Ambitious southern brands set sail on national waters

Jewellery, finance, mobile companies rope in stellar brand ambassadors and fine tune marketing strategy to mark their national foray

e4m by Deepa Balasubramanian
Updated: Oct 8, 2014 8:41 AM
Ambitious southern brands set sail on national waters

There is a perceptible change in the way south-based brands are making their presence felt in the national market, whether it is jewellery, finance or mobiles. Brands such as Muthoot Finance, Kalyan Jewellers, Malabar Gold, UniverCell have recently launched eye-catching marketing initiatives that give them a national identity.

According to Brand Expert, Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, if one looks at the history, most brands started out with regional offerings and later they started creating their presence in the national market.

Bijoor remarked, “Look at Nirma or look at any brand. They all start regional, and then sprout and strut national feathers. What is important is to carry a regional ethos in the case of some brands, and in the case of some, it is important to attain and strut a national imagery, if not an international one. Also, the importance of the persona and credibility of the brand ambassador that rubs off on the brand is to be kept in mind.”

Regional & National Presence

The business of loans against gold jewellery has been a traditional one but also in the grey area due to the presence of pawnbrokers and moneylenders, who have been exploiting customers for decades. Muthoot Finance Limited, the Flagship Company of the 127-year-old Muthoot Group, has been a name to be reckoned with in South India. But it was only in 1979, that Muthoot Finance ventured into the national market by opening its first branch in Faridabad and in 2006 the company went ahead with its first national campaign – Loan in 5 minutes.

Kalyan Jewellers has 12 stores are in the North and West and two stores in UAE market and the 41 stores in the southern market. They have been creating a splash by roping in Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as their brand ambassadors. Their first store in the North was established in Ahmadabad in 2012.

Naturals from Groom India Salon & Spa group has also taken a step towards creating a national presence. Naturals has 400 salons spread across India. It has tied up with Godrej Good & Green, the CSR initiative of the Godrej Group, to set up a training academy for beauty and salon services under this collaboration.

Recently, Kareena Kapoor was roped in to give the brand a national appeal, as the brand wanted a style diva or icon of beauty to project the right kind of image and gain traction.

With a 50 per cent overall growth rate and 210 plus salons across North East and South India, Green Trends the Salon & Spa is all set for expansion in the west. Currently the brand is present in 40-plus towns and plans to be present in every headquarter town.

National Strategy

Talking to us about its national strategy, Avinav Chaubey, AGM- Marketing, Muthoot Group said, “In 2006, the company was trying to build in-roads and spread its footprints beyond South India. To begin with, we introduced a 'Gold Loan Education Series' wherein the customers were explained about the benefits of the collateral and how it could empower and sustain an individual and his family. Then, we introduced the 'Loan in just 5 minutes' campaign. We witnessed huge footfalls and calls during this campaign, as people wanted to know how could they get loan so quickly as getting a loan had so far been a tedious task. Both these campaigns were hugely successful and paved way for removing the social taboo that is associated with this business.”

Kalyan Jewellers, being a Kerala brand has a strong hold in the indigenous market. Venturing outside was a roller-coaster ride. Gold is more popular in South India, so to crack the Mumbai or Delhi markets, required strategic planning. 

Earlier in an interview with media, T S Kalyanaraman, Chairman & Managing Director, Kalyan Jewellers said, “Aishwarya’s popularity and stardom at an international level is unparalleled. We are sure her personality and life which is the right balance of professional and personal success, style and substance, international acceptance and family orientation will take our brand to greater heights.”

Speaking on the marketing initiatives, Kalyanaraman remarked, “Majority of the jewellery retail in India is unorganised and people are getting cheated due to their ignorance. So our primary marketing goal is to change this trend. We were the first to introduce 100 per cent BIS hallmarked gold and price tag in every ornament we sold. We have also done many unique initiatives like the launch of loyalty card - a first in our segment- and today the group has more the 25 lakh loyalty card holders.  We also started a new concept to educate and reach customers in the rural areas by opening service centres in an around our showrooms and today we have 552 ‘My Kalyan’ centres spread across the country. Recently we converted 250 of these centres to mini stores where we have started selling affordable diamonds ranging from Rs 5000 to Rs 25,000.”

Speaking on the brand’s marketing initiatives S Deepak Praveen, COO, Green Trends Unisex Hair and Style Salon said, “Before we enter a new market, a detailed market entry docket is prepared. One key strategy at Green Trends is to set up salons in the right markets within the city, one that creates sufficient visibility and is convenient for the consumer. Similarly we understand the type of services a customer needs, map it with what we offer and include what we don’t as well. Pricing is also based on the market acceptance.”

Leader in the mobile phones and tablets segment in South India, UniverCell has put in all its efforts to build the brand on a bigger scale, with a national presence, which had been the vision of founder Satish Babu. UniverCell entered Mumbai recently and has 10 shops.

Talking about the brand’s national initiatives, Soumya Menon, VP, Brand Strategy, UniverCell remarked, “When we started our business in the South, our aim was to get national soon. We started by creating unique TV campaigns in the South, showcasing the quality of service rendered. We also made sure that customers were treated like a family member and given the best product available in the market. People started recognising us and we soon became the household brand for customers in South India, especially Chennai.”

Customised service has also helped UniverCell gain traction, says Menon. For instance, once an individual purchases a phone from their online store, he or she may get a customer service executive to come home and install the device, at a very affordable cost. The choice of location to establish stores and the brand message has helped UniverCell grow. Menon also said that, customisation has helped them reach out to customers with apt information, which ultimately leads to increase in sales.

Scope & Challenges for expansion

The biggest challenge for south-based brands face that aims to go national is keeping their message consistent and relevant to each of the states. Most of the brands keep their messaging simple to eliminate customer’s confusion that may arise from different marketing messages sent out across competing platforms.

For example, in all the UniverCell ads they have tried to convey one single message that ‘UniverCell is the mobile expert’, whether one wants to buy a smartphone or feature phone UniverCell is a one-stop shop for everyone.

Naturals and Green Trends also convey the message of ‘best quality service’ rendered at their shop.

One of the biggest challenges that Naturals faced was the lack of quality manpower. Kumaravel feels building a brand was a challenge on a national scale, as the salon industry carries a taboo. But he says he managed to go national by designing his marketing strategy carefully.

Agreeing to what Kumaravel said, Praveen added, “A strong back end team needs to be created in every zone we enter, identifying the right resources, providing sufficient training, finding the right franchisee partner who has the same levels of passion and willingness to work in a systematic professional manner. We have invested about 15 per cent of our turnover in brand advertising this year. It is almost 25 per cent higher than previous year. We will be soon entering the western market and expect these zones to be a significant contributor to our business.”

Kalyan Jewellers has plans to open 17 new stores across India and expects a 15 per cent growth in revenue. Kalyan Jewellers spends 40 per cent of its marketing money on television, 40 per cent in press and rest in outdoor, radio.

Menon said, “Our aim is to establish in the other parts of India and become a leader and a 10,000 crore company by 2020 by creating a unique product experience for customers.”

On the other hand, Muthoot’s primary challenge was to get the brand name pronounced correctly by the people. The next challenge involved showcasing the brand's effort towards empowering the unbanked and underserved as well as bridging the gap between the banks and the unbanked. However, the turning point for the brand came in 2010 when it associated with Delhi Daredevils. The four-year association leveraged the company’s brand leadership in the BFSI sector multi-fold and gave a nouveau platform in terms of National and International brand recognition. Other big-ticket initiatives, like associating with Cochin International Half Marathon, also helped the brand to get recognised in the market place.

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