Category Archives: Best of Planet I

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Does sustainability mean going backwards?

I spoke with conviction that without a feasible model that generates enough money, there is  hardly a soul who would like to invest themselves whole heartedly into the pursuit of sustainability, and this explained the lack of talent in this field despite good intentions.

What we have been brought up to do is follow small practices in our everyday life, the 4Rs wherever possible. However, when I was given a picture of what complete sustainability looks like, it freaked me out. It meant going back through the ages and living on hand-me-downs for your entire life. It meant living without producing any waste at all. Whatever comes out of the earth should go right back into it.

This is the picture that Padam Shri Ms Janak Palta McGilligan conjured in my mind as I spoke with her between her sessions and throughout her talk at IRIS 2016. I have been firmly advocating the sustainable development goals since the day they got adopted by the UN, however this made me stop and think about if I was sufficiently dedicated to the cause. I realised I wasn’t.

The question isn’t whether you stand for sustainability. It is how much are you ready to give up for it.

I never waste electricity or water, even for a second, sometimes to the annoyance of my friends who have no regard for nature. I stare at people if they litter – until they feel embarrassed enough to find a dustbin. I fight with my parents if they begin to throw something out of the car window – since 5th grade when I learnt it is bad at school. Our house was the first one to stop bursting crackers in the entire colony when I was in 6th grade and participated in a painting competition that was based on this theme. I hesitate to throw anything away until I am certain it cannot be used anymore. I am highly mindful of what I buy to an extent that my mom considers it necessary to shop with me so that I can have some comforts we can afford.  Is this enough? I don’t think it is.

I am stuck in the path of negotiation where the only limits are those I put. Sometimes I try to argue myself out of the dilemma thinking that the world and the markets will adjust themselves to a state where humans still manage to sustain. This is nothing but self serving logic though and I understand this is not how things work. I am easily taken by any argument that proclaims apocalypse unless we adopt certain practices. However going the full way is too much. Our civilization as a whole has worked towards creating a comfortable environment and if we do not take full advantage of it, then it would be disrespectful to their genius.

Having said that, it is also not right if we are partial to our comforts when we take advantage of our progress. We should be humbled by nature – because we now understand its bounty much better than our ancestors. It is thus the pursuit of knowledge that I advocate more than anything else.

How much do I wish to give up for sustainability? Nothing at all. Sustainability needs to be sustainable in itself – not a communist concept which fails when it strikes against basic human nature. Nevertheless, if your nature is so noble, as was of the great person I had the pleasure of meeting, I wish I could be more like you. Your ideas add to the pool of knowledge that we are ever hungry for. For the rest, strike your own informed balances.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of Hiral Arora, an IPM IIM Indore student. They do not reflect the ideas of the institute in any way.

Leadership Lessons from the Army

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  1. Sir, we see that the Indian Army is not very active on social media. Why is that, and is it going to change?

 

The Army personnel have to be mindful of the machinations of antinational elements and our adversaries to exploit this platform to their advantage. Therefore, while realizing the importance of social media, the Army has allowed the use the social media albeit with some caveats and restrictions.

 

  1. Sir, the Army has a pyramidal structure of hierarchy just like a lot of corporates do. Why, then, are political conflicts considerably less in the Army as compared to large corporates?

 

The absence of any conflict is essentially due to the fact that Indian Army is a value based organization. Owing to restricted vacancies in each rank, a number of outstanding officers get left out, which is indeed very painful not only for the officers and their families but even for the organization. However, Army has been working assiduously to ensure lateral absorption of these officers into central armed police forces and other agencies of the government. They all are worth their weight in gold as they are disciplined and endowed with all essential attributes, skills and values that any effective leader must possess. You would have seen that all our officers who have joined the Corporate Sector are excelling.

 

  1. As we know sir, disciplining the self and senses is much harder for a corporate than for a member of the Indian Army simply because of the difference in setup and environment. As future corporate leaders, can you give us students some advice for the same?

