Sunday, January 3, 2010


S’Marketing Convention was the first ever two-day conference held by the Confederation of Industries of India (CII) that solely focused on the current challenges faced by the marketing world. Marketers, formerly the fulcrum of any organisation, are now being questioned on their effectiveness in respect to their ability to handle the huge proliferation of brands, changing customer profiles, rising consumer power, which leads to declining differentiation and few breakthrough ideas. The apparent solution is a dramatic change in strategies as marketing reinvents itself. Smart marketing – the key to future growth!

The convention was attended by several leading businessmen and Marketing Professors teaching abroad, whose extensive experience in the field added great colour and value to the occasion. After the inaugural lamp lighting ceremony, Mr. C. K. Ranganathan, Chairman, humbly welcomed everyone while introducing the key issues of the conference, the six factors that were an integral part of marketing: the attitude and mind-set of the marketer, creating trust and living upto it, differentiation, functional cohesiveness within an organisation, simplicity of concept and beating the competition just enough to make a mark in the consumer’s mind and not overdoing it.

Next, Mr. K. S. Ramesh, Chairman S’Marketing Convention, spoke about marketing becoming more tactical rather than strategic and that the dependence on excessive data should be leveraged to create new avenues of growth. Mr. Santosh Desai, Managing Director & CEO of Future Brands, gave the keynote address, emphasizing that marketing is not about business, but about adding value and meaning to customers’ lives. Marketers should have a clear reading and understanding of the consumers’ needs, fill those gaps and thus bridge the distance between them and the organisation. It’s all about delivering genuine expertise!

Mr. B. Santhanam, the chief guest, President of Flat Glass South Asia & Managing Director, Saint-Gobain Glass India Ltd., spoke about engaging the non-consumers and occupying a larger space in the market in which there was no competition. While giving the vote of thanks, Ms. Anita Gupta, Senior Vice President & Managing Partner JWT, expertly summarised the key learnings of the first session.

Prof. Sanjay Putrevu, Associate Professor-Marketing of the University of Albany, started the next session by saying that marketing has to find new ways of being relevant in these changing times and the emerging media and the instant availability of information should be leveraged to reach the customer’s and make them feel that the organisations are investing in their lives. Ms. Mythili Chandrasekar, Senior Vice President & Executive Planning Director JWT, brought out the changing notions of privacy in India and the widening dimensions of culture. She also spoke about consumers being the ambassadors of a brand and therefore the importance of making them co-marketers of the organisation.

Mr. Shripad Nadkarni, Director Market-Gate Consulting, emphasized on creating a harmonious synthesis with the hard data gathered and the deep understanding of the consumer as an individual and as a part of the whole “clan”. Mr. Subhash Kamath, Managing Partner Bartle Bogle Hegarty (India), spoke about increasing the consumer touch-points and the necessity to come up with strong brand ideas that can be promoted in any medium.

The post-lunch session was inaugurated by Prof. Gopalakrishnan Iyer, Professor-Marketing & Director Center for Services Marketing & Management, Florida Atlantic University, who continued the thread from the previous discussion, by saying that old TV medium was fast losing the audience due to advertising clutter while the digital media showed great promise for future growth.

Mr. Arun Tadanki, Managing Director, Yahoo India Ltd., spoke about the internet having significant capability to target, engage and create impact on the Indian youth and that the advertisers must wake up to its true potential. Mr. Deepak Goel, Chief Executive Officer, Drizzlin Media, discussed how to leverage the social media to make each consumer the organisation’s brand ambassador. Adding to the ongoing discussion, Ms. Subha George, Chief Executive Officer, Media Edge, expounded on the measurability aspect of the new medium and the possibility of greater differentiation in it.

The final session of the day was commenced by Prof. M. J. Xavier, Professor-Marketing, Great Lakes Institute of Management, who gave a brief introduction on Customer Relationship Management. Mr. K. Krishnamohan, Chief Executive Officer, Fifth C, focused on the key aspects and advantages of high impact analytics which had contributed to the success of some famous companies such as Google and Amazon, while Mr. Suneel Aiyar, Associate Director Pricewater Coopers, focused on the benefits of efficiently managed CRM.

