Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Sep 2010, SEN-SEXY

The BSE Sensex (Bombay Stock Exchange Index) hit 19000 yesterday.

Is this a bull run/ irrational exuberance? Foreign investor play??

Here is our take on it.

We looked at the evolution of the sensex since 2003, the time when the Indian economy really took off and in the period 2003-2011 has been growing at about 8% per year. (please use attached link to see how the sensex has evolved)


Given that agriculture grew between 2-3 % in this period, it is safe to assume that the industrial sector grew in excess of 12% on average.

The companies listed on the SENSEX which are BLUE CHIP, therefore had to grow 20% in this period for the sensex to reach 19000 by the end (almost of 2010). Not so unrealistic after all.

We think that if we as Indians held on to our balls and stopped looking for external excuses (FIIs) to explain the rise of the sensex, we should simply congratulate a growing economy and its star companies for the stellar performance of the SENSEX.

We continue to invest in the stock market. India must grow at least 8% for the next 30 years to avoid a social revolution. We are betting on it.

And looking at the sensex reach 40-45000 levels by 2015.

Ritu and Venkat.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Mr. Nokia- Your enemy is my enemy, so we must be friends!

There will be a lot written about the appointment of the new Nokia CEO. Here are our thoughts.

It appears MS and Nokia will now have a very strong alliance to develop an OS for Nokia phones that will stand up to the Android menace. We guess this would be a pretty important reason this recruitment happened from Microsoft.

MS will dedicate thousands of engineers to this, Nokia will offer its mind blowing market share of phones for this noble purpose.

Question- Nokia still has a hardware design problem, and its devices dont really have the wow factor. How will Nokia address this?

Question- Why does MS need Nokia for its engineers to get inspired and make the next level of portable OS?

Question- How will this counter the Chinese threat?

Sure, it appears Stephen Elop is more eloquent, understands the US market and technology.

Question- the US market is not the growth engine for the world. India and China are.

Question- Sure the Finns are reserved, but cant believe they dont understand technology.

Sure, Nokia it appears had become slow and bureaucratic- so a shake up of the culture is in order? Who better than a North American to get this happening fast.

Nokia is a great company and its mission of 'connecting people' has put phones in the hands of billions. And it is time for a change. A time to move from product to services. A time to give away killer apps 'free'- a time to make the Apple model of application stores, irrelevant. The focus has to be all phones, not just smart phones. Or a clear statement from Nokia saying, we will not shed tears if the Chinese reduce our market share at the bottom end to single digits.

Nokia, with its huge market share, has the potential to bring application based 'life changing experiences' across all price points. That, in our view is the real game. Will they play it? Or stay focused on the competition- Apple.

Will Nokia recreate the business landscape?

If Mr Elop is able to address this challenges effectively, it will be the most incredible business transformation. Good luck.

Else we will close with this quote from research firm Garter:

In spite of his experience, some focus Elop’s background at Microsoft and worry. Research firm Garter is in “two minds” about his appointment, with vice president Nick Jones pointing out that Microsoft “has many of the same problems as Nokia in terms of innovation, especially in the smart phone business.”

Ritu and Venkat.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

fake IPL blogger- SICKO !!

Hello Mr Anupam Mukerji, the fake IPL blogger. I think you are a sicko. Get help.
And while you are at it, please invite the people at the Times of India who gave you front page cover for revealing your identity. Not one apologetic word from you- you idiot. Just what are you??

I laughed hysterically at your coverage of the IPL2. Hysterically. I thought you were the funniest dude around. But you were anonymous. A fictitious character- making fun of other people, calling them names, abusing their families- mothers and sisters....and making a serious spectacle of cricket. It was never real. But i laughed (maybe i need help too?)

Now you come out into the open- you become a real person. One claiming public accolade for your abusive language. And you dont even apologise to those you have abused. What kind of people brought you up?

You are out of your mind.

But you do hold up a mirror on our society today- do we accept people that heap abuse on others? are we able to separate fact and fiction? is it really cool to make money laughing at others, instead of at ourselves? Does the Times of India not debate this at all before speaking to their readers?

F@$%, you make Chetan Bhagat appear a rock star.

I hope 'appam' sues you. And wins.


