Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some questions always floating in my mind... ????

Being a PR proffesional and always thinking about brands, lunches, crisis management, communication strategy.. their are some questions I always searched answers for????
Though I never had any formal education in the business of communication and marketing (m a Marine Engineer) I always had inclination for brands and brand management...
  1. Can we compare the communication strategy of APPLE and GOOGLE???
  2. How can new media avenues help in brand development and differenciate from the cluttered advertising?
  3. Does rebranding really solve the purpose?? like L & T cement was rebranded as ULTRATECH cement, then UTI Bank to Axis Bank!!
  4. Why Indians still love Thump sup more than Coke/Pepsi?? Afterall Coke and Pepsi are youth and international brands!!
  5. Importance of internal communication for a company?

I am searching for answers for these above questions, searching on intenet, google, blogs, books... n every possible place. I think I shoul post these questions to Martin Lindstrom or Harish Bijoor (branding gurus).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


What makes people come back to brands?

What impact does brands have on consumers minds?

Why a consumer is loyal to a particular brand?

Why a customer promotes (Word-Of-Mouth) brands?

How negative news impacts a brand?

Every marketing professional has different answers to these questions, but the bottom line is a good brand is good business. But then the main question is what is a BRAND?

A brand is a collection of images and ideas representing an economic producer; more specifically, it refers to the concrete symbols such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme.

Brands are a means of differentiating a company’s products and services from those of its competitors.

A brand by definition is a product/service which carries its values, the customers who own/use the product/service cherish and remain loyal to it, and they also prefer to shell extra bucks for the product/service.

Below is a list of brands, that shows the world’s top 10 brands in 2002 (as measured by value):
{Rank Brand Value ($ billions)}

1 Coca-Cola ($69.6) 2 Microsoft ($64.1) 3 IBM ($51.2) 4 GE ($41.3) 5 Intel ($30.9) 6 Nokia ($30.0) 7 Disney ($29.3) 8 McDonalds ($26.4) 9 Marlboro ($24.2) 10 Mercedes ($21.0) Source: Interbrand; JP Morgan Chase, 2002

Every businessman wants his brand to become a leader in the market and the customers should define the category by his brand. Eg. In India hardly anybody will ask you to photocopy the document, everybody uses the word Xerox for photocopying; similarly everybody will refer bottled water as Bisleri. The brand itself defines the segment of products. Creating a new brand in the market clutter is a big task by itself, it involves Advertising, Public Relations, Events, etc. It also needs customer loyalty programs, relationship building programs, consumer educating seminars, etc.

The people who create brands are called brand managers. Brand managers are also considered the parents of the brand and they plan and cultivate the brand in the minds of the stakeholders, consumers and masses. The band managers have to decide activities which will cultivate the values of the brand in the minds of the stakeholders. The band managers have to decide of the course to be taken to create the particular brand like:

· Advertisements

· Public Relations

· Events

· Road shows

· Customer loyalty programs

· Consumer education seminars

· Internal staff communication

· Brand information creation and dissemination to target stakeholders

· In film product/service placements

The above mention is a brief of some of the ideas the brand manager can use to create a impact of the brand.

Brands have longed being attributed to the growth of the business in terms of sales, staff recruitment, consumer loyalty, etc.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Healthcare Marketing and Communications

The Healthcare industry is one of the professions where advertisements are a strictly not allowed or strictly regulated and one cannot have any campaign that has the appearance of soliciting business. Also the Indian Council of Medical Research doesn’t allow the Healthcare professionals or the sector to advertise, the way other sectors are advertising in media. Healthcare marketing or advertising is a complex function as Indians don't like hospitals market themselves; the word marketing is still taboo for many doctors, physicians and hospitals. This is the main reason why Healthcare industry hires the services of a Communication Consultancy©.

The question is why should hospitals/doctors worry about promoting their service/practice? After all, if they are good then the patients will automatically go to them? To top it all if they are the only provider of a particular expertise in that region, then they don’t need to worry about marketing. Traditionally, the only acceptable marketing allowed for hospitals/doctors was “word of mouth”. Satisfied patients are the best word-of-mouth marketing tool a physician or hospitals can have because they tell others about the positive experiences they have had with the physician or hospitals.

