Brand Owners' Summit 2014: The small town connect

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Marketing | March 31, 2014
Brand custodians met in Kolkata to share knowledge on how to operate a successful brand.

Brand Owners' Summit this time travelled to Kolkata to learn from the vast experience and knowledge of brand custodians on how to operate a successful brand in a state like West Bengal, very distinct in its appreciations and practices including its love for football. The event was held on March 22.

Brand Owners' Summit 2014

Professor A Banerjee

Sanjay Agarwal

Rajiv Dingra

Giving his welcome address, Deepak Pramanik, owner, Aidias, stated that brands which don't usually advertise on consumer media regularly, are as big as any other brand in the country and for any brand, delivering on its promises is a must.

Prasanna Singh, COO, afaqs!, explained why BOS travelled to Kolkata this time. "As a lot of other media companies, we are a very Delhi-Mumbai focused organisation. In India, whether we like it or not, urbanisation will take place massively and with this, entrepreneurship will also blossom. In our case, it is our motto to link the concept of entrepreneurship with that of brands as early as possible," he stated.

Speaking on how the idea of brands came into existence in India, Kanchan Datta, president, Advertising Club Calcutta, opined that in the mid-80s, pundits thought that manufacturers must start creating brands, as opposed to products. "Every successful corporation must go on to create brands and not products, and even today, it holds good. Brand owners, even today, are on the lookout for ideas related to creating better brands as a great brand always raises the bar about consumers' experiences. This is where advertising comes into play, as it (advertising) creates love and respect for the brand, the two important pillars that determine its success," he stated.

Commenting on the impact of digital on brand building, Datta opined that in today's world, if you kill a product, consumers won't mind, but if one kills a brand, consumers are bound to voice their opinion and angst on blogs and other social platforms.

Delivering his address regarding branding in India's education sector, Professor A Banerjee, dean (NIER), IIM Calcutta, stated that though many companies start an education arm hoping that this sector is recession-proof, education institutes do face challenges. "To give you an estimate, two years back, there were about 5000 business schools in India that were accredited to AICTE but today that number has come down to 3,500. So there is a challenge the sector faces. However, as far as IIM Calcutta is concerned, the challenge is something else. Our prime challenge is the conversion. Out of the students who get joining calls from IIM Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Bengaluru, how many join Calcutta?" he asked.

Speaking about the vastness of India and the opportunities it provides, Banerjee said that northeast India and its vastness remains to be explored. Giving examples, he mentioned that a doctor in Guwahati has started a business which is an exact replica of Arvind Eye Care and in the first year itself, the business has become cash positive. "Innovation is the key to survival and the growth of any brand, and innovation doesn't always mean doing something new. Rather, how effective the model is can determine how innovative it is," he added.

Deepak Jalan, MD, Linc Pens, informed that the journey of Linc Pens is a typical rags to riches story. He said that when gel pens became very popular, some of the foreign brands jumped on to the business and were selling at Rs 20 and more.

"Gel pens were essentially student products and most schools had already started to accept gel pens as alternatives to fountain pens. But at that time we were lagging behind with technology and didn't have gel pens in our kitty. In 2001, we launched a gel pen for Rs 10, which was more affordable for the students. But by 2003, we found out that even Rs 10 was proving to be a bit expensive for rural students and thus we launched another range priced at Rs 5, which proved to be a strong point for the product," Jalan said, adding that maintaining the low cost continues to be a challenge for the company.

Speaking about marketing, Jalan mentioned that in India, the weakest 'P' among the all the 'P's of marketing is Placement. To solve this, the brand came up with the concept of Office Linc, a stationery store where the entire range of Linc products could be showcased.

Sanjay Agarwal, ED, Joy Cosmetics, stated that his brand is one that emerged from the City of Joy to spread the joy, and hence the name. He further said that the company strives to provide innovation by making the products accessible through conventional as well as modern retail. Giving examples, Agarwal also showed how two different ads about the same product helped in recognising the benefits of the product.

R Jain, CEO, Safed Detergents, said that the real India lies in rural India and that is where home grown brands thrive. India comprises of more than 6 lakh villages and the opportunity is immense there. "The per capita consumption of detergents in India is quite low as compared to the west and in that, hand wash dominates the category, unlike the global counterparts," he revealed.

Presenting a typical picture of rural India, Jain said that when they advertised their product along with the promise of giving away gifts to consumers, the product did well, thus impacting the brand imagery.

Rajiv Dingra, founder and CEO, WatConsult, said that as far as growth of internet penetration is concerned, Kolkata was among the fastest growing cities in India in 2013, growing from 2.2 million internet users to 4.4 million. Speaking about engaging with consumers on digital beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Dingra opined that a brand can create its owned community, go deeper into the communication and be responsive and respond to customers more frequently.

S B De, MD, Sreeleathers, described how Sreeleathers came to be synonymous with other icons of Kolkata, such as the Howrah Bridge, Belur Math, Eden Gardens and Victoria Memorial. He said that every day, international buyers visit Sreeleathers' stores across the city. About pricing, De's take was that Sreeleathers never plays on discount but as far as clearing sales are concerned, one has to give discounts on products.

L S Krishnan, business head, Amagi Media Labs, presented how national television has changed to facilitate the local advertisers' need. He explained that earlier, local marketers were compelled to buy more than their requirement of national TV and were looking for an alternative, and that is what Amagi tends to deliver.

The other speakers of the day included Dr A Roy, chairman, Medica Hospitals, B Patwari, MD, Pinnacle Infotech, Ramani MD, 6, Ballygunge Place, A Hoon, president, Century Ply, S Sinha, VP, ABP, Bickram Ghosh, founder, Rhythmscape and Arijit Datta, MD, Priya Entertainment.

The Brand Owners' Summit was supported by the ABP Group and was organised in association with The Advertising Club Calcutta, support from Big 92.7 FM and Big Magic. The targeted TV partner was Amagi, with Aidias as consulting partner, WatConsult as digital media partner, SureWaves as reach partner and Park Plaza as hospitality partner.

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