Brands SANS Frontiers – They are marquee brands in India, but overseas they change names, change packaging and overhaul communication and distribution strategies to conquer new markets
Boro is slang for a popular profanity in Swahili. hardly the kind of information that marketers would be interested in one might imagine. Unless of course you happen to be Emami trying to sell Boroplus in Africa. Then you have to think of a new name for the very brand that you are trying to build and so Boroplus becomes Beeuplus. Similarly the concentric circle shape of Good Knight coils is a familiar sight to most of us.
However, when Godrej Sara Lee decided to market the coils in Bangladesh it changed the shape to that of an octagon. Surely mosquitoes are not that different? Well perhaps not but the consumer sure is. Turns out that in Bangladesh consumers would rather have a lot of fumes as compared to the low emission variant that sells in India. The list goes on and on. While reams have been written about Indian brands entering overseas markets little is known about how exactly they go about the marketing task. Until now. We tracked down marketers from across categories to get a sense of how they went about building brands in an overseas markets. We spoke to agencies that handle these brands in lands far away to understand how they approach their task. And the one thing that is clear is that establishing brand presence, no matter how big the brand is in India, is a tale of endurance, grit and long term commitment to remain invested in these markets.
Even though Emami group director, Prashant Goenka has travelled extensively across Africa, the continent, he says never fails to amaze in terms of its diversity. He’ll tell you Africa is the place to see people bathing with soda instead of water, because they believe it lightens their complexion. Fair skin clearly is not just a desi obsession. “In west Africa, there is a strong French influence and complexions are dark, but in North Africa people with light skin are in majority,” Goenka explains. So there’s huge potential for Emami in the dark continent, particularly in skin care, which today contributes around 35 % of the Rs 100 crore turnover of the international business he states. However, for all that talk of its potential, marketers say the going is tough for one has to be careful. Often particular attention to local nuances translates into customisation not only of product formulations but also brand names. Take Good Knight mosquito coil for example. The coil which is sold in Bangladesh is not the traditional circular coil Indian customers use to engulf themselves in smoke, rather it’s octagonal.
A C R O S S BORDERS
The change in design, explains Mohan Sapre, VP, International Operations, Godrej Sara Lee, is based on consumer insights and some back-to-the-lab observations. “The rationale was that the shape allows the active chemicals in the coil to disperse better in a room. However, compare that to the Indian market which is more evolved, the design has not been replicated here. What sells in India are coils that emit less smoke,” he states, adding; “there is no cookie cutter formula because there are always bound to be some hidden need gaps that we must fill.” And these hidden gaps can emerge if one does pay attention to nuances like language, culture and even the topography of the region. For instance, while marketing Boroplus, Emami realised that the word ‘boro’ is a profanity, in Swahili. So just for that particular market, the brand name has been changed to Beeuplus. “It’s a consumer backward approach as opposed to a company forward approach,” states Vijay Subramaniam, CEO, International Business Group, Marico. Citing an example, Subramaniam says in the Middle East, where the chlorine content in water tends to be high, Marico has reformulated the flagship brand Parachute cream with the promise of nourishment plus protection from harsh water.
THE RIGHT CHANNEL
When venturing and establishing the brand in new markets, companies say they are not talking to the Indian diaspora, but to the local populace. In markets like Africa and South America, where companies like Bajaj Auto, Ceat, Marico, Godrej and Dabur are getting aggressive, acclimatising to these markets means forging relationships with local partners. Ceat Tyres with an export turnover of Rs 500 crore is looking to create a footprint in South America and Africa for both performance (trucks and off the road) and mass (passenger cars) segments. Arnab Banerjee, VP, sales & marketing, Ceat, says segmentation of consumer s, say in the performance segment is critical to penetrate high potential markets like Brazil or Zambia. “If we are working with copper mines in Zambia, there the product performance requirement is different. Similarly, in Brazil with sugarcane cultivation, we have to understand and develop tyres according to specification,” explains Banerjee. To understand customers and also to build the network, inputs from Mozambique based Abhishek Ghosh is valuable for Ceat. Ghosh runs Tanzi, an auto spare parts and components company with an interest in retail, in Maputo (the capital of Mozambique) and for the past five years has helped Ceat establish a footprint in the country. So if Ceat is exporting 10 containers a month fetching an annual turnover of $ 6 mn, it’s because of the repeat visits to each and every dealer in Mozambique by Ghosh taking the Ceat team along. Similarly, it’s been the persistence of Mr Aziz, the national distributor for Emami in Morocco on aspects like pricing and packaging which has prompted the company to re-visit it’s strategy in the country. “Initially, it wasn’t smooth and I faced problems with pricing.
My mandate is to ensure my customers make profit on Emami products. For that, the company has revised pricing and introduced a new face and packaging for products,” explains Aziz.
However, the appointment of distributors is not necessarily the only route to go-tomarket. For Bajaj Auto, the entry into new markets like Latin America and the continent of Africa, depends on the size and level of competition from traditional Japanese brands and Chinese bikes who are typically the price warriors. Rakesh Sharma, CEO, International Business, Bajaj A
uto says that large and complex markets require a direct presence while for the smaller markets, local partners can be used as distributors cum assemblers. “Striking the balance between operating costs, adequate reach and strategic control drives the retail level distribution strategy and these three dimensions differ from market to market,” says Sharma. Similarly in most of these markets when it comes to dealing with channel partner, Subramaniam of Marico says “the tongue is mightier than the pen” just as how “the pen is mightier than the sword”. It is very important to build trust early on in the relationship and if that is achieved they go more by your word than by any written document.”
When it comes to advertising for these markets, it’s a mix of Indian ads translated into local languages and local ads featuring local stars. In certain markets in Africa, Indian brands ride on the popularity of Bollywood. Says Lamia Ahmed, director, Tareek Nour, an ad agency based in Egypt which handles Emami’s Fair & Handsome and Himani fast relief; “At present we have adapted Indian commercials for local taste. It helps get visibility considering Indian movie stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan are famous among locals.” So attributes which work in India and are therefore highlighted in communication here is sometimes completely overhauled to project a different image in overseas markets. For Piruz Khambatta, chairman, Rasna International, the picture is clear. “Brands make a mistake when they go in spelling things like we are from India or we are from the US, especially with their marketing. In a category like foods, the crucial thing is to use emotional values, a more universal approach, say like a grandmother eating your brand of chewing gum.”Sharma of Bajaj Auto says some of the partners in South America have de-emphasised attributes like fuel efficiency and promoted styling and performance aggressively. “Even choice of medium is important – rallies, stunt events and biking communities have been extremely well leveraged by them in some Latin American markets where such media are popular and aligned to local lifestyles,” he states.
All in all it’s a humbling experience for many of the brands, for the legacy they have in India does not take them far. They have to approach every market with an open mind and be prepared to do business differently from the way they are used to in India. But given the commitment that they are showing who knows one day we might even see a Beeuplus being launched by Emami in India.