Monday, 26 July 2010

the 'abcd' keyboard- simplifying life for your consumers.

Lava, a mobile phone brand in India recently launched 'the world's first 'adcb' phone'. The 'abcd' phone as opposed to the 'Qwerty' key-board has the alphabet arranged linearly....a,b,c,d....

Its the first of its kind in the world.

Why did they do it? Well, in our view, its simple to do....is an interesting feature and for most Indians who buy a cellphone before they learn to type, its just logical to search for alphabets serially. And there is no pain of learning to type in a new way.

Our doubt is on why the keyboard was launched on a smart-phone and not an entry level phone. The smartphone is still likely to be bought by more affluent people ( and hence with exposure to and with a habit for qwerty typing)....although this hypothesis could be challenged.

The bigger question is 'why did nokia or samsung or LG not do this?' For all the consumer insight, if you are aware that the mobile is the earlier buy (compared to a PC) .....why would you not simplify the phone experience for these 'new comers'.

Wow. We learnt a heck of a lot from this product launch.

Ritu and Venkat

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Nike Shoes and Services

Click the title above to read this interesting note by Elie Ofek in the blog.HBR.org site that we frequent. What was particularly awesome was this passage:

For the current World Cup, Nike launched its Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II. But someone that buys a pair gets more than the enhanced acceleration the new shoes are designed to provide. The shoes come with a unique user code that, once entered online, unlocks a full training program. Its Nike Football+ program was developed in conjunction with the world's leading coaches and players, and offers a myriad of video training sessions, tips, and methods for improving one's play. Programs can also be downloaded through an app to an iPhone or to other mobile web-enabled handsets to take to the field. No longer are athletes being asked to pay upwards of $300 just to have a better physical shoe; they're also getting a service that helps them become better players.

I mean, this is it. We all know the great margins are in services - ask IBM and HP and all those companies that make money on product check ups and the sort.

Now Nike goes and applies this to shoes?? Wow! What a winner of an idea.

OK Adidas, so maybe you can make a shoe of similar style. But how about the fitness program that we have packaged with the shoe?

We only hope Nike is collecting data from its new shoe that allows it to see what kind of training the users are undergoing and then build more specific packages for them.

This is a classic marketing initiative. Well done Nike! We have always advocated that consumer products should build 'services' targeted at their consumers...this is a fabulous example.

By the way, http://www.facebook.com/nikefootball#!/nikefootball?v=wall
is also one heck of an online campaign. We dont enjoy the game, but we thoroughly enjoyed this site and what Nike is trying to do. Connectivity and Empowerment. Consumers want to belong to a network, but be able to express their individuality.....beautifully captured here.
Ritu and Venkat

Thursday, 8 July 2010


"I want to work someplace less bureaucratic" i said.

"Bureaucracy is not a bad thing", said my friend, "it ensures people follow standard operating procedures. That's not bad."

"Well", i reflected. "I measure bureaucracy not by how fast messages go down the organisation chart. I measure it by how fast messages go up the organisation chart".

We both agreed on that.


Friday, 2 July 2010

EMIs- How and when to you use a monthly payment plan

We are very sure about this so any views to the contrary will be appreciated.

A leading mobile phone company launched a campaign today allowing consumers to purchase its phones in 3 equal monthly installments.

This is a leading company under attack in India from low cost phones in the mass market as well as the 'smart phone' segments.

This campaign surprised Ritu and me immensely.

Installments plans , particularly in an emerging economy, should only be used to develop a product category. And when they are used, the installments should be such that they at least equal the current alternative.

We explain:

Eg: House-ownership: It is expensive and house ownership in urban India is very low. So an EMI from banks (over 10 or 20 years) allows people to enter this category and the size of the (monthly payment) EMI usually is equal to the monthly rent paid out anyway. So the offer of home ownership is very attractive.

For mobile phones, this does not work. India has 600 mn mobile phones (estimated). So the category exists.

For a premium brand to use 3 monthly installments to bring the cost (per month) to that of the full cost of a low price competitor - this is not logical. A premium player approaching its target audience on price is a sure sign of panic.

If i cannot afford a premium product in a single payment, very very unlikely i will be able to afford it in 3 payment plans....or very unlikely i will still not be distracted by a competitor model at one third the price- with mostly all comparable features.

