All posts by Deepak Jolly

Blogs at Consocia

How several consumer brands have fared better in the post-pandemic era

The pandemic has proved to be the ultimate “disruptor” for the entire world. Businesses in all countries across the world are facing immense challenges due to the problems of conducting business in nationwide lockdowns and social distancing. However, surprisingly, there are several consumer brands that are doing surprisingly well in the post pandemic situation.

 

Sales of Tractors has gone up as farmers across the country have had to increase dependence on mechanized solutions for farming. The lack of public transportation too has added to the increase in tractor sales as tractors are being used as rural transport vehicles. Two wheelers, and small car segments have also shown growth, as many people want to shift away from their dependence on public transportation.

 

Many foods companies to have been doing particularly well. Parle has been adding record breaking sales and many namkeen and instant food manufacturers are enjoying great growth rates. I and my family have been experimenting on specialty cooking at home and we often swap recipes with friends doing the same. Millions of Indians now make use of many packaged ingredients to make meals at home. Manufacturers of products like herbs, seasonings, sauces and ready mixes are now having to ramp up production to meet the fast rising demands.

 

The online pharmacy sector is also witnessing much action now. Although the sector has been existing for a while now, there is now a huge focus on the segment with large and small players entering the segment. Customers are demanding delivery of medicines at home and more than willing to go through the online process of uploading their prescriptions in order to get the delivery of medicines at home. Operating in a similar space, online medical testing and medical consultation apps like Practo, Credihealth and Lybrate are now witnessing a huge surge of sign ups as customers want to avoid the risk of going to hospitals and clinics and want to take advice from doctors online especially for not so serious ailments.

 

Adding on to this, medtech companies have played a crucial role in cushioning the impact of COVID. Customers are buying equipment for home use directly from med tech companies. The new slew of med tech products aimed at home users of digital infra-red thermometers, oximeters are an addition to homes where there is a suspicion of infection or even as a precautionary measure.

 

The digital education space is witnessing one of the most exciting of phases. Several online learning companies like Toppr, Vedantu, BYJU’s, Whitehat Jr, Unacademy, are showing rapid growth and enrollments have surged almost trebled for the sector since the first phase of lock down in March 2020. These companies are expected to have a record year due to the physical shut down of all the educational institutions like schools, colleges, universities and coaching centers in the country. These companies have adopted aggressive customer communication campaigns to take advantage of the situation.

 

The online grocery segment is witnessing massive action. Many of them like Big Basket, Grofers, Milkbasket have seen a sharp jump in deliveries. So lucrative is the growth in the category that other ecommerce players are jumping into the fray. Walmart backed Flipkart has launched “Flipkart Quick” a hyperlocal delivery service which delivers grocery to customers in 90 mins. Not to be left behind Amazon is putting more focus into its ‘Amazon Pantry’ and ‘Amazon Fresh’ offerings and Swiggy, one of the leading food delivery platforms launched a trial run of its quick grocery delivery service in Gurugram called ‘Swiggy Instamart.’ In fact even as the lockdown was in progress, both BigBasket and Grofers were in the news for announcing plans to hire 10,000 and 4,500 workers respectively.

 

The entire OTT industry is going great guns. In fact many of them have launched new plans aimed at select audience niches, based on language, data usage and number of devices. Clearly, more time at home has translated into more time on entertainment. Another factor for the growth of OTT has been the availability of low cost data driven by companies like Jio and the bundled offerings of content that the company provides to customers as value adds.

 

Online gaming is also booming, as millennials are using stay at home as an opportunity for honing their gaming instincts. Responding to this, gaming companies are launching newer products to keep responding to the rapidly growing market. The stay at home has prompted young and old alike to get addicted to these games and the PUBG ban came as a disappointment to young and old alike. It remains to be seen if there is any solace in FAU G – pun intended. News reports say that the industry is expected to grow at the rate of 47% by FY 2022. By 2024 it is expected that the Indian gaming industry will be valued at $3,750 million.

 

It is no surprise that many of these sectors are dominated by Indian companies. This certainly ties in well with the government’s Aatmnirbhar campaign and also bodes well for the revival of the economy.

