Saumya Tewari

"We are leveraging mobile through visual platforms like Instagram": Partho Chakrabarti, PepsiCo

Recently, Lay's rolled out two new TV-led ad campaigns, as part of a 10-week-long consumer engagement drive, complete with promo packs and the lure of international vacations.

The media mix included digital, retail, radio, print and TV media.

A quick interview with Partho Chakrabarti, vice-president, snacks category, PepsiCo India, who has spent around 13 years with the company, about the challenges in the Indian snacking segment and why taste transcends consumer demographics.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

How has the role of mass media evolved for Lay's over the recent past?

Historically, it has largely been about television, but it is changing. Digital has become big, including mobile.

We are leveraging the mobile medium through visual platforms like Instagram, where a food brand can play with imagery. YouTube is also a big platform for us.

We also have an extensive consumer engagement programme which starts at the store itself. We have contests running wherein consumers have to text promo codes to win prizes.

Recently, we put up an interesting potato chips-making machine at the Make in India event; that, to my mind, is a form of communication.

"We are leveraging mobile through visual platforms like Instagram": Partho Chakrabarti, PepsiCo
"We are leveraging mobile through visual platforms like Instagram": Partho Chakrabarti, PepsiCo
"We are leveraging mobile through visual platforms like Instagram": Partho Chakrabarti, PepsiCo
For products like Lay's, or even chocolates and colas for that matter, is it even possible to add a newer demographic to the existing pool of consumers? Sure, you can keep expanding the pool in terms of numbers, but what would it take to add a new demographic?

Each company has a demographic basis which they target media. For example, I may want to target consumers in their 20s. To us, the biggest focus is on the product, its taste and the flavours. We have a product that can straddle different generations and demographics.

Our baked Lay's is a healthier offering and finds attraction amongst slightly older consumers who tend to be calorie conscious. As a company, we have a wide product range which caters to different demographics and occasions during the day. So, from a Tropicana juice in the morning to Lay's in the evening, we have something for everyone.

I'm 50 and I drink a lot of Pepsi. But clearly, I'm not part of the target group for the brand.

We do not restrict the consumption of any product to any demographic, but when we put an ad out, we keep the demographic in mind while selecting the media.

What are the current marketing challenges in the snacking industry in India?

The snacking industry in India is large and continues to grow. The basic product we are offering is priced at Rs 5, which most of the 1.3 billion people can afford. I would have worried if it were a declining industry. But, as long as we operate between the price point of Rs 5 and Rs 10, I do not see the industry declining.

We are expanding in rural areas and reaching out to a larger number of consumers.

In the whole ready-to-eat snacking industry, our focus is on how can we keep a potato chip brand such as Lay's growing.

You've worked across markets such as Philippines and Vietnam. Compared to our market, have you noticed any glaring difference in consumption patterns when it comes to snacking?

Different countries have different trends. The Vietnamese market is similar to India as there is a huge local snacking repertoire there. In Vietnam, even before Lay's (entered) there was a huge 'namkeen' industry there. India is much more evolved because salty snacking is in the Indian DNA.

In Philippines, snacking is always 'Western salty'. In India, Western salty snacking is picking up; it's an easier job here because I do not need to grow the category. The main challenge here is to get consumers into Western salty snacking.

Lay's has always been associated with Bollywood stars. Any plans to look beyond them and feature new-age artistes like comedians and YouTube stars?

Ranbir Kapoor brings optimism, energy and naughtiness to the brand. We cannot confuse that communication.

However, we are always on the lookout for new ideas.

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