Compass 2008: Not so easy being a CEO

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | February 01, 2008
At Compass 2008, organised by Starcom and Future Works, eminent chief executives with varied backgrounds spoke on the many marketing challenges each of them face in their respective industries

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was of the CEOs, for the CEOs and by the CEOs. At Compass 2008, a day-long seminar organised by Starcom and Future Works, a discussion moderated by Rama Bijapurkar (managing director, Strategic Marketing) saw four chief executive officers talk about the various challenges that they face in their respective industries. The Economic Times sponsored the event.

On the panel were Stefano Pelle, chairman, Perfetti Van Melle Group (India); Saugata Gupta, CEO, consumer products department, Marico Industries; Murali Sivaraman, CEO, Philips Electronics India; and Vinay Nadkarni, CEO, Globus Stores.

Bijapurkar kept her opening question simple: "What's on your minds right now? What are the challenges before you at the moment?"

Saugata Gupta

Murali Sivaraman
Pelle of Perfetti was the first to go. "For us in the impulse category, there are many challenges in India," he said, "the chief of which is the unchanging price point for the last 15 years!" Pelle was miffed that candies/confectionery items still sell at 50 paise/Re 1, which implies a huge pressure on the bottom line. "In such a case, innovation for us is a double edged sword - it is both an opportunity and a costly challenge," he said.

For Nadkarni of Globus, the obvious challenge was ever-changing fashion tastes. "We need to look at our challenges through the eyes of a customer," he said. On a more specific note, he admitted that a not-so-evolved fashion industry in North and South India was a big problem area for Globus.

Taking the consumer durables view was Philips' Sivaraman, who said that his company faced the humungous task of making Philips relevant to Indians today. Philips' earlier brand positioning line, 'Let's Make Things Better', was more product-centric, he said. "Buying habits, consumer maturity and affordability differ in each of our markets," he said, "which led to a global thought, 'Sense and Simplicity'." This, he said, makes the global Philips relevant locally, as Sense (representing technological advancement) meets a different interpretation of Simplicity (the experience of Philips) in each market.

Gupta of Marico expressed the woes of the FMCG market, the most crucial being the 15 per cent growth that the industry goes through every year - a figure that isn't exciting enough. "We have the IT, BPO, real estate and financial services waves, all of which took India by the storm; for us, the challenge is to make FMCG a wave," Gupta asserted.

The second challenge, for him, is to find an alternate revenue model, apart from B2C. "Look at the case of Walt Disney, or even telecom companies," Gupta said. FMCG companies too need to go beyond products and focus on solutions/service based models.

Bijapurkar went on to question whether a customer was actually willing to pay more for better products and services, or even pay the price for innovation. Nadkarni gave the diplomatic answer that some would pay, while others wouldn't. But Gupta and Pelle said that if a product was designed and presented well, a smart consumer would pay the extra bucks.

Pelle gave the example of the German Porsche launching in India a brief while ago. Within a short span of time, 30 customers queued up to buy the car - a wonder in itself, considering the premium nature of the car. "The Indian customer is quite evolved in that sense, and will pay a premium to get the best," he said.

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