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Dr Verghese Kurien was the original marketer of his kind: Shashi Sinha, IPG Mediabrands, India

05-December-2017
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Dr Verghese Kurien was the original marketer of his kind: Shashi Sinha, IPG Mediabrands, India

No brand can be complete without the people behind it, stated Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India, during his address on ‘Humanising Brands: Make Them Believe’ at the recently concluded exchange4media Conclave - South. He spoke about Amul and how working with Dr Verghese Kurien, founder chairman of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), was a revelation.

During his address he regaled the audience with anecdotes from his working experience with Amul and Dr Kurien. He started off how in July '86 the technologist walked in unannounced at Sinha’s office. With his bosses out of the country, Sinha who was working at a junior position attended to him with a few other colleagues. During the discussion, the technologist asked about Amul butter and the corporate values. Unimpressed with the answers, he asked Sinha to take up a refresher course at an institute in Anand and go around the system for a few days which involved collection of milk in the villages to working in the factory. Towards the end, Dr Kurien decided to work with him with a list of conditions. Sinha recalled, “He said that ‘we will start small. I don’t hire easily, don’t fire easily. Whatever you say I will approve. As many mistakes are allowed. Have conviction. Be clear in what you are doing. I have zero tolerance for financial laundering'.”

That’s how Sinha grew from strength to strength with their brand called Amulya, which is now worth Rs 500 crore. He proudly said, “Amul is the only brand that works on 15 per cent commission.”

Sinha also informed that the brand Amul is bigger than GCMMF which is worth Rs 28000 crore, “This is because the way cooperation is structured is there are multiple companies who sell milk directly. In Gujarat the milk is sold through dairies themselves. Brand Amul is another 10,000 crore more i.e. Rs 38,000 crore. It’s the largest food brand in the country, all built by people.”

He added, “More than the scale and the size of the company the story is about how it runs and was built. Those values are still intact. In my mind Dr Kurien was the original marketer of his kind. He was not a trained marketer. Today marketers talk of master brand. Dr Kurien without referring to master brand created that concept for Amul. For a man who is a technologist to understand the principles of marketing and branding which is taught at business schools in India is a great story to tell.”

Kurien also taught Sinha to hire people for attitude. “They believe in consistency. Amul doesn't believe in building huge hierarchy. The top people have been there for long.”

The CEO also talked about Dr Kurien insisting on being Indian and giving back to the farmers. “Amul’s philosophy was cheap prices to consumers and full money back to the farmer. So the middle sections were meant to be functional and limited money. This company’s advertising and sales promotion stands at 1 per cent even today. Philosophy was to spend less money but do it consistently."

With his anecdotes Sinha showed how Dr Kurien was ahead of his times when it came to marketing. This was during the show ‘Sri Krishna’in ’89 when he was furious with so many Amul ads continuously playing on DD National. He said, “Dr Kurien wanted one ad for Amul speaking what it stands for. He didn’t allow 10 commercials running on the same program. Also he was fed up of ads.”

At this point he suggested Sinha to go and buy all the spots ‘Don’t allow any ads in the spot. I will pay for it but you let a ticker run saying that it’s an advertising free program thanks to Amul.”

He also talked about Amul’s movie ‘Manthan’ and how the farmers of GCMMF were its producers. He went on about how Dr Kurien picked up ‘The Taste of India’ concept and put it out. Between these two themes- women empowerment Manthan theme and Taste of India- Sinha spent 50 per cent of their budgets.

He showed two similar themed commercials of Amul which was 10 years apart, emphasising on consistency. Amul hoardings have become legends now, which are being levered to print.

He concluded the session on how Indians should be proud of Dr Kurien and the brand Amul. “To this day I am thrilled for that rainy day in '86 when Dr Kurien walked into our office.”

This edition of exchange4media's flagship property was sponsored by Deccan Herald as it’s presenting partner and Colors as the powered by partner. The event was also sponsored by Indianexpress.com as the Gold Partner, Associate Partner - Asianet News Network, Co- Partner- Tribes Communication, Engagement Partner - WION, Community Partners - AD Club Bangalore, AD Club Madras, Pepper Creative Awards Trust -Kerala, Pickle Jar , Live Streaming Partner - 24 Frames Digital, Trade Media Partner - Realty Plus and Business Media Partner - BusinessWorld.

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