Marketing is important but quality and availability are mandatory
- Strictly business
May 21, 2018-Shekhar Ramamurthy has dedicated 25 years of his life to United Breweries (UB) Limited in India—a company that comes with its own century-old history. Under UB, he has been a major part of the growth of Kingfisher beer. Kingfisher, which is today a widely popular brand in India and over 50 countries, recently made its foray into the Nepali market through Yeti Brewery. Ramamurthy, as the managing director at United Breweries, in this conversation with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati talks about paving their path to Nepali market and shares some of his marketing strategies to make Kingfisher a brand that is more available and accessible among Nepalis. Excerpts:
Kingfisher is a well-established brand in India. Why was now the right time to make a foray into the Nepali market?
Not many people know that we used to be available in Nepal 15 years ago. We had a brewery in Hetauda but due to some circumstances we had to shut it down. Now we are returning to Nepal in partnership with Yeti Brewery who already have a domestic brand—Arna Light and Arna Strong. We are happy to see the opportunity and size of the market. We may be a very large brand in India, but when it comes to Nepal, we are still very small. We are starting from zero here.
We have re-entered the Nepali market because we want Kingfisher to become a global brand. We are available in 50 countries all over the world. We believe Kingfisher has the potential to leave a mark and be a crowd pleaser. From a population and an economic point of view, Nepal is a growing country with a young population, and beer consumption will grow rapidly in the coming years. All the economic indicators are positive. We think it is the right time. We have a vision; we know we won’t be the market leader here and that is not our objective. However, someday, even if we have 10 percent share of the market, we’ll be happy.
There are already several well-established beer brands in the Nepali market. What marketing strategies is Kingfisher looking to implement to make the brand more visible?
First, we recognise ourselves as the newcomer. Therefore, we have to tell people who we are. We are not going to assume that people know us. A lot of people who have been to India might have noticed us in India. If you talk about Nepal, we have come to a whole new market. First off, as an introduction, we have a strong local partner, they are going to brew and distribute Kingfisher for us in the Nepali market. Second, because we are a large company we have the technical expertise, which will help our partner to up their quality. Third, brand Kingfisher has been built with big associations—with music, sports and food. We will find the right elements which will resonate with the people of Nepal. From what I have understood, people in Nepal like food, music and fashion—those are the things Kingfisher has done in the past and have associated our brand with. Nepalis can see us as an exciting new brand. If you read our tagline it is—‘The king of good times’. So, our objective is to spread good times and cheer.
A lot of international brands have already paved their way into the Nepali market. How does pricing matter?
We are going to make our price attractive in the beginning because we know we need to give a reason for people to try us. Kingfisher premium will be priced at Rs 275, whereas King-fisher strong will be priced at Rs 235, which is similar pricing with other domestic brands in the country. We will not be very expensive; it will be at the same range other brands are at.
As a new brand, what sort of expectations do you have from the Nepali market?
We hope Nepalis like our brand. It is a good beer. Many must have tried Kingfisher when in India, but the feeling and ambience will be different in their own homes. We hope the consumers will be excited about our brand proposition.
Kingfisher has been a successful and a visible brand in many countries, can you give us a few secrets on how the company has maintained its brand?
There is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes. First and foremost, you need to be relevant to the consumers—beer is a youthful product. So, the image of the brand needs to be maintained to its elements—youthful, sporty and fun. Therefore, we have spent lot of marketing money on doing that. Beer needs to be available, if it isn’t available, consumers shift to something else. Unlike expensive wine and whiskey, when it comes to beer, you will find a substitute. If you don’t have your preferred choice, you’ll move to your second choice. As we are well aware of this scenario, we will assure that our beers are always available. We have a very strong distribution system and over many years, we have invested heavily in maintaining the quality. So, if you drink Kingfisher today, you will never find variation in its quality. To maintain a brand, I think you always need to maintain the three pillars: quality, availability and exciting marketing.
These are the ways in which we have assured that Kingfisher not just maintains its brand but strengthens it.
Beers are something that you cannot promote openly. How do you manage to be out there?
You must respect the law. You don’t promote under-age drinking. You don’t promote excessive consumption. We have always respected it. At our company we have felt that sponsorship is a great way to promote your brand. In our part of the world, cricket is very big, so we sponsor cricket, people see that we associate ourselves with cricket and they automatically link it to fun and an exciting brand. We do music, we do big concerts and we have a strong digital presence on social media where we promote our brands. We also sponsor Formula 1 racing, which is another aspirational premium sport. When you go to the market, you find Kingfisher through promotion and visibility. But all that doesn’t matter if you don’t have stringent quality control.
Your top tips on maintaining a brand?
Make sure your quality is always good because consumers never forgive a brand if the quality is not up to par. If you buy a packet of biscuits and you find three out of the 10 biscuits are broken, you wouldn’t buy that brand again. You wouldn’t care for their justifications. It is easy to win a customer but it is very difficult to win back the customer. Your quality should always be good. So, we tell the brewers at UB that if they think the quality is not upto the mark, don’t dispatch it—reprocess it or throw it away. As a beer category, you are always replaceable. It’s not a medicine that will cure you. If Kingfisher is not available, the consumers will pick something else. Be available and be fresh at all times. Marketing is important but quality and availability are absolutely necessary. If all companies follow this mantra then the only challenge would be how you market your brand.
Published: 21-05-2018 08:26