Tag Archives: Business

Articles covering a wide range of business and management issues.

Mumbai attacks: the lethal combination of business, politics and religion

Rage, shock, disbelief, and hopelessness are some of the many emotions that we in Mumbai are experiencing right now. But we are also feeling helpless. What should we do in such a situation? Is there even a modicum of hope that we will emerge out of our vulnerability to face any crisis in the future?

It is indeed very sad that we can do little except live in fear and speculate about how our self-serving politicians, from ruling parties or otherwise, will use this to further their own utterly selfish agendas.

The problem is much more complex than apparent. And perhaps the root cause is the lethal combination of business, politics and religion. The financial crises, the terror attacks and lots of other grave issues we face today are the result of these three forces conspiring hand-in-glove.

I reckon that the world is a victim of the “business of politics” and the “politics of religion.” Notice that the common thread is politics. Yes, politics is no more than business for our politicians, who leave no prospect of raking in millions. These same politicians also use religion to terrorise the core human spirit. They design dirty divisive strategies just so that they can come to power and then abuse it to their advantage. What is tragic is that people fall victim to the ideologies of political and religious leaders who have nothing but their own self-interest in mind.

Whenever there is a crisis, our political leaders grab the opportunity to point fingers at their political rivals. Their holier-than-thou attitude is unbearably nauseatic. Every politician portrays himself as the son-of-the-soil who would lay down his life for the countrymen. But all they do is vote for more and more privileges for themselves. With top security for each of them, why would they bother about the security of the average citizen?

Unless we break up the unholy nexus between business, politics and religions, I see little hope for the average human being anywhere in the world.

Perception can be deadly

My recent experience at my workplace corroborated what I have known all along: a seed, if it’s poisonous, should be weeded out as soon as we discover it. If we let it grow into a deep-rooted tree, the fruits will be poisonous too.

Perceptions too begin as seeds and, if not dealt with early enough, grow into deadly, poisonous trees that threaten to destroy the consumers of their fruits. The problem with perception is that it is just that—perception. It’s not necessarily reality. If it is possible to verify the accuracy of the perception—in others words, its closeness to reality—then it must be done as soon as possible, perhaps when it’s still just as tiny as a small seed. That’s because it’s easier to weed out a small seed than it is to uproot a full-grown tree. Besides, a poisonous tree is more likely to spread its kind, because each fruit would have several seeds, each capable of blossoming into a full-grown tree and so on.

Decisions in business

As an entrepreneur, a key lesson I have learned is about the importance of making decisions. It is not bad decisions that are the bane of business but indecisiveness. We are faced with so many different dilemmas almost everyday of conducting business, and each of them requires us to make decisions. Being unsure, we avoid making decisions and in the process end up losing time, money and opportunities.

Fear of wrong or bad decisions can keep us needlessly immobilised — because when we make decisions, we can never be certain of the outcome. We can, at most, make a calculated guess because there are a multitude of factors influencing the outcome of any business decision, and most of them are beyond our control.

Risk is inherent in any business. Even random probability tells us that 50% of all our decisions will be wrong. But the remaining 50% would be right. And that’s good news, right? By making no decision, we effectively forfeit this 50% chance of success.

Another advantage of making prompt decisions is that if it turns out to be unfavourable, you can salvage the situation faster. The biggest and most successful businessmen attribute their success to prompt decisions – not right decisions.

Another thing about decision-making is that you get better with practice. The more decisions you make, the sharper your business acumen becomes. Warren Buffet says, “In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” Or as someone once said, “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.”

A global brand is bleached with the culture of the respective country

[Dr Michael Dorsch is the associate professor of Department of Marketing, University of Business and Behavioural Science, Clemson, USA. Dr. Dorsch's work has appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Financial Planning, Journal of Professional Service Marketing, and various national proceedings.]

1. How has marketing evolved over the last decade and how is it different from the marketing that was practised in the 1980s and 1990s?
Michael DorschMarketing has experienced quite a bit of change over the past two decades. During the 1980s, marketing witnessed increasing and vigorous interest in several areas including services marketing, relationship marketing, brand equity, and pricing. Prior to this time, marketing efforts focused primarily on physical goods and on marketing transactions. In addition, during the 1990s and 2000s, marketing experienced a renewed interest in the use of technology for strategic marketing decision-making; thus the notion of marketing engineering was born. Furthermore, the introduction and growth of the Internet has fuelled marketing interest in employing technology in reaching and serving customers. The past two decades have also witnessed increased attention on marketing in a global context. Technological advancements along with social and political changes have resulted in an enhanced interest in appealing to a global marketplace. More recently, the marketing discipline is beginning to place a renewed emphasis on the customer with the notion of customer relationship management and customer equity.

2. Can you emphasise the role of technology in shaping marketing thought in the 21st century?
Technology will continue to play an important role in shaping marketing practices during the 21st century. Technology refers to both expertise/knowledge and the tools (e.g., equipment and machinery) needed to accomplish marketing activities. Consequently, reliance on the role of technology will extend beyond the machinery to include attention to how the technology may be employed by both customers and businesses to make more informed decisions. I expect that businesses will use some technology to further develop their organisational learning systems. For instance, some technology is likely to be used to help businesses learn more about the market (e.g., customers, competition, and other environmental factors) in order to make more informed and timely marketing decisions (e.g., web blogs, discussion groups, customer loyalty programs, decision support systems and so on). Other technology will be used to deliver the marketing plan (e.g., e-commerce, tracking tools for monitoring the distribution of products, the use of web cookies to store information about customer preferences) and regulate the marketing plan (e.g. customer relationship programmes). Still other technologies will be used by customers, who are likely to increasingly rely on the Internet to search product information, make purchases, track their expenditures, and so on. It is also likely that consumers will increasingly rely on technology to communicate with others and to become informed of local, regional, national, and global events.

Both businesses and consumers are likely to place great importance on learning the benefits of certain types of marketing transactions, their ease of usability, and their security and privacy characteristics. Moreover, an increasing reliance on technology will require both businesses and consumers to change their marketing-related behaviours. In some instances, the behavioural changes will be minor and easily adapted. In other instances, businesses and consumers will be required to make more significant changes in their shopping/purchasing behaviours, which is likely to slow the acceptance of technology.

