Ashwini Gangal

Brand Owner's Summit: "Commonsense trumps both research and instinct"

The event on February 8-9 began with a panel discussion in which brand owners and gurus discussed issues relating to new brand launches, the magic of entrepreneurship, consumer research and more.

After a quick opening note from the good humoured Chandan Nath, former Mudra veteran, Day One of the Brand Owner's Summit was kicked-started by a panel discussion. The panel comprised brand gurus that represented brands that have stood the test of time over three decades. They included Achal Bakeri, chairman and managing director, Symphony; Darshan Patel, owner, Vini Cosmetics; Ganesh Nayak, chief operating officer and executive director, Zydus Cadila; Piruz Khambatta, chairman and managing director, Rasna; and R S Sodhi, managing director, GCMMF, the owner of Amul.

Brand Owner's Summit: "Commonsense trumps both research and instinct"
The discussion was moderated by Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder, afaqs!.

The event was powered by, supported by associate sponsor Bestow and dinner sponsor Khushi Advertising.

"A brand rarely dies". This was just one of the pearls of wisdom that emerged from the discussion that started the two-day event at Ahmedabad. The moderator began by addressing the step that precedes brand building - entrepreneurship itself. Unlike earlier, the idea of entrepreneurship is an "alluring and fashionable" one today. As Khandekar pointed out, entrepreneurs are, inherently, a more optimistic bunch; optimistic enough to put money where no other sane person would. Managers, on the other hand, are more careful. Or are they? The panellists had varied views.

Vini's Patel couldn't be more direct. "Risk taking is higher in the case of entrepreneurs because it's their own money they're playing with. Managers take calculated risks as it is someone else's money at stake," he managed to say, before thunderous applause drowned out the rest of his words on the matter.

Dispelling the notion that professional managers (non-owners) are in any way less competent than owner-entrepreneurs, Cadila's Nayak opined that the difference probably lies in the fact that an owner-CEO perhaps has a longer term view of things than does the professional-CEO, who is more likely to have a short to mid-term view of the business. This, he insisted, doesn't mean the professional-CEO is lacking in any way. In fact, today, since many entrepreneurs are educated, second generation businessmen, they tend to have in place five year plans, risk mitigation systems and detailed pro-con evaluation processes - essentially 'manager-like' behaviour. "Today's entrepreneur is also a manager," he said.

Then, the issue of formal consumer research versus entrepreneurial instinct was discussed. Rasna's Khambatta was pro-instinct. "The instinct of a manager is very important. Today, many successful brands are run by non-MBAs and people who haven't studied marketing formally," he said, before adding that if research was always paid heed to, many companies/brands would never be launched in the first place.

Patel, who is otherwise a great believer in research, cited the example of his brand Livon, a hair care product that was born out of gut instinct alone. "I just asked my wife if she'd like to use a product that untangled her hair after washing and she said yes,"

Brand Owner's Summit: "Commonsense trumps both research and instinct"

he shrugged, waving aside formal research and weeks of pre-launch market analysis that many companies feel the need, if not compulsion, to do before launching a new brand.

Disagreeing, Nayak stressed the importance of a pre-launch product strategy and careful implementation of that strategy, which is apparently the reason why his company's brand, Sugar Free, is doing very well.

For Amul's Sodhi, there's one thing that trumps both instinct and research when it comes to decision-making: common sense. That said, he elaborated that his organisation regularly tracks consumer requirement and that's how their feedback had led to the launch of Amul ice cream. He added that it was also possible to gather a lot of feedback quickly from Facebook and Twitter.

For Symphony's Bakeri, it was personal need that gave birth to the brand. When he, along with his family, moved into a new house with a high ceiling in the late 1980s, airconditioning couldn't cool the large space and the existing coolers were basic and ugly. It was this that led to the 'chance launch' of brand Symphony, an aspirational product - an air cooler that looks like an air conditioner.

Of course, despite their varying views, the panel agreed that it's no longer a 'research versus instinct' debate and that there is a gray zone in-between because often, research is used to back an entrepreneur's hunch and there's also no denying that one's 'gut' feeling, is, after all, the sum of what one has learnt over the years.

Have news to share? Write to us