General Manager | 28 Jan 2005
“The conventional Party method of selling is the core of our business in India and Europe. What we have done worldwide is to support the method through a measure of brand building initiatives. We are trying to make the brand visible where the people are.”
Asha Gupta returns to India from Tupperware Nordic based in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she was Marketing Director for eight Western European countries, including Scandinavia and Baltic nations. In her three-year tenure there, she was instrumental in energizing the markets with new programmes, Business-to-Business initiatives and sales development activities.
Her relationship with Tupperware started in 1997, when she joined as part of the start-up team and headed the sales for the Southern markets in India. After a successful two-year stint in the South, she was promoted to Head of Marketing for Tupperware India based in Delhi. During the assignment she initiated strong product and promotional programmes that enlarged the sales force and consumer base in India.
Gupta has about 11 years of diverse sales and marketing experience with multinational companies, both in India and abroad. She started her career with Coats Viyella India Ltd. (Madura Coats) and worked with the organisation for three years in sales management in Mumbai. She also worked with Coca Cola in the Middle East, spearheading the launch of new products such as juices and energy drinks. In an interview with Rummana Ahmed of exchange4media, she talks about the distribution method of Tupperware and the various brand building initiatives. Excerpts:
Q. What is the distribution method employed by Tupperware for a worldwide reach?
Tupperware is a direct-selling company and has a distribution method where the top of the value chain supplies to a distributor; a distributor is a franchisee, who is appointed by the company. Below the distributor there is a unit manager and below him is the consultant, who is called a dealer in other countries. So typically, both the dealer and manager demonstrate Tupperware to parties. The basic difference is a manager manages a set of consultants and a dealer works independently. A distributor manages a set of 20-30 managers. The company supplies directly to the distributors, they distribute to the consultants and managers and they re-distribute to guests at the Party or to consumers. That’s the method of distribution we follow.
Q. Tupperware doesn’t use the traditional retail channels to distribute its products. Why?
The company tried at very early stages to go retail but the product being very unique and demonstration required more explanation than that is obvious to the person’s eye. Therefore, the retail strategy didn’t work for the company. At that point of time, one of the founders of the business, adopted the Party method of selling. It’s not like she invented it but the Party method was popularised by Tupperware. The method clicked because we could see to a group of captive consumers in their homes. By performing a product demonstration, we created a need for the product and also gave the consumers useful tips on it. So, they had a huge value taking the product home, and since that kind of information is not available at a retail outlet, the retail method did not work.
Q. How has the ‘Party Plan’ method worked for the company?
The Party method is the only method we have been using and it has helped us in achieving growth in a big way. The one drawback of this method is that it does not have an exponential reach when we enter into the market. Here it is more of word-of-mouth that gives the spillover effect and sooner or later people get familiar in terms of brand recall. Tupperware has made its mark in high quality standards.
Q. What has been Tupperware’s growth since its inception in India?
Tupperware was basically in five markets, primarily in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata, when we started. We were only in the main cities and didn’t look at the satellite towns. We stayed that way for two and a half years and then we added more markets. Over the past eight years, we are now present in over 40 cities and have a workforce of 55,000 consultants in India. We have now 85 distributors. Five years ago, we had 40 distributors. We have doubled our turnover and have just moved over Rs. 100 crore. Now, that the momentum has picked up. The prospects are very bright in terms of turnover growth, expansion of workforce and new markets.
Q. What are the marketing initiatives and strategy that you have?
The conventional Party method of selling is the core of our business in India and Europe. What we have done worldwide is to support the method through a measure of brand building initiatives. We are trying to make the brand visible where people are. With retail becoming more advanced in India, we are trying to be present in shopping malls. We have put up mobile stations where people can come and see the product. If they want to buy they do, otherwise we keep the contacts and try to have a Tupperware Party at their house.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have aligned with a group of companies over a period of time. We try to partner with companies for joint promotions so that the brand can reach out to more and more homes. It is a symbiotic relationship where both brands benefit from each other.
We are trying to initiate trial and increase brand awareness. In SEC AB, people are aware of the brand, where people are unaware we see a huge opportunity and we are trying to penetrate these areas.
Q. Even though Tupperware is targeted at the masses, you have not been so aggressive with its advertising. Why?
In direct selling there is no such thing as an above-the-line (ATL) budget. The value chain is structured in a way, so that the money we spend on advertising is channelised to develop our workforce. We consider our 55,000 sales force as our walking-talking hoardings, billboards, radio and newspaper. These people do a better job than what advertisements can do. Advertisements can increase brand awareness but it cannot guide the person to the point of purchase. Conventionally, we don’t put money on ATL activities. It is mostly BTL for brand building activities, which is at visible levels. But it is more important towards motivating our sales force to talk more about the product. By motivating a lady to do more Tupperware Parties we are reaching out to another 10 guests and that is more important for us.
Q. Tupperware is not an Indian brand, so what were the brand building initiatives at the time of launch in India in 1996?
We didn’t do any brand building initiatives at the time of launch but we went out an addressed an existing or a latent consumer need. We went out and started talking to people about the typical household problems that they have in storing foodstuff. We introduced this product, that was going to keep the food safe for them and the product spoke for itself. People were excited about the new product and it worked wonders for them. People who had lived abroad were aware of Tupperware and were happy that it was now available in India. But for people, who were not aware, the product amazed them and we didn’t have to go all out to do huge brand building at that point in time.
We followed a method of starting up the market by building our sales force and training them. That was our main focus. We are a hugely sales driven organisation and we realised that if we trained our people and gave them the right skills, they are going to go out and sell the product.