“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the bravest of them all?” – And the answer, as expected, wasn’t that impressive! I knew it. I knew it from the start.
This was my second week at Austin, during the five weeks International Immersion Program at the McCombs Business School (University of Texas) that IIM Indore offers to the EPGP participants. However, I knew that something had gone wrong. I felt a sense of sudden transformation from within, a sense of insecurity and vulnerability that increasingly heightened my dependence on my fellow mates. From the feisty girl that I used to be, I had somehow lost all my high spirits and would hardly step out of my room!
But this was not how I wanted to see myself. Being born and brought up in a very traditional family, I definitely have a very clear view of what is “good” and what is not. Yet, I was never told to be a subdued person who would just stay indoors. I interacted with people, laughed and giggled through life. Naturally something was hurting now!
Told myself, this jinx needs to be broken. The time showed 10.30 am on a Saturday morning. It was already late, quite late- since I require about a couple of hours to get all decked up. And that’s a must when I’m going out!
Anyway, the ordeal of happiness was finally over, and it was a super Saturday noon – with a bright and warm Sun welcoming Austin. I knew that I couldn’t afford to miss the chance. Quickly flipped through the Transit app and decided that the Aquarium would be my destination. The next bus timing showed 20 minutes to go and the walk to the bus stop was barely a 5 minute one. So, I had enough time.
Reached the bus stop and started awaiting the bus. The vehicle arrived on time and I checked the destination route. The driver wasn’t aware and asked me to help him find the right stop for me. Poor me, I knew nothing at all! But I decided to put up a brave front. It was as ridiculous as an illiterate man attempting to educate another! I had to live with that as I’ve an Indian accent and it was quite possible that my words were not being well comprehended by a Native American guy. Anyway, the journey began and started matching the stop names from my app in anticipation of being ascertained that I’ve embarked on the right track.
Nothing seemed to match though and to be candid I started getting goose bumps thinking that I’d probably get lost in America! Suddenly some wisdom dawned on me and I thought I better check on the direction to which the bus is traversing. And guess what, it was just the opposite of what I intended to board!
The driver very politely got me down at the next stop, suggesting how I should reach the desired destination. It was freaking hot and I started waiting for the chariot to my destination. The chariot arrived at the designated hour and after the long wait in the scorching Sun, the driver’s polite greeting literally seemed as though Lord Krishna had descended and was assuring me with his iconic “Tathastu” that I would reach my destination safe and sound. The bus was not much crowded and I went and occupied my all time favorite ‘aisle seat’.
Soon after an aged man came along and sat beside me. I’m usually quite stoic and refrain from eavesdropping into other people’s business. However, lofty ideals do get shattered at times; after all to err is human!
Couldn’t believe what I heard!!! This man was apparently talking to a lady whom he addressed quite respectfully. He was stating his apprehension over being treated in a regal style and some unknown people paying for his super luxurious stay at a hotel. He was repeatedly mentioning that he’s very perplexed as to what made him get all the royal treatment that he was getting and he’d no clue who was sponsoring his food and accommodation.
I kept looking straight but my ears were all up and eyebrows all risen. His plight seemed analogous to that of a creature who denies sumptuous meal in anticipation of getting butchered. And I say that with all the due respect. My instant reaction was to change my seat, as things seemed heavily fishy out there. I was just attempting to locate a good alternative when my chariot came to an unexpected halt. I saw two stout men entering and the entire bus became pin drop silent for a while. After a pause it struck me that they were the well celebrated US State Troopers and instantly my heart missed a beat.
This article was written by Sreemoyee Saha, an EPGP participant at IIM Indore.
There are some things we feel are far too big for us to care about. They seem irresolvable – distant – not our problem.
But they could very well be!
Today was a tiring day, we went snorkelling and kayaking (and the best part was the open bar on the boat!). We finally headed back to our hostel to relax for a while, perhaps just lounge in the balcony.
I think I dozed off for a while because I didn’t even realise when Roger came and sat down next to me. He smirked in my direction, I must have fallen asleep with my mouth hanging open again. He offered me a can of beer and a cigarette (which I obviously refused, lol).
Roger had served in the US Military for 30 years before he took voluntary retirement. He had no one. No mom, no dad, no cousins, no wife, no kids. No friends either.
He had always lived a life of loneliness. He discovered his sexuality very late in life, at a time when people did not know that gay people existed. He was sent to a mental correction facility for treatment. He was never married. He never had the right to marry anyone (Thanks, Obama). Now at 61, he longs for company, a partner who he can talk to. Someone who can just sit with him and watch the sunset. He is lonely.
