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Roshan L.Joseph

Director | 27 May 2003

"I have been in this job for 30 years and I can confidently say that the kind of challenges that Eveready has faced, its difficult to find a company that has gone through so much and yet managed to remain on top."

Roshan L.Joseph has around 30 years of experience in battery and flashlight marketing, Sales Training and HRD. In an interview with him he talks about the 98-year-old brand Eveready and its campaign "Give me Red." A Whole time Director of Eveready Industries India Ltd., Roshan has been with the company for over 29 years.

Q. How has the journey been for Eveready so far?

Never been a dull moment I can say. It has been very exciting. I have been in this job for 30 years and I can confidently say that the kind of challenges that Eveready has faced, its difficult to find a company that has gone through so much and yet managed to remain on top.

Q. Can you tell us something about the positioning of the various brands of your company?

We have two major brands called the Rural or "Safed" batteries and Urban or "Red" batteries. It is essentially for the Red or the Urban battery that we came up with the 'give me red' campaign, which reflected the RED factor of Eveready. For the rural areas we came up with a campaign called "Full Full Masala".

Q. When and how did the

In the early 90s, research showed that Eveready brand was very strong in the age group of 45+. Contrary to this, the younger group of consumers believed that only the Japanese could make batteries. We had a choice of being very strong all India with the older consumers but at the cost of ignoring the emerging young consumers.

It was the pre MTV era and yet we could see some uniformity in the attitudes of the youth. Be it Aurangabad, Chennai or Burdwan, there was a kind of homogeneity in the youth's values. This was the group we needed to address. At that time we were in between products, our sales were declining and the market was also shrinking. We had a very popular and champion red brand of battery, which we used to get our message across to the youth through the "give me red campaign". That time we could barely sell 65 million a year but after the campaign things started looking up, and now we sell over a 100 million batteries.

Q. Are you happy with the communication done for your brand?

Yes, it touched a chord with the youth. It initially upset the company and its sales force, but when they got the results they had nothing to complain about. You must take into consideration that we had come out of a moratorium due to the Bhopal episode where we could not advertise for 10 years and then when we did, we came out with this new concept AD. But it worked wonders for the brand. We have had an idea for nearly 12-13 years and we are not shifting from it, we just might graduate slightly. Our competitors advertise sporadically whereas we are consistent. I believe our campaign is more effective.

Q. What has been Eveready's strength?

Eveready is 98 years old in the country. It has delivered the promise that the consumer has sought. It is available where ever the consumer is. Distribution and consistent quality are the two basic foundations on which the brand Eveready is built. It has always met the expectations of the Indian consumer. That I think is the strength of the brand.

Q. What is the current distribution pattern of the brand? What steps is Eveready taking to increase its distribution in the country?

We have an enormous distribution system. We have 1000 vans operating across India. The whole system is based on Eveready reaching the inaccessible areas, which we do either by vans or by stockists (4000 odd stockists). Eveready product is brought fresh to the door of the retailer. Retail outlets in India grow at the rate of 8%. Therefore the need of doubling our reach in the course of 6-7 years is high especially when the distribution network remains stagnant. We are in the process of doubling our reach. We reach once, twice or sometimes even four times a month 600,000 retail outlets directly. Work is on to make that a million for deeper entrenchment across the country.

Q. Can you tell us about some of the recent marketing initiatives?

We are currently focusing on display at point of sale. We are also reworking our packaging to enhance display. We are the only company with a 20-piece display as compared to the other companies who have a 10-piece display, to get more shelf space. We were the first ones to start the concept of packing the batteries with the torch, despite a lot of criticism and bottlenecks and now every other battery company follows it.

Q. What is the medium of communication that you use to reach out to the consumers in the rural segment?

Organized media can reach our rural TG to the extent of 40%. The rest 60% of our rural TG remains untouched. When you talk rural, you have to be able to do things that are not readily there. We have been very strong in "Rural Mela" participation. It is a very basic concept but has served to provide some exceptional results. We go to these very small and unheard melas besides the famous ones like the Kumbh Melas. O&M rural assists in increasing the brand awareness for Eveready in the rural areas. It organizes film festivals, game shows and many other simple activities where there is an interaction with the consumer. In rural, we do a heap of basic things.

Q. What is the extent of your marketing activity? Do you rely heavily on below-the-line support?

We do a lot of below the line activity in the urban areas as well. Recently, we had tied up with the promotion of "Shanghai Knights" which was branded around the Eveready truck, which is seen in the Eveready TV commercial. The branch teams get excited with these promotions. Unless you keep the pot bubbling, people will not draw energy from the product. TV advertising is a hygiene factor now. Interactivity with the customer is the need of the hour. At the same time I accept that there is no substitute for traditional media.

Q. Which one is your best performing sub-brand?

The rural battery -the white Eveready which was our best performing brand is being overtaken by the pencil batteries and the alkaline batteries as the equipments using these batteries are growing tremendously.

Q. How important is it to be a well-known brand in the batteries sector?

Many people have tried to enter the battery sector, as it's not a protected industry. They are lying by the wayside, as they did not get their act together. To sell a battery without a strong branding support is impossible as the players in this category are so formidable. There is Novino, BPL, Jeep and they have their strengths in different pockets of the country.

Q. Has there been any change in the positioning of Eveready recently?

While the earlier ad talked about Brute Power, the new ad is about 'Empowerment'. This new ad focuses on the truck that passes through and empowers people and objects around it.

Q. How do you react to your competition?

I keep telling the team that there is no point in rear view mirror watching saying how far is the competition and what are they up to etc. The truth is that if you have your plans straight, you have your programmes in line, you have your team charged up with what has to be done, it is the others that have to worry. I don't worry about competition. If the competition advertises it goes to help the industry and also provides the consumers with more choice. We would like to see more competition, which would keep us on our toes.

Q. There were talks about Eveready Industries India Ltd to restructure and ultimately hive off its battery division. When and why did this happen? How did you react to this and currently what is the situation?

Eveready is a very strong brand and whoever buys it has got a goldmine in it. Even though the Williamson Magor group bought a major share in it, there are more people who feel that it would be a good brand to have. There were times when people have offered huge amount of monies for buying Eveready. That carries on, that is something you have to deal with everyday when you have such a powerful brand. I feel very happy to know that there are people who want to buy the brand. My objective is to make this brand so attractive that people would always want to buy it.

Q. What is the Greendale Concept?

Greendale propounds three values. They are consumer proximity, tangible differentiation from other competition products and companionship with energy and loyalty. Greendale is an umbrella brand under which we have some tea brands launched. This could extend in the future to other products also. Right now, nothing is planned as we have a lot on our hands.

Q. What were the sales revenues of Eveready for the year 2002?what are the sales revenues expected in 2003 - 2004?

The turnover of the company for the year 2001-2002 was at Rs 897.14 crores. We expect a growth in this figure for 2002-2003 though we will be announcing our results on May 9, 2003.

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