Category Archives: Competitive Advantage

3 Marketing lessons from Samsung’s vulnerability

Recently, news are coming in that Samsung has lost its market leader position in Smartphone markets in India and China, two of its biggest markets. What makes Samsung’s position in mobile handset market so vulnerable?

In India, MicroMax and in China, Xiaomi are said to have displaced the market leader. MicroMax and Xiaomi are claimed to be beating Samsung at its own game in which it decimated Nokia few years back.

In the utterly crowded and commoditized mobile handset market, such drastic changes are not surprising, unless you are an Apple. Samsung may dispute the claim or defend its territory for a while, but not for long. Sooner than later it will have to give in to some competition, which may emerge and ascend rapidly because it has built its brand on the foundation of vulnerability.

What are the marketing lessons one can learn from Samsung’s shaky brand position? Here are three :

1) No single target customer segment
You can own  Samsung phone for as low as Rs 1200 or as high as about Rs.50,000. That is a full spectrum of mobile phone users. So, who is a Samsung target customer? Almost everybody.

Because of this large base, Samsung can be attacked by any Tom, Dick, Harry and their cousins. And it will have to spend time, money and energy in defending each of these territories.

Marketing lesson-1 :
Have a clear target customer segment and protect it firmly. Sharper the target, the safer. Don’t spread yourself too thin so that you can be attacked by anyone.

2) No clear positioning in customer’s mind
If you own an iPhone, that says something about you. You understand or appreciate quality, innovation and uniqueness. Also, you can afford a high-end phone.
If you own a Samsung? It does not say anything about your taste. You could as well own any other similar ‘looking’ phone.

Marketing lesson-2 :
Have a distinct positioning for your brand. Stand for something. Own a distinct position in customer’s mind. Don’t focus on marketshare alone. Focus on mind share instead. And drive that home in the customer’s mind.

3) No uniqueness
Apple has its unique hardware and its unique software. This makes switching difficult for an iPhone user because he gets used to some unique features, services and Apps which other mobile Operating Systems can’t offer. An Android based Samsung can be seamlessly switched to another Android phone without any significant loss of data or user experience.

Marketing lesson-3:
Be unique. Give something that others can’t copy easily. Don’t become easily replaceable.

What makes Radhakrishnan Pillai a bestselling author?

Radhakrishnan Pillai’s latest book Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership, has sold 10,000 copies in a month since its release in late January 2014, making it a bestseller. What makes him a bestselling author?

I have known and observed him since last few years. Here are my views on his well-deserved success.

He is authentic
Radha is intelligent and genuine along with being articulate. Amongst the current breed of Business Gurus where many fake and irritatingly dumb copy-pasters are masquerading as Business Gurus, Radha comes as a refreshingly fresh air.

He is focused
He has consistently focused on his studies of Chanakya and his teachings. He is not talking of anything else. Clear, unwavering focus.

He interprets and not simply translates
Radha has made it a mission to spread the learnings from Chanakya. He does not simply translate the verses, he simplifies them with his own insights, making the learning relevant to the contemporary times.

He writes to express, not impress
He uses facts and thoughts to express and does not resort to well rhyming words to impress his audience.

He is not out to build a personal brand
Many business writers write to add the word ‘Author’ on their visiting card. Radha is not driven by such purely commercial interests. He is not trying to lure some unsuspecting businessmen to get some consulting or executive coaching assignment through his writing work.

He is trying to propagate wisdom not encash it
Radha is a student of leadership wisdom of the ancient India. He is living a mission. He is driven by something larger than money can buy or valuers can evaluate.

He is not trying to sell anything
Radha does not write to sell his seminars or workshops. Neither is he bent on building a tribe where he will be worshipped as a demigod.

Radha, This is my tribute to your passion and mission. Keep doing the great work…

Even a strong brand can’t survive employees inefficiency

MTNL and BSNL are some of the strongest Indian telecom brands, due to their inherent advantage, existing huge customer base and the brand equity.

But, in spite of having a headstart in the country’s telecom revolution, these best brands are losing out big time. The companies are not making profit.  Here is why. I read here that for MTNL, employee cost as a percentage of revenue stands at 103 per cent. That is, its salary bill is higher than its turnover…!

Today also, when the world-class telecom companies are beating MTNL/BSNL on their home turf with their efficient service and quality and still making money and building formidable brands,  these government behemoths are bleeding since many years.