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The real winner is one who creates champion of champions

We celebrated Teachers day recently, and when I was wondering who could one of the best teachers who could inspire a nation, one name which struck me – my friend Pulela Gopichand. My association with Gopi started fourteen years ago, when he was starting a badminton academy in Hyderabad. The purpose was clear. A champion who wanted to dedicate himself in building more champions for the future. Our association continued to grow and I still remember in 2016, PV Sidhu won the silver medal for badminton and Gopi was the coach. I spoke to him at length on this amazing feat as he was her coach. The flow of emotions generated by PV Sidhu’s pulsating match where she defeated the then world champion was spontaneous and overwhelming. I wanted to live the moment of victory and my spontaneity of connecting with him and by celebrating that moment together.

 

During pandemic, we started Consocia Conversations every week, and we invited for our associates and clients every week and we invited Gopi recently. My team peppered him with questions, and as earlier, and all of us were struck by his courage, tenacity, simplicity and humility as shared the secrets of his achievements. As the team listened with rapt attention to his anecdotes and the stories of how he created victory after victory from even the most difficult of situations, it struck me how these learnings are equally applicable in business situations.

 

Gopi touched upon several times on the importance of courage, and having a strong unwavering faith in ones abilities. Over the years, I have often counselled top corporate executives about sticking to the values of the company, no matter how difficult a situation we were facing. Having trust in your own abilities, and having self-confidence can make a person a winner even if he or she is entering uncharted territory. I re learnt this when I started my own business and was pitching to clients on subjects which I was touching for the first time. Though my company had just been launched, but there was supreme confidence and courage that I and my co-founder Praveen Aggarwal started off with. We exerted ourselves and formed a long term business relationship with our first client. When sportspersons have faith in self, they win matches, when entrepreneurs have faith in self, they win clients and create victories for the clients.

 

Every now and then I get goosebumps when some of my ex direct reports tag me in social posts to thank me for helping enable them achieve success. Champions like Gopi helped me revisit my purpose of nurturing and growing people in the field of branding, communications, advocacy, engagement with stakeholders and new media.

 

One of the tenets that Gopi discussed, was his approach towards creating success for self and others. He spoke on how it was important to shift the mindset towards fostering an environment that makes all team members winners. At Consocia, there have been several occasions where clients have faced business crisis. Irrespective of the client servicing team, I have motivated and guided all Consocians to come forward and work as one. With combined efforts, we have produced excellent results and created outstanding work which has resulted in accolades from clients.

 

With passion, courage and selfless dedication, Gopi has changed the status of badminton in India and his coaching has brought honour to the country several times. His academy has produced multiple champion players including Saina Nehwal, P. V. Sindhu, Sai Praneeth, Parupalli Kashyap, Srikanth Kidambi, Arundhati Pantawane, Gurusai Datt and Arun Vishnu. He guided Saina Nehwal to win the bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics and P. V. Sindhu for the silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Businesses and communicators who follow these sterling qualities will triumph in every arena like this champion will create more champions.

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The new responsibility code of brands

The old advertising adage goes, “All publicity, is good publicity.” I have seen many communication professionals take this as a gospel truth. However, companies which are sensitive to customers’ needs and perceptions always watchful of the holy trinity of correct communications, namely “Culture, customers and creativity.” Let’s take a closer look at the name change case of “Fair and Lovely”. Almost three decades ago, when I was at the Lever’s group, we faced pushbacks for the “Fair and lovely” brand even then. However, popular customer sentiment in India was hugely in favour of the brand. It was popular knowledge that several leading Indian film actors and actresses of the day were regular users of the product. The cultural and societal dynamics of the day allowed advertisements for such products, and this thought process exists in India even today. One regularly sees matrimonial advertisements seeking “fair” brides or grooms. Skin complexion bias is a known and tolerated cultural norm, and the communication of the brands reflected this since many decades.

 

Cut to 2020, and there is a global uprising sweeping the globe on issues related to racism. The anti-racism protests and activism that were sparked from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has reignited several debates, and many of these discussions are centered around marketing and imagery that is used to sell products. In this supercharged atmosphere, it comes as no surprise that brands are picking up the cues of the changing feelings and perceptions of customers.

