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K. Ramakrishnan

President, Marketing | 11 Apr 2011

“Our biggest form of advertising is the café itself. As we keep saying, each of our 1070 stores is a marketing tool. By being present in all the high streets and the significant malls, the visibility we have is not easily measurable. While this may not account for advertising in the traditional sense of the word, it is surely one of the best ways to reach out to our prospects.”

K Ramakrishnan (Ramki) joined Café Coffee Day as its President, Marketing, in February, 2010. He moved from Lenovo India, where he was Country Manager of Marketing. Ramki has varied experience in marketing and branding and has spearheaded many success stories. Notable among those is the launch of TVS Star and TVS Apache. He had spent close to seven years at TVS overseeing various brands. Besides, he has also worked with TTK Prestige and Tata Tea.

In his role at Café Coffee Day, Ramki heads the marketing function of Café Coffee Day across the country. He is primarily involved in improving walk-ins, expanding the retail presence of Café Coffee Day in the country and overseeing the implementation of the new branding template of the chain.

Presently Ramki is actively involved in engaging Café Coffee Day consumers via the new age medium ‘social media’. His brain child and an important facet of growing and retaining consumers in today’s retail scenario, Ramki devotes considerable time to listening to his consumers, engaging them and creating experiences that excite and connect with them.

Ramki envisions Café Coffee Day to not only be the friendly and stylish social hub for the free spirited to get together but to also make the café a catalyst of many memorable conversations over a delicious cup of coffee.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Preeti Hoon, Ramki discussed the best way to make anything happen over coffee.

Q. How has been the journey so far since Café Coffee Day’s inception?

The journey has been quite exciting. Till the late 1990’s coffee drinking in India was restricted to the intellectual, the South Indian traditionalist and the five star coffee shop visitor. As the pure (as opposed to instant coffee) coffee café culture in neighboring international markets grew, the need for a relaxed and fun ‘hangout’ for the aspiration, urban youth in the country began to emerge. Recognizing the potential that lay ahead on the horizon, Café Coffee Day embarked on a dynamic journey to become a large organized retail café chain with a distinct brand identity of its own. Today Café Coffee Day has put up 1050 cafes in 175 cities and is now looking at taking this number to 2000 cafes by 2014.

Q. How was 2010 for the brand? What were the major developments?

2010 has been a water shed year. There have been many firsts in this year for CCD. Firstly, we introduced our refreshed identity. This identity was to reflect our role in the customer’s life. CCD has always been a place to hang out and have active conversations. This is reflected in the new logo of ours which symbolizes conversations. Secondly, we crossed a landmark number of 1000 cafes in this year. While it is just a number, it surely is a hugely reassuring milestone from the perspective of both employees and consumers. CCD strengthened its digital foray by an active engagement in social media. CCD’s fan base moved up from 4000 to 400000 in this year. This base is fantastic sounding board and feedback loop which has helped us co-create our menus and programs.

Q. How has the retail segment favoured or not favoured the brand over the years? How is the industry looking now?

It is important to note that the scale of operations in terms of the number of cafes and spread requires a very strong supply chain network. This has been our challenge and some of the bigger breakthroughs have been in this aspect with optimal turnaround time etc. One other aspect that we need to mention is the real estate prices and one needs to understand and gauge this aspect better so as to attain profitability. Café Coffee Day has set good benchmarks and brought to audiences a superior coffee drinking experience.

Q. Which form of advertising the brand is dependent on and why?

Our biggest form of advertising is the café itself. As we keep saying, each of our 1070 stores is a marketing tool. By being present in all the high streets and the significant malls, the visibility we have is not easily measurable. While this may not account for advertising in the traditional sense of the word, it is surely one of the best ways to reach out to our prospects. This apart, we rely a lot on collaborative advertising where in many brands which reach out to our customers through our cafes. These brands also promote CCD in their communications. We have strongly believed in the power of consumer opinion and word of mouth.

Q. With other coffee retail chains in the Indian market, what is your market share and how do you combat the competition?

We compete essentially for the time and mindspace of the consumer. To that extent, anything that vies for the consumer’s time is competition to us. For instance a mall, a cinema, a cricket match – all of these in a way are competition to us. Specific to cafes, there is plenty of room for many more players. Today the need for a hangout is practically at an arm’s length. In numbers we have 1070 cafes and the total number of cafes in India would be about 1600.

Q. How is the youth of today different from yester years? What percentage of youth forms your TG and what difference does it make to the brand?

Today’s youth are distinctly higher on the confidence index. This also makes them unforgiving and uncompromising. They are at all times connected and many of their choices are in the collective. Each of these has a marked impact on the way brands need to address them. While Café Coffee Day has consumers in all age groups, a significant part of them are in the 15-24 age bracket.

Q. You haven’t tried Television as a medium of advertising as yet. Have there been any disadvantages due to that? Do you plan to leverage it in future?

Like I mentioned earlier, we have believed in our cafes as a core medium to reach out to our consumers. This coupled with the high investments required to be on other media, we have thus far not been keen on this medium. In the future, it may well be necessary and possible for us to try out some of the traditional media to facilitate rapid awareness and reach.

Q. What are the expansion plans for ’11? What can we expect in the coming days...

We are opening close to 35 cafes each month and looking at taking our café numbers to 2000 by 2014.

Q. How does the brand measure its success?

Being in the retail business, one of the fundamental measures of brand success in our case is walk-ins and growth. This apart, brand is also measured by the strength of our fan base and the engagement levels of our fan base. We also measure our brand by sheer extent of geo reach. On top of all this is the achievement of financial goals that we set for ourselves.

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