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Marketing Interviews

Pravin Kulkarni

General Manager | 26 Apr 2012

“The positioning for a product is decided keeping in mind a number of factors, including strength of the brand, USP, target group, market scenario, and what is competition doing…we don’t want to repeat something that is already done. We always base positioning on findings from our surveys on consumer insights, behaviour, attitude, reaction to the brand and category.”

Pravin Kulkarni has more than 15 years of experience in the domain of sales and marketing management across various leading companies such as Blow Plast, Pidilite and Parle. He joined Parle Products in 1994 and is currently GM, Marketing.

He is based out of Mumbai and is responsible for corporate strategy, business profitability, product portfolio management, strategic brand management, advertising and promotion for all Parle brands in the country.

Kulkarni is a graduate in Engineering from VJTI, Mumbai and a postgraduate in Management from the University of Pune.

The difference between rural youth and urban youth is getting very narrow, observes Pravin Kulkarni, General Manager, Parle Products while speaking to Priyanka Mehra. He urges marketers to interact with consumers and understand the role that a product plays in their lives. Excerpts:

Q. How are each of your brands positioned? What is the rationale behind their positioning?

Parle G was initially positioned as a source of health and nutrition. As the market scenario changed, we also changed the positioning to an energiser. We did the ‘G for Genius’ campaign to appeal to kids segment on the basis of consumer insights and emerging trends. Parents were worried that their children have to fight out in a competitive environment and need strong mental health. So we changed our positioning from nutrition to an energiser for mental health.

The positioning for ‘Hide and Seek’ is that it is a facilitator for romance. The positioning for a product is decided keeping in mind a number of factors, including strength of the brand, USP, target group, market scenario, and what is competition doing…we don’t want to repeat something that is already done. We always base positioning on findings from our surveys on consumer insights, behaviour, attitude, reaction to the brand and category. Once we understand the entire landscape of category versus the brand and understand the consumers’ needs, we base our positioning on it. Gathering consumer insights is our preliminary homework.

Q. What is the market share of Parle G in each category? What kind of growth has each category witnessed?

Parle G’s marketshare by volume in each category is Biscuits – 50 per cent; Confectionery – 20 per cent and Snacks – 7-8 per cent. Biscuits and confectionery, both have seen a growth of more than 20 per cent. The snack category has just started.

Q. How is the brand faring with new products such as FullToss? How do you plan to compete with other aggressive brands such as Lay’s, Hippo, etc.?

The task is difficult as we have very strong competition in the form of Lay’s and Kurkure that have built up strong brand equity. Additionally, there is a lot of regional competition from players such as Balaji, Haldiram’s and now Bingo from ITC. What we are doing is giving maximum value to the consumer by way more grams per pack and competitive weight at the same price. We don’t have a choice with the pricing, since there are established price slots. The only thing variable is weight per pack, which we have optimised.

Parle stands for quality. We give attractive packaging to appeal to both, youth and families along with doing interesting campaigns. In the snacks category, fortunately, there are a lot of innovations and formats that can be tried. There is a possibility of trying new flavours as well as the Indian palate is now accepting a whole new variety of flavours from continental, Indian and regional. We are looking at some new interesting snacks with new flavours. We also want to explore new price points. We have the added advantage of our core distribution strength and leveraged that to the maximum.

Q. What is the current positioning of the brand, given its diverse sub categories?

Parle G’s core brand position stands for great value to consumers and providing them fun and health by way of food products.

Q. You have a varying range of products, including high-end premium products such as Hide-and-Seek and Milano for which you have celebrity-led campaigns. How do these campaigns differ from mass products such as Parle G and Monaco?

The campaign starts from the proposition itself that has to appeal to the target group. Media selection changes depending on the product, so does the tone of the TVC. Each brand has its own market. The Milano market is niche as it is a premium brand. Marketshare of Parle G versus Milano is very different as Parle G is a mass brand and it is available even in villages with a population of 500 people. We cannot compare the two as the category sizes are completely different. Parle G contributes to nearly 60 per cent of sales in terms of volume. The comparison of a 75 year old brand versus a recent brand is not fair.

Q. How are you using digital media to build your brand and connect with the youth?

To begin with, we have completely revamped our website from being a corporate website to a consumer-friendly one. We have started showing a strong presence in social media and have pages for our brands. We are looking at the digital space very seriously and see huge potential in it. We have appointed Law and Kenneth as our digital agency for the past two years. We have taken up branding for Yahoo Multiplex, which has given us good response. We have even taken sponsorship on Indiatimes.com for IPL Season-5. We continue to invest in the digital space wherever we see a good opportunity.

Q. On hindsight, out of your previous marketing plans, what would you have done differently?

I can think of the Melody campaign we did, which was targeting the kids segment. At that time, Melody was being consumed by all segments, even teenagers. When we showed kids in the campaign, teenagers thought it was only for kids. So they were alienated from the brand. We corrected this error immediately and included adults in our campaign as well. Fortunately, we got our consumers back.

The other example I can cite is Smart Chips, which we launched as a healthy snack three years back. It was a great concept; unfortunately we had to withdraw it, as we were not getting repeat consumers because of the taste of the product. I wish we had worked on the taste at an earlier stage. It was a great concept and could have become a much bigger brand. The only consumers who were very, very serious about their health liked the product.

Q. What challenges do you face in order to consistently evolve and keep this heritage brand relevant to current consumers?

The main challenge is that consumers are used to the older brands looking a certain way, especially in case of Parle G. Consumers have an emotional attachment to it, like the baby on the Parle G pack. We cannot remove the baby from the pack because almost 90 per cent of consumers will move away from the brand if we do. The challenge is to modernise the brand and get new consumers as well as retain the old consumers.

A delicate balance needs to be achieved with no drastic changes. We changed the Parle G pack by making subtle changes gradually, keeping the core property the same. For Hide-and-Seek we did not face the same challenge. We changed the identity overnight with a changed logo and it got easy acceptance from consumers.

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