “Multiple analytical tools are involved, metrics to be benchmarked and ‘likes’ to be measured. Extensive strategies are employed and plans are made weeks in advance.”
Besides, entry level salaries are still lower than those offered in similar roles in the traditional marketing domain. Yet the “huge potential and scope for big things” in the near future draws Jain and thousands of other youngsters towards this new profession.
• MICA, Ahmedabad:
• IIM-Bangalore:
• Manipal Global:
• Digital Vidya:
• Digital Marketing Institute, UK:
• Calcutta Media Institute:  
E-commerce, advertising, media, marketing, social media, banking, insurance, consumer products, telecom, entertainment
Entry level: Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh
Mid-level: Rs 5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh
Senior level: Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh
Source: TeamLease Services
Technical: Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Mobile phone Marketing, Application (or, app) Marketing, Data Analytics
Non-technical: Creative thinking, Communicating, Photo0editing, Commercial Awareness

How an MBA student can be a brand

It is important to think of the future and that means thinking about what direction you will take

A marketing career seems something that you could give an arm and a leg for if reports are to be believed. It is all about glamour, travel, commercials being shot in New Zealand and celebrity shoots with Priyanka Chopra! Well while some of it may be true it may include van trips in UP with the salesman selling detergents. To sum up marketing can mean travel not only to exotic places, strange food, and dusty roads but it could also give you an opportunity to meet new people, learn different languages and customs but more significantly grow faster and earn more than some of your classmates at management school.

Who should get into marketing?

Before we understand your suitability for marketing it is first important to debug some classic myths about marketing and its people.
Myth no 1.
Marketing people are smooth talking, chain smoking, and beer guzzling people.... what a clanger that is! Marketing people or the smarter ones think before they speak. They are hardly the hail fellow, well met but people who have strong relationships with their clients and partners like dealers.
Myth no2.
Marketing is sales. Hardly, marketing is about branding, advertising, distribution, pricing, market research and a whole lot more.
So if you are to be successful in marketing, you need to be interested in products, people and their behaviour. You must be willing to travel, definitely from your home town and be open to different people, languages, food and cultures.
You must be a good communicator who is constantly willing to learn and make mistakes. Your mind must be constantly alert to new opportunities and behaviour changes. Why are people buying more and more stuff online today is one such question that must interest you.

So what must you do?

If you are a first year student, it would help if you did your projects, internships and just about everything in marketing. Be a part of social media groups of the community. Read the business sections of the newspapers and definitely the trade web sites like exchange4media and Agencyfaqs. Definitely do your two month summer project in marketing.
In the second year do a specialisation in marketing which will give you an understanding of the whole process - sales management, brand management, advertising, distribution and product management definitely and certainly market research. Audit courses if you find yourself unable to do everything that the institute offers. Push your student representatives to do marketing seminars and workshops.

You are what you know

I hate talking about myself but I must make a point here. In my two years at management school I took it upon myself to read every book on advertising that was there in the IIM Bangalore library and testimony to that is the power of my spectacles! But seriously today you are more fortunately placed. Everything that you need to know is on the tip of your fingers thanks to Google. And yet a word of caution is in order here. Not everything you read on the net is gospel truth. Anyone can post an opinion online and often some people have an agenda. So sift through information, ask questions in class and during guest lectures and read text books as they are more reliable.

What do you want to do?

I was clear I wanted to do advertising. I was in love with that. Nothing else mattered. So my choice was simple. Yours may not be so simple. You need to research, speak to your teachers, the guest faculty and your seniors to understand the job market place. Where do the opportunities exist? Is it sales or is it logistics thanks to the Flipkarts of the world. Is it analytics which points you to the direction of market research? Remember that these are important choices. But in management school look for a combination of subjects which will help your career and don’t be fixated with a specialization. Choose carefully. So consumer behaviour for instance would be attractive to me as it would help me in my marketing career even if it meant I sacrificed another course in a different stream.

