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Be clear about what your brand stands for: Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive of Foods Business, ITC

07-April-2017
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Be clear about what your brand stands for: Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive of Foods Business, ITC

Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive of Foods Business, ITC, spoke at Goafest 2017 on how brands can play a role in changing India. He pointed out the numerous ways in which traditionally held viewpoints are now being challenged. For example, the role of the homemaker has undergone a transformation. Similarly, he said youth culture has also evolved from all fun to today’s youth who show a lot more focus on career and personal growth.

“These changes are part of a much larger transformation of India fuelled by an ever evolving retail landscape and drastic change taking place through digitization,” he said. These, according to him, have opened up new and exciting consumer trends. Some of the examples he gave were the consumers’ demands for healthy living, the want of personal space, value on worthiness, the constant hunt for new experiences, changing age structure, young urban creative, etc.

“The new normal is to make taboos mainstream, but this is countered by the need to promote traditions,” he noted, further stating that these new trends and counter-trends are leading to what he termed as the ‘marketer’s paradox’, viz, rural vs. urban, young vs. old, modern vs. traditional, natural vs. science, etc.

“We have a lot of information, but no clear pathways. Communication is only one pillar of brand building. Great supply chain, product clarity, etc., are all needed to make a great brand,” he added.

To highlight his point, Malik took the example of some of ITC’s own product launches such as Aashirvaad Atta, Bingo! chips and Yippee! noodles. Each of these, according to him, required a specific strategy when it was launched.

For example, in the case of Aashirvaad, ITC realized that consumers were facing a problem of inconsistent quality of wheat and wanted their flour to be fresh. To solve this problem, the brand had to go beyond the traditional supply chain process to deliver the product faster to the consumer. ITC used its e-choupal network to source the best wheat grains. The company also started setting production centers close to the consumption centers. According to Malik, there are now 25 factories producing Aashirvaad Atta and none of them are more than 200 km from a market.

In case of Yippie!, the challenge was different. ITC was entering a market already dominated by a single player. The need for differentiation was paramount. Malik said they undertook research to gain a deep understanding of consumer pain points. Some of the results of this research, which were then acted upon by ITC were: kids wanted long noodles, noodles tend to get lumpy and sticky after cooking due to round utensils and typically, because of the rectangular shape of the noodle cake people were breaking it up, resulting in even smaller noodles. Another insight was that the most commonly added ingredient was ketchup and even though mothers add vegetables, kids, typically, tend to not eat them.

Malik informed that the company spent three years implementing the findings before launching the brand, which incorporated all these suggestions. The brand currently has 23 per cent market share, which is the second largest.

With Bingo!, the mission was to stay topical and relevant. “For the youth, the keyword is ‘now’ and as a brand, our role is to connect to the ‘now’,” he explained.

Rounding up his presentation, Malik said, “There is no amrit to build a great brand, but it is important to have a clearly defined role. Are you speaking to the right consumer? Are you providing what he or she needs? Be clear about what the brand stands for. Are you relevant now and are you future ready? Are you utilizing every opportunity of the supply chain to create value? At the same time, it is also important to be a part of changing India by being active in the society and building profitability in the long term.”
 

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