The campaign needs to be re-looked asap.

Ritu and Venkat

Friday, 25 June 2010

Sab Miller- Haywards beer ad in India


Sab Miller has been a late entrant into the Indian beer market. The market leader Kingfisher has positioned itself as 'the king of good times' with its ads focusing on the young generation having a great time at parties and enjoying KF beer.

Now SabMiller has launched a TV ad for its Haywards beer. And i find it remarkable. Its about a typical day for a sales rep in India who earns little, depends on the very poor public transport network and often has to travel miles and miles to make his quota. The protagonist in this ad talks about his challenges, and his enthusiasm to rise again the next day, before the sun shines- and then to outshine the sun.

A remarkable way to capture the spirit of new India.

And as he returns weary after the day's work, he looks forward to his Haywards!

What a fabulous position for a beer- as an end of day way to relax! Really beats the pants off the party positioning of KF. Really classical marketing- STP- segment the market, target a segment and position yourself uniquely.

Brilliant. Really connects with me. ( I did the sales man grind!)

On another note, here is a link to a new campaign for Pepsodent toothpaste from Unilever in India. My only thought was, 'how the mighty have fallen'. Unimaginative- boring....and as appears to be the trend for Unilever in India, relying heavily and solely on the crutches of Bollywood superstar Shah Ruck Khan. The link is below.


Friday, 18 June 2010

Segmenting the coffee market

Beyond Coffee is the maiden attempt by Hyderabad-based entrepreneurs who have created a boutique facility that blends the best of coffee seed brews and art in a tastefully done-up setting in the upmarket Jubilee Hills.

Its catchment area is the bustling IT hub of Hyderabad - the Hitec City and the neighbourhood.
(Please click title to read more on this).

So what do you want? Premium pricing- or volume market share. I am really happy to see a new player segmenting the coffee drinking market and creating an outlet that caters to clearly a 'high end consumer'. Bravo.

Cafe Coffee Day/ Costa Coffee/ Barista- all started selling coffee in India on the Starbucks model- and now are all at each others throats- serving horrible coffee in joints that see no face-lifts for months on end....No wonder same outlets sales at these joints show little or no growth at all.

On a side note, we visited Caffe Pascucci in Bangalore and found the coffee truly exceptional ( well to our CCD and Barista destroyed taste buds!)

Its a critical but very basic step in marketing. STP- Segment the market, identify your target and position your brand. The brand that wants to be everything to everyone, ends up being nothing to anyone!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

what brands would i buy into today?

I enjoy reading. I enjoy learning about our world and about business- other companies and the way they do business. My fav magazines are BusinessWeek- Time- Fortune- Newsweek- Nat Geo- Forbes. (these were what my father read and brought home regularly).

The earliest brands that i was attracted towards were American ones or those trying to win in the American market- since i read about them in Time/ Newsweek and Nat Geo- magazines i read since i was 14 years old. Coke- Chevy- Buick- Honda.....even though these brands never sold in India, through the print ads built a lot of credibility for me.

I bought BATA shoes because my parents always bought that. I use only Colgate since my parents only used Colgate.

My first car was Maruti (an Indian brand) since choices were few in 1999. Since then I have bought 3 other cars- none of Indian make.

So most of my brand choices were governed:
1. By what advertisements appeared in well known magazines.
2. By my parents' choices
3. By what was available.

However over time, these preferred brands have reduced significantly.

In the last 10 years, the only brands I have gotten loyal to are:
1. MamiNova ( a very yum French brand)
2. Tropicana
3. Kelloggs

Brands educate their consumers. To me, this education should be centered around health and/or the environment. Clearly i have found very few brands building credibility by educating me.

Otherwise, my choices are determined from within a group of brands (usually 5-7 per category) depending upon my state of mind at the time of purchase.

I am intrigued by this. What role does habit/ choice and true credibility play in your brands market share?

Friday, 4 June 2010

HTC- and YOU


These links take you to two ads released by HTC (www.HTC.com), the smart phone design company. The ads were released in 2009, but we took a while to find them. HTC is not yet a big company in India.

We think the ads are brilliant and put so succintly the consumer at the centre of the smartphone. Not a monologue about the technically brilliant product, but a fast past set of images, where most consumers would be able to find themselves.