Be inspired

All around us are words of wisdom and success stories of people who have been there done that. Try to understand their life paths and career choices. David Ogilvy was a cook before he became the greatest copywriter of his time. Remember too that every experience, every learning will have some value somewhere. Make the most of your two years at management school and soon enough you will provide value to your employer and those around you.
Welcome to the world of ideas and innovation!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To finish what Lodha panel initiated, BCCI should force the sale of CSK, RR

Make no mistake, almost nobody saw this coming. Fines – large ones – were thought to be the stiffest punishment that would be handed out to the owners of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. After all, the BCCI isn’t just the golden goose of political parties across the spectrum, the IPL boasts some of India’s richest and most powerful businessmen as team owners.
That the Lodha Committee took on that combination and scored a technical knock out will fundamentally change the way cricket is run in the country. This is a clear message that the BCCI can no longer hide behind the Chinese wall of being a private body. And with the Lodha committee’s recommendations on BCCI reform still to come, it appears the storming of the bastion has only just begun.
BCCI photo
BCCI photo
These are good things for Indian cricket. That the board needs a thorough cleansing is obvious to almost everyone. What isn’t obvious is what to do about the two teams in question: CSK and RR.
The committee made it clear that the financial considerations of the players was not material in their decision.
“If cricket is bigger than the individuals who play the game, then the loss is insignificant in our opinion,” Justice Lodha said.
And to be fair, the fate of the players, and even the league, should not have been a concern to the committee. They did their job. But it is of material concern to both the BCCI and the fans.
The great irony here is the CSK is the most popular team in the country. To lose the team, even for two years, will have a ripple affect on the popularity of the league as a whole. And while the Rajasthan Royals do not have the same cross-country appeal as CSK, they have created the image of the loveable underdog that always plays hard (Sreesanth, Ankit Chavan and Ajit Chandila excepted) and is willing to scrap with the big dogs.
Both teams also possess two icons of Indian cricket in MS Dhoni and Rahul Dravid, who have their own legions of devoted fans.
“If you were to do Test cricket without Australia, this is really how it is,” Sridhar Ramanujam, the ceo of Brand-Comm, a brand consultancy firm, told Firstpost. “In terms of what Australia brings to the table in terms of attitude and so on, that is what CSK brings to the table.
“In terms of Rajasthan, thanks to more than anything else, Rahul Dravid and what he brings, and that so many youngsters have trained there and reached whatever level they have, I would say two very important teams have gone out.
“It is a serious blow.”
To put it plainly, the IPL cannot afford to lose them, not even for a short period of time.
While the BCCI has floated the possibility of bringing back the terminated Kochi and Pune franchises, this only addresses the problem of numbers of teams in the league. Neither Kochi nor Pune have the social cache of CSK and RR. And then there is the moral issue of the board having evicted these teams from the league before and refused to consider a replacement before now. To go with begging bowl in hand at this stage would send a poor message.
Auctioning two new teams would mean new brands would have to be created from scratch and new followings built. Admittedly, the board did it with Deccan Chargers, which is now Sunrisers Hyderabad. But the stakes were not the same.
The most credible solution, though one that it is hard to see the BCCI implementing, is to force India Cements and Jaipur Cricket to sell their teams to buyers who promise to keep them in the same cities.
For precedent, the BCCI can turn to the NBA, which forced Donald Sterling, the owner of the the Los Angeles Clippers, to sell the team last year after he was recorded making racist comments about African-American basketball players. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, moved quickly to establish the facts of the case and then the league got together and the other owners agreed to vote out Sterling out of the league.
Before you feel sorry for Sterling, he sold the team for $2 billion, which is not a bad consolation prize.
There are plenty of industrial houses who want to be part of the IPL, so it won’t be hard to find buyers, especially for teams such as CSK and RR. Besides, having tainted owners in the league ought not to be in the board’s interest.
Given the fallout of the Lodha Committee verdict, this appears to be the least messy way to protect the players, the fans and the league. Of course, given the power dynamics in the board, it is unlikely the BCCI will ever consider it.