I beg you to look in his eyes. Does this look like a face of a lonely man? It looks to me like a face of a happy man, someone who has had many laughs, his face wrinkled with signs of happiness. He does not deserve to be alone. Any one would be lucky to have him as his partner. He looks like popoye goddammit! He is so young at heart, I sometimes don’t remember he is thrice as old as me. I want to be his friend.
Roger has been receiving his monthly pension and living in Mexico for the past month. He spends his days drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Sometimes drugs come to the rescue.
He says, everyone in America hates every other person. There is so much hatred and sadness in the society, that an individualistic culture just burns a man up. There is no one to share an emotion with. People are too engrossed within themselves and everyone carries a fucking gun. Why do you need a gun?!
He told me to be careful when in Mexico and just call him in case I need anything. He’s a good man.
What are the chances of running into a man like this, on your foreign exchange stint? The same as BEING that man.
Now that we all have met Roger, this problem is not so distant anymore.
Learn all about Mexico from the eyes of Niloy Jain, 5th year IPM Student currently on his student exchange program. He is enthusiastic about travelling and photography and he writes amazing diaries! Hiral Arora, reporting live from a facebook chatbox.
Forsooth, even these labels fall short
For these mercenaries of art
Are complicit to a different crime every day
Switching tastes sporadically
For fear of over-familiarity with one
Switching choices, opinions, stances
Whenever their conscience bids them to
For in their heads, to make an uninformed choice
Would be worse than not making one at all
And that is what pits them at the opposite end
Of the war with the rest of the world
A war which they haven’t waged but are forced to partake in
A war waged by a society that regards
Stability of thought and consistency in devotion as virtues
And all else? Seditious. Reprehensible.
“Artistic”, they say with contempt
Spitting out the word as though it be a wretched disease
It does not belong here
The makers do not belong
These artists. They do not belong, they say
In our kingdom, our land, our territory
In the kingdom that they have created inside their heads
And that is their greatest folly
For do they not realize that laws do not apply
To those who do not know how to live inside walls?
Lines have no meaning for them
For these creators of art can make their own
And those are far, far more beautiful
These mercenaries of art
Are warriors of a different ilk
Ostracized for their beliefs, their ways
Their little oddities that made them so different from the others
Only result in bringing them closer to each other
For they paint the world in a myriad of colors
Writers, Painters, Sculptors, Singers, Dancers, Scientists
All artists in their own right
For it is their creations
Their words, their canvases that shall adorn the walls
Their symphonies that shall echo through them
Their art that shall live on in the kingdom
Long after they have been turned away from it
Aishwarya Saraswat: Hello Welcome to IIM Indore. We are happy to have you here with us.
Parag Jain: Thank You! As it happens, Indore is one of the biggest cities for Jugnoo in terms of daily transactions.
A: There are other competitors as well like Ola, Uber and Tuk Tuk. How does Jugnoo make sure that it keeps pace with the fierce competition?
P: Luckily as far as Indore is concerned, we are the pioneers. We launched before the others and are far ahead of them in terms of number of rides. There is a critical mass that needs to be reached in every city in terms of supply and demand and as long as you are able to do that, it becomes really difficult for another competitor to come and topple you. If people are confident that this brand can get me out of the jam because I have heard about it from a lot of people then they are sure to keep using this service.
There are two factors that we closely track, one is efficiency and the other is reliability. Efficiency for us is how many rides can a driver get while he is on duty. Drivers usually take 5-6 rides in a day and are free for the rest of the day. We are working towards increasing the efficiency from 30% to say 60% by giving the driver, say 10 extra rides translating into more savings for him. That way the customer is happy because he doesn’t feel cheated as they don’t have to haggle with the auto drivers like they had to do earlier. So we are working on the efficiency factor on the auto driver side and on the reliability factor on the customer side.
A: How do you zero in on the cities that Jugnoo targets?
P: Presently, we are present in 40 plus cities. We divide the markets into-Growth, mature and Seed cities. Indore happens to be a mature city which means our efficiency and reliability matrix is pretty good here. As far as choosing the cities is concerned it is driven by a lot of factors. Since inception, we have targeted tier-2 and tier-3 cities and have grown up from there. Tier-1 cities came as an afterthought because of the prevalent competition there.
We don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars like Uber and Ola so we don’t want to get caught in the cross fires and want to avoid them as far as possible.