Nothing more re-assuring than this for a consumer. A company that understands how i use the product.

Does your company create ads that state clearly their interest in understanding their consumers?

The 'quietly brilliant' position of HTC is pretty mind numbing in our view. Cant get our heads around it.

ritu and venkat

PS: We dont own any HTC products or shares :-)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

marketing as the core of all strategy

Met a classmate from university at the airport. Exchanged notes and began to discuss marketing in the tech industry- Infosys/ Wipro/ TCS/ Satyam...

Here is what i think:

1. Indian companies do not do any marketing. No matter what industry- we simply do not do marketing. What we are very good at is setting up sales and distribution systems, and creating a lot of advertising (not necessarily good ones). We love market share and confuse our capitalistic ideas with pseudo socialistic desires.

2. Marketing begins with the consumer. Segmenting the market, identifying segments and choosing among the segments to target resources on those segments that promise growth and profits.

3. Indian companies love to target volumes.... make lots of product and sell them cheap so that lots of Indians buy them and even if we make 10cents per product, with volumes we hit god profits.

Very good. But this is the end of marketing.

The Indian IT industry has for the past 2 decades promised cheap and accurate offshore delivery. No matter which customer, the promise remains the same. Price is the key parameter. And all competitors race to the bottom of the pyramid. Unfortunately, CK Prahalad, this is not a very good idea unless well understood. Now being associated with 'low cost', they are all struggling in an industry downturn, with no 'value added' products with which to entice customers to pay more.

IBM, on the other hand, with its new focus on 'analytical' software is entering a new business area in a very aggressive way. I believe it will be successful....

Another example is the Indian mobile phone industry. Call rates are 1 paise per second or 15 cents per minute. New players offer rates of 7.5 cents per minute. Unheard of. All to gain quick market share.

And offer no differentiation to a consumer who bills USD 100 per month or one that bills USD 5 per month.

It is important that the corporate strategy is built by a team that includes a marketing professional. In contact with customers/ consumers and the market place, marketing can help align business ambitions with customer needs, provide options and direct a business to a 'life cycle' of opportunities:
a- where and when to enter a market (and for what objectives)
b- where and when to exit a market )and for what objectives)
c- Where to invest in the next 5-10 years and transition through steps a, b. How to create a unique identity and how to continue preserving this identity.

Innovation is the key for 'super normal' profits. New processes/ products/ services/ consumer segments.....but the challenge is to continue the innovation process. Only the paranoid do this with any degree of consistency. (Apple?)

Brands take decades to build- because their true test is the test of time, of changing consumers and emerging competitors.


Monday, 19 April 2010

the mobile phone innovations in India

The cricket season in India (Nov- April) also coincides with the biggest splurge in TV advertising. Since cricket is watched on TV in almost all households, it is a good way to reach out very quickly to millions of households.

This year, the advertising is being dominated by two categories:
- white goods (refrigerators/ air conditioners/ TVs)
- mobile phones.

The first category has all the usual suspetcs advertising- Videocon/ LG/ Samsung.

Its the second category that is very very interesting.

The usual suspects are all absent. Nokia- Sony Ericsson- LG- Samsung.

Instead we have a whole load of local players- Maxx, Karbonn, Spice that are shouting from the rooftops about their phones. And why not:

- they are launching models that have 2 SIMs ( a very useful feature in India where business is conducted 24/7 , 365 days a year and the phone is always on)

- a phone that serves as a remote control- again a very cool feature

What is interesting is that these phones boast all the features of a Nokia or a Samsung, and then go ahead by a few steps.

How have local manufacturers taken a step over global leaders like Nokia- LG and Samsung? Is it an issue of weak marketing, or of head-office in Finland not supporting these market needs?

Can't wait to see Karbonn and Maxx following up their current innovations with some new tricks! Well done!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

open and closed social networks - where should a brand manager focus?

Social networks mirror the real world. The real world is large an indifferent place with people running a race to better their lives and given the opportunity will 'free load'- i.e attempt to gain goods and services without having to pay for them.

The real world is mostly leisure and pleasure seeking.