Public Relations as a career

The growth prospects are excellent and there is a shortage of quality talent

The only reason (?, many of us go to management school is to get the sort of job that will give us a head start  in our career and hopefully  in our life as well. Of course, certain careers tend to be the “flavour of the season” like software was a few years ago, dot com was earlier, retail was for a short while and now ecommerce is. Yet sadly the tendency for many of us is to “follow the herd” even if some of us conveniently tend to fool ourselves at least by thinking we are smartly riding the wave and ensuring we don’t miss the bus. And yet the reality is that certain industries are ignored by some of us as we don’t know enough about these industries to make a considered choice.

So what exactly is Public Relations?

Sadly, Public Relations has a fair amount of myths around it aided and abetted by some of our seniors in the profession who did little to dispel those myths. Many of the Public Relations professionals in the Public sector spent a lot of their time doing hotel bookings and air tickets for their bosses and moaned about it. This is not what Public Relations is all about. Some others spent a lot of time “wining and dining” the media mistaking that to be Public Relations. Whilst good relations with the media is an integral part of the public relations, my view is that irrespective of what happened in the past today these are professional relationships and don’t need to be lubricated with food and drink. Having discussed what public relations is not; let us move on to what it actually is. Public Relations is all about managing your image with relevant publics - whether they be customers, investors, employees (both present and prospective) or activists and a whole host of others like opinion makers. And the reality is that people wish to work for companies with a better image, people will invest in companies that are written about and customers will buy from companies that are better known. And a better image does not happen by accident or mere good fortune but usually does with a clear, well articulated public relations strategy and effective execution. And finally what is the difference between advertising and public relations? Advertising is paid for. I tell the world I am good through my ads but there is a lot more source credibility when the “Business Line” rates my company as a great place to work. And this is the industry which in my opinion needs management graduates.

Is a communication school better for Public Relations?

The reality is that communication schools do a much better job of preparing young people for jobs in public relations as they do expose them to the theory which is a good starting point and also gives them exposure to the related fields of communication like advertising, events, journalism, etc all of which prepares you for the job. Sadly management school does not teach any of these subjects and that is the challenge that many MBAs do not even wish to take and it is to this breed that I am reaching out through this column. Remember when you do management you learn so many things that will help you bridge the learning gap quicker. But why must you consider public relations as a career when so many others are there welcoming you with open arms?

Why Public Relations?

The greatest thing about Public Relations is that you won’t get bored in it as you learn about different industries. One day you will be launching the sexiest pair of lingerie that has been ever invented whilst on the next you will be fighting the crisis of a CEO of a client leaving to join the competition. Of course you do have the scenario where you could specialise in certain verticals like technology for instance. Of course do not even consider the profession if your written or oral communication skills are not of a high standard. Remember this is part of the communication industry and these skills are what we describe as “hygiene factors” or the minimum requirement.

So what is the problem?

The problem is that a Public Relations like advertising does not pay well at the early stages and to some of you who have taken a bank loan to do your management it will hurt. But the growth prospects are excellent. Also the very nature of the business seems to attract women and you will find a lot of women holding very senior positions in this industry. But finally I have a clinching argument which may upset some of my peers in the industry. Sadly the industry has such a paucity of talent presently that bright young things like you will give us a run for our money and teach us a thing or two.
So what’s the verdict? Will you promise to think about it?

Flipkart’s new employee-friendly policies a step in the right direction, say industry experts

In the past few days, the $11billion e-commerce giant, Flipkart is not only trending on all the social media sites, but is also getting a lot of positive attention for the numerous employee friendly initiatives it has come up with. After the announcement of the new Maternity Policy, which entitles a mother for a 6-month paid leave, an extended 1 year leave (career break without pay), reimbursement and other benefits, the company announced its new Adoption policy on Monday. Under this policy, employees are eligible for paid adoption leave and Rs 50,000 adoption allowance to use towards legal, agency and regulatory costs or any other costs that may arise during the adoption process. Also the adoption leave for mothers are the same amount of time as maternity leave policy, which is (6 months paid leave + 4 months of flexible working hours). 

Commenting on the recent policy announcements, Chief People Officer, Mekin Maheshwari, Flipkart highlighted, "At Flipkart, we want to create a world class work environment. We want to support women employees, achieve work-life balance as they continue to focus on their careers. With the introduction of these policies, Flipkart aims to create a safe, secure and an inclusive work atmosphere."