 

Discipline hinges on the positive conditioning of the mind, whereby an individual is subconsciously spurred to always choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. It helps resist reckless impulses that take average people astray. It requires building your ‘will power’ and transforming yourself into a valued personality whose conduct is governed always by the time tested values of Integrity, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Serve and Moral Courage. The values can only be imbibed in earnest if they are consciously lived and practiced. Do spare 20 minutes before going to bed every night to introspect on what all you have done during the day and identify your strengths and weaknesses. While revitalizing your strengths, work diligently on eradicating your weaknesses. It requires unflinching commitment and you have to find time to improve yourself virtually on daily basis. Integrity will make you do what is legally and morally correct and, along with other values, it will help you mould yourself into a disciplined and worthy member of a team, whose behaviour and conduct is flawless at all times.

  1. Sir, given the changing political landscape in the country, the youth especially is apprehensive when it comes to joining the Indian Army. Given that India is one of the youngest nations in the world and that our youth is an indispensable asset for our nation’s security, especially in these unsafe times, what can we do to change it?

 

The Indian Army, given its glorious heritage and enduring traditions, is not just a profession; it is a way of life! It provides great opportunities to those ‘who have it in them’ and are inclined to ‘live a life less-ordinary’. For those who feel that money alone will give them happiness in life, then surely they are knocking at the wrong door. This elite organisation gives you inter-alia, an exceptional lifelong pride and a quality of life that is matchless and priceless.

It’s an organisation where you are nurtured to be a leader of distinction. A leader, who leads by personal example and works whole time to create a team of Tigers and Tigresses, who are taught to never ever give up and ensure success at all costs. Failure is not an option for an Indian soldier. That is why Indian Army is rated amongst the best the world over. I am certain that with my talk, many of you would have got inspired by the unique heritage of this celebrated organisation and will consider joining it after your studies. Remember, the Indian Army remains committed to the personal growth of all its personnel and provides ample opportunities for their all round development. An opportunity is even provided to upgrade your civil qualifications by availing two years paid study leave. Some even get an opportunity to serve abroad besides attending courses of instructions in foreign institutions.

I am certain that the awareness drive being undertaken by the Army will make a dent over a period of time and finally be instrumental in repositioning the military service as a preferred choice for the youth of our country.

This interview has been taken by Darsheeka Singh, a first year PGP Student

Islas de la munecas

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Photos by Cindy Vasco

I thought it was just another boat party but I was not aware of the adventures that awaited me at the canals of Xochimilco, also known as the xochimilco trajineras because of the canoes that take people for a ride. The place is filled with tourists, mariachi bands, and lush floating gardens.

However, wait for sometime and you will see the adjacent island with severed limbs and cracked heads of severely weathered dolls.

Welcome to la Isla de la munecas, the island of the dolls.

The legend is about one man, a lost relationship, and a dead girl’s doll.

Hundreds of photographers and thrill seekers travel to this haunted island of dolls every year, but it was never meant to be a tourist attraction.

It all started with Julian Santana Barrera, a reclusive Mexican man who found a doll floating at the same area where he had found the dead body of a drowned girl some days ago. To honor the girls spirit and save himself from further tragedy, Julian started hanging more dolls.

Julian was apparently haunted by the spirit of the girl and started hanging more dolls in order to get rid of the spirit. He soon realized that the dolls themselves were possessed by spirits when they started blinking their eyes and moving their heads. He continued hanging dolls all over the place. Apparently, he was marked by the fact that he was not able to save the little girl’s life.

After 50 years of collecting and hanging dolls, Julian was found drowned at the same spot where the girl died.

Yet la Isla de las Muñecas lives on. Locals tend to the island, while travelers from around the world seek out the site. Some even arrive with new dolls to hang in the trees, continuing Don Julian’s eerie tradition.

Stories from Mexico, brought to you by Niloy Jain, IIM Indore IPM-5 participant on student exchange. Stay tuned for more adventure! 

THE DAY I WENT KAYAKING

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.

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Roger is gay.

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.

The World of Advertising from the eyes of Ms Lalitha Vaidyanath of J Walter Thompson

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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.

 

Know Your Audience – An Interview with Mr Avinash Janjire of Thomas Cook and Future Generali

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.

