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Insights on Making Strategies: In Conversation with Shireesh Joshi

Mr. Shireesh Joshi (ex-COO, Strategic Marketing Group at Godrej) was a guest speaker at Colloquium, the annual business conclave organized at IIM Indore. He shared his experiences in the field of strategy from organizations like Godrej, Airtel, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble. Mr. Shireesh also discussed how to create an appropriate sustainable advantage and position a product in the value chain. After the engaging talk, we caught up with him for a short interview-

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Sonali- You discussed about creating sustainable advantage. How important is it to keep updating that sustainable advantage, keeping in mind companies like Blackberry and Nokia and how to do that?

Shireesh-Your examples prove how important it is to keep it updated. Updating the sustainable advantage is actually a matter of life and death for companies. The point worth noting is that if there is anything you need to update, it has to be in your area of sustainable advantage. This is because, if things get updated in your peripheral areas, they don’t hurt you but if things get updated in your core area and you are not part of that, then you get outdated almost instantly. So, you have to be leading the effort of updating the core area of your strength all the time.

Sonali- Sometimes when the sustainable advantage is lost or is flawed, when should a firm go for rebranding and how should it be done?

Shireesh-I think whether you do rebranding or not, it should be led from a consumer’s standpoint. So, if you feel that over a period of time, what your brand is and what it stands for has started to become a little bit distant from your target consumer and it is not possible to do activities to bring it closer, then sometimes, one way of making a significant change, signaling that change and recreating a fresh relationship is rebranding. But, it must first begin with the consumer and for whatever reasons you do rebranding, make sure to define, in what terms is the new consumer different from the earlier one and in what way their aspirations and expectations are different from the earlier ones. Also, make sure that the brand that you now craft is much more suited to these new aspirations than it was for the earlier ones. A loose description can be let’s say my parent’s generation, they bought stuff that they wanted to last their entire lifetime and they did not expect it to be replaced. Then came our generation, who might want to replace stuff. Next, may be your generation would not even own it, everything might be leased. So, there are very different mindset. As those mindsets and preferences change, then brands must evolve. For example, if I want to replace things frequently then I don’t want to pay for something that is going to last 30 years. So if you tell me that this thing will last 10 years and it costs 100 bucks and another one will last 30 years and it costs 250 bucks, I don’t want the second one although I can see it being justified. So then, the brand will have to go for rebranding because the long lasting quality in itself is going out of fashion. So you have to keep looking in what way the consumers are changing, their needs are changing and then create the brand. In addition, make sure that the new avatar that is created, is in conflict with the earlier avatar, then only you should rebrand. It should not be done just to correct the declining sales.

Sonali- So, when we talk about updating and accommodating change, another thing that strikes me is the usual saying of ‘Fast eats big’. It is because new and smaller firms are more flexible than the old and larger ones due to more complex organizational structure. How does a 120 year old company like Godrej manage to stay flexible and relevant?

Shireesh-So, first of all Godrej has been very careful of not having a centralized organizational structure. There are individual divisions and decentralization. So each division of company is managing one kind of business like Godrej Property handles property business, Godrej Appliances is the appliance business and so on. Then, they look at where are the synergy areas, say if there is a synergy in buying, so when they are buying, they will buy for multiple businesses. So it has been purpose built and should not be just for the sake of managing operations of a large business. The good thing with Godrej is the multiple family members involved who are able to cover all ground of operations between them, without really creating a structure. So, each team is competing with its competitors but that does not mean all divisions have been good at doing that. But the reason that such divisions have not faulted is that they are not centrally structured.

Sonali- Coming back to the strategies, why is it that the same strategies work for some firms and not for others in the same industry? This is in reference to the deep discount model that failed for Snapdeal while it seems to be working for Flipkart, to some extent.

Shireesh-Yes the operative word is ‘seems to be working’ because discount is not really a strategy. It is only for a temporary period during which you can use that to lure customers but you can’t keep giving discounts forever. There is a reason why margins are what they are because that is what make them sustainable. For a period, you can dip into those margins in order to attract customers but it cannot be a strategy because strategy requires you to be able to sustain those margins. Now if you have found a way of doing business that is, let us say, take 5 points of operational costs out, in that case you might be able to consistently beat others till somebody finds a new system that beats yours. But if that is not the case and all you are doing is simply taking products and assuming you might have some efficiency in operations. But efficiency in operations cannot explain the kinds of discounts you see in ecommerce market place. So these are unsustainable and that is only taking place because there is VC funding that is available for the purpose of customer acquisition and building a customer base.

Mr. Shireesh Joshi is the CEO and Principal Consultant at Priism Consulting. Previously, he has held position of COO, Strategic Marketing Group at Godrej and other key positions at PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble. He has a diverse experience in various fields across India, China and South East Asia, among others. He completed his MBA in marketing from IIM Bangalore and B.Tech from IIT Kanpur.

The mantra of digital marketing and e-commerce – an interview with Hitesh Malhotra, CMO, Nykaa

A UC-Berkeley Alumnus, Mr. Hitesh Malhotra (Chief marketing officer, Nykaa) visited IIM-Indore on 29-July-2017 for Colloquium, the Annual Business Conclave of IIM Indore. The theme of this year was “The Strategy Spectrum” and Mr. Hitesh spoke about India’s premier beauty and wellness portal – Nykaa.com and what differentiates it from other e-commerce players. We caught up with him after the talk, for a small interview. Here is what he had to say about e commerce, Nykaa and digital marketing:-

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Nishant: How did you get into digital marketing and what interested you in digital marketing?

