Samsika, a leading strategic marketing consultancy company in India, has been a catalyst that has enabled several corporations build strong brands and rejuvenate existing ones. The company set up in 1994, is owned and managed by Mr Jagdeep Kapoor and his wife, Sangeeta Kapoor. The name Samsika has been derived from the names of their son and daughter, Samridh and Hansika. As it turned out, Samsika also means "Good Luck" in Chinese language. Samsika has an impressive list of Indian and Multinational clients. Carrier, Otis, Kotak Mahindra, Onjus, Cinthol, Fevicol, Navneet, Monginis, Nirma are among the well-known brands that Samsika has helped in building. In an interview with Ms Toral Modi and Mr Anirudha Dutta of India Infoline, Mr Kapoor spoke at length on brands and brand building.
How would you define a Brand?
A Brand is like a human being. It has a Personality, Character, Feelings and Identity. A Brand stands for core values. A brand is supposed to do 2 things
Every brand needs to fulfill the first to achieve the second. If a brand satisfies the consumer's need, then the benefits to the owner will flow automatically. Mr Kapoor has evolved what he calls Samsika Brand Mantras. One of the most important mantra in building a brand, he says is First Serve, Then deserve
Which according to you is the most successful Indian brand created in the last five years?
According to me, Gandhi is the best brand India has given to the World. However, there have been many commercially successful brands built in the last five years. And they have been built in several distinct categories as given below:
The last few years have seen branding in new categories like pens, sarees, etc. What other categories do you feel exist where branding can be used effectively?
In the last 40-50 years the FMCG sector ruled over brands. In the next few years the service businesses, what I term as FMCS (Fast Moving Consumer Services) is likely to witness a lot of branding. Banking, Broking, Financial Services, Leisure, Retail Malls, TV Channels are some of the areas where strong brands will be built. New business areas like ISP's, Portals, Cellular Phones will also be creating a lot of brands. In FMCG, among existing categories staple food like atta, salt will see many new brands. Strong brands can be built in products like Agarbatti, Dal, Diamond, etc.
But has branding in gold been successful?
Branding of gold is mainly branding of a commodity and has taken off in a small way. There is a natural progression from commodity to label to brand. Branding of commodity has worked in steel also. Tata Steel is a good brand, So is Salem Steel. Essar with its 24 Carat has been a very late entrant. Branding of commodities like Gold and Diamonds will also work, although it will take a longer time. We have just started an exercise in building Belgian cut diamond as a brand for Geetanjali.
Is advertising the key to successful brand building?
Brand building does not happen only with advertising. There has to be an integrated brand strategy. A success of a brand depends on a large number of factors like Distribution, Pricing, Customer servicing, Segmentation, Positioning and Communication. One of the Samsika Brand Mantra is Like Salt, use advertising in the right proportion. Segmentation and positioning are also extremely important factors in determining brand success. Another Samsika Brand Mantra is Don?t sell the right product to the wrong audience. Advertising is the tool, which helps to communicate and reinforce the brand positioning.
Do the Indian companies have the money power to fight the MNC competition?
Creating and maintaining a brand does not require money power. It requires strategic thinking. If brands could be brought with money, the richest man would have all the brands. A brand can be bought, but building it requires time, effort and involvement. A brand requires nurturing. You have to nurture a brand like your child.
A whole lot of products from soaps to shampoos to skin care products are being positioned on the herbal platform. Does this hurt existing brands in that segment?
There is a danger in the sense that when everybody is doing the same thing, brand gets converted into a commodity. However if a brand is really strong, no new player can dilute the equity of the existing brand in the segment. In fact copying always enhances the value of the original. Does the Devanand clone dilute the original's image in your mind? In fact he will only enhance it.
What are the trends in branding?
The FMCG industry has a long history of branding. Branding in the industry has been prevalent since the last 40-50 years. The FMCG industry is very organized and systematic in its understanding of brands. It follows a very disciplined and scientific approach to brand building. Brand Management is considered as important a function of business as Operations or Finance. The main reason for this is that there has never been dearth of competition. Each brand competes with atleast 20 other brands.
