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AIMA National Marketing Summit: Demystifying often-ignored marketing channels

19-December-2005
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AIMA National Marketing Summit: Demystifying often-ignored marketing channels

The second day of The National Marketing Summit organised by the All India Management Association (AIMA) started with two sessions that discussed important marketing channels such as rural marketing, direct marketing and e-marketing.

Amit Kumar Roy, Head FMCG, ITC e-choupal, ITC Ltd, was the speaker for session one titled “Pahel Ya Paheli: Rural Marketing?” ITC through the e-choupal system is improving the lives of thousands of Indian farmers. Started in June 2000, ITC e-choupal is successfully breaking the vicious cycle of farmers struggling due to high prices and transaction costs.

ITC e-choupal focuses on the entire production and distribution chain and enables farmers to earn higher incomes through accurate technology-based information. The system has provided information and knowledge that empowers farmers to break away from a constant state of dependence that they were forced into.

According to Roy, ITC’s e-choupal removed the middlemen who used to exploit the farmers. ITC appoints a sanchalak in each e-choupal, who is voted by the villagers themselves. This sanchalak has to be educated, progressive and well respected in the village so that he can understand the farmers’ problems and address them effectively.

Though slow in gaining popularity earlier, ITC’s e-choupal today is a serious threat to the traditional oppressive mandis that used to exploit farmers on the basis of prices, quality of seeds, crops, etc.

Roy said, “ITC e-choupal has several advantages. It imparts right information to the farmers, there is no exploitation, distribution is done at a low cost, it is wide reaching, and has very high credibility, and enables increased product penetration.”

Understanding the evolved sensibilities of rural Indians has also resulted in ITC starting Choupal Sagars, which are rural hypermarkets providing multiple services under one roof. Not only are these Choupal Sagars a platform where farmers sell their produce, but also a place where farmers buy quality products for their farms and houses. Choupal Sagars, besides selling everything from pins to branded electronic products and clothes, also provides farmers with invaluable services of soil testing, banking, insurance and medical facilities.

Session two titled “E-marketing, Ya Kuch Aur Raste” discussed the importance of direct marketing and e-marketing. Rajeev Karwal, Summit Director, said, “The session aims to talk about marketing channels that are generally not paid importance to.”

Bal Palekar, Senior VP-Marketing and Knowledge Management, Eureka Forbes, explained the concept of Eureka Forbes direct marketing that is now discussed as a case study at Harvard. Palekar defined direct marketing as the exact opposite of mass marketing that focused on bulk production and buying.

Palekar first gave Lever’s example that started mass marketing sometime in 1930 by standardising products and prices. This, he said, resulted in bringing down costs and manufacturing higher quality products and effectively using mass media and efficient logistic systems. Lever also fast expanded and upgraded the product range to suit every consumer need by creating different brands with different positioning.

In order to differentiate from other companies, Eureka Forbes focused on direct marketing, which, according to Palekar, was all about first hand ‘experience’. Some of the major touch points of direct marketing strategy are call centers, websites and door-to-door campaigns that enable consumers to see and use the product in their houses.

Palekar added that the three ways of being strategically competitive were having low prices, best products and customising experiences and products for consumers. Eureka Forbes leverages on customising experiences and products for consumers through 5,500 Eurochamps, who are the direct salesmen of the company.

He further said that Eureka Forbes took care of external brand positioning by advertising, but more important was internal brand positioning (through Eurochamps), who were the company’s core strength. These 5,500 salesmen define the company and are responsible for the company’s success by ensuring that each consumer has no complaint about Eureka Forbes’ products and services.

Suresh Rangarajan, COO, Timesofmoney.com, stressed on the advantages of the Internet technology that had changed everyone’s life. He said, “The Internet and e-marketing are the most powerful sphere in technology. E-marketing is extremely powerful, far reaching, focused and cost effective.”

Every industry can use vehicles such as e-mail, search engines, mobile phones, SMS, MMS, WAP/GPRS, and the Internet to e-market. Listing the benefits of e-marketing, Rangarajan said that it was an always on, easy cross-selling channel that enabled mass customer contact.

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