A: How did Jugnoo come up with this idea of changing the way the Autorickshaws work in India?
P: I would say it happened more by accident. We realized that the Indian market isn’t cut out for foreign models like that of LIFT. While exploring the market, we saw this huge gap in the autorickshaw market. To put that in numbers, 3 crore auto rides happen every day in India which is 20 times the number of the taxi rides. 50 lakh auto rickshaws exist in the country. Inspite of this huge demand, the efficiency isn’t there. A typical auto rickshaw driver takes 6 rides a day and hardly saves anything after all the expenses. The idea was that if we can maybe double the number of rides he is doing so that the savings would not just double but increase exponentially because the basic expenses he incurs remain the same. So we started exploring this possibility and launched out of Chandigarh. The technology part kept evolving and as the demand continued to increase we expanded into other cities. Most of it was try often fail fast. At one point, we launched across 25 cities in a span of 3 months. Since the beginning we have stayed really lean. The analytics team has worked really hard since the very beginning in all the aspects, everything was based on the numbers, we kept seeing what was ticking and what was not and evolved in that process.
A: Well the journey till now surely sounds interesting! Moving forward, where do you want to see Jugnoo five years from now?
P: In terms of vision while we want to continue growing in the A to B space. At this time, we are doing 40,000 transactions every day which is not very significant so we are just too small and the journey has just begun and we want to grow in this auto hailing space. We have also realized that this is not the only thing that we are going to do, we have also forayed into hyper local delivery services using the same supply base and user base from Jugnoo by launching our new brand DODO. It has been running in three cities and Indore is up next. The auto rickshaw as an asset is the densest asset in the country which essentially means that if a request comes from a restaurant for delivery, the probability that our auto rickshaw is in the vicinity would be the highest. We feel that once we reach a certain kind of a scale with regard to these deliveries, we will be able to prove that auto rickshaws can be the most economical form doing A2B transport.
A: Before signing off, what message would you like to give to the budding entrepreneurs in India? What is it that drives you and what should they be doing to get it right as an entrepreneur?
P: Solve a real problem, nothing beats that! Don’t get carried away by the funding and try to run it like a business wherein you don’t go into the burn game wherein you are spending ten times more than what you are earning. So keep your pace slower.
The life of an entrepreneur is hard! Nine out of ten startups fail. Summer, the founder of Jugnoo might as well have done twenty different things before Jugnoo clicked. But yeah, if you are solving a real and are on it for a good period of time then be rest assured that you would be able to crack it.
Tushar Gagawe, General Manager at SOTC Travel Services. He delivered an enlightening guest lecture on the topic – ‘Marketing in Different Sectors’. He discussed about various business models and also the importance of identifying customer needs and taking a targeted approach. Mr. Gagawe shared his success mantra with students, which is to ‘Iterate, Validate & Launch Again’. He concluded the lecture by sharing his learnings over the years with the students and urged the future marketers in the audience to ‘Own the customer’.
Apoorva: Digital Marketing is very quick in today’s scenario.Then why is it hard to break even in this area?
TG: Because its a deal driven channel; it is easy to enter and a lot of people are entering the market and a lot of people are funded. They are not discounting from the earned money, they are doing so from the funded money. So that becomes difficult to match with. Suppose you get 1 m and just to acquire one million of cash and just to acquire a customer, you will discount a lot of money.
Apoorva: So, although we drive sales through it we aren’t really making much headway?
TG: Yes, because you will only be burning money. therefore it’ll become difficult for a conventional player to get that kind of money into digital marketing. Because they will be investing their earned money. Whether it’s digital or not,ultimately you’ll have to meet the customers wishes.
Apoorva: My next question would be that since you mentioned that personalisation for each customer is necessary and conversely you also mentioned that only deep pocketed organisations can carry on such marketing strategies, is this a vicious circle?Is there no way for an organisation to come out of it?
TG: I’m saying that there is no formula. Atleast, not right now. I cannot say that we should stop offline and concentrate only on online marketing. We do not know if that is the right strategy. Hence, I keep reiterating that some companies have figured it out. Not all of them are hitting it in the dark. But most of the companies are still figuring in negatives even after figuring it out. So, they probably know where they want to go but it’s a long road.
Apoorva: Can you please elaborate on Customer Social Currency?
TG: By that I mean, everything the customer is bold enough to voice out. The current customer doesn’t shy away, he’s very selective and shy. The choices and moods at all.
Apoorva: Does that mean there is a decline in the unstated needs of the customer?
