Tag Archives: Marketing

Who Says customer is the King?

It was a chilly December afternoon in Bangalore. We were at the Commercial Street in Bangalore. By around 2 pm when the shopping was over, we decided to have meals. On either sides of the road, there were MNC joints, one a McDonalds and the other KFC. To save the hassle of crossing the road, we got into KFC. The menu displayed on the wall was a series of combination of chicken pieces, French fries, Pepsi. Called as mini meals, value- add meals, combo meals with various  permutations & combinations, Pepsi was a common factor among all. It was quite dreadful to have Pepsi where the glass is topped with more than 50% ice on a chilly afternoon.

After considerable efforts, we were able to figure out a possibility of ordering a La-carte. Getting drinking water by default is out of question in an MNC joint. It affects the sale of Pepsi and Coke.  After finishing the meals, we requested for water. What was served after a long delay was the ice-cold version.  It was quite a struggle drinking such cold water on a chilly afternoon. We had to drink it sip-by-sip like  hot tea.

I go to a normal Darshini, Udipi restaurant. The waiter is not trained like the ones in the MNCs. Without being asked, he serves you drinking water and then you can order a dosa or an idly with coffee/tea. Why does training makes life difficult for customers?

Another example: I drove my car in a Shell petrol bunk. To avoid taken for a ride by the attendant, one  needs to be a Zen master and get into the present –moment awareness. The conversation goes as follows:

Attendant: Shall I fill  the tank with super petrol? (Remember, it is a closed question and it is easy to answer yes. The Super petrol is expensive by Rs 10 per litre vis-à-vis the normal petrol, the guy does not take the trouble to tell you this fact.)

I: ( with a calm disposition)  Please fill in the normal petrol.( You cannot afford to mumble NO as he can claim he heard it as Yes.)Attendant: Shall I top-up the tank?

I: Please fill only for Rs. 1000.                                                                                                                                                             Having missed his target twice, he makes a last feeble attempt.

Attendant: Can I help you with routine checkup like Oil check and coolant check?

I: how much will you charge?

Attendant: No, its free.

I: wonderful, please go ahead.

Attendant: (He opens the bonnet, takes out the oil indicator slider) The oil level is low. Your engine will seize anytime and it will damage the engine if you do not fill oil now.

I: How much will it cost?                                                                                                                                                                Attendant: Rs. 785/-

I: thanks for your advice.                                                                                                                                                                             I drive out after paying for the petrol. Last three weeks my car is still working fine.                                                                         Executives from KFC or Shell go through rigorous training vis-à-vis their Indian counterparts in Kamat/Shanbhag hotels or Indian Oil/Hindustan Petroleum .

Who says the customer is king but a hapless victim ( if gullible enough) who can be conned at the drop of hat?

New Strategies to Manage the Downturn

It is said that when the going gets tough the tough get going.  Some of the strategies companies are employing to beat the downturn are:

  1. Find New Niches: Some companies are finding new niches which are more visible, easier to record and have a lower cost of acquisition. Maruti is targeting priests in Tamil Nadu and turmeric growers in Nashik.  Groundnut and cotton growers in Jamnagar due to the bumper harvest are cash-rich and are buying mid range and high-end Maruti cars. The sales team was also able to sell 40 Eeco vans as a cost-effective mode of transport to restaurant and motel owners on the highways of Ahmedabad and Baroda.

The niches can be in rural market too where there is more scope for growth vis-à-vis the urban centres. Mayank Pareek, the CMO of Maruti has identified 300 new niches which account for 10% of company’s growth which include potato growers in West Bengal, blue-pottery makers in Jaipur, timber merchants in Gujarat, granite polishers in Hyderabad, painters in Madhubani in Bihar & Nut-bolt manufacturers in Sonepat.

For the migrant workers in Mumbai using entry-level feature-phones, Vodafone launched an application of booking train tickets on IRCTC , says Vivek Mathur, Chief Commercial Officer, “with an application much cost-effective than a  connection of MBs  of a data plan.”

Godrej was selling Aer, its car freshener as a FMCG product through its traditional trade channels. But the response was not encouraging. The consumer care research team found that the car owners are possessive about their cars and the accessories and may not visit the conventional FMCG outlets to buy a ‘freshener’. Godrej changed the strategy and appointed different distributors mainly from the car accessory market. The sales started picking up.

2. Get out of the Office: Axis Bank is  coming out with similar initiatives which include involving senior citizens to open accounts. The Senior Citizen Privileged Account offers health checks, bill payment, an ID card for medical emergencies and a CD of old movie songs. Manish Lath, head of marketing says, “it is not about acquisition business but more of people relationship.”

3. Listen to the Sellers: Dealers, retailers considered as an extended arm of an organization  are the important touch-points with the customers. Aircel has launched a new reward scheme for the retailers who sell the highest number of mobile connections. The star performer’s wife is eligible for a brand new Hyundai Santro car and the runner-up gets to meet MS Dhoni in person. Chandu Virani,  MD of Balaji wafers has meetings with 800 dealers in group of 40-50. The purpose is not about sales and achieving the numbers but to listen to them and resolve the bottlenecks.

Whatever business you are in;  can you identify the new niches which were hitherto untapped and with whom there is a greater fit between your offerings and the niche’s requirement?