According to a recent media report, some of the other big companies like Accenture gives 22 weeks of paid maternity leave, and eight weeks of fully paid adoption leave for primary caregivers of an adopted child. Google offers new mothers up to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave and seven weeks as adoption leave. It also reimburses up to Rs.10, 000 in expenses related to adoption. Vodafone has 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and one working week of paternity leave, but no adoption policy.

arish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults said, “An excellent move by Flipkart for sure. The signals are right and positions Flipkart as an employee-friendly company that does believe that it runs because of its employees, and not despite them, as some companies imagine.”

Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-comm commented, “Bangalore is like the e-commerce and start-up capital of India and currently there is a lot of activity taking place in the e-commerce space. Flipkart has the most prominent and the successful story to share, successful not in the sense of their Profit &Loss sheet, but in terms of creating and introducing concepts. People working at Flipkart are those who are tried and tested in a very competitive environment and they know how to meet the everyday customer demand. So these policy announcements are to protect and ensure that the backbone of the company, employees are well taken care of.”

Nitin Mantri, President, PRCAI (Public Relations Consultants Association of India) and CEO, Avian Media feels that today companies are looking at different ways for retention and in any organisation; working mothers form the core employees. “So such kind of employee friendly initiatives, not only increases the loyalty of employees but is also beneficial for the company, in terms of the cost involved. (It is going to cost a company more if you are going to hire new people as against if you decide to retain your old employee.) E-commerce is a space which goes through high attrition rate and the employable talent is also very limited. So steps taken by Flipkart are in the right direction,” he said.

On the other hand, Bansi Raja, Happiness Officer, Gozoop (recently recognised as one of the top 100 best companies to work with by The Great Places to Work Study in association with The Economic Times.) said, “While Flipkart’s new policy will not lead to any drastic difference helping to retain employees, it is a commendable initiative for those who've been long pondering on the thought of adopting a child. The 6 month paid leave for adoptive parents’ shows great support & greater job security. Employee friendly policies must be deeply meaningful to make a difference. Building a great workplace is about creating an environment where your people can thrive to be their best and find satisfaction in doing so. If our focus lies in that, policies like these may not be necessary."

Non-monetary Employee benefits
Some of the new e-commerce players like ShopClues and Sports give non-monetary benefits to their employees, to keep them happy and also increase their loyalty towards the company.

Radhika Aggarwal, Co-founder and Chief Business Officer, ShopClues said, “We have a holistic employee wellness policy. We have a corporate tie up with premium gyms and fitness studios to encourage our employees to lead a fit life. We arrange for regular health camps, nutrition talks, dental check-ups & self-defense workshop for female employees. Over the last one year, we have managed to attract top talent from different industries thanks to its employee-friendly work environment. Human Resource Policies such as flexi-timing, liberal leave policies, ample reward and recognition opportunities have played an important role in the high retention rates.”

Ashutosh Chaudhari - Co-Founder and Vice President, elaborated, “Talking about the Flipkart’s new policies, there are very few companies in today’s world who make such kind of policies and benefits for their employees and the Adoption Policy is one of the noble benefits for the society as well. Due to hectic and stressful corporate life there are many cases where the couples can’t experience the feel of parenthood but of course at any moment of time they can adopt a kid and make someone’s life.  This kind of allowance will boost the morale of the parents who will have a second thought for such kind of decision. Building such kind of confidence among employees takes lot of time and investment but the strategies taken by Flipkart are really commendable.”

“We being a sports company, every month we conduct one sports activity wherein all employees either male or female have to participate. Also, all the employees have to keep a track of their health and these points play a very important role in an individual performance appraisal discussion.  The reason is we believe that a healthy brain lives in a healthy body”, he cited.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Live Issue: Have instant noodles taken a hit with Maggi?

