At the recent Indian Marketing Awards (IMA) 2015 Indian Marketing Awards 2015 - presented by Hindustan Times and powered by & TV in Gurgaon,Anand Kripalu, CEO, United Spirits in an exclusive discussion with Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media, spoke about his experience and new trends in the marketing industry.
Q: For someone who has been with Cadbury, to end up in a company where one of the items is taken away from the marketing mix and not allowed in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and now Bihar. Do you feel guilty about selling what you should not be selling?
A: Alcohol is not in the same league as products in the category where one part of it is harmful. I think the biggest challenge for us remains the overcoming of cultural barriers. World over, alcohol has never been in control by prohibition. And there is enough evidence to show that prohibition gives rise to bootlegging and spurious products etc.
The only way to contain the consumption of alcohol is by advocating responsible drinking. We are putting serious marketing bucks not only in the company but in advocating responsible drinking. We have to make sure that the category is not seen in a bad light.
Very often the laws of prohibition are not in the consumer’s interest, there are larger agendas that are being played out.
Q: Will the change in the digital scenario today make a difference to your brand?
A: I think it will make a difference. You know when you push your ability you look for alternate means to build a relationship with your consumers. One of our stated principles is that we need to build digital as a source of competitive marketing. Unlike any other consumer category, the power of branding and the premium people are willing to pay for brands in this category is based on- what you drink is who you are. It is the nature of this category.
Q: In your previous role in Cadbury, you faced a crisis when there were reports about worms being found in the chocolate. How did you manage that crisis?
A: I just came in to Cadbury right at the end of the crisis. It was absolutely a brilliant crisis management thing done by my predecessors. The first thing that the company did was to accept the problem and change the packaging. Air-filtered packaging machines, from an envelope paper wrap with a foil inside to a hermetically sealed wrapper on both sides, with a purity sealed stamp on it. It was a tangible change to say that we have heard our consumers.
The second thing was to get Amitabh Bachchan on board. A salesman in the company gave us the idea of getting Amitabh Bachchan on board, because they are ones who have to face the heat everyday. We shot a few ads and he said he would personally go to the factories and check the products manufactured. The consumers will forgive you because they love the brand so much. From 2004 to 2013, Cadbury grew at a rate of 30 per cent per annum. So, if you do the right thing after the crisis, you will make a comeback.
Q: How do you see the future of marketing in the rural years five years from now?
A: Many of us would sit in urban areas thinking that the rural population is very different. We think that the aspirations and needs of rural consumers are lesser than us. So, something that would dramatically change in rural markets is that rural areas will leap forward more in terms of technology. The connectivity that the mobile technology offers will impact the marketing patterns. I think farming has undergone a change, removing the middlemen and branded marketers have landed their brands in these remote parts through that little screen.
We are going to see more and more rural people not only consume but participate in the economy and they will have access to more things than ever before.