On the second day, Mr. N. K. Ranganath, Managing Director, Grundfos Pumps India Pvt. Ltd., presented a completely new viewpoint, by saying that we have to give attention to things which are not connected to our business, because they indirectly affect it.

Carrying forward the critical issues faced by marketers, Mr. T. Krishnakumar, CEO Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd., emphasized on four aspects of any trade, which are establishing transparent relationships with customers, delayering the market and so having direct relationship with dealers, and creating a win-win situation for both the consumer and the organisation.

Mr. Ramesh Viswanathan, Executive Director, Cavinkare Pvt. Ltd., focused on the needs of the hour which are innovation at every level of the business and the infrastructure for extensive distribution. The last speaker of the session, Mr. K. Radhakrishnan, Chaiman, ECR India, took a diametrically opposing stance by stating that consumers do not have any power, and to empower them, we have to have “co-creation”, which is a better understanding of the consumer needs, normalisation of the demands and supplies and the lack of any wastage.

In the next session, Prof. Trichy Krishnan, Associate Professor-Marketing, National University of Singapore, talked about the exploding Indian economy, followed by Mr. Raghunath Mandava’s (CMO Airtel Ltd.) speech on the challenges of exploiting new avenues of growth, while strengthening the core competencies, having clear strategic goals and establishing credibility in the market.

Mr. Rajiv Narang, President Erehwon Consultants, expanded on the process of innovation, such as thinking out of the box, getting new insights, not falling in the trap of proof-seeking, but taking the entrepreneurial outlook of how to make it work. In other words, it’s all about climbing an unknown mountain – “Innovation is about leadership!”

Offering a fresh perspective, Ms. Sonia Manchanda, Co-Founder, Idiom Consulting & Design, described through some stunning visuals, the importance of design in brand building.

The post lunch session was started by Mr. V. Balaraman, Chairman & CEO, Boardroom Advantage, who introduced a different aspect to marketing – having and retaining talented marketers. After him, Mr. Jayant Singh, Managing Director, Henkel India Ltd., spoke about paradigms shifts that resulted in talent management being the responsibility of the entire organisation, especially all the leaders and not only of the HR. Mr. Prasad Narasimhan, CMO, Virgin Mobile Ltd., concurred with the previous speakers, adding that the getting the right talent is a big challenge. Ms. Anuraddha Oza, Senior Associate-Human Capital, Mercer India Ltd., differed on this point, saying that talent was available but that the people needed the right kind of training. Prof. S. Sriram, Executive Director, Great Lakes Institute of Management, believed that there was often a disconnect between the CMO and the company’s strategies, which had to bridged with marketers earning credibility through thorough customer knowledge, focus on customer experience, embracing technology and strongly encouraging an ROI culture in the organisation.

In the final session of the convention, after the welcome speech by Mr. C. K. Ranganathan, Mr. Laxman Narasimhan, Managing Director, McKinsey & Company, gave the keynote address. He threw some light on the critical roles of the CMO which were, breaking the markets into smaller sections (granularity) in search for potential markets, creating a cross-functional integration, and lastly using advanced supporting tools to gather data, get breakthrough insights and thus drive the company’s strategy and goal to fruition.

Finally, the chief guest of the day, Mr. D. Shivakumar, Managing Director, Nokia India Pvt. Ltd., spoke at length about the changing FMCG markets and the emerging growth opportunities in rural India. He also reiterated the need for maximising the no. of customer touch-points and the need to enter into the adjacent space or category of any existing brands. He concluded with a few words on creating an eco-system that gave complete solutions to consumers.

The two-day conference ended on a high note with a heartfelt vote of thanks by Mr. K. S. Ramesh, Chairman of the S’Marketing Convention.

Apart from being invaluable because of the expert advice and knowledge shared by all the speakers, the convention attempted to create a renewed interest and vigour in the marketing field, which was fast losing its premium position. I am sure that the numerous take-aways from the conference would encourage the new generation of marketers to reinvent themselves and strategically face the current crisis.

Above all, this first-time opportunity of interacting with some of the giants of the industry, was for us, an unforgettable experience!

Contributed by Ishita Deshmukh, Marketing & Communications Varsity, CBS Batch-4 (2009-10)

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