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Chandru Kalro

Executive VP-Marketing | 04 Apr 2007

“Having been present in the Indian kitchen for over half a century, we have an unmatched understanding of the Indian woman and have seen her develop from a housewife to a world-beater today. This insight, which gets translated when we transact with her, is what makes us different. The trust and legacy that the brand carries is legendary…The salience of the brand is proved by its effortless extension into the entire kitchen space.”

As Executive VP-Marketing and a part of the strategic management group in TTK Prestige, Chandru Kalro has played a key role in changing the course of the company from being a pressure cooker company to making Prestige India’s number one kitchenware brand. An engineer by qualification, he has a total work experience of over 20 years spanning sales, marketing, corporate planning and strategy, alliances and sourcing. Chandru started his career in 1986 with BPL Limited in Chennai and has handled several product categories that included test and measuring instruments, office automation and telecom products. He was a part of the team that forayed into consumer durables for the first time with audio systems.

Kalro joined TTK as Product Manager and moved up quickly to the designation of General Manager-Marketing in two and a half years. He currently heads Sales and Marketing of all products of the company backed up by one of the largest and unique distribution networks in the durables industry. In this Brand Speak, Kalro speaks to Judy Franko of exchange4media about TTK Prestige’s foray into retail by setting up a retail chain across the country, and other achievements that helped to strategically transform the company from being a manufacturing focussed company into a marketing focussed one. Excerpts:

Q. What do you think is TTK Prestige’s USP?

A company built on the foundation of trust, transparency, innovation and knowledge — these same attributes are visible in every Prestige product. Having been present in the Indian kitchen for over half a century, we have an unmatched understanding of the Indian woman and have seen her develop from a housewife to a world-beater today. This insight, which gets translated when we transact with her, is what makes us different. The trust and legacy that the brand carries is legendary. TTK Prestige is one of the oldest business houses of India, which was founded in 1928 by the legendary TT Krishnamachari, who is considered to be one of the architects of modern India.

Q. What is Prestige’s market share? What is the strategy that has helped you retain this kind of predominant market share? How much increase do you anticipate this fiscal?

TTK Prestige currently holds about 37 per cent in volume of the branded pressure cooker market, close to 40 per cent in value, and over 50 per cent in the non-stick cookware market. This fiscal we plan to grow by 25 per cent.

One of the main reasons of TTK’s leadership in the market is the unmatched quality we offer at an affordable price. Our constant attempt to innovate and explore new business categories while keeping the Indian identity intact has given us the edge of becoming the most trusted kitchen brand in the country.

We invest heavily in R&D and marketing and it is this approach that has helped us drive the business and forge a special relationship with our customers. We have close to almost 2.5 million customers a year and targets to take this figure upwards to 3 million in the coming 12 months. A recent survey revealed that one product of Prestige is sold every five seconds and one Prestige cooker every 30 seconds, clearly establishing our leadership in the kitchen appliances category of consumer durables. What initially started off as a pressure cooker company is now a total kitchen solutions brand, with a product range of over 400 products under 16 categories.

The salience of the brand is proved by its effortless extension into the entire kitchen space. Strategic planning and sound market knowledge has helped us in a big way in maintaining the pre-dominant position. We entered the inner-lid cooker segment and introduced the Nakshatra range of cookers to tap the Northern market.

This makes Prestige the only national player operating in both the outer-lid and inner-lid pressure cooker market. Most importantly, we forayed into retailing in 2003 with exclusive retail showrooms called ‘Prestige Smart Kitchens’, the only kitchen appliance company to do so. We now have 173 PSKs in over 100 locations across the country and these help us provide our customers a never-before kitchen shopping experience. Everything that a lady needs to set up a kitchen is available under one single roof in the PSKs.

Q. Which are Prestige’s main competitors in the market?

The entire kitchenware industry is worth about Rs 3,000 crore. There is no other player who straddles the entire kitchen space. Market shares, being category specific, cannot be given. However, we own roughly about 10 per cent of the entire kitchen space, which is by far the highest.

Q. What is TTK Prestige’s advertising budget? What is your advertising mix?

We are the largest spenders of ads in the kitchen appliance category and in the current year, our advertising budget has been close to Rs 20 crore. We have spent close to Rs 15 crore on TVCs, as against Rs 85 crore spent by the entire industry in this medium, thus making us the highest spenders in this industry.

Q. Please explain about TTK Prestige’s transition from a kitchen appliances company to India’s first total kitchen solutions company.

This success saga had its beginning half a century ago when Prestige pioneered the pressure-cooking concept in India. With the launch of various kitchen appliances in the early part of this decade, Prestige began to straddle the entire kitchen space. With the launch of a whole range of appliances such as microwaves, chimneys, hobs, etc. in the last year, the company began to offer the customer virtually everything that she needed in her kitchen. With a very conscious decision to establish the brand as a total kitchen solutions provider, we have started showcasing and selling an exciting range of modular kitchens through our PSKs. Research has showed us that the brand extension into these products was viewed positively and was considered natural, given the trust that the brand enjoyed in the consumer’s mind. Although nascent, the modular kitchen business is one such extension, which is also a very visible identity parameter for our positioning as a total kitchen solutions provider.