 

This is perhaps the context to understand Hindustan Unilever Ltd. decision to re-name an entire best-selling range of ‘Fair & Lovely’ products as ‘Glow & Lovely’. Additionally, the company has also decided to remove nomenclature that propagates racial stereotypes. While the name might have been socially acceptable in a bygone era, it is clearly not so now, and the company has quite correctly take the stance to change all names that might not be acceptable for the worldview of consumers of today.

 

The other aspect of responsibility by brands is correct product information so that there are no misleading claims. The huge furore over the launch of Patanjali brand “Coronil” was due to the fact that the company had first given the impression that the product was a “cure” for COVID. Government agencies immediately questioned Patanjali’s claim to have developed a drug to cure COVID-19. Under pressure from regulatory authorities the brand changed the positioning of the product to that of an “immunity booster”. The above case is not an isolated one. According to news reports the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has flagged off 90 advertisements since April for violating the AYUSH Ministry guidelines and making claims related to Covid-19 across media platforms in May. This proves that there is an urgent need for business self-regulation as well as regulatory oversight.

 

Other advertisement campaigns which faced flack in the media were of cricket hero M S Dhoni, in a campaign for Matrimony.com campaign for claims could not be adequately substantiated, and there was also a mention of the fact that Dhoni appeared to not have done any due diligence prior to endorsement. Telecom major Vodafone Idea also faced some heat for its ‘REDX’ campaign for misleading information in their advertisements and lack of appropriate disclaimers.

 

On a positive note, there are also several instances of responsible behavior as well. MAI (the Multiplex Association of India) and the major cinema brands Inox, PVR and Cinepolis have all taken steps to create a set of safety SOP’s that can be benchmarked with the best in the world. They have factored in safety aspects for customers and employees. This is a significant initiative which can provide a global standard safety net for customers. In the conditions of the day, this behavior is not only responsible but also admirable.

 

So, summing up the maxims of articulated above, we see that the quintessential struggle for brands is essentially their effort to create a positive narrative about the brand while conforming to the prevailing cultural and ethical sensitivities of the day. I and my team at Consocia Advisory, are working with various associations, which are trying to rebuild positive brand narratives and work proactively with the government to build lockdown exit strategies for better functioning. A key tip we always share with clients is to keep in mind the socio cultural sensitivities and challenges while trying to frame the communication plans for any brand.

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Progress and nature can grow together – this is the new story that needs to be told

As communicators, the stories about community engagement and CSR need to have a different narrative. Unlike corporate stories, they need more EQ than IQ. These stories have to be more experiential. I have been lucky to have held operational roles along with my communications and external affairs assignments. I am sharing my experiences and I hope it is useful for my fraternity colleagues.

 

‘East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet’ said, Rudyard Kipling beautifully expressing how difficult it is to bring opposing viewpoints together. There are strong opposing views among most people when we discuss what kind of approach business and development need to take. Many say that there should be an ‘environment first’ approach while others say that ‘development and business first’ is what is required. In my career, I have had myriad opportunities to witness firsthand the difference that can be made via interventions focused on the environment and I would like to share some of my experiences that show how an environment friendly approach creates a win-win situation.*

 

My fondest and most nostalgic memories are inextricably connected with mango trees and my grandmother. I was born in Ferozpur and my grandmother was one of the strongest influences of my childhood. It was from her that I learnt to love trees and the environment. I remember to this day, when she held my hand and led me to plant my first sapling. Later, she used to take me back to make me water and care for the plant. That summer, at the age of three I came to know how the genesis of a mighty tree can be a seed, small enough to fit into the palm of a child. As a child, when I was growing up, I grew to cherish the motto of our school “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”(the world is one family). If we try to understand this age old gem of wisdom now in the context of the 20th century, we see that it is a rallying cry to regard the environment as an intrinsic part of our lives, and also that cherishing the planet is one of the highest of virtues.

 

As I grew up, while I continued to cherish the virtues of protecting the environment, I got few chances to make my mark. Finally, when I joined Coca-Cola in 2005 the company gave me the task on Water Management in the community and other community related initiatives which became my passion.