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Mr Avinash Janjire at Colloquium’16, IIM Indore

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) 

Rural Marketing Insights from ITC’s Business Development Manager, Rajeev Arora

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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.

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Source: Economic Times

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.

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ITC Chaupal Sagar Rural Mall, Source: outlookindia.com

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) 

THE FLIGHT OF ICARUS

 

King Minos of Crete had imprisoned Daedalus and his son, Icarus inside the very Labyrinth that Daedalus had built. In order to escape it, Daedalus formed two pairs of wings by sticking feathers to wooden frame using wax. While giving one pair to his son Icarus, he warned him not to go too close to the sun. Icarus flew free from the prison with the help of those wings. As he soared high enjoying his moments of new found freedom he went too close to the sun, as a result the wings fell off and he died plunging into the sea. The very wings that had led him to freedom were the cause of his death. Hence was born the concept of “Icarus Paradox” coined by Danny Miller.

This concept today is applied to the business scenario where some businesses, which experience a period of outstanding success, fail abruptly. According to Danny Miller, “success seduces companies into failure through fostering overconfidence, complacency, specialization, exaggeration, dogma and ritual”. When we compare the list of Fortune 100 companies in 1966 to that of 2006, according to Harvard Business Review, 66 of the companies don’t even exist anymore. Despite being one of the ominous reasons of business failure very few companies give it its due notice.

There are four trajectories that companies usually make the mistake of taking to end up in the same situation as the fabled Icarus did.

  • Focusing Trajectory-This is the path taken by the “Tinkerers”. It is traveled by the operationally efficient, product obsessed and detail-perfectionists who keep on adding features to their products making it more and more perfect without taking the customers into consideration.image3
    Nokia- With the introduction of Symbian series 60 in 2002, Nokia remained the market leader in the mobile phones category for 5 years. Then in 2007 Apple introduced its iPhone, but not gauging the changing trends, Nokia stuck to its Symbian OS. And then came the era of Android and Samsung and Nokia was wiped out of existence. The talented tinkerers of Nokia were too focused on the product and not on the changing customer preference.
  • Venturing Trajectory-This path is walked on by the Builders turned Imperialists. The imperialists are the ones who keep spreading their businesses into categories unknown just to get a bigger share of the apple pie. They are led by highly creative planners and imaginative leaders, but then greed leads them astray, urging them to enter into businesses they have no idea of.
    6Quaker Oats- At one point in time, Quaker’s products were at number one and two positions in the US market in their respective categories. When Quaker bought Gatorade, it captured 84% of the sports’ drink market making it a huge success. This led Quaker to believe it can venture into other drink categories and repeat the success that it had with Gatorade. It bought Snapple in 1994 for 1.7 billion dollars. But it did not understand the niche market and had to set it at a mere 300 million dollars in 1997 which led to a loss of 1.4 billion dollars. So, it had to be acquired by PepsiCo in 2000 to get the financial bailout after the fiasco. The builders of Quaker Oats were left flabbergasted.
  • Inventing Trajectory-When the pioneers become escapists, they follow the inventing trajectory. When a company has the best minds as its resources and invests heavily in the research and development division, but focuses on building a futuristic and hopelessly advanced invention, it squanders all the wealth it has earned taking this road to nonexistence.
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    After the success of Macintosh and the ousting from his own company, Steve Jobs fueled by the success of the technology tried marketing NeXT. Jobs went on to invest heavily in making engineers design custom chips that integrated a variety of functions rather than going for the ones readily available. Also the computer was designed as a perfect cube making most of the parts that went into a computer to be re-engineered to fit in perfectly. This led to too high a cost for a computer and it failed in the market.
  • Decoupling Trajectory-The excellent salesmen when lost become the drifters that travel the path of decoupling trajectory. Instead of facing the issues with the products and the market’s demands they focus on just pretty packaging and sophisticated selling. Thus, becoming aimless and get detached from the core product of the company and try to sell increasingly unoriginal products.
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    After Apple introduced its iPad, HP also wanted to have its “me too” moment where it tried to sell a product just with the sheer force of selling it. Hence “TouchPad” was introduced. It had powerful video compatibility and excellent processing speeds, but despite large scale marketing and promotions, it was a massive failure and was taken out of the market quickly.

