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Saturday, January 16, 2016

What happens if free basics is legalized?

There have been multiple arguments on either side of Facebook's Free Basics and net-neutrality debate.

Taking a neutral view- let's see what could actually pan out if Facebook's Free Basics gets a go-ahead in India and other focus markets - in order of occurrence -

  1. Definitely a lot of people without access to Internet would get access to the "free basics" portfolio. These guys would get on the digital platform 
  2. They would start using the limited bouquet of services and Facebook would get to analyze their consumer behavior 
  3. As per Mark Zuckerberg's own statistic - 50% of them would evolve into full paying data customers 
  4. As of result, telcos would penetrate into an entirely new segment - good news
  5. These upgraded users would also seek to better their experience with better devices- I believe mostly android low end smartphones- So OEMs gain- Good news again 
  6. With the insights gathered about upgraded users in the "free basics" phase - Facebook would be uniquely positioned to target them with specific advertising. So, more the upgrades from free basics to fully paid users - more the cache of the target base Facebook can target. This would obviously lead to an upside in their advertising revenue from a totally new untapped base- excellent marketing strategy 
  7. Seeing this success, carriers and content companies would line up to join Free Basics. With old rules of supply and demand coming in- there would be a situation of haves and have-nots
  8. What this would lead to is that the have-nots would rally around the other biggies - Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others to create their own versions of Free Basics
  9. This would divide the Internet into "private clouds"- a collection of sites and content provided free of cost to end users by various players including but not limited to Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others 
  10. So a user would now have less incentive to upgrade to a full data pack as he would find most of his used apps and content falling within the multiple "private clouds"
  11. Operators now would start suffering as growth to paid users would slow down unless they stick to a single "free basics" platform which seems to be difficult 
  12. With these multiple "private clouds", user choice in any category would be pre-determined to what is part of these systems 
  13. This would create huge entry barriers for any new innovation or game changer
  14. It was this openness and the lack of entry barriers which lead to Facebook and Google becoming what they are today
  15. This ultimately would lead to the end of the Internet as we know it
Hence, now with full conviction, I oppose Free Basics 

As Robert Frost said - "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ads I like- #TayyariJeetKi #Bournvita


What new can you do in category like the Milk Food Drinks? The major part of the category is focused towards growing kids. This is not an impulse purchase like a snack but usually it is brought by the parent for the child.
Further, for most kids a glass of milk is not a thing which they particularly look forward to before the start of every day.
So, here is how one could have a pitch for a Milk Based drink:
  1. Focus on the ingredients and basis that you make a rational pitch, targeted at the parent. For example, Junior Horlicks talks about some magic formulations called the DHA  (Which as per them is  "clinically proven to aid brain function and development")
  2. The 2nd approach is making it easier for parents to "sell" a glass of milk everyday to their kids by targeting the kids themselves by focusing on the Taste. An example is Maltova, which is the "Fun Health Drink"
  3. Then their would be the Boost approach which focuses on a celebrity endorsement to have the required pull at both the parent and the child level. They had Kapil Dev earlier. Now it is Dhoni.
So in the present context, we have an evolved market and these brands are well known. So awareness, especially among the Urban TG is not a concern. All these brands have been around for some time, so a perception could be that basic nutrients which are required would be there in all of them. This category is an health enhancer. In a category like cooking oil where usage of the wrong cooking oil could severely impact health, the decision would be more involved. There, comparison of options like rice brand oil and oryzanol would be critical.
So, how does a consumer decide? One way is basis pricing and promotions. The second way is going beyond nutritional ingredients, celeb endorsements and taste to have a emotional connect with both the key stakeholders- the giver, who is the mom and the recipient, which is the growing kid.
A glass of milk can mean many things, but most importantly, it represents the relationship between the mom and the kid.
This relationship is given a bigger objective- the child overcoming challenges and reaching his goals with his mom watching and supporting at every step. The companion in  this journey, through good and bad times is Bournvita, with #TayyariJeetKi!
What better way to differentiate from competition? What better way to connect with your consumer?
So, to a glass of #Bournvita and  #TayyariJeetKi, Happy Belated Mothers days to all Moms!
(So a non- Device/telecom related post from me after a long time!! :-) )

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Xiaomi, OnePlus and the Aam Aadmi Party, Part 2

In the 1st part of this article, we looked at the meteoric rise of brands such as Xiaomi, OnePlus and a political party, the Aam Aadmi Party. So, how was the impossible made possible? Was there a method to the madness? Were there any common linkages to their respective strategies?

Clear and Distinct Messaging

The brand identity which the AAP seeks to project is a party which stands for certain clearly defined values such as Corruption Free India, Transparency and Power to People. Xioami also picks up the Power to the consumer thread by reaching out directly to them through a direct sales model and seeking constant feedback from users to improve their products.