My experiences At IIM-A

I had enrolled for a MDP on Enhancing Sales Force Performance program at IIM-A. The four-day program was to commence on Monday 18th February.

I reached the campus at 8.00 PM the previous day. After entering the campus I was given the course material in a bag with the room keys. The participant list of 35 executives  included Sr. managers, CEOs from India and also  3 from Sri Lanka, one from Singapore and Bahrain each.

After checking into the well-furnished room,  I freshened up, headed straight towards canteen which was to close at 9 PM.

When I returned to my room I said to myself, “ anyway the program is next day and after a hectic travel I deserve a good night’s sleep to do justice for the program.” But then curiosity caught over and I thought of glancing through the course contents.

A binder consisting about 12 case studies and other reading material  totaling  about 400 pages was dumped on each participant. My heart sank into my boots. “Anyway 400 pages, I can start it tomorrow. ” I said to myself.  My attention was drawn to a small booklet which read Instructions for Participants and that  I was a part of group 2 consisting of 6 participants  who have to read 3 case studies amounting to 80 pages and prepare presentation of not more than 6 slides. And this has to be prepared on Sunday night. That means I have no pleasure of enjoying the sleep.

I went to room no 132. The  other guys were sitting there most of them in their early 40s utterly lost in what they were reading.  After exchanging pleasantries I asked  Sudhakar,  a manager from an event management company. He said, “ look at this case study on Ingersoll Rand. I cannot make out what a compressor is,  the different types of products, around 7 tables with huge voluminous data and a case study 20 pages long. And if this is not enough there are no questions at the end of the case. “

Abraham Mathew, a Sr. manager from Kanan Devan tea said, “ we need to read at least till 4 AM to complete the assignment.”

Confusion and boredom loomed large over all the group members’ faces. I said, “  Friends, take it easy. You do  not have to be so nervous. Guidelines for handling a case study are”:

  1. What is the major issue?
  2. What are the minor issues?
  3. What decision needs to be taken?

Try to separate the wheat from the chaff. You do not have to take all the data seriously. Take a distant outlook to get a broad perspective. And above all take it easy. This is not the only case you need to attempt. There are two more to be solved.”

Secondly do not waste your precious energy in reading all the case studies individually. What you can do is each of you read only ONE CASE today which I feel you can complete by 12 midnight. Come here at 7 PM and each member  briefs the group within 5-10 minutes the synopsis” . Next You can make a ppt within 10 minutes.without any frils.”

Everyone heaved a sigh of relaief. That is a jugaad which we Indians are god at!

Suddenly the tension prevailing in the room subsided and everyone started looking at the problem with a cool mind. Now why do IIM professors subject the participants with such a huge workload?

We shall see in my next blog…

Is Goal Setting useful All the Time?

Who has  not heard of Goal Setting particularly the SMART ( Specific, Measurable, Attainable , Realistic and Time Bound) Many of us might have attended training programs on Goal setting , but then in spite of all the hype and the hoopla why does it become a such a stressor?  In spite of all the SMART goals,  why do 95% people give up on the new year resolutions? I have even heard some executives saying that the only resolution they make is not to have a resolution.

The positive side of goal setting is it gives you a sense of direction. But what is the flip side? The Yale study of Goals is cited by Brian Tracey and also renowned magazines like Psychological Foundations of success. The 1953 batch of graduates were asked about their goals for the future. Only 3% of the graduates had a clear set of well-written goals.It was like getting a specific salary, a designation, a big villa etc. 

It seems 10 years down the line the researchers observed that 3% who had a clear focus had  amassed more wealth than the 97% who had no clear goals. This study was often cited by management gurus like Brian Tracey, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins on which they make millions of dollars with their motivational seminars. The self-help industry has been thriving on Goal Setting for so many years.

A journalist from Fast Company, a technology magazine tried to trace the origins of the Yale Study of Goals and he realized no academic journal was ever cited for the Yale Study. When the motivational gurus were approached,  Brian Tracey pointed out fingers to Zig Ziglar who in turn pointed to Tony Robbins who again referred to Brian Tracey. ( ref: If Your Goal Is a success Don’t Consult These Gurus: fast Company 18 December 2007)

Oliver Burkeman in his book The Antidote – happiness for People who Don’t Stand Positive Thinking called on Beverley Waters the archivist at the Yale school who said that such study was never carried out.

Goal Setting as a concept was introduced by Gary Latham & Edwin A Locke who between them have written 20 books on the motivational aspects of life.

One of side-effects of Goal setting, particularly in corporate settings is managers tend to lie about their achievements. I remember while working for my previous company, my Divisional Manager whose initials were PR said during the annual Sales Conference: In the next five years we are going to be a Rs 100 core company. We had barely touched Rs 2 crores in 1987 then. Within 6 months PR had put in his papers and moved to greener pastures.

Two years later another Sr.Manager called NV made inflated invoicing  where the goods were shipped from the Mysore factory but were never despatched to the dealers. But the order booking was shown so as to meet the targets. He barely escaped getting sacked. ( Company A).

Another person, a Sr. manager  AGI used to narrate how on 31st March vendors used to supply empty boxes ( in place of Complete instruments) to the customers carry out the invoicing then recall the boxes for repairs and then supply the products. ( Company B)

Both the companies have closed down their operations by 1995. Most of them attended seminars on Goal Setting particularly the SMART ones.