Archive for February, 2011

Of Cookies and Biscuits

February 23, 2011 2 comments

I would be discussing the biscuit and cookies part of the food industry and primarily the leaders in India – Britannia Industries Ltd. The Biscuits industry in India is worth around Rs. 3000 crores and 30% of it belongs to the organized sector. It is the largest among all food industries in the country and is expected to grow at about 15-17% in the years to come.

Within the organized sector, Britannia has been the market leader for a long time now. Parle comes a very close second. ITC entered the market with its SUNFEAST brand of biscuits in 2003.  Though, market share of sunfeast is close to 10%, personally I feel sunfeast is quite a threat to Britannia.

While close to 80% of Parle’s share by volume belongs to Parle-G, and considering the fact that the glucose segment is not a very lucrative part of the biscuit segment, definitely cookies are the game changers. Another segment is that of cream biscuits.

As far as the cookies segment is concerned, Britannia with its GOOD DAY brand of cookies has been a major player since a long time. Cookies were considered a premium brand for a long time and GOOD DAY was no different with SKUs Rs 10 for 81g approximately. Good day has had many successful variants like butter, cashew, pista-badam etc. But recently after the entry of Sunfeast, cookies have become quite cheaper. It all started with Sunfeast introducing its SPECIAL brand of cookies. With a SKU of Rs 5-6 for about 50gm. Britannia eventually had to start cookies at lower price points too and as a result it introduced COOKIES– 56gm for Rs 5. Apart from the ‘elaichi’ variant, a new flavor FRUIT DHAMAKA has also been made available. Though it doesn’t taste like any known fruit, the fruit cuts embedded in the biscuit along with the unique taste is really a treat to the taste buds.

The branding strategy is interesting as usually I have always seen Britannia introduce its ‘cheaper’ biscuits under the TIGER brand. TIGER was first introduced as a brand of Glucose biscuits and it replaced the GLUCOSE-D brand of Britannia. As Tiger grew in popularity among lower income groups because of its low price, Britannia introduced cream biscuits too under Tiger brand. Coming back to COOKIES, Parle has also introduced cookies under the name 20-20. Mc Vitie’s also entered the Indian market with cookies (and also digestive biscuits). At the same time, Australian Biscuit company UNIBIC came to India in 2005 and they majorly sell cookies at a premium price – Anywhere between Rs14-15 for about 67gm.

Cream biscuits have also been very popular. Britannia branded its cream biscuits as CREAM TREAT and also introduced Tiger cream biscuits as mentioned above. Britannia’s most premium brand of biscuits, PURE MAGIC which sells in packs of Rs 20 has been quite popular.  JIM JAM has also been very popular. Pure Magic comes in two variants – Chocolate and Vanilla. Recently I was pleasantly surprised to find a Rs 10 SKU of the old vanilla Pure Magic rebranded as Treat-O. Perhaps, the vanilla variant of Pure Magic is not as successful as the other and Britannia saw sense in repricing it. I am not quite sure of the logic behind the move. Sunfeast also is positioned at both ends of the Cream Biscuit segment. It sells cream biscuits at around the same price as Tiger under the SPECIAL brand and at the same time it competes directly with Pure Magic using the brand ‘Dark Fantasy’. It was launched in 2005 and was positioned as an indulgence brand. It was associated with the master chefs of ITC hotels.

Apart from the above segments, the health segment in biscuits is also gaining importance. With people becoming more and more health conscious, it is imperative that people would like to buy biscuits which are low on fat and more on fibre. Britannia with its NutriChoice brand is making the most of its opportunity. Some older brands like Digestive and Arrowroot have been pulled under this brand. Owing to the fact that the health conscious consumers are ready to pay a premium, this brand is a premium brand.

In conclusion, the overall future of the biscuit market is bright. Particularly for Britannia, though the market share has come down of late, with some intelligent advertising and branding strategies, it can surely gain lost ground. And as far as us consumers are concerned, we have more choice, more variants and really interesting flavours. So just sit back and enjoy your cookies.


Categories: Marketing

Life of a Samurai : Pride, Honour and Discipline

February 21, 2011 3 comments

This article has been written as a submission for the course ‘Management of Self in organisations’ at IIMC and is based on the movie ‘The Last Samurai’ by Edward Zwick. This is not a movie review but a general discussion.