Its true, for every 1 hard working 'i want to change the planet and am ready to lose my last dollar for this', you have a 1000 that want to save the planet but not really switch off the bathroom lights when they are finished.

We like gossip. Social networks mirror this.
We like to be part of the 'cool crowd'. Social networks mirror this.

The one reason marketers have been trying to embrace social networks is that they believe (as do we) that social networks are a good way of engaging consumers. Is this really true?

Yes and No.

'Engagement' is a two way street. It requires action, reaction, action.

Most consumers really just want to read, hear and be informed. Only 1 in a 1000 will react. So why try to reach the other 999? you're really trying to reach the 1 that writes what the other 999 read.

Why advertise on Youtube? Why have your brand twitter? Why create a facebook page for your brand?

Rather than reach out to networks, we advocate that companies and brands create networks and invite selectively 'engag-able' consumers. Then allow these consumers to inform their own networks. But these are the 'brand or category advocates' that interact with the brand.

These advocates must be allowed to touch, feel and influence the brand. What's tricky is how do we filter the engaged user versus the non engaged (who will invariably come to the community if it becomes cool to be part of it).

But the bigger question is, does the brand manager have the maturity to distinguish between these two groups and focus on the quality of the engagement rather than the quantity.

That's what should decide online advertising budgets. The possibility of creating interactive and engaged communities. It takes time and effort. Like a 'frequent flier program' that over time separates the truly loyal from the others. A brand website that tracks user participation will eventually pick out the true loyalists.

Ritu and Venkat.

The REAL 'So What' of functional advertising

OK..so what's functional advertising....advertising that sells a product based on a functional benefit for its users. Unlike a Louis Vuitton bag that offers to satisfy mostly psychological needs. These products usually sell themselves on performance. Nike shoes. Sony. (When you lose your 'mojo' you drop from satisfying psychological needs to functional needs...its true, Sony.)

Now whats the REAL 'so what'?

The story of advertising usually ends with, buy me because i can do something better than the competition...or buy me because i can save you money or time.

This works when competition is weak. Once competition strengthens, and everyone offers a way to save money or time, whats the distinction?

And here is where the REAL 'So what?' becomes relevant. This is based on the core consumer need that saving money or time satisfies.

Brands need to understand this core need for its core segment. For example, a mother may like to save time so she spends more of it with her family...or on herself. Does your advertising capture this for the kind of mother you are targeting?

Or that a father would like to save money to buy a golf set or to put his children through a better college. Does your consumer understanding capture this about your target?

Nike does a fabulous job of understanding the 'so what'....we make great shoes, buts that not the reason you buy us. You buy us because we understand you want to compete and win...and mostly you are competing against yourself. We can help you raise the bar. That is what they help the consumers with.

Thats the real brand benefit that needs to be answered. The REAL 'so what'.

Ritu and Venkat

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Why does young India regret its past?

A couple of recent movies in India - "Rock On" in 2008 and "3 idiots" in 2009 have done very well at the box office. I enjoyed the two movies. But my level of connect was pretty low with both- the underlying theme being how successful young Indians look back at their lives and true passions (music, writing, photography) and find ways of going back to that. I am ok with that, but unhappy if school children get distracted by that message.

What i want to caution many of my fellow country men is this:

- India was a poor country 50 years ago, 20 years ago, today and will continue to be poor 50 years from today. (1 billion people will not get rich overnight)

- While many professions will open up, the competition for jobs will always be very very high.

- Applied professions (engineering, medicine, carpentry etc) will always be the best ways of making a living and getting the family out of poverty.

- Writing, painting and photography will keep you mostly poor.

So get to school and study, is my message to the youth. Looking back at the past from the very comfortable confines of a cinema is possible when you have used engineering to get a very good job and life.

"3 idiots" the biggest blockbuster of the last 10 years, was only watched by 10% of India's population in the cinema. The rest could not afford it.

There is a message in that.

reproduction- your best bet against fundamentalism?

I was reading a note in the economist on how hindus- muslims integrate well into American society and do well for themselves. And avoid radicalism. It re-iterates what i have always believed- that economic growth is the best way to integrate people and cultures. A rich population has little blame to levy on its neighbors.

A very random thought...the declining population growth rate of western economies (christian faith), declining population growth rate in India, China. And conversely, where are population growth rates the highest? In parts of the world with least economic opportunity- arabic states in the gulf/ middle east...and Africa.