TG: It isn’t about that. When a customer is associating with a brand, it is very important for a brand to resonate with the customer’s social status. or social expression. Because cracking that will help us find out if a customer wants to associate with you or not. It depends on what you want to target.
Ms.Lalitha Vaidyanath (Senior Creative Director at J.Walter Thompson Hyderabad) recently visited IIM Indore as a speaker at Colloquium – the annual business conclave organized by the Industry Interaction Cell of the institute. The theme this year was ‘Marketing – Strategy, science or sorcery?’. Ms. Lalitha delivered an engaging talk about how targeting the right people the right way through advertising can change lives and even impact communities for the better. She added that advertising as a process has changed from being a one-sided monologue to an enriching conversation or an experience that has become pervasive. We caught up with her after the talk, and here is what she had to say about the field of advertising–
Jasmine: So one very interesting thing that I found out while reading up about advertising was that the first female copywriter was from JWT. In fact JWT even has a scholarship for young creative women in her name – the Helen Landsterne scholarship. It definitely appears then that JWT has particular interest in encouraging women to join this field. How strong is that spirit in the Indian advertising industry? How are female copywriters treated here? How far do they go?
Lalitha: Women actually do bring a lot to the table in the field of advertising. In fact, not just as copywriters but across the board, you have a lot of women making significant contributions in JWT and every other agency. But then advertising itself as an industry has quite a few women. There aren’t a lot of hierarchical issues, as the organisational structure is relatively semi-flat and flexible, so the concept of glass ceiling is perhaps not as reinforced in advertising because of that.
Hence it draws women to these jobs. Personally, I also feel that on an average, women have good aptitude for writing and graphic art. So there is a lot of scope for them in art and copy, and now a lot of women are playing a huge role in planning as well. Advertising is all about striking a chord with the consumers. By nature women are empathetic, so perhaps that’s why they fit in so well here. Honestly, it’s a very fascinating and interesting industry to work in, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Nike’s Da Da Ding song ad
Jasmine: That’s right. Even as outsiders, we see advertising as a very dynamic industry. In popular culture, like say movies, if one of the characters is from the advertising industry, they’re shown to be staying up nights, doing a lot of creative brainstorming, and also being quite a bit of a social butterfly. How true to reality is this image?
Lalitha: There’s actually a lot of hard work involved. What you see there is the glamorous part. For example, when I showed you guys the Da da ding ad for Nike featuring Deepika Padukone during the presentation, I could see all of you collectively thinking ‘wow this looks really amazing’. I myself have shot ad films with different celebrities. And I can vouch for the hard work which goes on behind the scenes. You can’t be over-awed by these elements while working. What you see as the consumer is a very snazzy TVC; what we see as the creators is the grit that it takes to make it.
Jasmine: So on an average how long would a good TVC like that take to make?
Lalitha: It depends. If you’re talking about going right from the ideating process, then it could range from anything between a week or two. Sometimes you just get a good idea in a flash; sometimes it takes a lot of time. It depends on the product, on the briefing, on the approval etc. Some clients just lap up the first idea because they liked it instantly. Some clients keep coming back to you asking for more improvements, giving suggestions, till they get the wow factor. But usually for a TVC to be produced , right from the ideation, going through the pre-production, going to the shoot, then the post-production, and then finally the final edit and bringing out the film, it could take 30-45 days.
Jasmine: At the beginning of your talk you spoke about how being right brained or left brained can change your approach to things. As management students a lot of us aren’t very sure which side we come from because we more or less learn just about everything between hard core analytical skills to interpersonal skills. How likely is it for management students to enter a creative field like advertising and make it big there?
Lalitha: I’d say most management students are left-brainers. I’ve seen them to be more verbal and analytical. Right now there are so many management grads in advertising. Recruiters from advertising agencies are loving the mix of skills that they get from these graduates. So I’d say the chances of management student making it big in advertising are pretty high.
The Life Saving Dot campaign
Jasmine: Another thing that we regularly get to hear in management school is the whole spiel about how we need to brand ourselves as individuals. ‘Self branding’ as a concept is becoming so important now because everyone is becoming increasingly competent and in order to make yourself stand out in the madness of the job world, you need to work smart. As someone who deals with the concept of branding on a daily basis, could you tell us how to get it right as individuals?
Lalitha: It’s true that ‘self-branding’ is becoming really important these days. Even recruiters today don’t look at students as just black and white. They recognise that there are many parts of you and they actively seek out more well-rounded individuals. They don’t just look for pure academics anymore. There is so much more beyond that, especially in a field like advertising.