3. Considering the current trends, what will be the shape of marketing in the next 10 years? What will be the major forces that will drive marketing efforts in the next decade?
Given the rate of change that is occurring worldwide, it is difficult to confidently describe the shape of marketing during the next ten years. However, a few trends seem likely. In particular, the world is expected to continue to change at a fast rate in a number of environmental areas such as the technological, social, political factors. These changes are expected to significantly influence marketing activities used to appeal to the ever- changing marketplace. Moreover, the world is becoming smaller as it is easier and quicker to learn about and experience other societies. Correspondingly, it is likely that consumers in the future are likely to exhibit more global awareness (i.e., diversity). Furthermore, information is also increasing at an increasing rate, which means that data are becoming more readily available and may be acquired and processed more quickly (e.g., in real time). This trend has important implications for businesses and consumers. Businesses, for example, will need to develop more effective and efficient methods for managing their organisational learning systems (e.g., data bases). In addition, the increasing availability of information to consumers indicates that consumers are likely to become more knowledgeable about the products that they purchase and more discriminating in their choices. As consumers become more sophisticated customers, their standard of living is also likely to increase and they will be more interested in the quality of the experience rather than focusing attention on the quality of materials (e.g., products) used to create the experience. As a consequence, it is likely that experiential marketing may become increasingly important approach to serving the market.

4. How has globalisation affected marketing practices of Multinational companies? How are multinational firms dealing with the growth of emerging countries like India and China?
Globalisation is likely to have a very significant impact on the marketing practices of multinational companies, especially in terms of effectively serving diverse markets. More specifically, many countries are not at the same level of economic development, which is likely to influence the type of market offerings desired by each country. Likewise, differences in the cultural practices of each country will influence the marketing practices. Accordingly, the marketing activities that are successful in one country may not be successful in another country. Similarly, the political and legal environments also influence marketing practices. As a result, MNCs that are interested in serving emerging countries like India and China are advised to become intimately knowledgeable about the countries before formally entering market. Recognising that learning about a country before formally entering it may take considerable time and money, MNCs may benefit from developing strategic alliances with companies already serving the countries or, possibly, the country’s government itself. In this way, the MNC may make use of the existing knowledge of its strategic partner to help become established in the country that it wishes to enter. The use of strategic alliances is likely to become an increasingly common practice among MNCs.

Once a multinational firm decides to enter a new country it must carefully weigh its decisions to utilise a single marketing strategy to be applied to all countries it services or to develop unique marketing strategies that appeal to particular countries. While the first approach, i.e., a globa
l marketing strategy, is likely to be less expensive – to be successful the global brand must symbolise common desires and practices across the countries to which it applies. With the latter approach, individual brands would be created that emphasise and match more closely those unique desires of individual countries. However, the development of marketing plans that closely match the uniqueness of each country is likely to be very expensive, as unique marketing plans would need to be developed. At issue is whether the incremental costs of serving each of several countries are offset by the incremental revenue/profit realised from the incremental increase in demand. The decision of whether to use a global marketing strategy or a set of individualised marketing strategies depends on the similarities of countries being served. The more similar the countries are in terms of their environmental factors (e.g., cultural, economic, political, and technological), the more likely that a global marketing strategy will be successful. In contrast, when the countries are more diverse, country-specific marketing strategies are likely to be more effective.

5. What are the characteristics of a global brand? How does a marketer build such a brand? What challenges does he face in the process?
Most research on branding and brand equity has focused attention on branding within a single country. The notion of a global brand is relatively new and research on the creation of global brands appears to be in its infancy. Nevertheless, it may be possible to offer some insights into the development of a global brand by drawing on existing knowledge about branding. A brand is basically the name that a company assigns to one of its product offerings. The value of the brand name to the customer, which has been referred to as customer-based brand equity, depends on the type of associations that customer evokes about the company’s product offering when the brand name is mentioned.

Businesses may help customers develop strong positive associations for their brand names through promotional efforts, including favourable customer word-of-mouth communication (i.e., buzz marketing) and ensuring favourable customer experiences related to the purchase, use, and disposition of the product. From this perspective, it may be argued that the creation of a global brand requires businesses to develop a set of similar and consistent positive associations (opinions and beliefs) that connect the customer to the brand of a particular company, irregardless of the country in which the product is offered. Consequently, the development of a consistent set of customer opinions and beliefs about the brand is likely to be based on a common set of characteristics and/or experiences that are desired by each country. In this regard, a global brand may be described as being based on a set of associations that are shared across countries.

One advantage associated with a global brand is that it communicates to a common set of customer expectations that is not altered by country effects. For instance, customer expectations of a “McDonalds experience” is the same, regardless of whether they visit a McDonald’s in the US or India. Correspondingly, companies that are interested in building a global brand may need to downplay the unique characteristics and experiences associated with a single country. In this regard, it may be argued that a global brand is bleached of the uniqueness associated with the culture of a specific country.

The bleaching of a brand of those characteristics that are unique to a particular country represents a potential disadvantage associated with a global brand. Even though, customers desire consistent expectations when using a product, they also enjoy variety. Thus, bleaching a brand of country-specific associations inhibits the uniqueness of experience desired by many customers. For example, many US tourists prefer eating at McDonalds when travelling in other countries simply because they expect the dining experience to be similar to that enjoyed in the States. Similarly, many other US tourists tend to avoid McDonalds for the same reason. When travelling outside of the US, these customers seek unique experiences that are not readily available within the US and thus avoid those businesses that resemble those in the States.

6. What are the chief behavioural differences between consumers in India and those in the US? Are there any similarities? How can MNC’s from both countries manage dissimilarities in cultures while exploiting similarities between consumers of the two nations?
I am unable to provide informed opinions about the similarities/dissimilarities between US and Indian consumers or about actions that MNC may take to efficiently and effectively target consumers in each country. However, from a very general perspective, it is very likely that people, regardless of culture, have similar basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, protection, and so on. In addition, it is likely that people, in general, have a desire to be respected, to take care of family, make effective use of their resources (money, time, labour), and to self-actualise (i.e., achieve their potential and to make a difference). As a result, MNCs increase their chances of success by recognising common benefits (or improvements) sought by their consumers, regardless of culture, and then adjusting their marketing efforts (i.e., price, promotion, distribution, and product form/packaging) to match the unique circumstances of each culture. The uniqueness of a country may be attributed to many factors including geographical climate and terrain, distinctions in the cultural philosophies that guide the behaviours of a country’s inhabitants, the political climate of the country, and so on. The process is analogous to the concept of mass customisation, whereby the basic market offering is similar across cultures, but the specifics of the market offer are customized to the unique circumstances of each country.

