Aping your Brand ? Don’t worry, take a bow !

It has now been now almost 4 weeks of my rural marketing-cum-sales internship in the barren hinterlands of Madhya Pradesh, India. For an aspiring consumer goods Brand Manager, who wishes to start his career with hardcore sales, there has been truck-loads of learning!

I try to cover at least 3 villages each day. ‘Cover’ typically includes visiting the small retail stores in the village, interacting with the owner, understanding the last-mile-distribution/ supply-chain problems &, gaining consumer insights into the category we operate in- Oral care.

Procter & Gamble’s Oral-B toothbrush and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolates are extremely strong brands in India. While P&G is a competitor for us (Oral Care segment), Kraft-Cadbury is a company that we love. Why ? Because eating chocolates should also lead you to remember the importance of oral care.

During my village market visits, i’ve encountered numerous spoofs of popular FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) brands. But the two spurious brands that stand out in terms of reach (& omnipresence) across the rural landscape are –

"Oval-D": A widely available spoof of P&G's popular brand, Oral-B
“Oval-D”: A widely available spoof of P&G’s popular brand, Oral-B
The fake "Day Milk" (on the left) | The original Cadbury's "Dairy Milk" (on the right)
The fake “Day Milk” (on the left) | The original Cadbury’s “Dairy Milk” (on the right)

The package design, logo & names are eerily similar.

Now, these spurious products get consumer goods companies all worked-up! They try to stop these through legal recourse, issuing consumption advisory, etc.

Should they be really worried ?

Hell NO!

But why ?

Because it is a testimony to the tremendous strength & pull of your brand! For every marketer worth his/her salt, it should be the greatest dream, and not the worst nightmare, to see copycats of his/her brand springing up.

Cheap imitations of Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Apple iPhone spawn all over Asia.

Are they losing consumers due to these cheap imitations of their brands ? NO! Instead, it creates a new market for these premium brands- the people who can afford and are willing to buy those at premium prices, just to show-off that they aren’t buying inferior imitations.

What, then, does such mass-and-illegal replication signify?

1. Your distribution is not strong enough to reach every possible consumer.                                                                                                                                                2. There is a market that you do not intend to cater to, while that market awaits your affordable entry.

Take this as the next big business opportunity for you to strategize your moves toward. Devise innovative models & work hard to achieve that elusive last-mile-distribution success.

Therefore, P&G and Kraft-Cadbury, please take a bow.                   Your brands are great & aspirational enough to get copied in the remotest rural lands of India 🙂

Selfless Teachers: Transforming Lives & Building a Nation

The past 1 month has been replete with extremely humbling (and inspiring!) experiences. For the summer of 2014, i am interning with a New York-headquartered global consumer goods company and have been asked to pilot an innovative model to increase rural sales in hinterlands of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

So during a market-assessment visit to a small village (population <3000), i bumped into 2 public (state government) school teachers who, in the merciless 43°C afternoon sun, were personally taking academic report of each student to the student’s home.

Why ?

Because the village kids tend never to show their academic results to their parents!

Such painstaking efforts, on personal expense & time, just to ensure parents remain aware of their children’s school performance. There were 40 students in the Middle school (grades 6th – 8th) and 92 in the Primary school (grades 1st – 5th)

“I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that no student drops out of school after 8th grade. They must at least graduate from high-school”, said 49 years old Hemant Vaidya, the Headmaster.

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52 year old Somprakash Shrivastava, the other noble teacher (Headmaster of the Primary school) sweating door to door to meet parents & give their child’s feedback said, “God did not bless me with any children of my own, but i give scholarships to these students from my salary in the hope that someday at least a few of them will make it big in life. At no cost should talent be allowed to get wasted.”

It is these unsung heroes, selfless servers of the society, in the remotest parts of the country, who truly help build a great nation and an even better world.

गुरु गोबिन्द दोउ खडे काके लागूँ पाँय
बलिहारी गुरु आपने गोबिन्द दियो बताय

– legendary couplet by the famous 16th century Indian poet, Kabir.

God and my Guru (Teacher) both stand before me.. Whom should i revere first ?
Of course it has to be my Guru (Teacher) first, because it is he who will actually show me the way to God.

That One Skill… And One Skill Alone

I’ve now completed my 1st year of MBA at XLRI Jamshedpur. There are a zillion vital life lessons that a great B-School teaches you. One of them is the power of observation.

Observe, at every possible opportunity, to find the true underlying causes behind what we see all around. Powerful observation lifts the veil. Powerful observation dispels all smoke and gives you that crystal-clear, black-and-white perspicuity.