Hitesh: I was in brand marketing first and digital wasn’t big enough in 2005 when I finished my engineering, and I was focusing mainly on the retail marketing, but then something very weird happened. I was in a mobile company and then suddenly we realized that the return on ads that we are getting just out of one simple Google ad were 10 times cheaper and stronger than what we were getting in the retail. So we thought that if one small Google ad can make such a big difference in terms of return on ads spent then how big it will be if we scale all of this together, so then I got interested into the science and got deeper into it and realized that in next 10 years digital marketing will lead the race of marketing.

Nishant: According to you, what will be the impact of GST implementation on Nykaa’s Sales?

Hitesh: There could be a little period, till the time, people are used to pay certain taxes, on certain line of products, some products will be benefited, some will stay where they are in terms of pricing, some product pricing will increase, but eventually people will understand that they are getting benefited some way or the other. They might be paying more for a beauty product but they are also paying less for eating out in restaurants. Once they get their expenses balanced, it will be neutralized.

Nishant: Do you plan to acquire more number of male customers or go into the male segment too?

Hitesh: That’s not my business model. I am focusing on women customers at a larger scale and I want to stick to the core only.

Nishant: Are there any advantages of conventional marketing over digital marketing?

Hitesh: Both have their own strengths, conventional marketing has a very good ability, you can talk good stories about a brand, and you can build brands very strongly on offline marketing. The benefit of digital marketing is that the results are measurable whereas in conventional marketing, you have to work through different methods to arrive to a result and that too could have a high level of inaccuracy.

Nishant: What are your favorite tools related to digital marketing?

Hitesh: I think the best are analytics tools; either you work on Google analytics or Omniture Adobe. After that I would say, the typical marketing efficiency tools or the typical digital marketing outreach tools like Facebook marketing, Google AdWords are my favorites.

Nishant: How do you see the future of digital marketing? What trends do you foresee?

Hitesh: The trends are already here, every day the future is shaping for digital marketing. A lot of platforms are coming, and every platform has a new science around it. Earlier TV was the main media, then it moved to Youtube and now it has moved to OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix and Sony liv or Voot. I think new platforms will keep on emerging and with every new platform, there will be more consumption digitally.

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About Hitesh Malhotra: He is a UC-Berkeley Alumnus, and has held roles in strategy formation and all level analytics at Levi Strauss, USA and best in class engagement practices with MakeMyTrip.com. He excels in performance marketing, integrated communication and engagement strategy for brands. As Chief Marketing Officer at Nykaa.com, he spearheads digital, main line and customer relationship marketing -controlling 20% P&L at organization level.

A step forward was all what I needed

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“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!

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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.

Incredible India

I arrived in India on the September 6th 2015. I chose India for my exchange semester because I was looking for a real culture shock. I was truly interested in East Asian cultures and was motivated to experiment culture really different from all European one. Therefore I could improve my cross-cultural competence. In comparison with other Asian cultures, the Indian one is internally diverse and that fact made my choice easier.

I got registered at IIM Indore, one of the best institutes of Management in India. Indore, which is the largest city in Madhya Pradesh, is centrally located in India. It is a good basis for travelling.

My first couple of hours in India were strong in sensations. The heat, the very high humidity, the smells and the noise in the streets, but also, the way of driving and the sacred free cows put me directly into another world.

I first arrived in Delhi from France and then took a flight until Indore where I met some IIM students, part of StepCom, the association which is in charge of the exchange students. They have been, and still are, very welcoming and helpful. I am really very happy to have fallen with them.

The IIM campus is pleasurable and its sports complex is very pleasant. The way of life is very different here than in Europe. On the campus, people almost never sleep. There are no week-ends, classes could be and are frequently scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. This was a little bit difficult on the beginning. Also, coming from France, one needs to adjust to a bit less organized and pre-planned environment. Receiving emails late in the night with readings or assignments for the next day session is something that is usual to happen. All the students live in hostel buildings on IIM Indore campus which is located at 45 min drive outside of the city of Indore. Therefore, staying late at night to work on a presentation for the next day is nothing surprising. It is a very different way of working than in Europe. One of the most important things I understood is to be able to enjoy my time here is that I had to stop trying to have everything the way I have it in Europe and to accept very soon that I am in a totally different culture. From that moment I just tried to adjust myself.

On my first travelling trip, I went to Agra, to see the Taj Mahal and then to Rajasthan (Jaipur and Udaipur). I really enjoyed it. This first experience out of Indore was intense and represented my first true initiation to India. We were two foreign girls travelling and had to accept that, as tourists, being overcharged (even on the water bottles!) was totally normal. That was a little bit difficult at the beginning because we always had the impression to be considered as stupid. My second trip was in Kajuraho and Orccha, which were beautiful. And today, the 30th of October, I am preparing myself for my third one. I am going to Nainital, one of the HOP destinations. This trip in the Himalayas, organized by IIM Indore, will last one week and, I am sure, will also be a very great time.

The best possible advice I can give to the other students coming from abroad is to come informed but without having any expectation on what they will experience in India as everything is possible in Incredible, magical India. Above all, stay open-minded! 🙂

This article is written by Lina El Quasri, an Exchange student from France at the IIM Indore campus.