Live Issue: Have instant noodles taken a hit with Maggi?
Nestle and Maggi have been in the news ever since food safety authorities declared in mid-May that they found lead and MSG content in two packets of Maggi instant noodles. While Nestle shares fell, the company announced a product recall even before the government announced a ban. While Maggi certainly is off shelves, some other noodles brands were in the news too, for similar wrong reasons.
Some ad and marketing pros believe it’s not just Maggi, but the whole instant noodles category that could be hurt because of dented consumer perception.
Anisha Motwani, director and chief marketing officer, head – marketing, digital and direct sales, Max Life Insurance, says, “Maggi has been the category generic and was considered the Holy Grail. Given that other players are me-toos, it is only fair to expect that consumers will think that if Maggi is unfit for consumption, so would the others. I think the question is – will the category recover from this? Will there be a new leader who convinces consumers that it is safe and can be trusted? Or can Maggi change its processes and image, and come back slowly but surely and once again become one of mom’s favorite resorts for hungry kids during non-meal times?”
Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO, brand-comm, agrees with Motwani. He says, “Yes, there is a problem for the other brands too. When you look at it from the consumer’s point of view, it’s about health and that too of the kids (who these brands target). So, brands have to err on the side of excessive caution. If anything, the category has to follow stricter laws and rules for itself. This may lead to temporary issues, but it’s better in the long run.”
Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer, Grey Group, South and South East Asia, believes it’s not only the category of instant noodles alone, but packaged food that will be affected. He says, “There’s no question about the instant noodles category affected. The suspicion is on the entire packaged food segment. Consumers are asking questions now. Even regulators are looking at other brands in other categories. They (other brands) need to inlook within themselves rather than start communication. They need to make sure everything that’s in their product formulation is healthy. We’ve lived with a regime that almost everything was okay, and now the first step has to be looking inside.”
Praful Akali, founder and managing director, Medulla Communications (a healthcare agency), believes that other brands in the category shouldn’t try being ‘loud’ during this period. He reasons that if they do, they would be perceived by consumers as being part of the controversy.
He explains, “It has occupied a lot of conversation – which isn’t based on robust information, so it’s passing through to instant noodles and probably even other packaged food. Essentially, given the extent of the fear, any brand that directly talks about it, will get connected to the scare. Therefore as a brand, from a PR perspective, it makes sense not to say anything out loud at all. Even if you’re saying positive stuff, you’re linking yourself to this issue. Therefore at least on a conversational front, brands should lie low right now. All brands should get their products tested through independent agencies and keep the results ready and available in the future as a backup. Obviously, one needs to be very careful.”
Chlorophyll Brand and Communication’s co-founder, Kiran Khalap, is of a different opinion though. He says, “I think the government will investigate everybody and it depends on what happens after that. If the others are proven guilty, then, yes, they’ll be affected. Else, it’s like what happened in the chocolate market with Cadbury. Amul and the others weren’t affected. Even when Pepsi and Coke went into the pesticide war, Thums Up wasn’t affected.”
Anisha Motwani, director and chief marketing officer, head – marketing, digital and direct sales, Max Life Insurance
“It is imperative for other brands to come out clean, to disclose their ingredients and manufacturing processes, to ensure that the rub-off doesn’t happen to them. Circumventing the issue or staying silent only confirms consumers’ perceptions that they too are as much the culprits as Nestle.
Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO, brand-comm
“Rules have to be uniform for all the players and be transparent too. I’m reading other brands like Knorr are being withdrawn too. Everyone will need to be careful. Manufacturer, media, government, consumers – all need to know what is in the food. We still don’t know what’s the correct picture. We’re not moving forward.”
Praful Akali, founder and managing director of Medulla Communications
“It seems like the category is taking a hit for certain. It is natural given the extent of the scare that has happened around this particular situation. It’s been hyped to a large extent and there’s a scare and fear around consumers.”
Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communication
“The problem is that there’s some confusion on the purity standard. There’s no common ground as to who is testing what.”
Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer, Grey Group, South and South East Asia
“Once you know you’re on the healthy side, go out and talk about it. They need to reassure the consumers that what they’re eating is fine. Once the health checks are done, then, the brand should step out and communicate it.”
(This first appeared in the 26 June issue of Campaign India)