'We don't want to look at tomorrow's market with yesterday's eyes' : Britannia marketing head Richa Arora

Richa Arora comes across as a marketing professional who knows her onions or rather her peppers. Britannia's marketing head is excited about a new brand called Pepper Chakkar that she is steering through the hard as hide biscuits market. Arora has a reputation of intimately understanding customers across India and leading new product development, tailored to a variety of palates. She is also in charge of developing the appropriate marketing mix, and matching offerings to market needs.

Arora was previously with Balsara Home Products as marketing head and with FCB Ulka as strategic planning head. Understanding consumers, for her, has been a natural progression from an interest in understanding people. And her perspectives in the area of consumer behaviour come from consumer interactions across diverse categories (two-wheelers to fruit juices to home appliances to lubricants to cars to toothpaste) and brands such as e as Frito Lay, Whirlpool, Tropicana, BPL, Panasonic, LML.

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and the London School of Economics, Arora's interests, besides include photography with 'light' as the subject.


Over lunch at she discussed with's Taro Wanvari about the new Pepper Chakkar and the marketing philosophy at Britannia. Excerpts:


Pepper Chakkar seems to be the new excitement at Britannia – Could you talk about this?

We are talking to the young at heart for this campaign. Some are hearing it on radio while others are seeing it on the website. This product has the best of both worlds. Biscuits are considered to be healthy. This product has got the health characteristics of the biscuit plus it's got the taste and characteristics of the snack. It's far healthier than the snacks Indians normally eat.


So are you going to market this as a health product?

We are not marketing it as a health product. We are marketing it as a snack, but by being a biscuit, it is imbibed with health. The positioning for Pepper Chakkar is very clearly for the young at heart and we are selling it very differently from how we conventionally sell a biscuit.

The idea is very modern. In its form it's a biscuit, but actually it's a snack, light, tasty, and combined with the targeting the young, the concept of What et eez? We are creating the fun and excitement around the product. What it eez is more than just the catch-line; it is the heart and soul of the product and the brand, because What et eez? creates intrigue around the product.



Why What et eez? Are you targeting the vernacular or the rural market?

We wish to tap the snacking market, the product itself is the best of both worlds' the way we are looking at the positioning of the product is about how you look at the biscuit. It's about fun, wackiness, and we are carrying that forward in the expression What it eez? which is not just a buzzword or a catch phrase, it is the heart of the product, the lingo of the youth of today. There's Hinglish and Tinglish now maybe even Binglish or Bong English, that's how we talk as a nation.


English has been left by the British for us to corrupt. That's how we talk. This how the youth in cities such as Delhi or Bangalore would speak.

What is the size of the 50 50 brand – in volume and turnover terms, how much does it add to your bottom line?

We don't want to look at tomorrow's market with yesterday's eyes. We don't want to look at what 50 50 was. We are looking at the snacking market and the opportunity for us. We need to look at the size to the opportunity rather than what was. The snacking market as a conservative estimate is about Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 Billion) including the unorganized sector. That's a fairly large opportunity for us to tap.

Why is Pepper Chakkar a sub-brand of Maska Chaska, and not a separate brand by itself? What are the targets in terms of volumes and turnover for this product?

The mother brand 50 50 stands for the values of fun intrigue excitement. Pepper Chakkar is carrying the brand forward.


With regards to targets we have pretty ambitious targets and it would account over a period of time for a significant percentage of our 50 50 sales. As we are rolling out the products, we are actually revising our estimates upwards. As I said that we really don't want to look at the market with yesterdays' eyes. We do believe that this a product that can take then brand 50 50 forward to the next level.


This is one of the first new products you've rolled out in 2005. Could you share some details about future roll-outs?

Actually it's not the first. We'd rolled out a brand called Greetings – a completely new brand which we've launched this festive season to tap the gifting market in the north and west of India. That's for a fairly significant occasion there. We launched this brand sometime in Diwali this year and we ran out of the product four days before Diwali in an important market like the North We had fairly ambitious targets for this product, which I am not at a liberty to discuss, but we met those targets. We'd some figures from AC Nielsen, but that's a huge underestimate according to us.

The size of this market is actually impossible to estimate, but, just to give an idea about potential for this product, in addition to the box of mithai, to the box of dry fruits and the box of chocolate and the local and imported box of biscuit, the fruit juices that have gotten in, Real fruit juices and Tropicana fruit juices along with the local juices this is another opportunity that this brand is tapping. In the basket of gifting there are four-five products that go in and our objective is to make biscuits as a part of that.


In the first year of launch of Greetings, we've succeeded and over the years to come we are going to build on this. You may not have seen this because the visibility, and a large part of the effort was focused more in the north and west, not so much in the south. North and west are the big markets for Diwali. Gifting is not such a big thing in the south and the east.


But, if you go to Lajpat Nagar Delhi, during Diwali, you have visit these shops set outside which sell right from early morning to midnight and after. We travelled to Bombay, Delhi, further north into Harayana to gauge the response. Bombay was great, but nothing compared to Delhi, which is the heartland for gifting during Diwali. In the South, some moderate trade in the Food Worlds and such shops here maybe.

We've also had another launch focused on Tamil Nadu for the Marie Gold Double. We've had a fair number of launches this year, some of them have been localized, but the Pepper Chakkar is a big national launch.

Your Maska Chaska has been quite a successful campaign, I think in some places like Karnataka, it contributed almost 30% to the mother brand. What is its fate – We don't see much of it on the shelves or on media?

It's very much there in the market. And is very much a part of our portfolio. The whole thing is about building on the brand 50 50. Maska Chaska was one step ahead. Consumers today want newness. We have a loyal constituency for Maska Chaska. It was a brand that was on a growth path and for the last couple of years has been stable.