 

My fondest memory is when I got called “Mr. Rainwater Harvesting” by the then Chief Minister of Delhi, the late Mrs. Shiela Dixit when I was celebrating the World Environment Day. Later, I also had a chance to kick start a PET bottle recycling project. With goals such as water replenishment, enhancing water recycling, corporates today have done a lot of efforts to conserve water, increase afforestation and ensure the Waste Management programmes are a part and parcel of the company.

 

Later in 2010, I was inspired by Latika Thukral, Founder of Iamgurgaon and her ideal of planting a million trees. Collectively, my company and other corporates in Gurgaon supported a nursery towards growing a million trees, most of them in the 600 acre biodiversity park. As I was driving past the Biodiversity Park yesterday, I checked to see if the many trees I planted were still standing there. It was a matter of great pride and pleasure for me, when I saw that almost all had flourished and were standing tall and proud.

 

Innovation and progress in society today have come at a great cost to the environment. The pandemic has shown us that we are all interconnected. Protecting the environment is protecting ourselves. Recently, a member of the condominium where I stay, told me that monkeys were becoming regular intruders in our buildings. I responded that our simian friends were the original inhabitants of the land, and this land had once belonged to them. As the philosophical saying goes, let us protect the environment ‘tan se, man se and dhan se’ – with body, mind and money. This is the only way we can leave a better world for our children.

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What an Idea sirjee – and the rise of online communication in a post-corona world

I recall that over 10 years ago, Idea Cellular made an immensely popular and meaningful series of ads with a smart  tagline of – What an Idea sirjee. Who would have ever thought that most of global education would be imparted on smartphones in 2020. The core of the campaign was a series of ideas which had the potential to cause powerful social change and overcome the problems that society is facing. It addressed issues like communal divide, keeping in touch with loved ones, overcoming barriers of languages and also the challenge to provide quality education for millions across the country.  

 

The ad I am referring to has actor Abhishek Bachchan playing the part of a school principal who is profoundly moved due to a highly emotional scene where a father is struggling to get admission for his son. In a compelling representation of the challenges that millions of families across the country face, the father is roughly pushed out. The character representing the principal is so profoundly touched by the incident that he exerts himself in prayer and gets a brainwave while doing so. He starts a virtual school where he is able to connect millions of children online. The character later thanks God saying – What an Idea sirjee.

 

I recall this ad for three reasons. The first one is that the ad can now accurately be called prophetic. The second reason is my deep personal attachment for the cause of childhood education. The third is the high degree of relevance of this topic today. 

 

With nostalgia, I recall that in 2010, I was a part of team Coca-Cola and at that time I was at the helm of the “Support My School” campaign. I had a chance to see first-hand, the challenges faced in rural education, especially for the girl child. The ambitious campaign was started with a tie up with a leading TV channel. Initial funds came from the global foundation of Coca-Cola but we needed additional money to fund the programme. It was quite a challenge to stitch together a coalition between Coca-Cola, a leading TV channel, a UN body and several other Indian NGOs. The campaign was a resounding success. Over 1000 schools were a part of the programme and several million dollars were generated to implement the programmes in these schools. Over a hundred corporates, foundations and NGOs participated in the success of the programme. Providing good essential facilities in schools is one of the most important factors in retaining students in schools and since this program was highly successful in this regard, I derive a great deal of satisfaction from the same.

 

Online communication and online education are truly exciting for me as I feel that the reach and scope of digital media is unlimited. Community professionals too are amazed at the possibilities for business communication and online education.  I and my colleagues are constantly in touch with clients, each other and business stakeholders using multiple tools of technology like Zoom, Google Meets, Hangouts, Skype and Microsoft Teams. Interestingly, almost all these platforms have been made free for schools and educational institutes for a few months.  

 

In a recent experience, my teams have been instrumental in organising webinars for Shopping Centers Association of India, (SCAI) to create awareness on the safety processes of malls and organised retail shopping complexes. We have been able to reach out to and engage with thousands of people. The videos have generated thousands of views from community and other stakeholders. The webinars have been highly successful in dispelling myths and clearing doubts on various important concerns. Panels of business experts presented factual information to correct erroneous beliefs. Publications took note of the facts and started reporting balanced news stories which highlighted the problems of the sector. 