7. What, according to you, are the strengths and weaknesses of the “Made in India” tag? What best practices would you suggest to Indian companies that wish to become internationally competitive?
This is a difficult question to answer for two reasons. First, I am unsure of the image that India has within the US. In addition, research on Country-of-Origin issues has produced mixed results. Some research indicates that the use of “Made in” labels have influenced consumer perceptions and purchase behaviours, whereas other research indicates that no relationship exists. More recent research suggests that “Made in” labels become more important when consumers are not very knowledgeable about the product and little other product related information is available. In contrast, “Made in” labels appear to be less effective when other product information is available to the consumer. In addition, the effectiveness of “Made in” labels appears to be influenced by the type of market offering. When using “Made in” labels to evaluate market offerings, consumers oftentimes base their assessments on their perceptions of the country itself. In these instances, consumers use their perceptions of a country to determine whether the manufacturing country is likely to produce a high quality form of the product. Whether a country is truly capable of manufacturing a high quality product is oftentimes less relevant then the consumer’s perception of the country’s capability. These perceptions may be derived from a number of sources including the consumer’s personal experience, experiences of others, or stereotypes created through the media. Consequently, a country’s products are more likely to be favourably received by consumers if the consumers believe that the country has the technological capabilities and expertise to manufacture the market offerings.

Automation is needed to manage complexity in marketing

[Bruce Brown is managing director of Unica Corporation's Asia Pacific operations.He oversees Unica's sales, marketing, and business development throughout the region.]

1. Can you shed some light on critical changes that are taking place in the marketing arena?

As the business environment becomes complex, firms are operating under tighter internal and external constraints than ever before. For example, on the one hand we have multiplicity of communication channels leading to a need for higher spend in these areas. On the other hand, businesses are increasingly demanding higher and higher accountability from the marketing spend.

The major forces that have contributed to this increase in marketing complexity are:
a. Product Proliferation

Marketers today have to deal with massive product proliferation and it’s not just the sheer number of products in each product category but the different models of the same product, giving customers an almost infinite number of options. For example, in the US alone, there are about 8000 digital camera model that consumers can choose from, making the job of the brand manager rather difficult. Such a clutter on the shelf space means that marketers must work much harder to become the preferred product for the customer.

b. Multiplicity of marketing communication channels
Unlike in the past, when there were limited options to reach out, consumers of today are bombarded with marketing messages through television commercials, mailings, web sites, email, billboards, and more. The number of messages each consumer receives has grown dramatically in just the last two decades. In 1985 it was estimated that the average consumer was exposed to 650 marketing messages every day. Today it is more than 8,000. This is due in part to the increased number of channels marketers and consumers can use. For example, traditional media has become extremely fragmented. In other words, there are more and more TV and radio stations, magazines, and newspapers in the world. In 1960 there were 5.7 average TV channels in each home, and a total of 4,400 radio stations and 8,400 magazines. By 2004, those numbers had grown to 82.4 channels, 13,500 radio stations and 17,300 magazines. In the 1980s, 80 per cent of an average marketer’s target audience could be reached with one 30-second, off-peak television ad. Today, accomplishing the same reach often requires literally hundreds of prime-time commercials. In addition to this traditional media phenomenon, new media have emerged and multiplied. The most recognisable examples include web sites, SMS and email. There are many others, such as dynamic point of sale promotions and in-store kiosks. These new media further clutter a consumer’s daily life with marketing messages. The challenge this clutter poses to marketers is obvious: getting a message to register with consumers is incredibly difficult.

c. Growing consumer expectation
The growing number of marketing messages is driving consumers to take steps to control how marketers interact with them. This is done in part through the adoption of new technologies that filter marketing messages, especially from new media. The most well-known examples are SPAM filters and web pop-up ad blockers. But tools are emerging that impact more traditional media, as well. Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), such as those sold under the TiVo brand, allow consumers to eliminate TV commercials when viewing their favourite programmes. Today DVRs are at a much lower adoption rate than SPAM and pop-up blockers (roughly 15 per cent as compared to over 50 per cent according to a recent survey), but it is clear that the desire to control advertising exposure is a growing trend. In addition to adopting new technologies, consumers are demanding that marketers adhere to new standards of behaviour that put consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to determining when and how to send messages. Clearly articulated privacy policies and “opt-out” choices are now a required practice of any company seeking a genuine and positive relationship with its customers. As a result of both these new technologies and practices, marketers today must not only identify the right target for their message and plan a strategy to get through the clutter, but also consider whether that message will actually reach its intended target.

d. Regulatory constraints
Marketers now have to comply with more regulations than ever before. Some of these regulations, such as do-not-call (DNC) lists, strict anti-spam laws and the EU’s Data Protection directives are related to the clutter of marketing messages and consumers’ desire for greater control and privacy. The effects of this type of legislation are widespread. According to a recent survey, over half of marketers reported that such legislation will impact their direct marketing programmes more in the next two years than in the previous two. No matter what the nature of the regulation, the fact is that marketers have new process issues to consider.

e. Marketing is being made more accountable
Gone are the days when you spent half you money on marketing without knowing whether it worked or it didn’t. The increasing market complexity is continuously putting pressure on companies’ profit margins and as a result departmental budgets within each enterprise. Marketing is no exception. Marketing budgets are being scrutinised by top management and marketers are required to account for their investments and demonstrate, with hard numbers, the returns they are getting. In other words, not only are marketers being asked to do more with less, but they must justify decisions and investments.

That’s the reason why marketers have to move from handling by spreadsheets or handling marketing activities manually to some sort of system that automates that process – 1000s of different contacts that need to be tailored. You can’t do it manually. You need to do it fast, to be able to turn around that do that – contact the customer quickly is impossible if you do it manually.

2. You talked about proliferation of products. What about parity of products?
You’ve raised a very good point. The product orientation does not differentiate you from your competitors anymore. You see, there is just too much out there and therefore you will have to focus on what the customer wants. This trend of moving away from product focus to customer focus is most evident in the retail banking sector where you now have segment managers, not product managers.

Take the case of OCBC bank in Singapore – they are increasing adopting EBM – where instead of making similar offers to a “segment” which may comprise of a 100,000 customers, what they do is monitoring specific events, transaction or things that the customer does – and they have 100 of business rules that are in place. For instance if a customer’s average quarterly balance crosses a certain threshold, it triggers some kind of communication. Similarly when the average account balance suddenly deviates, it triggers a service call from the bank to explore what this deviation might mean to the customer. The principle here is to “win the customer at the moment he needs the service”. Of course this requires a lot of training on the front office on what to say and what not to say

3. What is the role of new and emerging technologies in transforming the way marketing is
done today?

Technology has enabled the real shift to what we call “addressable marketing”. In the past, most of the emphasis was really about brand marketing or awareness marketing. Organisations have realised that they need to focus on their customer base. As a result, we need marketing to be more able and more accountable. We want it to be able to the return on investment on all activities. So the focus is now shifting to addressable marketing, which means targeting the customers with something that is likely to be more relevant to them. This is possible because you’ve done the analysis and you’ve looked at their propensity to buy something. In addressable marketing, we use technology to measure whether the customer responded, to which campaign did he or she respond, how long did he take to respond and so on and so forth. Having done the homework, you contact them through technology channels like SMS or email. You may even ask them how, at what time and where they want to be contacted. When you contact your customers in the way they wish to be contacted and with an offer that excites them, you are no more bothering them and invading their privacy. In fact you are providing them with a service. So technology is helping companies become more customer-centric. It is really enabling marketing to do more, and measure it tangibly.

