"Key agenda to build on our iconic brands, expand already extensive distribution footprint"

Rajesh Ramakrishnan, Perfetti Van Melle’s new India MD, on challenges, cult advertising, the new Centre Fresh Mints and the way forward

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Jul 13, 2018 12:54 PM

If Mentos- dimaag ki batti jala de, Big Babol–Bade kaam ki cheez... are reminiscent of your growing up years and makes you wonder why unlike them, most product taglines of today don’t stick, then Rajesh Ramakrishnan, the newly appointed MD of Perfetti Van Melle India has the perfect explanation for you. He also talks about the most recent product proposition from Perfetti Van Melle- the Center Fresh Mints while elaborating on his vision for the company.

What is the first thing on the agenda after taking over as the MD of Perfetti Van Melle?
We have some really iconic brands and would like to see how we can further build them, make them even more relevant to consumers and get them to play a more meaningful role in the life of the consumer. That’s one clear task where the journey continues. The second is we have an extensive distribution footprint. So, again lot of opportunities to further expand that, especially with several new products coming in. And last but not the least I think we are in a fun category, and have some really talented people working with us here, so would like to continue to build on the talent and the organization culture in such a way to push innovation and have a culture where people enjoy doing what they do.
What are the new products in the pipeline?
There are quite a few of them. As we speak we are rolling out Center Fresh Mints in parts of India. These are compressed mints and happen to be the first extension of Center Fresh outside of gums. 
Perfetti has witnessed one of its slowest growth in sales in the past two years, less than 1%, how do you plan to set that right?
I think the last couple of years have been a bit challenging, both from an environment point of view, and other issues like GST, demonetization, both have had a significant impact because a lot of our products get sold as currency, instead of exact change shopkeepers give customers a candy. However while that has had an impact, our overall business is performing consistently and the intention is to see how we can take up the growth to a higher trajectory as we go forward.
Several taglines of ads from the previous decades have achieved cult status, do you feel the ads of today including Perfetti Van Melle’s have that kind of impact on people?
See, earlier it was a little bit simpler. We were ourselves starved of other options, TV was obviously a predominant thing, digital was not as big as it is now. Back then people didn’t spend as much time as they do on their mobiles. So, in a sense people could pay a lot more attention to brands and on what they spoke about. So it’s a little unfair to compare the two. And of course if you think about it, whichever brands made sure that they have something that really resonated with the consumer, those are the ones you still remember. For e.g. Nike saying, ‘Just do it’ is something you relate to at a personal level and then you obviously remember it even if they didn’t advertise for the next 20 years. So if brands have a philosophy which adds value or is very meaningful to the consumer then I don’t need to remind him about it, he will go pick it up himself. As a brand I just have to find newer means to integrate that philosophy into conversations with consumers.

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