Jasmine: One last question that I’d like to pose to you is this – since creative industries like advertising are so much about real time reactions, could you give me one example of a crisis handling situation that you’ve had to go through which really taught you a lot.
Lalitha: Every campaign is a crisis, Jasmine *laughs*. I say that because every client believes that they need to have what they want right NOW otherwise their world will end. They want their campaigns out within unrealistic deadlines, which is why it gets pretty crazy in there sometimes, but we signed up for the challenge!
About Lalitha Vaidyanath: As the senior creative director at J.Walter Thompson India and an advertising doyenne, Lalitha has worked on a hard range of sectors and clients like Hyundai Santro, Royal Enfield, Mitsubishi Motors, TTK Healthcare, Sun Direct DTH, ColorPlus, Sify, Eenadu, Murugappa group, Cholamandalam Finance, Muthoot Fincorp, UNICEF, World Vision among others. She has been at places like Saatchi & Saatchi, Everest, Maa Bozell, Mudra, McCann, and a clutch of creative boutiques across Hyderabad, Bangalore and at Chennai. She brings over 2 decades of experience to the table besides enthusiasm and passion for the written word. Her interests include yoga, voluntary service and armchair psychology.
Hiral Arora reports from Colloquium, the annual business conclave of IIM Indore organised by Industry Interaction Cell, talking about how to be an all round marketeer with a one to one interaction with Mr Avinash Janjire who has been associated with Future Generali and Thomas Cook travels.
In an awe-inspiring talk and lessons from his personal life, Mr Janjire took us through some interesting marketing campaigns from his work experience. As a context of his work in the Insurance sector, you might like to check this video explaining the Insurance Week Campaign, that resulted in breaking of the Guinness World Record for the Longest Balloon Chain.
Additionally, as a context for his work in the Tourism sector, you might want to check out the following explanatory video for Thomas Cook’s innovative Holiday Savings account scheme.
Hiral: As a marketer, how did you manage to work in two completely different product segments – Tourism (an extremely glam industry!) and Insurance (hard to sell, boring industry)?
Mr Avinash Janjire: I believe the experience doesn’t really change. As long as you understand the consumer and their needs, the industry doesn’t matter. You need to have the knack of understanding the consumer, the industry you can learn. Tomorrow I might join some other industry, except engineering perhaps, like an FMCG, and it won’t really make a difference. That’s the key.
H: When you portray Thomas Cook holidays as an affordable brand, does it not dilute the premium image it has right now?
A: That’s really a misconception. We have been here for about 150 years and people think that we are very expensive, but we’re not really that expensive. That’s because the product is such. We have holidays starting at ₹20000 also. But its just that the premium image comes because we sell a lot of these long haul holidays to Europe, US – which are expensive. This makes people believe that ‘this brand is not for me’.
If you compare us with any other competitive brand in the market like makemytrip or SOTC, we are at par in terms of price, we are very competitive. So while we have this premium image, we don’t complain about it, but it is not necessarily true. We are trying to change this idea because otherwise we limit ourselves to a very small segment of holiday goers. We want to go to middle India which has increasing aspiration for travel, beyond the 6 million people who already travel with us, and increase the size of the travel market base. 40% of our business comes from small towns. People want to go for holidays but price is a barrier. We want people to think that we are good but competitive. Not cheap, but competitive.
Right now people don’t even walk into our stores, thinking English naam lag raha hai (this is a fancy sounding english name, not for us!), otherwise they would probably go to some Kesari travels, something more localised. We want to appear approachable.
H: Is tourism a margin play or volume play industry?
A: Earlier it was margin play, decent money, but now it has become very very competitive. Now the margins have decreased to some 5-7% which is very less compared to the transaction value that we do, so it has actually become largely volume play.
H: In the insurance sector, how do you manage to make people buy (life) insurance and get past the mental block that they don’t need insurance (because noone wants to believe they are going to die!)
A: People right now buy insurance but not for the right reasons, they buy it for tax saving reasons and just look at the short term benefits so they end up buying the wrong instruments.
Most people don’t understand finance and can’t understand how much they have to pay and what benefits they can get. So the end up buying from agents who they know – such as family friends.
We have installed this mechanism of calling back customers who have bought insurance from us from the center. This is because we don’t know how the agent sitting in say, Indore, has sold the insurance. Once the deal is locked we call the customer from our head office, and there is a central unit which does this, to rectify what the customer has been told, like a welcome call. Questions like “Do you know what policy you have bought?” “Do you know what you have bought it for?” are asked so we know if it has been missold or not. This is because misselling is very rampant in the industry, leading to lack of trust.
