Recognising the impact of ‘globalisation’ on India and the inherent role that Indian managers play in taking decisions at the global level today, the International Advertising Association (IAA), India Chapter, has initiated the ‘International Indian’ series. IAA invited Unilever’s Harish Manwani to kick off the initiative in Mumbai on Tuesday by throwing light on ‘Winning in Developing and Emerging Markets’.
Manwani didn’t waste any time in letting the audience know that his address would include three things that “we are most passionate about”: Unilever, Africa & Asia and India. “That is the work I do now!” said Manwani. For him developing and emerging markets (DNE) present an exciting opportunity and he was of the opinion that these markets are driven by the energy of growth.
Reiterating the importance of working in practice than in theory, he pointed out that by 2010, consumer spending of Asia would beat that of developed markets like North America and Europe. To prove his point about Unilever’s leadership role in Asia and Africa, he informed that 95 per cent of the work force in Lever offices worldwide comprised local managers.
In what he termed as the recipes of success in these regions, Manwani highlighted the importance of factors like ‘insights and brilliant local executions’. He said, “There are three things to bear in mind in this – serving and delighting consumers, deepen partnerships with customers, and build relationships with local communities.”
Taking each point ahead, he began with serving and delighting consumers. “It’s a diverse population that can be divided into three segments in a pyramid – at the top you have the affluent, in the middle there is the aspiring, and at the base, there is the striving. Our business strategy has been to work out the pyramid than just enter from the top, which is what most other players have been doing for a while. It is only in the last three years that working the pyramid strategy has become popular with others as well.”
“We believe that there is business to be done at every level and every end of the market has a different objective. “At the base level, the idea is to drive penetration; at the middle level, you try and increase consumption and uptrading; and, finally, at the top, you leverage global mixes. Each level has tremendous amount of scope and there are different research and development challenges at each level,” explained Manwani.
He spoke on the tactics of differentiated portfolios and differentiated product forms to address the needs of the different components of the pyramid with either different brand names or same brand presented differently. An important point that he made here was the building of mass markets with examples from hair care, fabric cleaning and food categories. He also spoke on how reverse engineering played a role in successfully building markets.
On the subject of deepening partnerships with customers, he highlighted the importance of retail trade development and how the function was playing its role in pushing trade. “What was more a function of moving goods is becoming a function of moving brand building,” he emphasised.
Besides retail as a component, the other one that Manwani discussed was the importance of activation for brands and the on-ground initiatives that any company can take. Here he spoke on Project Shakti, saying, “To my mind, this is one of the biggest breakthroughs after Aarey and what we have done for distribution,” claimed Manwani.
According to Manwani, Project Shakti, which is HLL’s attempt to catalyse prosperity in Indian villages, is a serious business proposition that had a competitive edge to it and not something that can be achieved by anyone. “You have to have the vision but more importantly you have to have the scale to pull it off,” Manwani pointed out. In this context, he emphasised the need for building relationships with local communities, and dwelt on more such initiatives that Levers has been taking.
Summing up his presentation, Manwani stated that it is the growth mindset in markets like India which make DNEs the kind of important markets that they are today.