The growth is there, but obviously any new product will show remarkable growth initially, now the rate of growth has slowed down, but it's there. Maska Chaska has been growing over the years and has build a base for the 50 50 brand. The next level is Pepper Chakkar. This is a part of a process not en event.




Regarding Pepper Chakkar

We believe that we have a very strong and powerful positioning. The whole phrase of What et eez captures the essence of the brand and the product.


Competition for Pepper Chakkar

As far as competition is concerned, this would be across a variety of different types of snacks. We are looking for stomach space and competition would come from home made snacks, this would come from namkeens, from light snacks, the typical Indian snacks. PC (Pepper Chakkar) has got a very ethnic and Indian taste. The sharpness, the bite of the pepper, the concept of taste is very snacky. All biscuits are not light but this biscuit has been baked especially thin and is different from a lot of biscuits. It's a light snack. There are very many layers in the onion ring and indirectly it would compete with other things.



What kind of budgets have you allocated for this campaign, who is handling it?

The creative has been done by Lowe, media buying is being done by Maxus. All our brands have adequate funds allocated for promotions. It's not about the quantity of funds, but the quality of investments. For example when we are talking of a 360 degree effort here, it actually goes beyond television. It's more about integrating the 360 degrees. We've done radio, televisions, print, outdoor, an SMS campaign and at the heart of all this, is our website. The site captures a lot of the essence of what we are talking about.

This is not a product that we want to market like a conventional biscuit, when we are talking about the young at heart, we are not talking about a brand monologue, and it's about a dialogue with them. One can send in their jokes, their What it eez? thoughts. We have integrated all this by having the website address displayed on the TV ads, our SMSs with the What it eez? joke had our website address – you know jokes like 'What it eez? that you don't fight for in a cycle rickshaw – the window seat – stuff like that youngsters enjoy. We had teasers on the radio, even that spoke about our website.

On the website itself we were advertising that there was this contest on. When we were doing sampling, we were talking about it on our website. This campaign is more about the various aspects and degrees of the campaign in dialogue with each other. Though the site is not a blogging site, at least we are starting some kind of a dialogue, rather than just a monologue that an advertisement manages. We are telling the audience, come visit our site and if you have any thoughts to share.

We are generating traffic to our website through all our other mediums. About ten days before we revealed the product, we had the website without the brand name. All we had was What it eez? and people had to log on and guess what it was. We gave away some prizes for people who guessed correctly.

I don't know of very many FMCG companies which actually do that. We've tried to use media which the young at heart are comfortable with.

Nowadays, cell phones are one of the most prized possessions for the young, various surveys have shown that, so we start engaging with them through SMS.

The TV ads – initially they were just teasers for bringing in What it eez? to life, the question mark on Cyrus's head, the answer is quite obvious, you know.


This is just one of the many that we plan to use over the next few years.

Then using a brand ambassador like Cyrus, who is young at heart, he's been associated with MTV for many years – any one who's associated with MTV for many years has got to be young at heart.


We've already launched new products and we are coming out with newer products. This not a run up event, it's a part of a process. We've had Tiger relaunch also this year and as I said earlier, we've had Marie Gold Double re-launch, along with Greetings where we are tapping a new opportunity.

What of new distribution channels like Malls – will it be a shop in shop or an exclusive Britannia shop or maybe a Britannia Mall –

We'll do whatever it needs to get our products to the right audience. Malls are initiatives that are either in the development stage or in planning stage that will see light sometime in the future. We'll be talking about them as and when we'll be getting closer to them.

What we are articulating is that we are going beyond the conventional channels where we already have a presence and we are looking at various opportunities. It could be different cuts on modern trade, it could be malls it could be anything. Our central sales team is looking at these.


You are quite active on television, you sponsor or co-sponsor programs, what are your plans for this year.

Regarding TV we are looking at some short, medium and long term opportunities, for example 31st December was a tactical short term opportunity. We were on the Sony Deal or no Deal program hosted by Madhavan - we were the only sponsors there and were there for about two hours. We had Madhavan talking about What it eez and we are looking at opportunities as and when they come.

We are at the end of our financial year this March. We are in the thick of things planning for the next year, what we are doing in Media terms next year. These are all things that are open for evaluation and discussions, we do have and will continue to have a significant presence in media for most of our brands and we continue to build on that in the coming years. It means short term opportunities, it means building properties, and it means using different properties.



You have different competitors across different segments, like Parle in the Glucose segment, international brands knocking on the door, so how do you handle it?

It's about getting diversity to our products. Britannia is renowned for innovation, known for doing things differently. Britannia creates a market for itself, we have our own niche. It's all about opportunities. Two years ago when the FMCGs were not doing well, biscuits were growing.

People talk of international brands coming in. It's good for us because they will enlarge the environment for premium products. We see this as an opportunity. In a country like India, people are not going to stop eating. They may stop using a certain brand of shampoo or soap, but they won't stop eating. It depends purely on how you tap opportunity. We work with innovative marketing and product innovation, distribution innovation.


How do you keep track of consumer trends?

One is the conventional method of going out to people directly, but we also do a lot of crystal ball gazing by looking at a lot of things that are happening, you know things like the certain amount of leisure time that people spend in mall – it's not about shopping. We look at the deeper side of trends.

We also use conventional research, and we also ensure that our agencies do unconventional research. It could be about understanding children, it could be about understanding teens. We also look at what people are doing, what are their values, what kind of entertainment is popular, we see how some of this becomes relevant to our products.

How do you keep track of the success of a campaign?

Ultimately everything is the top-line and the bottom-line.

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