Misselling happens because everyone has to complete targets. You need something, but I might not actually sell you something that you need. I might sell you something that gives me more money. There are some policies that make more money, some have a higher commission as compared to others, so I might want to force sell those. This problem exists because of these freelance sellers, most of whom are not our employees, they work for multiple agents. Most companies are trying to solve this through such back checks. However it is still not optimal.
When we are recruiting we train them in a way that they do the financial probing correctly. In our forms we have questions asking if they have done proper probing or not. What does the customer need money for – retirement, children’s educations, children’s marriage? Once we have that financial information and the customer profile, we can have an idea whether what they have sold is correct or not. This isn’t foolproof but it gives us some assessment, some idea as a brand. It is important to sell the correct policy because if I sell the wrong one, the customer won’t renew it for a second year, which is when I will actually start making money. The company makes money only in the 3rd and 4th years, for the first 3 years we actually lose money.
H: Thank you for the insights! To conclude, would you like to give a message to marketing and advertising aspirants?
A: Just focus on understanding your consumer and the results will follow!
This article is part of our Colloquium’16 series (Marketing – Strategy, Science or Sorcery)
Mr. Rajeev Arora (Business Development Manager, Rural Marketing, Agri-Business Division, ITC Ltd.) recently visited IIM Indore as a speaker at the Colloquium organized by the Industry Interaction Cell of the institute. He spoke about ITC’s innovative e-choupal system, which is a unique combination of CSR and a rural penetration model. He sat down for a detailed interview with us, and here is what he had to say –
Darsheeka: Since the introduction of e-choupal 15 years ago, what do you think has been the shift in marketing approach when it comes to rural customers? Because, like you said, they are also shifting towards branded products.
Mr. Rajeev Arora: There are various kinds of shifts that have happened. Now, the consumer or maybe the end customer is more educated; they have various means of reaching out to their requirements; and people have started thinking about health, hygiene, education, and a better future for their kids. This has definitely led to a change, which is improving the quality of their life. They have also become technologically driven, as far as agriculture is concerned and ultimately, they are not the same kind of rural. The change has happened in every sphere of their life, and made them more educated and demanding.
D: As we know, the rural markets have not been doing well for FMCG companies due to drought situations and inflationary pressure. How has that affected the adoption of systems like e-choupal?
R: As far as adversity in any part of the country is concerned, the companies are not there to make profits, rather to support the system over there. There are a few product categories that are needed during emergency, and our approach has been to reach out to consumers so that scarcity is not there. As far as the ITC’s own Sanchalak infrastructure in the 4 states (UP, MP, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra) is concerned, it has always been a kind of support function. So, if anything positive happens over there, it is to be shared with the colleagues; and if something negative happens, there are ways to find out the solutions to overcome those issues.
D: Therefore, can we say that there is a predominant element of CSR in this initiative and it’s not just about rural penetration? If so, how does ITC balance between the two?
R: Yes, there is a heavy CSR element. The approach is not to go into a rural market and get business done; the approach has been empowering the rural people. This empowerment has come through various means – getting the right value for their agricultural produce, and providing them with facilities required for producing those commodities. So, whether it involves getting KCC (Kisan Credit Card) availed to them, securing them through life insurance policies, or educating them about how to avail weather-based crop insurance, these activities have always been done so that farmers are aware of what is good for their agricultural-related requirements. Beyond this, there are things not directly related to agriculture, but directly related to CSR. For e.g., health and hygiene of the females in the villages, employment generation, education of kids. Through these activities, ITC carries out a support function. Sanchalak is not working like a broker over there; he is a point of contact from the same geography as the people, present for support in agricultural as well as non-agricultural needs. This has definitely given us an advantage of deep rural penetration, and generating the confidence of the people in rural areas. So, this can be called a symbiotic approach.
D: Talking about the bottom line, do you think the investment in e-choupal is justified when we measure it against the increase in rural affordability?
R: Investment has been made over 15 years ago and it has given a different image to the company. Our Agri Business division has got strengthened in the rural areas. Perhaps, ITC is a company of its own size delivering results in India, and globally. Whenever our Food Business team comes across any new idea or are in the process of launching a new product category, they get back to us in terms of sourcing capabilities; this has only been possible because of e-choupal. Entering the rural market is not easy, and getting things done over there is also very challenging. The only advantage we have is our team member and channel partner, the Sanchalak; we support each other mutually in various day-to-day activities so that he can convince the villagers about what is good for them. The choice always lies in their hand.