So, is observation that one, all-encompassing, all-powerful skill i want to tell you about? Hell No! But there is this one all-encompassing, all-powerful truth that observation has led me to discover…

Being good at DEBATING is THE ONE, AND ONLY, SKILL that can SINGLE-HANDEDLY DETERMINE YOUR SUCCESS in bagging white-color corporate roles.

So, how the hell did i hypothesise that ??!!

Style Sheets Master

Well, i’ve observed. The evidence is all over the place. And someday i’ll offer that on this blog. But till then, i request all parents out there who want their kids to land great corporate jobs… get your son or daughter hooked onto debating at a young age (3rd or 4th grade!). They will someday thank you, immensely, for that.

Of course it doesn’t mean that if you aren’t a good debater, you won’t make the cut. You can and you will. But if you were, there are no odds stacked against you!

That rare ability to rationally argue, critically analyze all incoming information, putting-forth your own well-reasoned opinion will make all the difference at school & beyond in the corporate world. And with dedicated practice, once that ability becomes a chiseled reflex… you’re all set for corporate success!!

The Waiters who Own Hotels

Some of the life’s most crucial wisdom is conveyed in Jeffrey Archer’s epic 1979 novel Kane and Abel. I could see it in an entirely new light as i continue the rigorous MBA with some of the best and the brightest in India.

Abel Rosnovski, an orphaned Polish immigrant in America, started off as a waiter in New York’s Hotel Plaza while taking night classes at Columbia. Davis Leroy, owner of the Richmond group of hotels, impressed by his work, appointed him manager of his flagship hotel. Abel converts the ill-managed hotel to a profit-making one. During the Great Depression, Davis, unable to find a financial backer for the hotel, committed suicide leaving the Richmond Group to Abel. Kane & Cabot was the bank that hadn’t supported Davis. That moment on, Abel took Kane to be his arch enemy and plotted his crushing downfall.

There are countless rags-to-riches transformation stories. And before we get lost in the plot.. (and the analytically inclined readers have pointed out some ‘inferential fallacies’).. THE LESSON:

Abel went on to become one of the richest men in America BECAUSE he was an outstanding waiter !

The people who succeed have a compelling need, and are relentlessly driven, to perform a task well. And this they do no matter what the task is or how mundane it may be.  It is that passion for excellence they bring with them that radically transforms any work they take up to something much greater.

walt disneyPlumbers who become contractors had, at some point in their lives, a burning desire to repair a valve better and more accurately than anyone else. Waiters who end up creating million $ hospitality chains were once exceptionally good waiters loved by every one whom they served.

On a more corporate-practicality note, what you do beyond your job description (JD) is what is going to fetch you the most credit and appreciation. The job is just there. Go beyond. Stretch yourself and your assigned functional responsibilities.

All too often, we have fantastic candidates chasing larger-than-life jobs (Band Manager! Front-end Investment Banker! Sky-diving Instructor! iPhone designer!).

Instead, strive to become The Professionals’ Professional who makes even the most mundane jobs look hyper-glamorous.

So what if you don’t feel that killer enthusiasm to drive that nail straighter and faster than everyone else ?

Find…

The one thing that you always go the extra mile to do better than those around you.

The one thing that gets you angry when you see someone ruining it.

The one thing you could have done more justice to than the incompetent ass who got that chance.

And, when the cosmos conspires to give you that opportunity, grab it with both hands and put up the greatest goddamn show the world will ever see !

Juxtaposition – The Pensive Porter

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Click on the pic to enlarge 🙂

New Delhi railway station | January 30, 2011

Porters are common on Indian train stations, helping passengers carry luggage.

Captured this rare sight of an old porter in a pensive mood at the edge of a bustling train platform on a winter morning.

It took a 4x zoom-in and loads of patience to successfully shoot!

The Rare Dare

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Click on the pic to get the thrill of being on the track with the train about to roll over 🙂

Faridabad manned railway crossing | Haryana, India | 1706 hrs | August 31, 2010 |

“IT WILL KILL YOU, YOU GODDAMN FOOL”
“Just a moment, Sir”

The train hurtling down the tracks at over 120 kmph.

“You’re under arrest for breaching railway security”
“Sir, Just a moment”

The roll and thunder growing louder on the metallic tracks.

“You’re dead”

Now hardly 100 meters away.
No time to zoom-in. No time to auto-time.

WHISTLE BLAST FROM THE ENGINE

Click!

Personal & Business: Powerful Ideas to Motivate and Transform

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