 

JKLU a rapidly growing university is offering online training sessions for students like various other institutions. Additionally, they are examining new technologies and processes to ensure online examinations, online evaluations and even online laboratories. Popular learning apps like Byjus are witnessing unprecedented growth and are offering some free classes as sampling to school students. And what are the schools doing to engage with junior classes like KG and Nursery? I have seen tiny tot family members attending classes sitting on parents laps, studying via homemade videos of teachers on pre-primary and primary concepts.  

 

Over the next few months, as online classes continue, it will be most important for parents to help their children imbibe the values and ideals of hard work. Parents are getting the unique insider view of their children studying in classes and these moments are actually special for them.

 

The communications professionals of today can use a wide variety of formats to package their campaigns as high quality home shot videos can be created almost anywhere. Additionally, the wide plethora of editing and finishing tools online provide campaign creation capabilities to the savvy professional. Keeping this in view, at Consocia Advisory, I encourage all the team members to keep learning new skill sets and we have a robust in house training program to help encourage employee development in a structured manner. 

 

Click, edit, create and post will be the new mantra now for communication professionals as they learn to develop and deploy campaigns for their brands and companies. The challenges and the opportunities here are huge. The learning curve for many professionals will be steep, but will give them rewards as they develop their skillsets towards the requirements of community in a post Covid world.

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Strengthening employee wellness in the wake of COVID-19

The impact of the Corona virus has created a strong need for companies to overhaul their initiatives towards employee wellness. According to health experts, sudden changes of habits resulting from prolonged work from home, worry about self and family members and enforced isolation are all significant mental and physical pressures which can lead to stress and physical ailments. Companies are reevaluating the measures they can take in order to help their employees stay sharp, healthy and productive.

 

I recently saw an interview of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson, Biocon where she shared her views on the care required for the lifting of the lockdown and gave the 3 T mantra of aggressive testing, tracing and treating. She also stressed that livelihoods are also very important and we need to start a planned exit which strikes a balance between lives and livelihood.  

 

Companies should also keep an Emergency Response Protocol well prepared with various guidelines that can mitigate problems and guide employees on what needs to be done in case any COVID 19 case is detected among employees. These guidelines should be circulated to all and should include the government instructions on the do’s and don’ts for all employees. Clearly, office administrators need to be careful to sustain the best hygiene practices that can create a safe working environment for all employees.

 

At Consocia Advisory, today was our first working day back in the office after over two months. While working from home still continues for some associates, we have set up hygiene and safety protocols at the office. We ensure vacant space between each employee and have sanitisation of surfaces multiple times a day. We are also following strict social distancing in conference rooms, meal areas and other common areas to ensure that employees are protected and kept safe.

 

Now many companies are opening their offices after having started their manufacturing operations and some of them are setting examples to show the way in preventive hygiene practices at the workspace. The way the social distancing norms have come up by the Shopping Centers Association Of India, (SCAI) is very comforting and exemplary. They will be controlling the entry and exit of the number of footfalls in the malls and will only allow 78 sq feet per person as a part of the social distancing norms.

 

Companies are using employee communications to drive and sustain awareness about their wellness programs. Several companies are providing free medical consultations to their employees and their families so that they can get advice on simple health measures related to diets, food, exercise and other medical queries. Besides the services of doctors, companies are also hiring nutritionists which can help individuals and families achieve healthy balanced meal plans.

 

Companies are also hiring mental health experts like clinical psychologists as many employees have behavioral and attitudinal changes due to the experience of a prolonged work-from-home for the first time. The strain of sitting at one place sans interaction with teams and colleagues can be very demotivating for many employees. Calls and video conferences have only a limited role in uplifting the morale while working from home, opine experts.

 

Important stress busters that can make a significant impact are yoga and meditation opine experts. They help in providing agility and calm the mind so that the impact of the stress factors is diluted. Companies are connecting employees with professionals who can train them in these stress busters. Often, there are enough capable people in house who can double up on the role of training employees. 

 

Telemedicine and online consultation of doctors enable employees and families of employees to consult medical professionals without leaving their homes. This helps employees and families get access to good quality medical help even if they are staying in remote locations.

 

The emerging trend of virtual fitness sessions, where employees can attend fitness programs online is growing rapidly. Virtual fitness allows thousands of people to take advantage of high quality trainers and also choose training programs best suited to their needs. In fact, online training may offer a far higher number of choices. Companies are connecting their employees to such training programmers. 