But today, hospital/doctors compete for patients and if you want to see your practice grow and flourish, you need to market yourself. Also today hospitals and doctors can use other avenues to market themselves which are ethical. The purpose of marketing here is to inform potential patients and referral sources know who you are, what you do, and when and where you do it.
Early in 1980s the Healthcare industry started involving in India, most of the healthcare providers then were social trusts or CSR initiatives by big corporates like Wadia’s, Godrej, etc. Since these providers were not operating in the healthcare scenario for commercial gains they never promoted the services, the other possible reason being less number of healthcare providers so more demand. But after 1990s the healthcare scenario went in for a drastic change, licenses were granted for private healthcare providers and healthcare entrepreneurs who entered sector with world class treatment, unique services, sophisticated machines and state-of-art technology. Since the private hospital makes investments in setting up the infrastructure and offering its services; selling the services of a hospital needs an appropriate system for which spending is also indispensable.
So the perception of the word 'marketing' is has changed a lot in the present context. It is no longer about selling a product or a service. Today, marketing directs more towards fulfilling the needs of the user rather than selling a product. It is directed towards creating more faith in the organisation, creating awareness about services, quality, cost and philosophy of the organisation.
Marketing department, where the brand is created, carved, fashioned and communicated, sets the tone of the hospital. So manpower, size and budget for the marketing department have to be increased in order to be beneficial for hospital and patients. Hospitals should spend four to five per cent of their revenue on marketing.
The role of marketing department is not restricted to creating awareness for external customers only. Their job is to disseminate information about services internally to its existing customers and also be able to initiate a feedback mechanism for the management about perception of the level of services being provided as well any gap within the services which the operational team uses to be on continuous improvement and self assessment path.
Apart from helping to create a brand image for the healthcare institution, the department acts as an interface between the doctor and the public, like a liaison department in any product or service sector. The success of the marketing department depends on its association with various other departments. The marketing department acts like the front end that cannot perform its duties without the backing of the quality of back end operations.
Tertiary care hospitals need to put in continuous efforts to tap the area from where patients are not turning up, like a particular disease profile which is not attracting enough patients. Basically, the dept needs to create strategy for marketing those depts. or sectors to get those patients. The marketing strategy will involve events/seminars/symposiums/conferences…all these exercises requires a good budgets.
The marketing dept of hospitals plays many roles, like they facilitate corporate tie-ups for both inpatient and outpatient, health check-up tie-ups and credit client servicing, which would involve maintaining the existing tie-ups and renewing contracts, maintaining communication channels. They organise conferences, seminars, workshops, exhibitions, etc which would include all event management activities both within the hospital premises and at venues other than the hospital.
They engage in brand enhancement through publication, brochures, patient information material, corporate film, website, exhibitions, camps, etc. They also do Public Relations, VIP & visitor hospital tour, conduct patient satisfaction evaluation, market research for new facilities / services enhances market reach through franchising, expansion of ventures, medical tourism loyalty programmes and outreach programmes through support group programmes.

Hospital communications is about communicating “care” through your staff, facility and collateral.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dabbawalla of Mumbai- The Tradition and Pride of Mumbai

The Genesis of Dabbawalla system can be traced back to the growth of Bombay’s.. I mean Mumbai’s textile industry in the nineteenth century, a boom that brought skilled workers and traders into the city. Most of the housing societies were beyond walking distance of the mills. This posed a problem during lunchtime coz hotel food was not known at that time.
In the mid-1880s a Parsi banker began to employ an errand illiterate boy? To collect lunch from his home in the Grant Road area and deliver it to his office in the Ballard District. Owing to the absence of catering facilities within the nearby factories and offices the errand boy quickly picked up additional orders to deliver the tiffin boxes, and looked to his friends and family members from Pune? To help him build his business of delivering dabbas…
The errand illiterate boy …Late Mahadeo Havaji Bachche a migrant from Pune is considered the pioneer of Dabbawalla service in Mumbai way back in 1880. He started the lunch delivery service with about 100 men most of them drawn from Pune and, linked by a strong sense of kinship, they proudly express their Maharashtrian identity through their simple white cotton attire and Nehru caps. Initially the delivery cost the client Rs.2 a month.

The Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust
The dabbawalla service was originated in 1880. Later, in 1930, Late Mahadeo Havaji Bachche informally unionize the dabbawallas and later a charitable trust was registered in 1956 under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. The commercial arm of this trust was registered in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Carriers Association. The present President of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust is Raghunath Medge and Gangaram Talekar is secretary of the trust.
The delivery chain..Mumbai is India's most densely populated city with a huge flow of traffic and the train travelers staying far of locations, it poses a problem during lunch time. As most of the working people prefer homemade food, which is very healthy and also comes at less cost. Instead many office workers have a homemade meal delivered it to them, and then having the lunch boxes collected and re-sent the next day. This is usually done for a monthly fee. The meal is cooked in the morning and sent in lunch boxes carried by dabbawalas, who have a complex association and hierarchy across the city.
The dabbawala usually collects dabbas from homes on bicycle. The dabbas have some sort of distingushing mark on them, such as a color or symbol. The dabbawala then takes them to a designated sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort (and sometimes bundle) the lunch boxes into groups. The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination. The markings include the rail station to unload the boxes and the building address where the box has to be delivered.
At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them. The empty boxes, after lunch, are again collected and sent back to the respective houses.
More than 175,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. A total of 400,000 transactions every single day - with scarcely a mistake. According to a recent survey, the system has registered a Six Sigma performance at 99.999999 rating. That put them on the list of Six Sigma rated companies, along with multinationals like Motorola and GE.
On an average, every tiffin box changes hands four times and travels 60-70 kilometers in its journey to reach its eventual destination. Each box is differentiated and sorted along the route on the basis of markings on the lid, which give an indication of the source as well as the destination address.
The dabawallaws are not employees but co-owners of the enterprise. Each dabbawala is also required to contribute a minimum capital in kind, in the form of two bicycles, a wooden crate for the tiffins, white cotton kurta-pyjamas, and the white trademark Gandhi topi (cap). The return on capital is ensured by monthly division of the earnings of each unit. Everyone who works within this system is treated as an equal and gets paid about two to four thousand rupees per month.

Commandments followed by Dabbawalla’s
  1. Each group of dabbawalla’s delivering dabbas, is a group of 2 to 3 extra members who take the responsibility to deliver the dabbas incase of any untoward happenings.

  2. Consuming alcohol while on duty attracts a fine of Rs 1,000.

  3. Unwarranted absenteeism is not tolerated and is treated with a similar fine.

  4. Every dabbawalla gets a weekly off, usually on Sunday.

  5. The Gandhi cap serves as a potent symbol of identification in the crowded railway stations. Not wearing the cap attracts a fine of Rs 25.

  6. There are no specific selection criteria like age, sex or religion; however. The credentials of the candidates are thoroughly verified and a new employee is taken into the fold for six-month probation. After that period, the employment is regularised with a salary of Rs 5,000 a month.

  7. It is interesting to note there is no retirement age, and any person can work till he is fit enough to carry on the tasks required of him.

How the dabba is delivered

  • The first dabbawalla picks up the tiffin from home and takes it to the nearest railway station.
  • The second dabbawalla sorts out the dabbas at the railway station according to destination and puts them in the luggage carriage.
  • The third one travels with the dabbas to the railway stations nearest to the destinations.
    The fourth one picks up dabbas from the railway station and drops them of at the offices.
  • The process is reversed in the evenings.

Features on Mumbai Dabbawalla’s

  • BBC has produced a documentary on Dabbawalas, which was part of a series on unique businesses of the world.

  • In 2002, Jonathan Harley, a reporter, did a story on the Dabbawalas with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

  • In 2003, Paul S. Goodman and Denise Rousseau, faculty at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration of Carnegie Mellon University, made full-length documentary called 'The Dabbawallas'.

  • Two Dutch filmmakers, Jascha De Wilde and Chris Relleke, in 1998 made a documentary called 'Dabbawallahs, Mumbai's unique lunch service'.

  • Director Manohar Sarvankar shot a full-length Marathi feature film effectively portraying the life of Dabbawallas 'Mumbaicha Dabbewala'. The fictional story penned by Pratap Gangawane in which real life incidents of the dabbawallas are weaved in.

The Dabbawallas have been featured in the Guinness book of Records and also in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Though the Mumbai Dabbawallas are simple, semi-illiterated they have big fans. They are the likes of Prince Charles to Richard Branson to the big management institutions. The dabbawallas have been invited to speak on their management mantras to top business schools like IIMs, Symbiosis institutes, WTC, for the last six years.