Us vs The Enemy

The US President, George Bush once said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”. The enemy lines were clearly defined in these cases too and the consumers/voters were asked to take a side.

In the case of AAP, the enemy was the big corporate houses and politicians, whose names were publicly disclosed by them and promises made to pursue corruption charges against them. There was no ambiguity about their stand. The definition itself made all the other parties being perceived as the forces which represented corruption and against whom the AAP was seeking to fight against.

Oneplus talks about being a product with a “Never Settle” philosophy, in terms of design and function. It calls itself the “The Flagship Killer”. The implication is that current products in the market do not qualify for the design and function perfectness which the Oneplus seeks to achieve. To make its point, the Oneplus came out with the “Smash the past” campaign where users could get an Oneplus One phone at $1 for sending a video smashing their present phone.

Here is a text from the campaign page:

“Our revolution started with a simple vow : Never Settle. Now that the OnePlus One has arrived, you don't have to anymore. Don't settle for useless features, grainy pictures, or exorbitant prices. Get rid of the past, it's time to smash it. 100 of you will be the world's first owners of the OnePlus One - all you have to do is to smash the phone you currently have.

The AAP in fact had also come out with a video campaign, directing the public to send a secretly recorded MMS of any government official offering them a bribe.

Don’t settle for corrupt practices, don’t settle for your present phone. One revolution the AAP sought to lead and another revolution, the Oneplus is seeking to lead.

Engaging with customers

All three entities being discussed here have beautifully used social media as a tool to reach out directly to users. It not just about sharing information, it is actively seeking feedback from end consumers and modifying offering accordingly.

Xiaomi, for example sends weekly updates to its software, incorporating consumer feedback.  The AAP came with the “Mohalla Sabhas”concept to seek feedback of the public on issues like allocation of MLA funds.

All have an extremely loyal customer base who is very active on the social media as brand advocates. A quote by the CEO of Xiaomi, Lei Jun, explains this concept perfectly, “Every user becomes your R&D. Every user becomes your salesman. And every user becomes your friend. That’s the company we want to build

To summarize, the brands under discussion above- The AAP, Xiaomi and Oneplus, have adopted similar approaches in their go to market. They have very sharp positioning and they identify clearly whom they are fighting against. They all have their dedicated fan community, who not just follow but promote their respective brands on social media. More than that, they give feedback which these brands use to modify their software in case of Xiaomi and the Socio-Political programs in case of the AAP, which is the concept of co-creation. Their marketing media of choice is not the ATL campaign but word of mouth and using users/supporters as brand ambassadors.

All this has resulted in each having a distinct identity of their brand in the market and also a sense of identity among their fans- like the famous Mi-Fans of Xiaomi.

This is the clutter breaking formula, which can be replicated across industries and socio-economic contexts.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Xiaomi, OnePlus and the Aam Aadmi Party, Part 1

Upstarts Xiaomi and OnePlus are shaking up the Smartphone World. Established brands and market leaders like Samsung are losing market share. The God of the present Smartphone world, Apple, is taking notice.

Another upstart, the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi has done something similar. Established parties like the Congress have seen their vote share in Delhi decimated. Since the victory in the general elections, the BJP and the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi could do nothing wrong. Successive victories and huge successes of national schemes were filling up the mass media. But the disruption, that was the AAP, reduced them to less than 5% of the seats in the Delhi assembly.

So what is happening here which is defying logic? Let us look up Modi first. The main marketing media which the BJP employed in the general election was Modi and his huge rallies. Those were a revelation then, an articulate, aggressive Modi, compared to the silence of Manmohan Singh, the erstwhile Congress PM. People lapped it up and BJP won a famous victory. Since then, the same formula used and re-used, finally lost its effectiveness in the Delhi Election. The rallies and the full page newspaper ads were still their but maybe they lost their relevance. The message which the BJP was trying to communicate was lost amidst multiple messaging from the BJP to the masses. The message was the BJP’s perception of what the people of Delhi wanted. Now we know how much wrong they had read the message.

Now, Let us look at Android. Samsung created the novelty- the phablet category, the large screen smartphones.  They were the price warriors also. They had more Galaxy Smartphones across price points than you could count. Then followed the deluge. There were no entry barriers to Android, so a host  of manufacturers followed, big and small in launching an array of Android Devices. All surprisingly had the same messaging, their perception of what the masses wanted to hear. All focused on hardware specifications. All, I am afraid are on the verge of becoming commodities.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dettol Case Study Analysis

Presented as part of the Dettol Case Study Contest launched by Reckitt Benckiser and MDI-Gurgaon in Nov, 2008. This proposal stood 3rd nationally and was featured by NDTV Profit.