Sep 5, 2008

Mktg - Families that pray together,stick to old brands

AHMEDABAD: The Viranis, the Sarabhais and the Thakkars are not just scaling up TRPs through their unending joint-family saga. They could well be credited for upsetting business plans of several MNCs who find it difficult to wean consumers away from homegrown brands. Loyalty to ‘traditional’ brands has been one of the reasons behind the success of Nirma, Rasna, Wagh Bakri and other regional brands who are able to withstand competition from bigger national and multi-national players. These brands along with many of their regional peers have their origins in Gujarat, a state that has one of the strongest joint-family cultures and a typically low migration. While traditional businesses kept youth within families, prohibition and slow growth of knowledge-driven sectors like IT and ITeS ensured that fewer outsiders came into Gujarat to influence its culture. Thus, the joint-family culture coupled with less percentage of migrants effectively dodge MNCs and national labels while enabling the local brands to create their citadels amid the organised retail boom. It is not just value for money that counts in Gujarat. The loyalty of the populace to regional brands is more to do with the habits of the families, says Mudra Communications president Chandan Nath. He knows that loyalty to these brands stems from their continuous usage in the families over generations. While MNCs might introduce the product with a bang and some seasonal offers to penetrate the market, consumers will finally revert to the brands they are loyal to. Mahesh Manjawala, the man behind tea brand Wagh Bakri’s ads (and Vadilal and Fortune Refined Oil), understands the market too well by now. Heading Trion Communications in the state, Mr Manjawala has seen some of his regional clients trample over national biggies. “A Gujarati family hooked on to Wagh Bakri will not take to any other brand. Tea is an inertia-driven product and families in Gujarat will not switch over to other brands unlike (nuclear) families elsewhere. So be it edible oil or hair oil or a shampoo, consumers from a joint family will remain loyal to their family brand—the product used over generations,” he says. Joint families have not just ensured upkeep of traditional values but also prevented erosion by insulating them from outside influence. Gujarat boasts of a strong local consumer population than that of migrants, which explains the region’s localised consumption pattern, says analyst Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults. Although Fortune (Adani-Wilmar’s edible oil brand) traces its roots to Gujarat, it finds stiff competition from Tirupati brand of edible oil. “Tirupati is deeply entrenched in the households of Gujarat. It has a heritage that is difficult to be challenged. Fortune could not find takers in those families and has become more of a national brand now,” said an analyst. Pantaloons Retail’s zonal chief (Gujarat) Anand Adukia sums it all: “While a grandson might move out of his joint family in Gujarat, he will come back to his grandfather to make purchasing decisions. That is what makes this market difficult for modern retailers. One would not succeed unless the brand strikes a cord with the great Gujarati joint family.”

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