 

Fitness and health apps are the latest fitness tools that health enthusiasts use to keep track of fitness regimen, which may include reminders for exercise, hydration, stretching food and sleep.  Additionally, there are even mindfulness apps which help in reminding people to do mindfulness exercises like deep breathing exercises etc.  Experts say proper use of these apps can help the efforts to be more self-aware about healthy practices.  Some companies which have large employee strength, have gone to the extent of creating employee help desks with 24×7 advice. This can be used by employees to take information about symptoms and nearest treatment centers etc.

 

The thread which can bring together these various initiatives is a robust employee communications program. Periodic engagement with employees via team and individual calls, video meetings, emailers from the company have to be initiated and sustained so that employees do not feel disconnected from the office environment or feel that their efforts are not being recognised. One should be able to remove the fear and create the right environment for a safe work environment in the office. Special rewards and recognition programs for those who come forward and help in removing and mitigating the fear will boost company morale considerably. For communicators, this is a time to strengthen internal communications as employees are likely to be subjected to fake news. Speed will be essential to ensure that everyone is well versed on the present situation in the company and employee redressal will be critical.

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How India’s largest disaster rehabilitation programme was conceived and implemented

One of the worst humanitarian crises that India has ever seen was the 2001 earthquake that happened in Bhuj, Gujarat, on 26 January. According to various reports, more than a million structures were damaged or destroyed, and 26 villages suffered losses of almost all their buildings. The scale of the disaster was enormous. Governments, private firms, and corporates started mobilising and facilitating help. The initial flow of humanitarian assistance in the first 2 weeks was focussed on emergency supplies of food and medicines as well as tents for people to stay.

 

This is the context to what happened next in terms of building India’s largest philanthropic coalition which would go on to build 5 thousand homes, 27 anganwadis, hospitals, and giving employment to many people ensuring that the craftsmen were able to sell their crafts in the US and bringing smiles back to hundreds and thousands of people who were earthquake-ravaged.

 

I used to work at Pepsico India at the time and my boss PM Sinha tasked me to brainstorm and develop an action plan which would look beyond the immediate relief measures and create a long term impact on rehabilitating the villages which had suffered so heavily in this disaster. We decided that forming a broader coalition with reputed business bodies and roping in more partners would enhance our reach and effectiveness. While doing an on ground need assessment study, we realised that besides the ongoing ground level efforts, a long term and impactful rehabilitation project would have to involve these major components – housing, fund sourcing, fund management and communication – an inherent strength of Pepsi as one of the best known FMCG brands in the world.

 

The lynchpin of the communications campaign was a film with the participation of our then brand ambassador Mr Amitabh Bacchan. We developed a 30 second film directed by Mr Santosh Sivan with a strong emotional appeal for funding. We approached all the TV channels like Fox, Sony, Star and many others who agreed to air this film on their channels free of cost.

 

Since we wanted to raise money from abroad, there were legal challenges to the effort as well. Therefore, we partnered with a multinational NGO operating in India. Additionally, although there were many voluntary donor organisations with funds available globally, they didn’t have credible organisations to partner with. We were able to provide them with a credible alternative. The final contours of the foundation were finalised during a meeting with Dr Amit Mitra, Secretary General, FICCI and PM Sinha, Chairman, Pepsico India. A very strong management committee was set up including top management from Pepsi, FICCI and CARE India. We targeted a fund corpus of 4 million dollars and the Pepsico foundation seeded half a million dollars into the fund. We also created a partnership with CARE India and that’s how FICCI-CARE, Gujarat Rehabilitation Project was created to create houses and infrastructure for the villages requiring relief. This would provide them with houses to stay, providing significant relief from the enormous challenge of not having a roof over their heads.

 

I must give full credit to Dr Amit Mitra, currently the finance minister of Bengal, who ensured that any lead which I gave him, for small or large organisations were always approached and followed up. We approached several well known donor organisations, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, USID, the American Indian foundation and several others. The impact we created was that we were able to generate up to 26 Million dollar. This amount of funding, at this rate of speed is indeed rare in the history of private funds for disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction.