I saw the movie a few months back. Before watching the movie, I did not have even the faintest idea of what the movie is about. After watching the movie, I felt very good about it, I felt very enlightened. I found many underlying themes running parallel in the movie. They were:-

1)      Doing what is right and the will-power to do it against all odds– The main protagonist of the film stands up for what he thinks is right

2)      Rules – Discipline – The Samurais conduct all their day-to-day activities with a high level of discipline.

3)      Repentance and self redemption – The protagonist of the film, Captain Algren displays these throughout the story.

4)      Pride and honour, Shame – The Samurai way of life is a described in a detailed manner. I found the fact that the Japanese placed their honour above everything else very moving. But again, honour sometimes becomes very subjective and culture specific. And this fact has been discussed in the movie.

5)      Bravery – The movie being a war film to an extent portrays the bravery and sense of self sacrifice of the soldiers. There are a number of instances when someone gives his life or who fights bravely and dies. The usual cinematic way of glorifying the hero is quite evident.

The movie begins with the following statement – “I say Japan was made by a handful of brave men warriors willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word Honor” which more or less defines the essence of the movie.

Important Protagonists

Nathan Algren (TOM CRUISE) is shown as a man who has started hating his own life. He hates guns and still has to work for gun shows for the sake of money. Algren had to fight against an army of American Indians and in the process kill many of them. He had to kill innocent people who were not at war with him and thus according to him something extremely unethical. Contrastingly though, Colonel Bagley, his superior is shown to have no remorse whatsoever for what he has done. Thus we can see that Algren is a man of high integrity and does not believe in war just for the sake of it.

But as is shown in the movie, he is surrounded by ironies of his life and thus he was made to do what he hated the most. I also like the fact that he has great clarity of thoughts and is not a bit reluctant to go against his own people when asked to make a choice. He says that the WHITES or his own people come to destroy what he likes the most and hence he will fight them.

I feel that he hated his life so much after joining as the trainer that he even started taking his chances with death. He asks the soldier to take a shot at him and I am sure he wouldn’t have minded being killed by the soldier. But quite contrastingly, he fights hard to save himself from the Japanese when he captured at the end of the battle. This is perhaps because of his will power which is again displayed during his sword fight with Ujio. But this willpower has not helped him so far to change the course of his life. But later on in the movie, I see that when he is given an opportunity to set things right, his willpower helps him complete what he had promised to Katsumoto.

But in spite of all the good will and willpower shown by Algren, he is able to do this because of the recent events in his life where he had started practising the Samurai way of life. He had no trouble sleeping; he could stop alcohol consumption too.

Katsumoto (KEN WATANABE) is a very wise man and has lot of self control. He follows the samurai principles very much and conducts his activities without being very emotional. He is ready to help his old friend in SEPUKKU (The ritualistic suicide), where he cuts off his head. At the same time, he was intelligent enough to understand the sensitivities of another culture and he did not kill Algren as it is not necessary that a person from another culture would be having the same values of shame and defeat. He is patient with Algren and makes him his guest even though Algren has killed his brother in law.

I also see Katsumoto as extremely dedicated to his task. He is a keen learner and student of war and wants to keep improvising. Katsumoto is also a great thinker and is always mindful of the larger good of the society. He is a very experienced person and finds out the reason behind Algren’s nightmares – the fact that he is ashamed of himself. The only point I did like about Katsumoto is the fact that he appreciated bravery even though it means foolhardiness. Algren was much more sensible when it comes to this aspect.

Taka (KOYUKI KATO) is faced with the dilemma of treating the murderer of her husband as her guest and she feels very perturbed about it. She having brought up the samurai way understands that her husband got killed in a war and it was only karma. And she is honest enough to acknowledge that even though she should not have thought ill of Algren, she does so and she is not mentally strong. She is also very forgiving and when Algren apologizes for having killed Hirotaro, she accepts his apology which I think was a great deed on her behalf. She is also brave, though not a skilled samurai and takes up the sword to protect her children. She also sees a father figure in Algren later on in Algren and is ready to accept her husband in spite of him having killed her husband.