Industries like durables, cement or cars are now beginning to go in for branding . These industries have traditionally operated in a scenario of excess demand chasing limited supply. With a rise in competition, these players are waking up to the necessity of creating a brand.
A lot of branding is happening in the Services business. Branding in the banking industry has occurred only in the last few years. In fact, the people who have built up strong consumer banking brands have all been ex-FMCG guys. The FMCG expertise is now going to the FMCS businesses.
Is the Indian market very price sensitive?
Indian market is value sensitive and not price sensitive. The consumer demands value for money. I believe that Indian consumer is one of the most knowledgeable consumers in the world. There has to be a balance between price and quality. Perceived value also plays an important role. If you look at the durables market, there has been a war fought on prices. Akai slashed prices. It seemed to be winning for sometime and its market share jumped upto 11%. But then what happened? Its market share declined from 11% to 1%! And the brand is today looked down upon, as everybody associates it with exchange schemes and discounts. The Indian Consumer today wants value. Give him value and he will pay the best price for it. Mercedes launched old models at lower prices. But the consumer rejected it. But it would have achieved a greater market share if it had launched the latest models, although in a much higher price range.
Do marketer's need to adopt different positioning /advertising strategies for brands in rural markets?
Most marketers do the mistake of looking down on the rural consumer. The rural consumer is as intelligent, savvy and demanding as his urban counterpart. Only he dresses differently, understands his regional language better than English and may be less educated. The communication for the rural consumer has to be different.
Are the rural markets growing at a faster pace?
India is a very large country with 3700 towns and 600000 villages. Most people do not realize where the rural market begins. Most mistake the semi-urban markets and small towns as rural market. A rural market is a village with a population of < 5000. Rural markets are growing. But growth can be more exciting in what I call the Rurban markets. The larger villages and the smaller towns are likely to witness an explosion in growth. The 80s saw a boom in Class I towns with spread of TV. In the 90s it was the Class II towns that saw strong growth. The Class III and IV towns, ie the Rurban market will be the growth market in the next decade.
Will Retailing/Chain Stores pick up in India in a big way?
Retail stores have always been there in India in the form of Apna Bazaars, Sahakari Bhandars, etc. Monginis is an excellent example of a nation wide chain store. Navneet has started franchise stores. Earlier retailing was perceived as a low profile business - akin to the job of a counterperson/ salesman. But several large business houses like RPG's, Piramal's, etc are now venturing into the business. The retailing business has a vast potential and is estimated at US$180bn.
Will direct marketing work in India?
India is a very wide country. Although Direct Marketing can act as supplementary to other modes of distribution, complete reliance on direct marketing would be inadequate to develop a national market.
Is the Indian marketer looking seriously at internet for advertising?
Net advertising is likely to be used more for Business to Business transactions currently and to a lesser extent in Business to Consumer. In the consumer business, currently 34% of all business on the net is confined to buying small value items such as Cinema Tickets, Books and Chocolates and Flowers. In a survey done recently, 65% people indicated that they do not want to give their credit card numbers on the net.
Of course, technology is shrinking the world. And it is giving tremendous choice to the consumer. I sitting at my home have a choice of either watching the Miss World program relayed live from London or Dandiya at the local club. The internet can become a very cost effective medium. Its popularity will grow with rising penetration of PCs. In fact one will soon see a lot of television advertising of IT brands and dot.com companies.
What is Samsika's Strategy for Success?
We have adopted ancient Indian principles in our business. A client comes with us with a hope for his brand - what we call as Brand Asha.
We try to give him the following in return :
Brand Shastra - ie the Strategy for building the brand
Brand Astra - The weapons ie advertising, marketing, positioning etc
Brand Mantra - The principles for making your brand a success
Brand Shiksha - Guidance for nurturing the brand
And when the brand succeeds, we have Brand Yasha