4. What is Enterprise Marketing Management?
Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) is software that helps marketers reduce costs, boost productivity and grow revenue across brand, interactive and direct marketing operations. EMM consists of customer analytics for understanding and anticipating customer behaviour; interaction and campaign management for implementing and executing timely, consistent communications across customer touch points; lead management to ensure leads are delivered and acted upon; and marketing resource management (MRM) for managing budgets, creative production, marketing content, and other resources. Individually or as an integrated solution, these capabilities reduce time-to-market through automation, improve customer strategies and targeting through analytics, and prove the value of marketing through closed-loop measurement and reporting.

EMM provides support for customer analysis, demand generation and strategic planning and resource management. Additionally, a complete EMM offering provides the ability to measure the performance, profitability and bottom-line impact of marketing efforts. Customer analysis includes capabilities such as data mining and predictive modelling, which provide a richer, deeper understanding of customers across all interaction touch points. It also gives organisations the ability to monitor and track segment behaviour and trends over time thereby enabling better targeting and increasing the likelihood of response to specific marketing activities. Demand generation solutions focus on acquiring, retaining and growing customer value. Strategic planning and process management solutions, sometimes called Marketing Resource Management (MRM) or Marketing Operations Management (MOM), help marketers create plans, coordinate the execution of those plans and analyse the results. These solutions streamline processes and centrally store marketing information such that marketers can quickly and easily see how their marketing efforts and plans are progressing – from tradeshows, advertising campaigns, direct mail, events, and more. By using these capabilities, marketers are able to measure the performance of all their marketing efforts, assess their profitability and bottom-line impact and optimise their investments and operations. In addition to customer analysis, demand generation, strategic planning and process management, a complete EMM solution must provide the ability to measure the performance, profitability and overall impact of all marketing efforts.

5. What according to you is the single biggest requirement that an organisation must take into consideration when adopting EMM?
A pre-requisite for doing a successful marketing automation campaign management is making sure that you develop the analytical skills. I see a lot of organisations who haven’t gained that expertise. Analytical capabilities help the marketer to customise the offer to an individual by revealing what the customer might want at various times. Such information will enable you make offers that are relevant and therefore more attractive. If you’re setting out on this path, you have to make sure that you have this capability whether you develop it in house or outsource it.

6. Using examples, can you elucidate the advantages of EMM over traditional marketing approaches?
EMM technology helps marketers bring together disparate parts of marketing; planning, designing, executing and analysing. By automating and supporting each of these areas, EMM lets executives, marketing managers, analysts, field marketers, creative designers, achieve increased effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. Here are a few examples that describe EMM in practice in planning, designing, executing and analysing.

Planning with EMM: A major retailer of electronic goods recently purchased and implemented an EMM solution to streamline and manage marketing processes and track overall marketing effectiveness. Using EMM, they are automating marketing planning, managing marketing project workflows, facilitating collaboration, optimising assets, and most importantly, notifying and alerting marketers of changes in their marketing programmes and key performance indicators (KPIs) giving the marketers greater control over the outcome of these initiatives. As a result of using EMM, this organisation has increased visibility into all marketing initiatives, improved marketing velocity and productivity and has been able to enforce best practices and processes across the organisation, resulting in significant cost savings and increased revenue.

Designing with EMM: A large resort real estate company and ski resort operator that uses EMM to identify previous guests for a specific resort who have a high likelihood of revisiting the resort from mid January to the end of April – when ski vacation bookings are slow. Individuals likely to respond were included in a targeted multi-wave "come back" campaign. The results showed that the people the models predicted would visit during this period responded to offers and booked at a rate roughly 133 per cent above those included but not identified by the models. Additionally, the booking rate was 5 per cent with an 8.5 per cent increase in skier revenue, and an increase of 3.5 per cent in actual skier visits.

Executing with EMM: A leading specialty retailer uses EMM to execute a targeted email communication to all individuals who have made an entertainment purchase online within a specific time period. Email content is dynamically selected for each individual. With EMM in place, this communication runs every Tuesday without manual intervention. In terms of results there are consistent weekly click-through rates as well as a distinct increase in customer profitability and loyalty.

Analysing with EMM: A US-based mortgage division of a diversified European financial services provider was able to minimise losses when it quickly identified a significant increase in mortgage holder attrition, using EMM technology. After further investigation, the company determined that monthly programmes targeted at mortgage holders were not effective in retaining customers. With mortgage rates changing almost weekly, the organisation needed to respond faster to competitive market conditions to maintain its customer base. By
leveraging templates, analytics, and automation found in their EMM solution, the organisation was able to rapidly execute more effective marketing programmes in order to combat competitive pressures and decrease attrition.

Playing a long Innings

History of our planet proves that adapting to change is the only way to survive. Those who do not or cannot adapt, become extinct. This is true of human beings, animals and even brands. Brands that do not change disappear from the marketplace… and the consumer’s mind. While many brands have survived for a long time, in the recent years the pace of change has increased manifold and consequently the time available to respond to the changes has shrunk considerably. The problem with many of us is that we think of future as faraway. The future is here. It’s not some event that will take place five, 10 or 20 years from now. It is something that is as close as tomorrow. The pace of change in the recent years has shortened the distance between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In preparing your brands to survive into the future, it might help to look to the past and learn from it. The first real "brands" began to emerge at around the same time as marketing began emerging as a serious business management discipline way back in the late 19th and early 20th century. By the mid-1900s, marketing had already established itself as a central business function and the four Ps became the tactical tools of marketers. Over the next 30-40 years, the strategic development of marketing as a business function has evolved constantly to adapt to continuous and discontinuous market changes. Concepts such as segmentation, differentiation and competitive advantage emerged and proved extremely useful to marketers in successfully introducing and establishing brands.

But things have been different in the last decade or so. Technology and product breakthroughs, discovery of newer markets (and stagnation of older ones), rising incomes, and telecom and media proliferation require newer and innovative marketing approaches. Because the time to react to competition is shorter than ever before and there is little, if any, scope for blunders. While earlier, a brand could get away with some slip ups, the consumers of today are unforgiving and punish brands that do not live up to their promise by shifting their loyalties to other brands. No wonder so many brands of yesteryears have just disappeared from the shelves. It seems like only yesterday when cars in India meant Ambassador and Premier Padmini; shoes meant Bata; cooking oil meant Dalda or Postman, and colour TVs meant BPL or Videocon. Most of these brands are nowhere close to their positions 10 years ago. Some of them have completely disappeared.