From the perspective of the above characters, the story ends on a positive note. These characters are able to achieve what they were striving for and at the same time Omura is punished for his evil ways. Thus the story gives a sense of completion which makes the whole experience of watching the film even more fruitful.

A limited overs Test Match

February 12, 2011 4 comments

Imagine you are a batsman playing out there in a limited over cricket match. How would you like to spend your time on the pitch? Following are some things you would be doing depending on your interest in the game and your skills and of course your form –

1)      You could probably play slowly taking your own sweet time

2)      You could go hammer and tongs after the bowling attack  –  maybe putting yourself and your team at great risk or maybe without much risk

3)      You could also get out early.

What if I told you that you get some match fees for playing in the match but it is some currency which is acceptable only within the stadium limits.

I hope now you are getting a feel of where I am getting at.  Consider human life and its importance in the universe.

Let’s consider size first. Needless to say, humans (weighing an average of 70 Kg and 165cm tall) are just but a speck as compared to the earth which is 5.9736 * 10 ^ 24 Kgs and whose radius is 6371 km radius. Now, the earth itself is 330,000 times lighter than sun and so on.

Let’s consider time now. Average life span of human being is 70 years. Big bang happened 13.7 billion years ago. Sun has been there since 4.6 billion years and may be there till the next 4.6 billion years. Earth has been around since about 4.54 billion years and life on earth evolved about 4 billion years ago with multi – cellular organisms coming up 535 million years ago. There have been 5 mass extinctions since then, last one being about 65 million years ago. The next ice age is expected sometime in 30,000 years and no one knows when human life will cease to exist altogether on the surface of earth.

Further, once we die, irrespective of how much wealth we accumulated during our life, we will go away empty handed.

In light of the above facts, I am going to state that our life is like a limited over cricket match where we can not spend the match fees outside the stadium. Considering the fact that life in itself is not that easy and is a TEST and also because of the fact that Test matches these days are limited overs per se, I would say “LIFE IS A LIMITED OVERS TEST MATCH’.

People have different ways of playing in this match. According to me, all are right in their own way – To each his own.


You are a fighter – a go getter. You will do well in life, try and achieve a lot in life, try to earn fame and money – everything. Whatever the bowler bowls at you, you have an answer.


You take your own time. You have a much cautioned approach. At every point of life, you plan – you look at all future implications of your decisions. And yes, I am not saying that you get out easily to a tough ball. You might be easily able to block the really fast ball pitched at full length.


This is a truly possible situation when you know that death is inevitable and there is nothing much you can do about it. Or in other words, you are just too very insignificant in the bigger scheme of things and hence are not passionate about any of the balls bowled at you. You might hit it if you are in the mood or you might just get out and wait in the pavilion. This is something I would associate with the SANYASA ashrama or generally all people in the past and present who believed in or practiced sainthood.

Truly speaking, there is nothing wrong in playing this way. The fact that you know that life is not all about earning money or competing against others often makes you lose purpose in life. But then, you won’t be playing in the spirit of the game and others would lose an opportunity to play the game in a fair and competitive manner. Imagine a scenario where all the players on the field having realized that they are not playing for match fees have lost interest. The match would become a complete waste of time for the spectators as well as for any player who is still interested. Also, the real world rarely gives opportunity to go and sit idle in the pavilion. You have to keep batting to survive.


Here is what I feel –


Gain enough knowledge about your environment. Take your education and work seriously and try to find a reason for everything. At least the time you are spending on earth, make sure that you understand the environment and spend your time batting without major issues. You should be able to fend off the bouncers and must be able to read the wrong un’s which come your way once in a while.


Just because you do not have any incentive to compete does not mean that you do not play well. You could simply enjoy the time you spend on the pitch, score runs freely without having any specific target in mind.


You control your life. Not to say that you have achieved a lot in a short time. You generally do well for yourselves and help those around you. You tend to instinctively understand when the loose deliveries would come. You anticipate the difficult balls and are ready for them. When required, you take singles and give strike to your fellow player so that he can hit the boundaries.


Knowing for a fact that life is not a zero-sum game or a win-lose situation, there is no point wasting your energy on negative emotions. Try to make friends with everyone. Control your anger and try to reconcile with your enemies who were at some point of time your friends.