Constant innovation is what has transformed Prestige from being a pressure cooker company, to a total kitchen solutions provider, and this has kept competition at a distance. As a consumer driven company, we believed in the power of research and development, which has helped us in increasing the consumer confidence in the brand by constantly reinventing ourselves into broader categories.

Q. Tell us about the different marketing initiatives you have undertaken. How much do you spend on these activities?

Through the years, Prestige has always initiated numerous marketing innovations; be it something as unconventional as dropping pamphlets from a helicopter in the 1950s, or the popular ‘Exchange Schemes’, which have become the order of the day today, Prestige continues to give customers complete value for money. At a time when pressure-cooking was considered dangerous, Prestige virtually built the category in this country by undertaking house-to-house demos of the product and building consumer confidence in the product. Prestige was the first company to conduct service camps for pressure cookers, and these have now come to be accepted as a norm in this category.

A display contest for dealers, which was an FMCG phenomenon for a long time, was brought into the consumer durables industry by Prestige, which was the first brand to conduct a display contest for its dealers across the country. These have again become a norm in the country.

The modern day consumer durable distribution system owes its gratitude to TTK Prestige, who has been the pioneers in setting up this distribution system in the pressure cooker category.

In a new twist to the exchange schemes that are the norm in this category, last year we introduced the ‘Exchange Anything for Anything’ scheme, where consumers could bring in any old product and exchange it for any new Prestige product of their choice, which was a big success.

Q. How many stores do you currently have? Is there any plan to expand via the franchise route?

The company currently has 173 PSKs spread across more than 100 towns. All stores operate through the franchise model.

Q. Please elaborate on TTK Prestige’s association with Archana Puran Singh and Parmeet Sethi. How has it helped in brand building?

Archana Puran Singh and Parmeet Sethi were primarily signed on to promote the new Nakshatra range of pressure cookers in North India last year. Having entered the North Indian pressure cooker market in a big way with the Nakshatra and inner-lid cookers, the challenge was to speak to our North Indian consumers in their own language, as well as to showcase the inimitable innovativeness and simplicity that characterises our brand.

The popular duo of Archana Puran Singh and Parmeet Sethi, by way of their ebullient, yet down-to-earth nature, gelled perfectly with our brand attributes and hence we signed them on. The duo is also the perfect example of the modern family — forward looking while retaining traditional Indian values. This is exactly what Prestige is as well. The TVC featuring them that was subsequently aired enjoys tremendous recall value and has been a big hit across North India.

Q. Tell us about your global presence…

TTK Prestige’s success in the Indian market has been echoed in markets abroad where it is sold under the brand name of Manttra. It is one of the leading Indian brands in the US market. Since the 1990s, TTK Prestige saw that not only were there millions of Indians living acroos the world, where the food habits and cuisine were unlike the Indian style, but were compatible to pressure cooking. That’s how Prestige reached through as ‘Manttra’ in the US.

Today, Manttra provides the widest range of pressure cookers in the US and is now set to be the leading pressure cooker brand there. Manttra is available at major retail chains like Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Kohl’s, Rich’s/Lazarus, Burdines, Belk’s, Sears Roebuck, Macy’s and JC Penny, among others.

Besides, TTK now operates in every continent in the globe. The company today also supplies pressure cookers to Prestige UK from where it had started importing pressure cookers. Prestige UK today sources a lot of its pressure cookers from TTK Prestige, India.

Q. Please throw some light on your distribution network.

The company has the largest distribution network for kitchen appliances and is available in all traditional and emerging modern retail formats in the country. The company has also set up its own retail chain, the PSKs, which gives it a unique competitive edge to set new benchmarks in kitchenware retailing.

The TTK Prestige distribution chain consists of a mix of direct dealers and distributors, who supply to the smaller sub-dealers. Product variety determines the distribution mode. Following is the market mix of sales distribution partners.

The market mix of sales distribution partners comprises 30 per cent of authorised re-distributors, 36 per cent of authorised dealers, 4 per cent of canteen store department, 10 per cent of big retail outlets, and 20 per cent of PSKs.

Q. How has the changing retail environment affected your business?

The big Indian retail story has opened new doors for making the brand visible in all possible platforms. It has definitely given us an edge and we are now recognised as the largest retailers in the kitchen appliance space. We constantly track and study retail benchmarks and have also created our own efficiencies in retailing, in terms of sales per square feet, ROI, etc. These are now accepted as benchmarks in its own right.

The retail boom has affected the business of the small time distributors in a big way but these have been one of the major contributors to the revenues of the company, and therefore we will still continue to support the small timers. Apart from growing our retail presence to 200 PSK outlets across more than 110 towns, we are certainly going to cash in on the opportunity and make our presence felt in all retail formats in the country. Predicting the power of retailing in the current situation, we are introducing a new retail format called ‘Kitchen Boutiques’. The first outlet has just opened in Bangalore.

Q. Are you taking any specific initiatives that target housewives?

The lady of the house has been at the core of our communication at all times. While the profile of the lady is now changing with the emergence of the nuclear family and the working woman, we still continue to speak to her for many of our product categories. Exclusive demo classes for all new products, special product offers during specific occasions, etc., are some of the initiatives we have undertaken from a marketing point of view to ensure regular interaction with the lady of the house. We are constantly speaking to her to understand her new needs through regular kitchen audits, and these insights are incorporated in our decision-making processes regularly.

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