D: If I am not wrong, ITC has partnered with a competitor like Coca-Cola for this initiative. How do the dynamics of this unusual collaboration work out?
R: While talking about the platform of rural marketing, Chaupal Haat originated 7 years ago and we had a pool of partners who joined us. These included TVS, Maruti Suzuki, State Bank of India, and the rural-centric brands from ITC (Superia, Sunfeast) as well. The agenda was to have a network to support the brands with good quality and social value that want to enter the rural market, and get connected with the consumer. In this case, the cost of reaching out to the consumer would be justified since it would be a mutual effort. Your point is very valid. We have never been into tie-ups with direct competitors like HUL or P&G. In fact, as far as Coca-Cola is concerned, we have been supporting them since the past 3-4 years in getting their rural distribution more aligned and intensive. As of now, both this companies do not have the product category where there is a mismatch, or a common functionality. So, this collaboration is able to work. The rest of our partners include TVS, Mahindra Finance, and others. For rest of the product categories, the product is one that is needed in the rural areas but it is not possible to make that available from the house of ITC. So, it is a demand in the rural market that is currently not possible to be met through us, so why not help out other companies if it addresses the need.
D: You mentioned the words ‘Rozgaar Duniya’ in your session. Can you tell us about that in a little more detail?
R: It was an initiative wherein the Agri Business Division (ABD) got into a partnership with Monster.com in order to support rural youngsters through availing various employment options to them, related to their educational qualifications. Through Sanchalak, we supported a set of youngsters in villages to obtain job profiles such as security guards, mechanics, masons, carpenters, and others based on vocational skills. It worked well. Normally, in any of our support functions, the Sanchalak is a catalyst and does not need to go beyond a certain threshold. This is because he is also, ultimately, a progressive farmer. He has his own liability, family, and various business responsibilities. So, he should be in a support function wherein things happen on their own and he does not need to worry much. There has to be some kind of passion, such that not much of a push is required. Support is definitely there, but it should not be from a 0 to 100 kind of a thing; it should be lining around 75-80% from his end and the rest of the support will come from our team members.
D: As one last question, the impending challenge of rural digitization and digital literacy in rural areas combined with issues of electricity can be a test to the effectiveness and efficiency of e-choupal. How does ITC tackle this?
R: When e-choupal originated, there were certain characteristics that were attached to it. The most important one was reaching out to farmers in the villages, and letting them know prices prevailing in various markets to enable them to make better and informed decisions. We were giving them an opportunity wherein, if they were interested, they could come to our buying locations where we provided certain set of product features above and beyond the traditional mandis. That was the basic agenda. But, there was also other content they needed in their daily lives like information related to better agricultural practices, and health. Therein, limited content is telecast at the kiosk fortnightly or monthly. The villagers can come and watch that content there. In order to address the power issue, we provided solar panels when this system originated. So, power is not that big an issue. Anyway, over the years, technology has changed – people are using smartphones with freely available content in villages as well. They have better connectivity with the nearby cities, or tehsil areas. It is no longer the case that they can only visit these areas only once a month, rather someone or the other from the villages visits these locations weekly to obtain information. So, access to information is not that tough now. Having said all this, there are various companies, organizations, and bodies that have a very fair way of trading. For example, the MP government is definitely doing a good job. So, there is a set of people trying to replicate our model after seeing our initial success, and doing a good job. In fact, more of such people are needed also. It is a win-win arrangement for everyone. We are not thinking just from our perspective and saying we have to be the only ones and the best ones. We are one of the good ones, but other players are also there. As a nation, we need more of such people.
This article is part of our Colloquium’16 series (Marketing – Strategy, Science or Sorcery)
My journey to IIM Indore had started much before I had any expectation of being a part of any of the IIMs in 2016. It started with my preparation for CAT 2015 in my third year of B.Tech at NIT, Rourkela. Preparing for CAT along with managing the curriculum at NIT proved to be a challenge for me. Every weekend I attended coaching classes. I couldn’t practice much and it showed in my performance. But I never quit. So I kept going despite my embarrassing performance. After every class I went over the questions given that day and solved each one. The embarrassment motivated me. I didn’t want to miss even a single opportunity to study for CAT so I had even carried all my books to Bangalore where I did an internship. It was late July when I came back. The coaching classes had become very irregular and weren’t helping much so I left going there. Then came the results of National Creativity Aptitude Test (I had taken it some time ago) and I was ranked 31st. That was the moment when I realised that I could get what I wanted; it just needed a bit of extra work. I started preparing on my own. I practiced through online tests and TIME’s study material. I analysed my score after each test, marked the sections in which I scored well and those which needed improvement. I practiced accordingly and then went on to further tests. Giving so many tests got me well acquainted with the pattern of CAT. By November I had planned my approach towards each section of the test. I have never been as calm before any test as I was on the day of CAT 2015.