 

During the reconstruction of houses, we ensured that artisan and craftsmen from the villages were employed giving a boost to rural employment in the area. All the bricks for the construction were sourced locally, and people were able to generate employment by making bricks as well. We hired a construction team led by armed officers, hired CFO level auditors and got construction designs verified by earthquake specialist Dr Arya, confirmed that the design of the houses would withstand up to 9 richter scale earthquakes. In the course of rebuilding houses in the 26 villages. we even took fresh land for construction. We also interacted with the commissioner Mr Man Singh, who was the then rehabilitation commissioner and received an enormous amount of support from him. He told us we would also be able to work with the big Chief Minister relief fund. So, 30% of the funding came through the Chief Minister relief fund. As a project, we had started with half a million dollars of Pepsico Foundation funding, which multiplied itself 52 times to raise 26 million dollars and additionally received 30% more government funding.

 

I still vividly remember one Gujarat village in particular, Nani Charai. I had kept an amount of Pepsico Foundation funds exclusively for rebuilding one of them. I have had further occasions to travel to Kandla from Bhuj, and on that route when I see the Pepsi sign on a water tank in that village, it makes me emotional and I swell with pride, with the recollection of the best coalition project I did, which helped thousands of lives and brought smiles to so many faces.

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How Covid-19 lockdown has changed the way we eat, live and stay connected

The famous movie starring Julia Roberts, “Eat, pray, love”, has become a catchphrase, representing in a sense, the basic necessities of life in modern society. The character in the movie is on a journey in life seeking meaning in order to discover her true self and achieves some fundamental realisations about the nature of life. COVID-19 too has created such a situation across the world that across all classes of society, many of us have come to a common realisation of what the “essentials” of our life are, and how those who have them are fortunate indeed. The pandemic has wreaked such havoc in societies all across the world that, as society and individuals we have fundamentally changed all the basic habits that have defined how we live.

My family members and I are experimenting with new dishes and learning more about food. My wife runs a food blog, Vaishalee’s Tips & Treats and we are experimenting with one new dish a day. Yesterday she baked Buns which turned out fluffy and delicious, better than the store bought ones that use preservatives. And having hot buns straight out of the oven was a new high. Over and over again, we are able to make food that we usually bought at stores or had at restaurants like Jalebis . Homemade Papri, GolgappeChaat, Biryani, Breads, Cake, Pizza including the base etc at home together using traditional processes of cooking, with time, patience and love. Friends on social groups too, are sharing and trying out recipes of new dishes everyday. Baking and Cooking has brought families together as a common source of joy. Prior to the lockdown many office goers had food in the office canteens or Cafeterias or ordered in through delivery portals, now home cooked food has a new safety and joy.

In the lockdown,  households are shifting to traditional patterns of cooking instead of using ready made, packaged foods. This is a huge shift in consumption habits for the more developed markets across the country. If consumers’ preferences shift to traditional patterns of consumption, it would be a major challenge for many companies selling packaged foods and for the entire restaurant industry. They would need to reinvent themselves completely, either in terms of their product or in terms of their marketing, or both. Restaurateurs are facing extremely difficult and challenging times. Their outlets are facing severe losses and they need to enhance customer traffic to outlets as soon as the lockdown ends. Additionally, implementing social distancing norms and will further eat into their costs. 

As a society, we have started looking inwards in all our daily activities and prayers. As a devotee of god Hanuman, I had been going to the temple every Tuesday for the past 40 years. However, I am now worshiping at home with equally firm conviction and there is a deep realisation that if God is in our heart, worshipping at home is equally meaningful as worshiping at the temple outside.

Along with our ways of worshipping, our mode of work too has undergone a drastic change, as millions of people are now working virtually. Tiny tots, of Nursery and KG classes are attending video classes. For business organisations online seminars and conferences, video calls and meetings, digitally shared documents and reporting via instant messaging applications have become the new normal. They were present earlier as well, however, post the lockdowns globally, these forms of communication have experienced explosive growth for business purposes. ‘Zooming’ now has become a commonly used verb to denote online conferencing instead of speed. When the name of a brand becomes common parlance, one can safely say that the use of the product or the category has been well and truly established in everyday life.