Why?

MTNL/BSNL have a huge redundant and unproductive employee base which is eating them out. Here are some examples of the wastage of manpower at these companies.

If you complain to MTNL (Mumbai) one of the following things are likely to happen :

1) The number for registering the complaint will keep ringing. In this time of being attentive to customers 24×7, the ‘official timings’ of MTNL Customer Selfcare department as displayed on MTNL Website are 10 to 17.30 (7.5 hours), when the world-average is at least 8 hours per day. In spite of the official 7.5 hours of duty timings,  MTNL babus are still living in the age of 11 to 5, which includes at least 1 hour lunch break in between… Such an archaic working practices can kill the organization and they are doing it…

2) If you are lucky, after some follow-ups if your complaint is attended, you will see at least 2 or 3 persons from MTNL coming to your place for attending the same. There are always 2-3 hangers-on for every customer visit. And most of the time, the problem is not resolved even after the procession visiting the site.

If India has to progress, inefficiency of its government and its PSUs has to be worked upon. Till then, India will have to struggle to grow ‘in spite of’ the government, not ‘because of’

What makes Manhar Udhas a veteran?

In an age where new singers come in hordes from nowhere and rapidly scale the pinnacles of fame through a variety of reality shows and other similar events, and then get lost into the dark recesses of oblivion equally quickly, Manhar Udhas has maintained a formidable reputation of a veteran singer of Gujarati and Hindi ghazals and songs through his four decades of singing. I recently attended his live concert and realized why he has been successful in creating a very niche and discerning, loyal fan base.

Consistency

  • He has been singing since more than 40 years.
  • He has created his signature tune base which are predictable yet refreshingly hummable.
  • All his album names are of one word, all beginning with ‘A’.

Emotional connect

  • Careful selection of songs and ghazals reflecting various colors of life and having emotionally touching lyrics.
  • During his concert, he shares stories from his personal life experiences. This time too, among many other things, he also shared with us how accidentally he entered into the world of Hindi film playback singing.
  • He went to the audience and shook hands with many or hugged them while singing one of his famous Hindi film songs,  “Har kisi ko nahin milta yahan pyaar zindagi mein… Khush naseeb hain woh jinko hai mili yeh bahar zindagi mein…”

Really, Manhar Udhas has not won but has truly earned the love of his fans.

What damages the reputation of our business?

Suppliers or vendors are the lifeline of a business. They provide us with materials, parts, accessories, products and services which help the business in carrying out operations to manufacture our products and satisfy our customers’ needs. The success of the business depends a lot on them.

But, we must check : are these suppliers being treated well by our people? Are they considered as the lifeline of the business?

Often not. One sad and unpleasant aspect is the supplier payment process. I have seen some suppliers’ representatives repeatedly following up or visiting their customers’ business places for collecting their over due payments. And they are often told to come back after few days. Payment to suppliers, vendors or service providers is one thing some companies want to delay as much as possible on some flimsy reasons.

This is one ugly patch on the company’s reputation. Some may argue that paying always on time is only possible by the rich companies who have deep pockets. Actually, it is not a funds flow problem. It is more of an attitude and values related problem. If there is funds crunch and the company is passing through lean times, it is understandable that the payments may be delayed for some time. But, when the cash flow is not tight and the company has enough funds to make the payments, such treatment is detrimental to the health of the company’s reputation.

Some companies have very fair and excellent method of processing supplier payments. They send the properly due dated cheque to the supplier well before that due date and confirm that the cheque was received before it was due. Vendors love to work for such customer companies and give them best goods and services.

On the other hand, in some companies there are some characters in the company’s payment process, who enjoy the sadistic pleasure in making the suppliers’ life miserable while getting their due payments. These companies are hated by the suppliers and they look forward to getting rid of such customers as soon as possible. When they get a chance to supply to a competitor, they would not hesitate doing so and will switch loyalties immediately. No wonder, our people in charge of payments made them do so…!

If we have sustained support and cooperation from our suppliers, we can build a quality reputation on the foundation of this relationship. Suppliers can help us in achieving true competitive advantage. So, if we wish to build long term relationship with our customers, we must also focus on establishing long term relationship with our suppliers as well. For that, we should not make them beg for their dues. Nobody likes to beg for payment after giving us goods and services. Beggars may not have choices, but our suppliers do have choices. Our competitors may welcome them with open arms.