The results were early. I got a text on my cell with my percentile. I was heavily surprised and took it to be spam. But when I came to know that it was true, I was beside myself. Soon I started preparing for WAT and PI. This is where the coaching centre came to help. I participated enthusiastically in all the WAT-PI sessions. These helped a lot. On the day of the interview even though I was freaked out I managed well.
When the results of IIM Indore came out, and I got selected, I was more content than happy because my hard work had paid off. When I had started preparation, I didn’t know how it was going to end. But at the end I realised that in the process, I hadn’t neglected my regular courses. I had got good jobs too which were backups in case CAT result hadn’t been good. And the best thing was I was going to be a student of IIM Indore! The entire process to get into a premier B-school in India requires strategic preparation and a lot of introspection. It’s an enriching experience of rediscovering yourself.
I expect IIM Indore to be a place where I would want to spend as much time as I can. I am looking forward to make a wide network of friends. I want to be a part of every activity that happens there. I want to enjoy its scenic and infrastructural beauty. I want to learn everything that’s possible to learn from the myriad experiences there. I want to be a better and more mature person who would be able to manage her life and profession equally well. I hope IIM Indore will turn out to be much more than I expect.
I was boarding a bus to Goa on the night of April 30th, when I received a seat confirmation for IIM Indore. The next three days were a roller coaster ride, and so was my first year as a PGP student.
My first term was about getting adjusted to the course structure, which I found to be hectic initially. The excitement of joining an IIM, and the enthusiasm to perform and make a mark, did wear me off. I had to read lengthy cases before attending 75 minute long lectures. Then there were the pre-processes (for clubs and committees), assignments, quizzes and exams. All of this changed my sleeping cycle, which was followed by frequent mid-lecture naps and swollen eyes. But, I eventually got used to the rigor. It made me come out of my comfort zone.
The bustling campus life of Planet-I, had a myriad of things to offer to pursue my interests. The activity clubs and committees played a major role with respect to this, by constantly tossing fun competitions and events. The college possesses well maintained hostel blocks, and other facilities like the sports complex (with an ‘Olympic size’ swimming pool), basketball court etc. Being a fitness enthusiast and a basketball player, I had the right opportunities to follow my hobbies, and socialize with students with similar interests.
I observed how the college functioned as a self sufficient society. Self sufficient because the graduates here always sought for chances to be occupied even after classes, which led to student run services and stores. The college has its own laundry service, retail store, food stall etc. operated by students.
The campus lights up in the evening, teeming with people moving to the food stalls. The eateries will be crowded with friend circles chattering and munching on their favorite snacks. The college remains alive throughout the night. There is always someone awake.
My first year was a great time for me to interact with students coming from different parts of the country and make many friends. All the major festivals are celebrated inside the campus and DJ nights are arranged for special occasions. This allows students to enjoy and indulge, and also meet new people. IRIS, IIM Indore’s annual festival, is also a wonderful time for students to take a break from their academics.
The campus, located on a hillock, surrounded by farmlands and pastures, is decorated with several pleasing view points. The college is packed with greenery, which when soaked in rain during the rainy season, is a delight to experience. The winter, I found to be raw and bitter, breaking the campus from the monsoon reverie. With so much of life around, students are allured to get out of their rooms every now and then. I often enjoyed going on long walks through the campus.
Having never lived in a hostel before, I understood the importance of being independent. I learned from my mistakes and also the things that I did right. I made a close set of friends in my first year, who have been very supportive and inspiring. I am constantly learning from them as well.
My summer internship was in a travel start-up, and it was a rewarding experience. I was able to apply the concepts which I learned over a year to solve my firm’s issues. Working on practical situations was challenging and fulfilling. I also learned where my interests lie after my internship, and I now have a clear picture about what I aspire to work on in the near future. This course has taught me the significance of adapting to changes, and time management. It has helped me gain a new perspective towards business operations.
So, this is the snapshot of my first year at Planet-I, and it was worth every bit of it!