On the other hand, there have been brands that have stood the test of time. Changing consumer preferences, cultural transformation, substitute products, economic recessions, technological obsolescence and many such problems notwithstanding, these brands have been quick to adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics and consumer demand, and grown consistently. These brands have shown what is known as brand resilience.

What is Brand Resilience?

In the year 2000, Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan rose like the proverbial phoenix. After a long hiatus from Bollywood and a disastrous shot at going corporate that left him bankrupt, Bachchan came back with a vengeance. Today he has not only paid off his debts, but is the busiest star in the film industry, delivering more hits in the year than any other star and has endorsed/is endorsing more than 20 brands. He was also voted as star of the millennium in an online poll by BBC. Brand Amitabh Bachchan is a great example of a brand that possesses resilience.

Brands like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Levi’s, Harley-Davidson, Rolex, Kodak, Nikon, Sony as well as home-grown brands like Thums Up, The Times of India, Parachute, Onida and Amul are resilient brands as they have all been around for many decades during which markets and consumers have both changed beyond recognition. Many of these brands have survived recessionary trends and adverse market conditions and yet have managed to retain their leadership positions in their markets. In fact, many of the world’s top 100 brands are over 100 years old.

The quest for brand resilience

Brand resilience can be compared with a healthy person with strong immunity. A healthy person fights of diseases by practising healthy habits like eating right, following an exercise regime, maintaining hygiene and consulting a doctor when sickness strikes. Similarly, a brand builds resilience by following sound marketing practises, maintaining a fresh appeal, and reinventing itself to remain relevant. Here are a few suggestions on how to build strong, resilient brands.

Survival of the quickest
Brand that don’t respond promptly to a challenge often perish just as brands that are quick to respond get brownie points from the consumer in the form of loyalty. In 1995, when Sony launched PlayStation, the first CD-based video game console, Nintendo and Sega were both unprepared and took time to react. They paid heavily for their sluggishness by losing market to a new entrant like Sony. Today, PlayStation is the market leader by far and also the cash cow for Sony. Nokia, on the other hand, was quick to respond to Sony-Ericsson’s camera phones. Although Sony-Ericsson’s phones became a hit, Nokia launched its own versions of camera phone quickly, ensuring that its market leadership remained intact.

Maintain Consumer Connect
Resilient brands acknowledge that consumers of different generations have different values and ideologies. These brands also know that consumer preferences evolve over time. Liril and Colgate are FMCG brands that have been around for decades and have successfully connected with the consumers of many successive generations. The recent repositioning of Liril (with Aloe Vera) is a case in point. Adding sex appeal to the brand and introducing a male character in its advertising is a marked shift from the age old “waterfall” premise that Liril was associated with.

Remain Loyal to Core Value Proposition
Resilient brands have a personality with which consumers identify them. Sony has always stood for sharp, leading edge technology. The recent repositioning notwithstanding, Liril still stands for freshness. Coca-Cola has quenched thirst for over 100 years and its Thanda Matlab Coca Cola campaign only reiterates that proposition. Colgate means strong teeth, fresh breath. Mercedes still stands for top class and BMW for pioneering engineering. Brands build resilience by taking a stance and sticking to it. They remain loyal their original values and their consumers remain loyal to them.

Kodak Brand’s Resilience From Building Strong Brands by David Aaker

The Kodak Instant Camera (introduced in 1976 to compete with Polaroid) had captured one-third of the instant camera market after one year. However, the company was forced to discontinue the product in 1986 after a successful patent encroachment suit by Polaroid. Kodak’s forced withdrawal of a product from a market it virtually owned is about as bad as it gets. Many brands would have been irrevocably tainted by such a calamity. The fact that Kodak survived this debacle is a tribute to its innate brand strength and to its handling of a painful situation. Every camera owner was invited to return their Kodak Instant Camera in exchange for either a Kodak Disk Camera and film, fifty dollars’ worth of other Kodak products, or a share of Kodak stock. Kodak thus used the incident and the surrounding communication opportunities to reinforce Kodak associations and to support the Disk Camera.

From Building Strong Brands by David Aaker

Why bother about resilience?

Because resilience pays rich dividends in the following ways:  

Provides Longevity
This one is the most apparent benefit. Resilience implies staying power, which translates into l
ongevity. As mentioned earlier, resilient brands survive many generations of human life. Indeed, some have been around for a couple of hundred years. The Times of India was established in 1838. After 168 years, it is the largest selling English daily in the world. That it’s published from India, a country where English is not a native language, tells a lot about the resilience of the brands.

Helps in tiding over adversities
Brands that are resilient are better prepared to survive an unforeseen eventuality, both internal and external to the company. Kartikeya Kompella, business head of a leading DM agency in Chennai says, " Tough times don’t last but tough brands do." In 1982, when other car manufacturers around the world suffered disastrous sales, Mercedes continued to do well and often sold up to 50 per cent more than other European competitors.

Offers scope for market leverage
Resilient brands can try experiments in the market that could be too risky for other brands. In April 1985, when Coca Cola repositioned its flagship brand as New Coke, which was not well received by the market in spite of blind tests showing that New Coke tasted better than Pepsi and earlier Coke. There were protests by a section of Coke fans and Pepsi took advantage of the situation by taking digs at Coke. Coca Cola’s sales had begun to dwindle and the company was forced to reintroduce the old formula drink, which it called Coca Cola Classic. By the end of the year, Classic Coke was substantially outselling both New Coke and Pepsi, putting the company back into the number-one position, which it has enjoyed ever since. Coca Cola got away with its experimentation because the brand was resilient.

Survives onslaught of competition
A brand that has been around for years and has kept its promise with the consumer can often fight even heavyweight competition. Think about Thums Up, which was bought over by Coca Cola on its re-entry to India. Between the mega battle of Pepsi and Coke, Thums Up was grossly ignored by its new owners. In spite of this neglect, Thums Up outperformed both Coca Cola and Pepsi to remain market leader and forced Coke’s management to take the brand seriously.

Sometimes, brands only pretend to be resilient but are not. In times of crisis, such brands often try and take refuge in advertising but usually fail. In A New Brand World, Scott Bedbury points out that no amount of advertising can build or save a shallow brand. “Advertising is the megaphone, not the message,” he says. Many of you will recall that BPL was one of the top three colour TV brands in India in the early 1990s. When crisis struck in the form of entry of Korean Brands, even Amitabh Bachchan’s endorsement could not save BPL TVs from perishing. Cadbury on the other hand used Amitabh effectively to counter the serious threat from the “worm” controversy and is today back to the top. Cadbury was resilient; BPL was not.

Conclusion

It is wise to know that resilience is not infinite. The advantages of possessing brand resilience are many. But that does not mean that strong brands cannot falter and fall by the wayside. Even resilience has an expiry date. But the good news is that brands can get this date extended substantially by remaining loyal to their original value proposition and by being true to their consumers.

