afaqs!

Speed to Market: Speed thrills but kills?

By , agencyfaqs!, New Delhi | In Marketing | August 27, 2007
A power-packed panel and a powerful topic, that's how Sunil Gupta, regional director, SW Asia, Aprais Worldwide, and also the emcee of the day, defined the panel discussion featuring the who's who of India Inc.

A power-packed & #BANNER1 & # panel and a powerful topic, that's how Sunil Gupta, regional director, SW Asia, Aprais Worldwide, and also the anchor of the day, defined the last panel discussion at the day-long seminar, Speed to Market, featuring the who's who of Indian marketing. The event was organised by agencyfaqs!, in association with 'Dainik Jagran' and Hughes, and the panel included Hemant Sachdev, group director, brand & communication, Bharti Enterprise; Vivek Khanna, director, marketing, Aviva Life Insurance; Santosh Desai, MD and CEO, Future Brands, and Anup Jain, director, marketing, Pizza Hut. The session was moderated by Sunit Arora, executive editor, agencyfaqs!.

If the panel had enough fire power in it to refill the falling energy in the hall post-lunch, then the topic of discussion, 'Risk and Reward in Developing New Service Products', made sure that Speed to Market ended on a high note.

Hemant Sachdev
The focus was on service products because it's a rapidly growing segment. Besides, while sevrice products are easy to create, they are also easily copied.

First to create excitement, was Hemant Sachdev, the man who has been at the helm of marketing the Airtel brand for some years now. As group director, brand, Airtel, Sachdev has led all facets of marketing operations and business strategy.

In the early years, Airtel chose speed over everything else, but this had gradually changed. "Speed to market is essential to keep you ahead of the competition, but there are ways to live beyond this," Sachdev said. He raised every marketer's dilemma of choosing between speed and perfection and speed and quality. "Perfection and quality should not suffer for the sake of speed. We would not like to push to launch our services in a circle till proper infrastructure is built for it," he said.

Vivek Khanna
Sachdev cited the example of when his team had to choose between speed and perfection, and they chose the latter. When a rival launched its services across India, Airtel was intimidated. "At that time, we were only in seven circles and the dilemma for us was whether to take on the competition and launch ourselves in other circles before they could or wait and watch. We chose the latter and put our entire infrastructure into our launch in other circles in the meantime. And the result is there for all to see," he said.

Sachdev contended that more important from being first to market, was being the smartest. For example, Airtel got the idea of introducing caller tunes form a Korean company. "Even in India, we brought the lifetime validity concept much after the other players, but we were the smartest of the lot and hence, the most successful," Sachdev said and concluded his presentation.

Santosh Desai
Next in line was Vivek Khanna, director, marketing, Aviva Life Insurance, an expert in strategy and planning and not behind when it comes to advertising and communications either.

Khanna began by pointing out that one could argue with the hypothesis that product life cycles are getting shorter. In FMCG, for instance, a number of brands have been around for a very long time, he said.

Khanna talked about how customer needs are changing and how it's important for companies to innovate continuously to maximise reward and mitigate risk. "We were the 12th player to enter the insurance market in India after it was set free, but we made sure that we weren't yet another player, but a stand-out," he said.

Anup Jain
He disclosed how Aviva kept innovating - it was the first company to bring in acturial funded ULIPs (unit-linked insurance plans) and was also the first to introduce SMS-based updates to policy holders.

The next person to present his thoughts was the most experienced when it came to speaking on brands and speed in launching brands. Before joining Future Brands, Santosh Desai was at the helm of McCann-Erickson. He was also obviously a favourite with the audience.

During his brief presentation, Desai talked about the need to create brands, rather than speed them to the market. "Brands if created well will make their presence felt, irrespective of the speed, and if launched at the right time and pace, they can outperform expectations," he asserted.

"Brands are created on white paper with a pencil and, if delivered well, can turn into a billion dollar property," he added. Peppering his ideas with his typical humour, Desai talked about how culture and brands are inter-related. He compared hyperstore culture in India with that of the developed world. "Here, a typical Indian would not buy from a shop that doesn't have customers. The common perception is that if no one is buying from this place, there has to be some reason to it. Unless and until there is some jostling, pushing and chaos, there's no fun in buying. Our crowded stores are very popular with the average Indian housewife," he said.

Desai concluded his presentation aptly: "Service is not a noun brand, but a verb brand."

Last to come on was Anup Jain, director, marketing, Pizza Hut, who talked about how their business could be classified as "food, hospitality, pleasure, fast food", but he would rather classify Pizza Hut as a "mood uplifting" company.

"People come to us, not just to eat pizzas and pasta, but to uplift their mood. There are restaurants that are fine dining and there are ones like McDonalds, which are fast food. We are somewhere in between the two. So, we would call ourselves casual dining," he said.

According to Jain, speed to market meant frequent news around the product. "When we go to our favourite restaurant, we realise it is like our home thanks to the same menu, table cloth, ambience and interior. At Pizza Hut, we make sure that every time people come to us, they don't just eat the food, but have a different experience each time. Be it in terms of food, music or ambience," he said.

Jain further revealed how the revamped menu and interiors have won them accolades from their customers. "We have rebranded our menu, table cloth, waiters' dresses and interiors under the World Food Fest and it is paying off well," he said.