South India has many successful regional brands that are going national. Sharing their success stories were some of these brands during a panel discussion: 'South Champions: Creating Successful National Brands', at the Pitch CMO Summit 2012 – South, in Chennai on Friday.
On the panel were, Charath Narasimhan, CEO, Indian Terrain; BA Srinivasa, Joint MD, Vivek; GR Anand, Joint MD, GRT Group; Neeraj Moorjani, Head, Marketing, Cholamandalam MS General Insurance; and Satya Prabhakar, CEO, sulekha. The panel was moderated by Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-Comm.
Speaking first was Narasimhan. “Chennai is the market place that has seen a huge change and is the developing place for every marketer,” he said.
He started Indian Terrain in 2001. Primarily grown from south, today it has become a national brand with presence in 120 towns.
According to Narasimhan, the brand's one-third of business comes from south. Recently, 10 new stores were opened in the four southern states – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Pointing out the challenges the marketers face, he said, “The biggest challenge is to sell unique and different products. Only then will people come to buy,” he said.
Speaking next was BA Srinivasa of Viveks, the consumer durable retail store that started in 1965. Today the brand is present in 16 cities in Tamil Nadu and one in Karnataka, and is on a verge of expansion further into the south market.
Srinivasa shared that the annual turnover for the brand in its first year was Rs 1,65,000. “Today we earn that much in a single day,” he said. The annual turnover today is Rs 500 crore and the employee strength of Viveks is over 1,000.
He felt that customer service was the most important point to be taken care of as the customers have become more demanding. “Today customers want products to be delivered within 24-hours and round-the clock service, and that's a challenge,” he said.
Speaking on how regional marketers could leverage digital, he was of the opinion that while digital can get recognition to brands, it is “word-of-mouth and customer service” that will build a brand. “Our large clientele consists of women, and their word-of-mouth travels faster than a news channel,” he said on a lighter vein.
Speaking next was GR Anand of GRT Group. GRT, a jewellery chain started as a small store in T Nagar, in Chennai, today has 13 stores across the state.
He felt that the reason behind the chain's success was that the brand has everything for everyone and did not distinct between classes. “We don't use the word 'middle-class'. We are a 360-degree jeweller and feel that no one should walk out of our store to find another one. I am a strong believer in the bottom pyramid philosophy,” he said.
The biggest challenge he feels is advertising, which he has to across mediums, and languages.
Speaking next was Neeraj Moorjani of Cholamandalam. He pointed out that while Cholamandalam was a South Indian brand, 32 per cent of its business comes from East India, “Only 30 per cent of our business comes from south,” he said. “Insurance is about diversification of risks. So irrespective of the place you are, they have to be catered and unified,” he added.
The challenge has been at looking at what unifies Cholamandalam's customers. “There are differences and differences have to be kept aside. There are 74 lakh families we cater to, and most of the families are from states such as Bihar and Sikkim. The challenge is to have policies and service centres that unifies all,” he said.
Last, but not the least, on the panel was Satya Prabhakar of Sulekha. “Time is limited and the choices have increased, so what is premium today is not money but time,’ says Prabhakar. “An ad is an annoyance, when you don’t want what they sell, but ads are delightful, if you get what you want,” added Prabhakar.
The key challenge for him has been to find a motivated buyer to what he sells. “And the secret is to be innovative and be unique in what you sell,” he added.
Emphasising on the importance of digital, Prabhakar said, “Online is where the attention is, as people follow the brand online and only then they go to buy the product offline. Online is a medium, which all marketers should pay attention to,” he said.
Ramanujam Sridhar, while summing up the panel's approach said that while a decade ago there was saying down south that 'North is progressing and South is decaying', the statement no more holds true. Many regional players from the market are not only strong regionally, but are also finding their place on the global map.
The Economic Times was the title sponsor of the Summit. TV9 was the associate sponsor. The Summit was supported by Ad Club Chennai and Ad Club Hyderabad.