Six of the Best: Back from India edition ~ Brand Mix

Monday, January 25, 2010

Six of the Best: Back from India edition

Just got back from a business trip to Mumbai, my first visit to India. I got there ahead of time so I was able to do some speed-sightseeing, mostly in South Mumbai, the traditional business area and the location of some of the best-known tourist areas. Impressions and branding observations from the trip:

1) The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower

Photo: Taj Mahal Palace and Tower (me)

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower is an iconic, 105-year old hotel located next to the Gateway of India. It's the flagship property of Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. It now also serves as a symbol of Indian resilience after the terrorist attacks on 26-11-08 that killed 167 people and only ended after a three-day battle when Indian commandos killed the gunmen barricaded in the hotel. As you can see from the photo, the hotel is still being repaired but it's back in operation and looking good. (Here's a photo of the main foyer and here's a photo of bullet holes elsewhere in the Colaba district.)

2) Himalayan water

Photo: Himalayan (me)

The ultimate in water sources--right from the Himalayas. Makes Poland Spring, Evian and even Fiji Water seem a little mundane.

3) Indian business groups

Both the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and Himalayan are part of the Tata Group, the largest private corporate group in India. In addition to hotels and beverages, the Group plays in a host of other categories from cars to information technology. (It was the group that bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford.) Other groups such as Reliance and Mahindra also cover a dizzying range of business categories.

In the U.S., such "conglomerates" typically trade at a discount because analysts have come to believe that conglomerates are inefficient and that these companies cannot master and be expert in such a range of businesses. (Here's a typical commentary.) But, in India, these groups are thriving. The critical factor that makes the difference is the value placed on reliability. Whereas, U.S. companies are expected to be reliable, dependable and trustworthy, that's still an important differentiator in India. Especially in those categories like cars or real estate where people are making a significant financial investment, they are likely to seek out groups that have a strong reputation and are likely to be around for the long term.

4) Axe

Photo: Axe (me)

Unilever, operating as Hindustan Unilever, is India's largest consumer packaged goods company getting in early (with Sunlight soap bars in 1888) and holding its lead ever since. It sells a mix of local and global brands, including Axe. As you can see from the photo, apparently the idea of helping men stay ahead in the dating game travels well. Dove is also in the Indian market but this brand appears to be pursuing a market-specific approach. Its current outdoor campaign reads: "Dove comes off like cream. Soap does not," a much more functional idea than the Campaign for Real Beauty.

5) Traffic

Photo: Taxi by Honza Soukup (Flickr)

The traffic is one of the many sights, sounds (and smells) that create lasting impressions of Mumbai. The traffic-light-free, dare-you junctions, the non-use of lanes, the constant cacophony of horns and the occasional buffalo cart are important ingredients but the signature element must be the yellow and black, Premier Padmini taxicabs, based on a small Fiat sedan from the early-1960s. As this article describes, the government has passed legislation to phase out these cabs for more modern alternatives. But, for the moment, there's plenty left on the roads.

6) Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire

The hotel I stayed at hosted the CID Gallantry Awards while I was there. These awards celebrate Indian citizens who have rescued kids who fell down drains, that kind of thing. As they were setting up, they played this song many, many times to check the sound system. According to the comments on the video, Jai Ho! is a victory shout that means something like: "Hurray" or "It Rocks," a slogan that nicely sums up the spirit and energy of the country at the moment.

That's it! Back soon with more stories from the world of brand strategy (and vaguely related areas). More thoughts and comments also available on Twitter (@martinjbishop).


Philip said...
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Akhil said...

Sir I am a young entrepreneur who wants to start manufacturing in India. Could you please give me few tips on branding?

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