Street Smarts Usually Trump Academic Brilliance

Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson | INSEAD Alumni Professor of Entrepreneurship

Philip Anderson is the INSEAD Alumni Fund Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD, in Singapore. He is also director of the 3i VentureLab and director of the International Centre for Entrepreneurship, which includes the Caesarea Rothschild Entrepreneurship Centre in Israel. His undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics is from the University of California at Davis, and he received his Ph.D. in Management of Organizations from Columbia University. Manoj Khatri caught up with him on his visit to India.

How would you define entrepreneurship in the modern business context? What are the different aspects of entrepreneurship?

That’s an interesting question because different people have different answers. For example, is the self-employed owner of a one-man repair shop an entrepreneur? Is the founder of a venture-capital backed start-up whose stake has been diluted to five per cent an entrepreneur? If you identify entrepreneurship as owner-management, only the former is, but economic policy is oriented toward creating more of the latter kind of enterprise.

For us at INSEAD, entrepreneurs build companies that are specifically crafted to exploit a particular opportunity. This gives them an advantage over older companies that were designed in response to challenges of the past and must change to adapt to today’s requirements. Entrepreneurs can build new companies. They can also rejuvenate existing companies via buyouts and turnarounds. They can also build new companies inside existing companies, which we would call corporate entrepreneurship.

There are two key aspects to entrepreneurship. The first is forming or reforming a company. The second is that entrepreneurs behave like owners, not like people who are maximizing some other shareholders’ value. They may or may not have ownership stakes that are actually significant, but their interests are completely aligned with those of the owners. They behave like principals, not agents.

What are the key forces that govern the success of entrepreneurial ventures? What makes a successful entrepreneur? Can entrepreneurship skills be learned or are they always innate?

The single most important factor is quality of management. Most ventures do not end up doing what their business plans envisioned. High-quality managers adjust to unforeseen situations; because they build the company as they go along and behave like owners, they win by being more nimble and adaptive. The next most important factor is that successful ventures attack real problems or needs that people are willing to pay them to address. Far too many entrepreneurs create value propositions that customers find "nice to have" but not "must do." After quality of management, the best predictor of success is whether a venture is attacking a problem that is causing pain for an attractive group of customers they can reach without burning too much cash.

The will to spot opportunities and take risks in order to realize them is part of a person’s overall makeup, which is partly innate and partly a product of his upbringing. The best way to learn how to be an entrepreneur is to work at the side of a successful one. The problem is that entrepreneurs are understandably reluctant to hire those who cannot help them immediately. Therefore our role in business schools is not to teach people how to be entrepreneurs. It is to impart skills and insights that allow our graduates to hit the ground running and make an immediate contribution to an entrepreneurial venture. That allows our students to learn from a veteran entrepreneur those lessons that can only be conveyed by working together.

Can you bring out the significance of the role of entrepreneurs in a developing nation like India? What lessons can we learn from the entrepreneurs of the developed world?

It is difficult for a company in a developing country to do exactly what a rival in a developed country does, because it is not a level playing field. Foreign companies have access to capital, technology, human resources, and infrastructure that often give them an advantage. Of course, Indian firms can compete on cost, but such strategies will keep Indian wage levels at subsistence levels and run the risk of foreigners pitting India against China to see who will work for the least pay. Therefore, the best way for Indian companies to create value is by seizing opportunities that foreigners have not spotted or cannot use to their advantage. Often, existing companies are not optimally configured to exploit such opportunities. Even great companies like Tata or Biocon can’t be in every business and can’t pursue every economic possibility. India needs entrepreneurs who can build companies that either do something foreigners are not doing, or that do the same thing in different ways.

There are many lessons India can learn from entrepreneurs in other countries, and it is fortunate that so many great entrepreneurs are of Indian descent and passionately desire to give back to their mother country. One of the most important is that savvy, toughness, and high energy usually count for more than sheer intellect. The most highly educated person who does well on tests often does not make the best entrepreneur. Indians are used to the idea that you need to be a top student from a top university to make it into the most prestigious companies or the civil service; the rules are different for entrepreneurs. Street smarts usually trump academic brilliance.

Another important lesson is that risk-taking and opportunism can go along with frugality. Really good entrepreneurs squeeze as much as possible out of limited amounts of cash. They leverage the money of others, and never invent the wheel when a good, cheap one is available in the marketplace. By keeping the rate at which they burn cash low, entrepreneurs can try a lot of ideas, most of which do not work, without losing because they ran out of money before they hit upon a workable value proposition.

What are the unique challenges that entrepreneurs face in a vast, multi-faceted country like India? How should an entrepreneur prepare to counter these?

Indian entrepreneurs often look to America for examples, and quickly realize that the relative homogeneity of the US can be a great advantage. Something that works in one part of the country can often be rolled out to others without much modification. The US is a national market; build a better mousetrap and you can sell it without having to reinvent your business every time you enter a new city or state.

India is a more diverse mosaic. Sometimes, expanding a business within India can be as challenging as expanding it across borders. Also, India’s infrastructure is improving, but more progress is required before it stops being a hindrance. In some parts of India, it’s easier to travel to, say, Singapore than it is to get to another domestic hub.

The most important thing to get right is the people you have representing you when you expand beyond your home region. You need key employees representing you who are in tune with other regions where they represent you, but who are still in touch with your values and ways of doing business. Pay close attention to the calibre of the people who help you expand outside your initial home base, whether you expand domestically or overseas. It is really difficult to run a growth venture in India centrally; you need to hire people you can trust and listen to what they say if you want to expand.

How does a successful entrepreneur become a successful business manager, once his entrepreneurial venture succeeds?

The real breakpoint seems to occur when a company gets past 60 or 70 employees. The company makes a transition from one where the founder/
managers know everyone personally to one where many employee relationships are impersonal. At that point, the successful entrepreneur has to make a transition from "do-er" to "orchestrator." That is not to say she or he takes a hands-off approach to the business. It means using information and control systems to supplement personal observation, and being able to communicate purpose and direction to people who do not see or work with you every day.

Someone who has never worked this way, where one has to control an enterprise indirectly instead of directly, can only survive the transition with help and mentoring. The entrepreneur has to hire and trust people who will operate on his behalf. After the breakpoint occurs, the most important skill for the entrepreneur is no longer knowing how to do everything or what to do next – it is the ability to size up people, hire the right ones, retain them, and motivate them. That’s hard to do without trusted advisors, whether they are part of senior management or provide counsel from the outside (as friends, service providers, or directors).

What are the difficulties that intrapreneurs face? What are the benefits of encouraging an intrapreneurial culture in an organisation?

