IntroductionWithout competition, there is no business. The entire capitalistic world is built on what is called Perfect competition when there are a very large number of players in each market. This acts as a key to maintaining a certain price level in the market. However, Game Changers have the potential to change the entire market pertaining to a particular industry. A few notable examples are discussed with specific reference to a) Who are Game Changers and what are their characteristics?b) Game Changers in the FMCG industry b) Game changers in the automobile industry c) Game changers in the service industry d) Game Changers in organized retail and e) Game Changers in Politics.
Who are Game Changers and what are their characteristics?A Game Changer is one player in one particular industry who literally shapes the market in a small or big way. The competitors are forced to take serious notice. The Game Changers come out with new products in the same product segment or with new packaging strategies. They focus on pricing and on giving more for less. They address segments hitherto neglected by the giant companies. Once they are in, they follow the very same practices of the established players - high decibel advertising, branding of the product based on some key attributes with the emotional quotient being significant and so on. The brand becomes a big brand and cannot be taken for granted at all. The Game Changers are always keen on attracting any number of customers and have relationships with all stakeholders that sort of justify their positioning in the mind of the customers.
From the examples that follow, we can understand clearly the characteristics of the Game Players more clearly.
Game Changers in the FMCG industrySome four decades ago, the then giant called Hindustan Lever ruled the detergent powder market with its superb Surf brand. The brand was not only so powerful, but it had a superb memory recall, which is very important in marketing. However, the product was highly priced when compared to competitors.
Rather dramatically, a new competitor called Nirma took the country by storm. "Washing powder Nirma" became a rhyme in so many schools. The advertisement was simple and direct. It showed a small girl dancing with others. She was identified as Nirma, the daughter of the founder, who actually was seen simply selling the product on bicycles in the streets of Ahmedabad. It was rumored that one giant of a professor, whose name was Labdhi Bhandari, took the entrepreneur into confidence and taught him everything. He invested heavily in the factory and turned out the product in millions of one kilogram and 500 mg packets. The advertisement made the customers to repeatedly buy the product. The customers were clearly those who never purchased Surf. Nirma sold on the price platform. It was still seen as value for money.
To be sure, there were several other competitors who tried to imitate Nirma. However, they are mostly regional players. Cavinkare started the shampoo revolution in the country. Actually, a person called Rajkumar, who was a medical doctor noticed that patients had very dirty scalps and when quizzed, replied that they cannot buy costly shampoos sold in plastic bottles. He hit upon a sachet packing for his Velvette shampoo.
Mr. C.K. Renganathan, the brother of Mr. Rajkumar, brought about a revolution in the sachet industry with his Chik shampoo. His marketing strategy is a case study in hundreds of B Schools. He had very limited resources. In the late seventies, he hired a van, fitted his van with a loudspeaker and went around the villages of Cuddalore, a small district headquarters town that is just 22 kilometers from Pondicherry. He gave the sachet packets to all small retailers, telling them that he would collect money after the product was sold. He would catch hold of some local boy in a particular village, offered to wash the boy's scalp with the shampoo for free, and got that still to be displayed in the local "touring talkies" ( mobile theatres that used to screen mostly MGR movies. MGR was a living legend then). The idea worked. The company grew by leaps and bounds. He came to the city much later. His first brand ambassador was the then big queen of Tamil Cinema, whose name is Kushboo.
The strategy was a big Game Changer. Today, C.K. Renganathan is now a force to reckon with in the entire FMCG industry. HLL offered to buy his entire company for 800 crores. He bluntly refused. He has now branched into pickles with the acquisition of the Ruchi brand. His Cavin Milkshake has shaken the particular market too. Game Changers like Renganathan are big time risk takers. They are never afraid of the big names. Their strategies are based on common sense and a very keen understanding of customers and their purchasing power, the ability to understand brand attributes and so on. Aby entrepreneur capable of withstanding competition and reinvesting money in advertising and promotion, can always win in the FMCG market. The best recent example is the "Aaachi" brand from Chennai. The recent advertisement shows the Founder swearing by purity with so many ladies powdering the product mix with the traditional iron stone crushers. The message is clear: we stand for purity. Aacchi has been a big game Changer, as it has conquered every single piece of the ready to cook powder market.
