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Product innovation coupled with branding gave us a distinct advantage: Arjun Ranga, Cycle Pure Agarbathies

05-January-2018
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Product innovation coupled with branding gave us a distinct advantage: Arjun Ranga, Cycle Pure Agarbathies

Arjun Ranga, Managing Director of Cycle Pure Agarbathies, spoke about the way their strategy of spending aggressively on advertising and marketing has been helping them and has made the brand the only national brand of incense sticks. He also spoke about their marketing strategy, the year 2017 and plans for 2018.


Excerpts:

For an FMCG sector such as yours, it’s amazing to see your active approach towards marketing and advertising. What made you invest so much on this?

The entire initiative started about 20 years ago when we decided to move away from traditional distribution to organized distribution. Agarbathi is very unique as it’s under a few FMCG companies that have exclusive agarbathi dealers across the country. We are one of the very few networks that created a distribution network and moved away from traditional agarbathi networks into an FMCG model that enabled us to reach the customer faster and also create demand. Demand is first created by good value for money products coupled with built in brands. So, the brand architecture of Cycle playing the mother brand started quite a while ago and then product innovation coupled with branding is what gave us a distinct advantage. So, it fundamentally started with strong distribution, getting the product mix in order and then we started to promote the brand using media and advertising. It was a carefully planned strategy. One did not precede the other so it was a step by step process.

Since the last 15 years, we’ve gotten a lot more aggressive in advertising. We started advertising predominantly on cricket. We felt cricket had the highest reach in the country. It was an instant brand recognition that we got when we took over the India-Pakistan tour in 2004. That was the first time we were on cricket and we’ve stayed there since.

The brand ambassador segment has been quite recent as it was only a couple of years ago that we decided to get brand ambassadors on board. We felt that in the newer markets up north, Cycle as a brand is known but when celebrities are involved, then probably we will be equally well known. Like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, where we had a shared value, vision and ethos, we felt we could leverage the advantages of the brand as well as the ambassador.

What is your marketing strategy?

Strategy is to give value for money products of good quality to the consumer and make sure the consumer gets the product whenever he goes to the store and ensuring the brand is completely communicated throughout. Without good quality and a differentiated product with good quality fragrances, there’s nothing we can do. The issue here is, in agarbathies, there are so many different products. We are one of the few companies that make sure that each and every ingredient that we use is IFRA (International Fragrance Association) certified as per their guidelines. We are very compliant as an organization and the only carbon neutral agarbathi in the world. So, all of this coupled with communication is what gives us advantage. You can’t make a good ad with a celebrity and expect to sell when everything behind it is not good enough. That is, I think, the fundamental ethos for the company and brand.

How is this market of agarbathi brands?

This market is highly fragmented. There are a lot of regional players across. We are probably the only national player along with ITC who are dominantly on the first or second position across all the states in the country.

With digital becoming the big picture in most of the spaces, how is Cycle Pure Agarbathies coping?

I think digital is not taking over anything yet. That being said digital is a very important opportunity and there’s a huge amount of consumption there. We have a completely dedicated digital team and agency that manages our digital properties. We have an online store called cycle.in, which is the best website in the country in terms of getting agarbathi products. It’s well managed and we have prompt delivery as well. Our e-commerce is increasing day by day on our site. We are also the highest liked social media page and we have our own twitter handle as well as a YouTube channel. We have an in-house digital media team that also produces content for us. We also got into an online spiritual platform which is called soulveda.com. We also have this property called Pure Puja which is a one-stop solution for all your Puja needs including shlokas and more. We are doing quite a bit on the digital space as well.

As important as the brick and mortar is, the digital space is important also because that is the world that you have to exist in. If not, you won’t exist at all. And there is so much content that is being consumed that we need to be ready to churn it out. So, we do a lot of activity on the digital side with an independent team which is handling that out of Bengaluru.

The overall strategy is to create brand awareness on the digital arena because we believe that it is not just the “modern millennials” who use the digital platform, it’s also the traditionalists. Everybody is consuming content on it now.

Speaking of millennials, a lot of brands are taking a step ahead in their communication to reach out to them. What’s your view on this? What has Cycle Pure done in this sector?

We have a brand called Heritage which is positioned for the millennials. The tag-line is ‘whoever you are, phir bhi dil hain Hindustani.’ The ad shows a rockstar who comes home and lights the agarbathi sticks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQY8M4Xp2BM

What we are trying to say through this is that no matter how the world changes, there are some things that make you who you are as a person and agarbathi is an integral part of your tradition and your culture. We’ve conducted quizzes for high school students to teach them about heritage and culture.

How has the year 2017 been for you?

It’s been a very difficult year with GST, with a lot of de-stocking happening typical of the FMCG industry. But I think GST is good for the long term and we support it 100 per cent.

What are your plans for 2018?

In 2018, we’re going to do better. We’re going to get better products to the market and continue doing what we do well. We’ll continue to focus on innovation going forward.

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