Due to the lockdown and new ways of working from home we are saving on time travelling to work and we are able to spend abundant time with our loved ones at home, cooking, playing board games or singing together etc This is certainly creating more love and bonding in our lives.

Even more drastic changes have come about in our pursuits of leisure, entertainment, business, social and cultural activities. With virtual family dinners and get-togethers for birthdays or other occasions, live streaming of musical albums instead of musical shows and virtual prayer meetings becoming the accepted norm everywhere, humans have become digitally connected and physically isolated. My group of walking friends meet online every day at 7:15 pm. Earlier, I used to think that working from home was impossible for me, and I am sure millions of people around the world would have felt the same. Now I have already become accustomed to leading my teams for virtual work sessions. Recently, I moderated a health webinar which is just one among the many that are to come.

This trend is not expected to vanish soon. A large Indian multinational IT company has announced its plans to continue remote working till September and many other companies are in the process of making similar plans. What are the new and emerging challenges for marketing in a world where customer behaviour has changed so radically? Companies marketing foods, dining chains, musical events, travel, entertainment shows and malls as well as  many other categories of products will require a re-think in the way they do business.

Communicators have begun creating campaigns to carry out continuous customer engagement so that there is better recall among customers. However, it is most important for brands and companies to not only ensure safety and social distancing but also inform all the key stakeholders of the business about the steps taken to ensure the same. This will go a long way to help alleviate the anxiety in the minds of customers, when they contemplate going out post the lockdown. Therefore, assurance of safety will become a key message in all the communications that are done by brands, across all categories.

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Blogs at Consocia

Ad wars and brand wars

In my earlier years at Unilever, I saw the launch of Ariel by P&G, and Unliver reacted by launching a campaign on how Ariel was not good for coloured clothes. This campaign was done at a time when detergents were used by fewer housewives in India. Consumers at the time saw the largest brand wars of the category in the early 90’s, and the impact was so high that detergent powders became a way of life.


In 1993, Coke was re launched in India after a gap of 16 years. Pepsi, which had been launched in India in 1990, saw its rival walking away with the most prestigious event – the cricket World Cup. How could Pepsi be kept away from this event? I had joined Pepsico India in 1995, and was a part of the team which was building bridges with teenagers. We took pride in building a brand for the new generation. Well, some of the media at that time called it, “The time of Cola wars”.


Pepsi, which was the largest sponsor of cricket in India could not miss this highly significant opportunity. So, if Coke was the official beverage sponsor, what would Pepsi be doing, was the question being asked, by loyal consumers. So how did Pepsi win back the share of mind? While brand Coke was busy with its biggest campaign of communications for the World Cup, Pepsi was getting ready to do the unconventional. The campaign was called “Nothing Official About It and came from research insights that teenagers do not like the term”Official”.


With this campaign, Pepsi first got into its fold, all the top players of cricket playing countries. Even the most famous cricket umpire in the world – Dickie Bird was also roped into the campaign, saying “There is nothing official about it.” The campaign created media and advertising history and is regarded by the advertising and marketing fraternity as one of the most successful campaigns ever.


The tremendous success of the campaign led to the line “Nothing Official About It” becoming a catchphrase in popular vocabulary. The campaign was strategically brilliant and the Pepsi brand was shown to be fun and irreverent as opposed to the “official” sponsor. During this four month campaign, I spoke to almost every publication in the country, about how Pepsi’s strategy won the hearts and minds of Indians.


I remember that the Indian media, and publications from across the world including the UK, Canada, South Africa and Australia wrote about this campaign in their newspapers. But the best compliment was by an English author, who wrote about the passion of cricket in the sub continent, and mentioned how the brands leveraged this passion in their journey of Indian operations. So much so, that he named one chapter of the book – “Nothing Official About It”.


I have also seen telecom wars in 2003 to 2005 where Airtel and Vodafone, Airtel v/s Reliance Communications both helped in raising the category the way the cola wars had done. While Vodafone came with the launch of its mascot (the Pug) in 2003, Airtel came up with – Express Yourself campaign. These campaigns really raised the bar for the category. People still ask me, who benefitted in these so called ‘brand wars’ and my answer is always simple – it’s the consumer.

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