Shreyas Kulkarni
Marketing

"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint

He explains why people are repainting their homes more often now, the company's new vinyl campaign on the Chennai-Bengaluru double-decker express train, and entry barriers for new players.

When was the last time you travelled by train? For many, the answer will be on the lines of, “It’s been ages.” I agree. The COVID pandemic has crippled public transport. So, colour me surprised when I saw a video where eight compartments of a double-decker train from Bengaluru to Chennai were decked up in paint. It was a fresh coat of outdoor advertising.

I thought - Why do that when nobody wants to travel? Who is going to appreciate the artwork?

"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint
"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint
"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint
"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint
"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint
"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint
"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint
"Paint cycles have reduced from 7-8 years to 4-5 years": Mark Titus, director of marketing, Nippon Paint

“It is not paint,” Mark Titus, Nippon Paint India’s chief marketer, points out to me. It is “vinyl”. Also, both the cities have opened up now. “Travel is back to normal in both of them,” he adds.

Turns out, it is not the first time the Chennai-based leading paint company from Japan has executed such a campaign. A couple of years ago, it did a similar job on two trains running within Tamil Nadu. One was from Chennai to Tirunelveli, and the other was between Coimbatore and Madurai.

Nippon Paint was founded in Japan way back in 1881, but it was only in 2006 that it entered India. In 2017, the organisation decided to focus on a particular territory. “The focus for us from 2017 was Tamil Nadu and, from last year (2020), we’ve expanded our focus to Karnataka and the rest of South India,” reveals Titus.

Mark Titus
Mark Titus

“In Tamil Nadu, we are the second-largest player. In Karnataka, we are third or fourth… Asian Paints leads in both the states.”

The industry in India is a tough one to crack for the newcomers. Distribution is key and, compared to FMCG companies, it has a huge number of stakeholders: dealers, painters, engineers, architects… “All of them can influence the buying behaviour of the consumer,” remarks Titus.

But there is a bright light, i.e., new entrants are not scarce. JSW Group entered the paint business in 2019. Now, Aditya Birla Group is also making an entry through a new venture announced by its flagship company Grasim Industries.

Titus summarises the industry (decorative paint) by saying it is one that grows by about 1.5 times of the GDP. There are three key factors: the growth is robust, the market is huge and the paint cycle is coming down.

The paint cycle, which was 7-8 years a decade ago, has reduced to 4-5 years, he says.

And, over the last one-and-a-half years, it has increased because people are inside their homes. They notice “little faults” inside, more than ever now, and are thinking of ways to improve things. "When the lockdown ended, the demanded shot up significantly," mentions Titus.

When asked if vinyl was a subtle way of reminding people to paint their homes again, Titus agrees. “Such an activity is a high impact one that keeps us on top of our consumers mind.”

This train is one of the most convenient ways to travel from the heart of Chennai to that of Bengaluru, he says, adding that this particular train had been on Nippon Paint’s mind for a while now.

"The outer surface of all 8 compartments have been decorated with a theme that showcases our lovable Blobbies in various avatars, along with iconic landmarks of Tamil Nadu, as well as Karnataka. From Chepauk Stadium to Valluvar Kottam, from Thiruvalluvar statue to Auroville Dome, and from Mysore Palace to Hampi and Lal Bagh and more! In early anticipation of the soon to commence, the second leg of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, our Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) Blobbies also make an appearance," Titus posted on LinkedIn.

Rubicon Creative, a Chennai-based creative agency, spent 10 days getting the nuances of vinyl right. It (vinyl) prominently features the logos of RCB and CSK. It is a nod to the fact that the remainder of the IPL 2021 season will take place in the UAE soon. Nippon Paint is a principal partner of CSK.

When asked about the media agency, Titus explains that Indian Railways has intermediaries that are allowed to sell this space. "Once they get authorisation letters from Indian Railways, they produce the same to us. Once we get the letter with all the approvals, then we go ahead and get it executed."

While this activity will bring attention to the company, we wonder if Nippon Paint is worried about missing out, as other companies diversify their offerings. Uber delivers goods now, Domino’s Pizza said last year that it will start delivering groceries, and Asian Paints has ventured into the interior design space. “No,” says Titus.

Nippon Paint is also an official partner of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), and will release a few campaigns during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

When asked if the empty stadium in the UAE during the upcoming IPL will be a bummer, Titus says, “We get additional benefits from a media standpoint in the UAE… They have these giant LED screens because of the empty stadium... But nothing can beat the in-stadium experience.”

Train images credit: Mark Titus/LinkedIn