On the plus side, intrapreneurs usually start with an infrastructure, working routines they can transfer from the parent company, and perhaps a well-known name on their business card. On the minus side, they often don’t have the freedom to build an organization that is precisely configured to exploit the opportunity they are pursuing. The more they have to conform to corporate guidelines and policies that were designed for different businesses, the more they are handicapped. The most subtle and difficult burdens are often cultural. It is extraordinarily difficult to build an organizational culture that fits your opportunity when the people in your organization bring with them a culture that was designed for other settings and other challenges.

There are three important benefits of encouraging an intrapreneurial culture. First, a company is more nimble when individual employees see it as their job to spot opportunities and pursue them with a sense of urgency. Many opportunities disappear in the time it takes to bubble them up to the apex of an organization and gain senior management’s assent to exploit them. Second, a company is better able to attract and keep talent when employees see that bright, opportunistic people who make money for the company are encouraged and rewarded for being proactive. Intrapreneurs are usually result-oriented, and if they are not given an alternative to corporate politics and career ladders, they usually leave before they create a fraction of the value they are capable of generating. Third, intrapreneurship is one of the great general management training grounds. Someone who has built a company inside an existing company has garnered knowledge and skills that will be invaluable when s/he takes on broad responsibilities, such as running a plant or a division. Intrapreneurs are a crucial part of your talent pool, and their experience often makes them the best choice to open a new office, launch a joint venture, turn around a troubled operation, pioneer an innovation, or undertake similar challenges that cut across functions and change mindsets.

How much below the line?

One can argue that most ad spending today is utter waste and does little to meet its supposed objective, especially the really expensive monthly-quarterly campaigns. Everyday we come across average looking and ineffective (more important that ‘just being creative’) ads in the newspaper and on television.

Yet at times, the product itself is so good it outperforms the ineffectiveness of the ad campaign and this is mistaken as a triumph for those attempts in traditional marketing and advertising. Competing firms, either from the same industry or otherwise, look at this and assume huge ad spends to be the answer to their problems, before they realise it’s too late and then axe themselves in their foot once again, this time with a different promise bearer who yet again is into ‘edgy stuff’.

In the same breadth, it is not always wise to assume that promotions and events are a good blind substitute or will always prove to be better as opposed to ad spends. When buying a television, the promise of a free duffelbag is hardly a carrot. Talk about free software (licence fee waived off) along with a branded computer and yes consumers will show interest.

Invite the customer to relate to what you are offering and she/he will excuse you for carrot dangling. That is how custmers think by and large.

A Great Indian from Great Britain

Dr Kartar Lalwani’s simple appearance and his unpretentious demeanour hide the virtues that have made him one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs. This founder-owner of Britain’s first vitamin supplement company Vitabiotics is as unassuming as you can get. For one, he looks much younger than his age. At 72, this scientist-turned-entrepreneur displays an almost contagious enthusiasm for life – effect of consuming his own products, he suggests in all seriousness. For another, he’s actively involved in running Vitabiotics – he’s the President and CEO of the company. In fact, his pioneering work in pharma-medical research has got him four prestigious awards in the year 2003 including one for his company.

The first among the awards was The Queen’s Award for Enterprise bestowed by Her Majesty the Queen on the recommendation of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in recognition of the company’s remarkable contribution to International Trade. Then there was the Asian Achiever’s Award for Trade and Industry followed by Entrepreneur of the Year in UK sponsored by British Telecom and GG2. And most recently in December 2003, he was honoured with the Asian of the Year 2003-2004, awarded by the Asian Who’s Who.

Lalwani’s romance with nutrient technology began in the early 1960s when, as a young research scientist at AIIMS Delhi, he observed anomalies in the administration of some of the most basic vitamins and minerals. "The iron administered to patients at AIIMS was at least seven to eight times more than the recommended dosage," he remembers. Today, his company Vitabiotics is UK’s fastest growing vitamin company, exporting to sixty countries.

Lalwani has, in more ways than one, been a pioneer. And among his many pioneering efforts is Menopace, the first non-HRT remedy for menopausal women, which is today a market leader in UK. "Today HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is under serious clout," declares Lalwani with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

He describes his lifestyle as simple and loves the old and the historic. Antiques and ancient works of art such as ivories, furniture and paintings fascinate him. His rare possessions include two of the oldest and most beautiful English homes in Regent Park in London. An exceptional painting of the beautiful Gayatri Devi by Augustus John adorns the living room of his home in Bombay, of which he says, "This one was a jackpot." He bought it at an auction in the UK some twenty five years ago. Nobody there seemed to know who she was – they referred to her as "some Indian princess". Augustus John was one of the best-known English portrait painters during the early part of the 20th century. He painted many wealthy and important people and Her Highness Gayatri Devi was certainly one such person.

He’s got a collection of historical books, with some amazing insights into times gone by, illustrated with beautiful sketches. In fact such is his interest in history that these days Lalwani’s is actively involved in co-writing a book about the role of British in the history of India.

In spite of all the wealth, fame and recognition, Lalwani has remained down-to-earth. From the moment you first meet Lalwani, he surprises you with his modesty. He wears simple clothes, speaks in an Indian accent and doesn’t talk much unless you happen discuss his favourite subject – vitamins and minerals. Then he doesn’t stop. He’s passionate about his work, his company and his vision of making it the world’s foremost vitamin supplement company.

Lalwani was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1931. After partition, Lalwani’s family moved to India. "In Pakistan, my father ran one of the biggest wholesale and retail pharmacies of the time" he reveals. In 1956, after his B.Pharm, Lalwani left Indian shores for higher education. He acquired a post-graduate degree in pharmacy in London before proceeding to Germany for his doctorate in Medicinal Chemistry. After a brief stint in Germany where he worked as a professor, he returned to India, got married to a medical doctor and worked with the AIIMS as a research scientist for two years before returning to London where he joined a pharma publication in an editorial position. "It was a journal that published a compilation of abstracts of world patents in medicine. Almost all major pharma companies in the world were subscribers," he reveals proudly.
 
During the late sixties, Lalwani suffered from persistent mouth ulcers. He had tried lots of medicines, but nothing had worked. Finally, after having suffered for about five years, he had decided to find a cure himself – after all he was a qualified pharmacist. He invented a medicine which worked wonders – he used it a few times, after which his mouth ulcers vanished completely never to return again. It was time for him to use his knowledge of patents which he had learnt in his editorial job in London. He applied for a British patent for this new cure for mouth ulcers and got it.   Next, he tried to sell the patent but no company would buy it.

