Interview with Mr. Harish Bijoor, Brand-expert & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Editorial Note

Shri. Harish Bijoor is a renowned Brand- expert and CEO of Harish Bijoor Consultants Incorporated. He is more known as a pundit of branding. Many well-known corporate houses figure in the list of his clients, which is a virtual who’s, who. The three major segments of the textile industry viz. weaving, processing and garmenting are dominated by the small-scale units. Even in the case of spinning sector, there are a few mills having a capacity of one lakh spindles or more. Since branding is an essential part of modern marketing our representative pointedly asked the guru of branding on feasibility of adoption of branding by the SME sector. The candid replies given by Shri Harish Bijoor should make the decentralized sector seriously think about branding. Here is the response of the branding expert to the grueling questions of our representative.

 

  1. Production and Marketing are two major aspects of a manufacturing unit. What role is played by branding in capturing the market?

While Production is back-ended, marketing and branding are front-ended disciplines. Needless to say each is important in its own way.

While Production is about standardization, quality, consistency and more, marketing is about offering a front-face to what is produced. Marketing helps add zing to an otherwise boring product even.

Indian units that manufacture both fibre and yarn and finished products of every kind, are very good at the back-end and a bit back-ended when it comes to the front-end of marketing and branding. This is the big gap to fill. Manufacturing units need to adopt and adapt to a totally new mindset on marketing. Marketing is no longer someone else’s core competence and someone else’s business. Marketing is as important a function of a manufacturing unit as any. This is the change in mindset that needs to be cascaded into the industry of the manufacturing unit at large.

Once there is a buy-in into this mindset, you will see the entire industry morph from being a mere “maker” to an aggressive ‘marketer” as well. Marketing is no rocket science. It is not as alien even. Marketing is a lot of common sense bundled into a science, art and philosophy that is called branding.

  1. Except manufacturing of man-made fibres and spinning of yarn from fibres, whether natural or man-made, all other segments of the industry are in the decentralized sector.  Even all spinning mills cannot be considered as large enough to set aside large funds for branding.  How to go ahead in such a situation.

Marketing requires money. Branding is a money-guzzler for sure. Companies that aspire to be in the front-ended movement of marketing their own produce, need to invest and need to be ready to invest.

This investment is really an investment ahead of the curve. ROI in marketing is a slow process. If you are a unit entering this game, you need to be prepared to amortize your marketing spends over a 5-year period. Delayed-gratification is the Branding and marketing norm, as opposed to Instant-gratification when it comes to the manufacturing process. Manufacturing units that step into marketing need to be prepared to see light at the end of a reasonably long and circuitous tunnel. There sure is light at the end of the tunnel of marketing, but you may not be able to see it in those initial years. But then, when you really see it, it might just well be worth your while. It can be blinding in its intensity even!

  1. Is branding an expensive tool reserved for more affluent companies?

Not at all. Not in all cases. Small units with modest ambitions can embark upon a marketing program for their produce. I run several such programs in my company for the SME sector. Marketing that has limited ambition from smaller units to achieve, can be done with smaller budgets and at times it is really not the money you spend. Instead it is the creativity you use to spend a limited amount of money. Marketing can be nifty and marketing can be no-money oriented as well.

4. In an industry like textiles, where emphasis is primarily laid on upgradation of technology for which the industry gets financial support from Government, What should be the ideal budget of individual manufacturing unit for branding? and how Government should step in to give financial support ?

Financial support from the government should be for two clear purposes. The first is for upgradation of the manufacturing process, which is funded forever. The second is for marketing and branding. The industry of textile and yarn is an export revenue earner. Building an India brand in this space is a possibility.

I support an “India-made” branding plan for the Indian Textile product at large. One can seek funds from the India Brand Fund and one can indeed target for funds from the Ministry of Textiles at large. I do believe what is needed is a plan. The right ideas will get the right funding from the government. I think there is no shortage of money with the government for such programs. There is instead a shortage of good ideas that seek funding.

Let’s remember. Government money and funding must never be seen as money that is given to the industry to buy fish. Instead, this money is meant to be seen as money that is doled out to help you learn the skill, the art, the science and philosophy of fishing.

Thus far, government money has been used as a way and means to subsidize the spend of individual units. This subsidy mentality needs to go. It is time to understand that life cannot be subsidized forever. If the money is used for skill-development, and the money that is received is seen to be money that is helping upgrade skills that lead to better marketing and better premium realizations, so be it. If not, this is money that is wasted.

The industry needs to sit together, ideate and put a plan that is completely market-centric to the market of consumption rather than the market of production. We have focused in India for far too long on production. Time to pull up our yarn and think marketing and branding. There is joy in this space. There is light in this space. There are profits in this space. None of these are immediate. If you are willing to wait, there is light. If not, there is just darkness all around.

If you as an industry do not invest in brand-building for Indian yarn and textile and the finished product, we will forever complain of a new destination that is robbing us of profits and margins for our produce. Today it is Bangladesh and tomorrow it may be Vietnam and day after tomorrow it may be Timbuctoo!

  1. Do you recommend a cooperative model for branding in the case manufacturing unit which are short of funds.  Another strategy is that some agency of Government like Textiles Committee can prescribe Quality Mark for fabrics.  What is sustainable a Quality Mark or branding ?

A co-operative effort is a good one to make. This way, there are more minds that contribute, more minds that think, and more pockets that bleed in the short-term than a few.

Apart from a quality-mark, there is a need to focus on building image of the Indian offering. There is a need to build pride in the Indian offering. One needs to re-establish the India-made mark!

In India, we have bandied around the “Made In India” language for decades. It has done precious little to our image. “Made In India” is often seen to be an inferior statement of macro-intent that has failed. Time to change all this.

Look at Switzerland. The phrase they use is “Swizz-made”! “Made In India” means made in a political geography that is India. “Swizz-made” on the other hand means, made by the proud Swiss! “India-made” would therefore mean a different thing altogether than “Made In India”! Let’s think this out!

  1. What is the potential of branding agencies in India ?

Very good. You need to pick one that believes in thinking out the process well and truly.  Branding is thought-leadership at play. Pick an agency that specializes in this kind of leadership! I do believe we are one such!

  1. What measures will you recommend for inclusion in the National Textile Policy 2013, to make branding an achievable goal, despite various constraints, faced by the textile industry.

Just a few inclusions.

  1. Invest in skill-building when it comes to marketing and branding. Allocate a specific fund that can be spent only on skill-building in this arena.
  2. Invest in a “India-made” story as opposed to a “Made In India” story”!
  3. Invest in the quality mindset of the Indian produce in this space, and be totally, totally strict when it comes to penalties on default in terms of quality and delivery. Every default is a negative stroke the industry can ill-afford to bear!

Harish Bijoor is a brand-expert & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a
private-label consulting practice that operates in the realm of brand and business strategy. The company has a presence in the markets of India, Hong Kong, London, Dubai and Istanbul.

Harish is a public speaker who speaks to Corporate audiences across the globe in the realm of motivation, people-management issues, brands, marketing and business at large. He is active on twitter @harishbijoor

Email: [email protected]