High population and low economic opportunities are fueling violent expressions of intolerance.

Fortunately, violent fundamentalists represent a very small fraction- but is it possible that as we leave unresolved issues confronting the muslim world to fester, that these numbers will grow?

For all the technology of the west - surveillance, preventive and predictive analytical techniques, large armies have often beaten back technologically superior ones.

While i dont predict doomsday, i ask whether developed countries should focus more on increasing their population?
Not to prepare to fight wars, but to demonstrate very clearly that we love our way of life so much that we are bringing more people into it. Should that not be a good advertisement for progress? Why doesnt Obama make this a central piece of his administration?

And hopefully grandad will not have to learn to use a big gun! Just kidding! :-)


If you didnt build it, and cant control it, dont try to sell it!

Pretty poetic title, inspired by a report (click on title to read) on Nokia building in navigation software to boost sales in China.

Its a good service and like "life tools" in India aimed at building services into the phone proposition.

So far so good. But is this expected to help pricing or market share?

We think unlikely in the long run.


Because the open standards on these services will allow other companies to build, bundle and sell similar services.

But its all good for the consumer and we dont argue against that.

What we think should be optimised in companies, is the capacity to build proprietary technology and control of the distribution and access to that technology.

Everything else is tactical.

In a technology company, technological innovation must be at the core. Alliances and partnerships built on these proprietary technologies are to be valued.

ritu and venkat

go on, be a Nokia- core purpose or core business?

By the title we dont ask you to adopt Nokia's business model. (we are far from convinced it is the right one). But we ask you to do what Nokia did in 1992, move away from its rubber, cable and non telecom businesses, to focus on telecom!


Core purpose or core business? What should really matter to an investor?

India and China are huge markets with unmet needs across a wide range of goods.
TV penetration in India is 60%, but
- refrigerator penetration is less than 10% (among 220 million households)
- car penetration is less than 4%
- microwaves at 4%
and so on....

Mobile phone usage is still very low, with 90% of the penetration accomplished with "pre-paid" users shelling out 2 USD per month as revenue.

Value added services are 6% of phone bills, which on average are 4 USD per qtr.

Consumption is so low, the only restraint on an organisation's growth is imagination and ambition.

Now, here is some back of the envelope calculation:
If 20% of the families bought cars at USD 6000 each, this is a 250 Bn USD industry
If 60% bought refrigerators at USD 200, this is a 25 Bn USD industry
If we could get current mobile users to spend USD 5 per month on VAS, its a 30Bn USD business PER YEAR.

Ok, so your core business may not be in any of the above. But if you truly want to grow, why would that be an excuse?

Indian companies are not lacking for innovation. They lack for capital. Which is abundant in the west.

Why not acquire aggressively Indian companies, and bring in capital to "go to market" faster, stronger?

On another note, water purification and electricity generation will be interesting businesses to get into. At the household level. Technologies that dont depend on the government grid.

Stop worrying about your core "business". Worry about your core "purpose". Profitable growth!

Ritu and Venkat

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

TV programming, advt dollars , and the audience!

The note below is taken from a site we visit regularly www.thoughtgadgets.com.
Insightful comments on happenings in the marketing world.

The authors argue "TV networks don't exist to serve content to audiences; they exist to serve *audiences* to advertisers."


We agree. And explore deeper this idea in the case of an emerging country like India where there are no "content" dedicated TV channels, and no segmentation in the market. Each channel wants to grab the same eyeballs- so very little differentiation.

Over the past few years, Ritu and I saw that we were tuned out completely from prime time TV viewing, because the channels would only show drama and reality shows. How could Indian audiences (teens) for reality shows and drama (older aged) be relevant targets for advertisers? The 30-40 year old of our generation had disposable incomes, yet hardly getting any content on prime time TV.

All this changes with new technologies. We now watch recordings of programs that appear late at night. This is a very new technology in India unlike in the West.
And herein lies a new pot of gold for TV channels. This recording technology will allow advertisers to get in front of audiences irrespective of show times.

What then becomes prime time? Interesting thoughts that came out of our reading of thoughtgadgets.com today.

Ritu and venkat