His failure to sell the patent was a blessing in disguise as Lalwani then decided to produce and sell his new creation himself. Having studied pharmacy locally, he had a fair amount of knowledge of the local market. He also knew that people often rely on pharmacists for such things as headaches and ulcers. So he packed a dozen units of Oralcer in a neat box and sent them to all the local chemists along with a letter and a return stamp and address. He reminisces, "I said in the letter: You know that nothing works for ulcers. This is the first treatment in the world that will work. If you’re happy, you sell the product, and if not, you may return the box. Only ten per cent of the boxes came back. The rest of them sent repeat orders." This was the beginning of Vitabiotics. Then, when he visited Nigeria, Lalwani noticed that there was a market for multivitamin brand there and decided to introduce a multivitamin supplement. He developed an attractive packaging for the brand and called it Omega-H3. Today, Omega H3 is the largest selling nutritional supplement in several countries around the world.

Lalwani has stuck to his vision of making products out of natural ingredients like vitamins and minerals for prevention and treatment of a range of health issues, from common ailments to lethal ones like AIDS. His believes that vitamins and minerals combined in accurate quantities can cure as well as, and sometimes even better than, traditional medicine – the belief has certainly paid him rich dividends.

The success of his children means a great deal to him. He proudly describes the achievement of his eldest son, Ajit Lalwanii, who is a medical doctor at the Oxford. Ajit has achieved a rare distinction of inventing a test for tuberculosis which has 99 per cent accuracy with the results being available on the same day displacing a hundred year old test that required six days for a result and has an accuracy of only 80 per cent. According to Lalwani, TB was not a disease of the developed world, so multinationals never took it seriously.

Talk about the awards bestowed on him and he shifts uncomfortably from shyness. He was reluctant to accept the Asian of the Year award this year as he thought that it would be one award too many in a single year. Yet he was persuaded to receive it this year itself. However, his true source of delight, he contends, is the appreciation and positive feedback he receives from the thousands of users of his products from across the world about how his medicines are benefiting them. He even recalls an incident of a young girl who attempted suicide because her mouth ulcers were so bad that she felt that "life was not liveable." Her desperate attempt came after nothing had cured her. Then she was given Oralcer, and her condition improved immediately and gradually she was permanently cured. These and many other episodes are the driving force behind Lalwani.

"It’s not profit that drives us. We sac
rifice a lot even today. We don’t jump into something simply because of a fad. It’s true that success would have come to me quicker if I was more businesslike. But that’s not been my philosophy. If I am not satisfied, if I am not sure that a product will truly benefit people, I will not get involved in it, even if trends suggest that it would be profitable to do so."

Compassion is written all over his face, as he tells us how he prices his products low in developing countries. When it comes to generosity, he does not distinguish between nationalities. He will donate money and help needy people wherever they are. And he thinks doing charity is no big deal. He recollects an incident that took place about two years ago. A young English man aged about 24 years, came to Kulu Manali for an adventure trek. While paragliding, he was lost. His mother was a nurse and father was school teacher. The boy’s parents contacted the British High Commission for assistance who in turn contacted the Indian High Commission. They were told that the search operation would cost them a lot of money, which they could not afford. When Lalwani read this in the newspapers, he instructed his secretary to locate the hassled parents and then sponsored the entire search operation for two days. Although the search did not yield the desired results (the boy was unfortunately never found), at least the parents were satisfied that a serious attempt had been made.

Ask him if he has any regrets in life, and he says he has none. He has lived a good, contended life. He does have dreams, though, that he’d like to see coming true in his lifetime. Like Vitabiotics being a major International player and an India with 100 per cent rate of literacy. Lalwani thinks that India’s future can be bright if only our literacy rates could go up. He also leaves us with a thought to ponder: With a population like ours, if every earning Indian would set aside only one day’s income for a charitable purpose like education, India could attain hundred per cent literacy in five years.

Building Dreams

Lights, Sound, Camera, Action! At Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, these words resonate quite frequently as the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hritik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Aamir Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Govinda, Karishma Kapoor and Shilpa Shetty thrill the curious bystanders while shooting for various Bollywood flicks.

Hiranandani Gardens is without doubt the most outstanding privately developed housing complex in India. And if there’s one man who is to be applauded for this wonderful project, it is Niranjan Hiranandani, Managing Director of Hiranandani Constructions, the leading real estate developers of India. His rise to glory is quite similar to what we often see in films. He followed his dreams and they came true through sheer hard work coupled with a vision – to build the swankiest, most high-profile housing-cum-residential complex of Mumbai.

Today Niranjan Hiranandani is considered one of the most reputed names in the real estate business. As head of Hiranandani Constructions, he has made a name for himself by creating two top-of-the-line housing-cum-commercial projects – the Hiranandani Gardens in the suburb of Powai in Mumbai and the Hiranandani Estate at Thane, at the outskirts of Mumbai city.

Those who know him profess that Niranjan Hiranandani possesses a rare combination of superb entrepreneurial judgement, sound business acumen and an ability to dream big. Yet, not many know this real estate tycoon began his career as a Chartered Accountant, teaching at the Institute of Chartered Accountants. After that he also established and ran a textiles business for a few years. But it was his stride into the real estate business that earned him an unparalleled reputation and in the process made his family name one of the most high-profile surnames in the country.

Belonging to a family of doctors – his father, L N Hiranandani, was a leading ENT surgeon who was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his services – Niranjan Hiranandani along with his brother Surendra Hiranandani have transformed the very definition of "real estate developer" in India.

Before Hiranandani’s foray into reals estate, builders were  labelled as dubious characters with underworld connections. Niranjan remembers his earlier days when every time he sought an audience with a minister, the appointment was never jotted in the minister’s diary. "But today things have changed. From a position of being looked down upon (because you are a real estate developer) to where you are respected is the most significant change for us," he was quoted as saying. So much for bringing in respectability to an entire genre of businessmen!

Although extremely successful as a real estate developer, more recently Hiranandani has steered his group into other sectors like entertainment, education, retail and hospitality. The Group diversified into the retail segment in a big way, floating the Lakewood Malls Private Limited.

Apart from building high-quality structures, Niranjan Hiranandani is actively involved in championing the cause of the construction industry – he is attempting to bring about transparency and professionalism in the operations of the industry. According to Hiranandani, the government should implement the National Housing policy framed. This, according to him, would go a long way in boosting the prospects of the construction industry and improving the economy of the country.

His run up to success wasn’t smooth and  he encountered his share of problems. Yet, by sheer determination he has succeeded in accomplishing his goals. He has yet another dream – that of transforming Mumbai city into one of the best in the world. Knowing his wonderful knack of turning dreams into reality, we can say with conviction that given an opportunity he will most certainly make it happen. Now, if only the government listens!

Besides heading Hiranandani Group, Niranjan Hiranandani serves as the Chairman of the Housing and Public Works Committee of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI); Director, HUDCO; Vice-Chairman, Maharashtra Chambers of Housing Industry; and co-Chairman of the Experts Committee on Urban Development of ASSOCHAM.