Game Changers in the automobile industryIt was the superb company then called Hero Honda ( Honda is now on its own) that saw the trend towards customers buying motorcycles instead of scooters. The Bollywood influence and the regional language influence also helped. It introduced a big range of motorcycles and took the market by storm. Bajaj Auto was late in reacting. It still stuck to the theory that its scooters with the "Hamara Bajaj" tag would still sell. They were wrong. The Game Changer had already walked away with a sizable share of the market. To this day, Bajaj Auto is still number two in the motorcycle market, with TVS Motors following at number three. The latter has rediscovered the scooter market with the "Zaadha" message of its famous brand called Jupiter. It has roped in the giant Amitabh Bachchan to endorse the product.
Game Changers will positively do all that is possible to retain their position. They never ever give in so easily. This is exactly what has happened to the two-wheeler market. Years later, the one lakh car called Nano from Tata Motors was a superb game changer. Maruti had to reduce prices. The positioning of the Nano as a "poor man's car" bombed. Tata Motors immediately changed the positioning to a family car, capable of withstanding rough terrains.
This market revolves around technology. If the word of mouth publicity is not good, the product is sure to fail. No amount of high decibel advertising will help. Honda had done interviews with hundreds of possible scooter users and came out with a sure winner called Activa. The Game Changers will keep happening again and again in this capital intensive and technology-driven market.
Game Changers in the service industryITC made a rather well-planned entry into the Five Star Hotel Segment. Today, this group called the Welcome group is a big competitor to the Tata group and is growing so fast. It's managers have brought about many changes in service standards. The same ITC has brought about a big revolution in rural markets by co-opting the customer competence of hundreds of thousands of farmers. It has not eliminated even the middlemen in its superb initiative called e-choupal
Today, since the farmers have access to the most advanced information technology, they have begun customers of various ITC products. ITC is a real Game Changer.
In the ready to cook powder segment, it's unique Master Chef masala brand has already taken the market by storm. It's Aaahiwad Atta is a market leader.
There are several brands of restaurants like Saravana Bhavan of Chennai that is also Game Changers. When the process becomes standardized, customers flock to the restaurant to eat quality food at prices that are far above the rest. However, the secret of the game changer is in the quality of the product combined with very good ambiance and hygiene. It is a premium product restaurant but it has grown the likes of Adayar Amanda Bhavan, Murugan Idli Shop and so on, that have also followed similar strategies to become quality premium players.
Game Changers in Organized RetailWhen a new entrant learns so many lessons from a big brand in a huge metro and replicates the model in a very big way, he is bound to succeed. Inshore Biyani is now the Guru of organized retail with his Big Bazaar brand making waves everywhere. However, his strategy was to learn from an already successful business model. Saravana Stores that makes ten crore rupees every month, through its main shop in Chennai, was where Biyani learned that in India, only the discount model will work. Today, there are sure savings to be made by each customer shopping at Big Bazaar. The New entrepreneurs wanting to enter organized retail even in a small way have to be very careful to offer discounts to customers and also foster personal relationships in a very big way if they would like to succeed. Amazon.com is also a game changer to some extent. However, hundreds of thousands of customers still like to touch and feel the product before they take any decision to purchase it. This is all the more so in the case of garments like saris.
Game Changers in PoliticsThe Aam Aadmi Party was a real Game Changer. It brought in the era of consultative politics. It's research into problems faced by people, made it come out with promises that addressed such problems. Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of AAP is a highly educated person with an IIT background. Though AAP is not the same as it was some years ago, the very honest and sincere Chief Minister of Delhi is a Game Changer in his own way.
Kamaraj, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was a superb Game Changer. His record of honesty and integrity is even today talked about everywhere. He refused to become Prime Minister, even when he had a chance. Chandra Babu Naidu of AP is also a Game Changer. He realized the potential of IT and made the city one of the biggest IT Centers in India.
ConclusionGame Changers are superb lessons in creativity and innovation. The examples discussed above are only indicative and not exhaustive. The game is always on.
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