Saumya Tewari

"India is still not known for globally competitive brands": Sanjiv Puri, president FMCG, ITC

At the IAA India Chapter's Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi, Sanjiv Puri, president FMCG, ITC, spoke on what it takes to build a truly world-class Indian brand.

Sanjiv Puri, president, FMCG, ITC, delivered an insightful session at the International Advertising Association (IAA) India Chapter's Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi, on building world-class Indian brands. While India is known for its scientific talent, technological capabilities and entrepreneurial spirit, Puri noted that, as a nation, it is not known for globally competitive brands.

"If we look at the high end of the consumption spectrum, the Indian market is dominated by global brands; example of Indian brands are far and few," he rued. He stressed on the importance of research and development, innovation and, most importantly, a deep commitment from senior leadership in the making of a truly global brand. The government's 'Make in India' push, he feels, makes it an opportune time to work on creating world-class Indian brands.

"India is still not known for globally competitive brands": Sanjiv Puri, president FMCG, ITC
Tracing the journey of ITC, Puri stated that, in 1996, the corporate vision of ITC was redefined and the company focussed on three bottom lines simultaneously - economic, societal and environmental. The idea was to go beyond mere profits and look at creating sustainable growth.

In the last decade, the company has created more than a dozen successful brands across categories - Vivel, Bingo, Sunfeast and Engage Deos being some of them.

Puri's mantra is to create categories in a bid to become a leader and create superior as well as differentiated products to deal with competition. He talked about how the company successfully created an instant noodle brand Yipee, when the market was dominated by a single player (Nestle's Maggi). The idea was to offer consumers a differentiated product which, in this case, was long, slurpy, non-sticky noodles with a masala that had dehydrated vegetables.

"A mega brand can have a second chance, but a growing brand will never get one," Puri warned, highlighting the importance of quality while trying to build a brand.

To build a strong brand, companies must try and create unique 'first time' products in the market, Puri advised. He gave examples of ITC's products such as Dark Fantasy Choco Fills (the first choco-filled biscuits in India), Mad Angles (inspired from Indian snacking) and Aashirwad Methi Atta.

"We're glad that we now have the capacity to bring out many innovations. Last year, we entered into four new categories and introduced 100 new variants," he informed.

Puri believes that a world-class brand cannot be created if the environmental and societal equity is ignored. He pointed to ITC's model which integrates societal and shareholder value.

Some of the initiatives that the company has undertaken include ITC e-choupal (a part of Aashirwad Atta brand) which is empowering four million farmers in rural India and its Mangaldeep Aagarbatti brand manufactured by 40,000 underprivileged women (a CSR initiative later scaled up and turned into a brand).

Puri also highlighted that companies must always be environment-friendly to be truly regarded as globally renowned and respected.

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