Source: The Icarus Paradox: How Exceptional Companies Bring About Their Own Downfall, Danny Miller

This article has been written by Ankita Jena, PGP-1 student at IIM Indore.

SETTING UP AN AMBUSH!

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1984, the year that George Orwell wrote about, the year in which Macintosh revolutionized the world of personal computers, the year which is legendary in more than one way. It is also the year in which “Ambush Marketing” concept was born. Before 1984, every Olympics that was hosted had a string of sponsors taking the number up to 628 at one point. In short the Olympic officials thought it was diluting the brand image. So in 1984, for the Los Angeles Olympics, only a set of sponsors were selected making the brand that sponsored selective and prestigious and at the same time opening the door to ambush marketers.

The term “Ambush Marketing” was first coined by the marketing guru, Jerry Welsh. It is defined as a covert marketing strategy in which rival companies ambush an event officially sponsored by a competing company for exposure. That in simple terms means hogging the limelight away. While the legality still stands under consideration, it sure is an entertainment for the audience.

1)      1984, when it all started – Kodak vs Fujifilm
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Fujifilm won the official sponsorship in the Camera category during the Olympics in LA. But Kodak, its long standing market enemy, had to ge      t back at Fujifilm. So it signed a deal to sponsor the broadcasts of Olympics. And as the broadcasts had a much larger audience than the live events had, Kodak played its own ads during the airing. In addition to this, Kodak also sponsored the US track team. Due to the mass exposure Kodak got as a result of this, people thought it was the official sponsor and not Fujifilm.

2)      Nike- The Goddess of Ambush Marketing

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Reebok paid over $20 million to be the official sponsor of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But Nike left no stone unturned to show who’s the boss. Every billboard in the city was plastered with Nike ads, there was a Nike building built overlooking the Olympic Park and Nike was the heart and “sole” of many athletes! And anyone who has seen the games could not forget the golden Michael Johnson shoes that bore the famous swoosh logo.

3)      The Creative Ambushers- BMW vs Audi

‘Tis the story of two “rivalen” from Germany. One of their epic face offs took place on billboards. Audi put up a billboard saying:-
“The entirely new Audi A4. Your Move, BMW?”

And BMW came back with one of the wittiest repartee
“Checkmate”.
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4)      David vs Goliath, Samsung vs Apple
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Who cares what the courtroom battles resulted in, Samsung won when it came to the street fights! When Apple was scheduled to launch its iPhone 4S, Samsung rented a pop-up store mere meters away from the Sydney Apple store to sell Samsung Galaxy S2. It also offered a $2 discount to the first 10 customers. Some people who would have otherwise stuck to the Apple queue got tempted to join the queue for the Samsung phone.

5)      The best at Last- Bavaria Beers

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During the 2006 FIFA world cup, Bavaria Beers distributed free orange leeuwenhosens (Orange being the color of Dutch) to scores of people on the day of match between the Dutch team and Ivory Coast. FIFA authorities had anticipated the attack and asked the people in the orange leeuwenhosens to disrobe and these people watched the match in their underwear. By making this epic mistake of forcing people to watch a match with no clothes on, FIFA helped garner much more publicity for the Bavaria beers whereas the event was officially sponsored by Budweiser.

This article has been written by Ankita Jena, PGP-1 student at IIM Indore.

Faculty View: Comparison of Competitive Advantage of E-Commerce and Brick-and-Mortar Companies: Part-I

So, the war is on! The traditional stores are facing a stiff competition with e-commerce companies. Analyzing on a general basis, we can say that, yes, e-commerce companies are the future or there will be an amicable combination of both the channels for the customers. But, as business management graduates, it becomes important to compare the business model and understand its sustainability. Clearly, sustainability comes from keeping your stakeholders not only happy but also locked-in your eco-system. Does it happen or will it happen with e-commerce companies? Let us see by comparing the following:

  • Customer preferences and format of delivery,
  • Supplier relations
  • Discounts for the customers
  • The joy of shopping

Customer preferences and format of delivery:

E-commerce:Customer preferences for e-commerce have been towards Cash-on-delivery but is COD an advantage for e-commerce companies? Definitely not, because the money is collected by the distribution companies (also known as e-kart companies) who deposit a security amount with the e-commerce firm. Thus, in case the e-kart company cannot reconcile the account, the uncollected amount which e-kart company owes to the e-commerce firm is deducted from the security deposits.