Again, do you want to be remembered after the game? It might be important to some – not to others. Both are right as being remembered for a positive act is much better. It is not that someone could consciously go about doing good deeds and still get away without getting into anything bad. Nobody is perfect. Also it is a team game – in spite of  stupendous performance by all 11 of you, only one of you would get the man of the match award.

As I said earlier, options 1, 2 and 3 are all the right options. And as one of my friends (This whole discussion started off after speaking to him) said, “Everyone is trying to maximize his/her HAPPINESS”. Dravid derives as much pleasure listening to the sound of the ball being beaten down to the ground (while defending) as Sehwag when he listens to the sound of ball hitting the sweet spot of the bat while hitting a six.

Categories: Life

Handwash anyone?

February 9, 2011 1 comment

The article is about how one of the biggest FMCG companies in the country is yet to explore a product category which has lot of growth potential and the probable reasons for the same. It is more of a personal hypothesis and does not reflect the company’s future plans in any way. The company I am talking about is Procter and Gamble.

Why Handwash? 
After the swine flu (H1N1) reached epidemic proportions last year, a large part of the world stood up and took notice of the hand wash products. Hand washes and Hand swipes finally were being taken seriously. In US for example, the sales of hand sanitizers went up rapidly. In India, hand sanitizers were introduced for the first time. And of course, for the consumers, it was a convenient and healthy proposition as it was more effective and it was much more convenient than using a soap or a handwash (if at all people find that cumbersome).

Let us consider the options PnG has among the already established brands. In personal hygiene and healthcare, there are some product categories which PnG is already into with two very popular brands – Vicks an ‘OTC drugs for cold and cough’ brand and Whisper a ‘feminine health’ brand. These are very specific categories and personally I feel there is still lot of scope in personal hygiene.

If oral health could be considered a part of personal hygiene, PnG is not doing too badly in India. It had acquired Oral-B brand earlier itself and is most probably going to enter the toothpaste category under Oral-B. But strangely enough, CREST in spite of being a popular brand the world over was never introduced in India. I am sure it could have given tough competition to the Colgates and the Pepsodents here in India.

Mothers everywhere would like products which would not only help them ensure complete protection from germs for kids, but also convenience so as the whole process of washing hands is made a bit more interesting. Liquid handwash does this job to a large extent as children would find some amount of novelty factor in the hand wash dispense as against the regular soap. Reckitt Benckiser’s DETTOL and HUL’s LIFEBUOY have the largest market share in this category. How were these brands successful? Dettol since a long time stands for 100% safety and category extension into soaps and handwashes from antiseptic lotion was natural choice to them. Same with Lifebuoy. Lifebuoy with its unique ‘carbolic acid’ odor has been in the public’s mind as health soap. It has been one of HUL’s oldest brands.

But personally I feel, HUL has such a large portfolio of products that had there been no lifebuoy they coud have easily entered the handwash category with the help of other brands. For example, lets us take VASELINE. Vaseline, a petroleum jelly product was always associated with skin care and winter. So when the time came, they extended brand VASELINE to include skin care as well. It was not that skincare was not already an area HUL was looking into. With products like Dove, Lux, Pond’s and Fair and Lovely, they were already hugely into the skin care segment. What I intend to say is Vaseline – though now intuitively seems to be a skin care product it could have been easily extended to something like handwash.

Coming back to PnG, one fact we all will agree to is that PnG has been selling more of premium products and has not been into the middle class market as much as HUL. Hugo Boss, Escada , Lacoste are few such examples. But in India, PnG has been selling goods for middle income markets and by far MACH 3 would be the most premium brand PnG is into. But if at all it wanted to get into the health and hygiene products like handwash, is it possible? One of the easiest and most natural choices would have been to a soap brand (preferably with anti germ properties) which could have been easily used for brand extension. But in its absence, the next obvious choice would be the personal hygiene products which you already have in your portfolio. Definitely VICKS and WHISPER would not help PnG in this regard. Would a brand like CREST or ORAL-B have helped build a personal hygiene brand – even this is debatable. Acquiring some already established brand is another option.

Thus to conclude, I would say that for any FMCG company, it would always help to create brands keeping in mind the bigger picture so as to have more options for brand extension at a later point of time.


Categories: Marketing
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