Thus, one of the principal partners of value delivery, the process of reaching the customers,is played by the e-kart companies which are unhappy since they are getting penalized for an event for which they are not responsible. Thus, if one of the essential stakeholders is unhappy then service delivery will suffer which will result in a bad customer experience, which is not good for a service company. Therefore, e-commerce companies will have to build an actuarial system having an information repository of successful transactions and failed transactions.  It will be done location wise and they will identify the good customers and the bad customers. Now, if there are good customers in bad locations, then they will get penalized. Thus, in both the cases, you are actually penalizing the wrong person, first the e-kart company and second, the good customers at bad locations.

Brick and Mortar:In traditional brick-and-mortar stores, cash on demand happens across the counter and it is a norm. Thus there is unlikely to be any slippage as in the e-commerce case. One form of slippage can be in terms of counterfeit notes but that has been prevented with machines that help identifying such notes. The other form of slippage can be in terms of debit cards/credit cards but that also hasbeen taken care with Safe-POS machines. Thus, efficient transaction and the firm being responsible for money collection and service delivery keeps the service experience also intact.

Suppliers:

E-commerce:The e-commerce firms are holding just a list of names (websites/platforms/customer data) to their chest and the suppliers are directly supplying the material to the e-kart companies on the basis of customer orders. The money reconciliation happenswhen the suppliers when the e-kart company hands over the money to e-commerce firm which thereby hands over the money to the supplier. Now we can see that there is an additional agent in the system whose core strength is handling the customer data. But, they are an intermediary in money circulation. Thus, more the no. of intermediaries, the higher is the inefficiency of the system. Thus, the suppliers will ideally like to by-pass the e-commerce companies but that is not happening because they are holding the list of customers and the products. At the same time, e-commerce companies will eliminate COD and to sustain their positon, e-commerce firms will promote wallet systems. Now, introducing wallets such as Paytm will be to support future competitors and substitutes. So, Paytm has their own list of customers and products and what they need to do is to aggregate with suppliers and replace e-commerce firms. Essentially, why did e-commerce companies aggregated with suppliers, that was because they wanted to keep the system lean and not hold inventory following the Japanese Toyota Production System (TPS) in which all the cost of holding the inventory is borne by suppliers but TPS and Toyota’s plan worked because they had a strong culture which is trust-based where they never shifted to another OEM. But here we can evidently see a lack of culture and an implicit trust relationship among suppliers and the e-commerce firm which leads to lower switching costs. Thus, it makes sense for suppliers to aggregate and by-pass the intermediary. Thus, instead of managing and having a bargaining power on suppliers and e-kart companies, they might get sandwiched between the two.

Retail:In the retail channel, the shop-owner keeps his stock at his own warehouse. This carries huge costs and holding the inventory is a concern but over the time they have learned ways to minimize both. The logistics is apparently invisible from the point of view of the customer and a critical success factor is managing the logistics. The number of channels of customer reach are under the control of the retailer such as the store experience, managing the variety and product assortment, etc. There is a trust relationship between the supplier and the retail shop owner as well.Thus, these heavy fixed investments and proper protection of logistics, stores, and customer value proposition which can be a sustainable advantage for the retail store. Also, the supplier is not waiting for the money to be collected from a third party as in the case of e-commerce business model leading to an effective transaction.

Thus, after elaborating on two of the four aspects to be discussed, I leave it to the students to analyze it more till the time we discuss the other two aspects of comparison, i.e., discounts for the customers and the joy of shopping in the next part of the article.

The article is written by Prof. Shubhabrata Basu, faculty in the domain of Strategic Management of IIM Indore.