Be truthful in whatever message that is being given to the market.
What is your thought process behind the preparation of your media plan?
First and foremost, budget provision, which is followed by cost vs. extended visibility analysis (for example preference of tractor and trolley paintings over hoardings and wall paintings), innovative means of advertisement and sales promotion that highlight the of USP of the brand. There are several options available for media planning but the main driving thought is to be unique and at the same time be cost-effective.
What are the challenges that you foresee in the market and how have you factored them into your marketing strategy?
There are several challenges in cement marketing, such as increasing cement production capacities with supply surpassing demand which has led to cut- throat competition, entry of new brands in the market, innovative schemes introduced by all players primarily aimed at increasing market share, consolidations and mergers leading to economies of scale leading to low production cost and consequently, a rise in market penetration by competitors, etc.
Countering these forces involves deeper networking into the market, winning over dealers and masons; multi-branding and multi-pricing strategies, cost control, giving value for money and imbibing TQM (Total Quality Management) strategies in the business process.
Soaring raw material prices have forced cement prices up. How will you entice consumers to shell out extra for your product?
The key is in value addition, where overall the product value is enhanced in terms of better bags, faster setting properties, faster strength gain, shortened delivery time, etc. The overall rise in price is offset by a decrease in cost to the end user in many other ways due such value additions.
Which is a better strategy, distributing through few large dealers or routing it via an extensive network of small dealer outlets?
A combination of both, depending on the market, whether rural or urban, and also on the quality of dealers available in a given region. Apart from this, there are many other factors such as market share, brand loyalty, region wise demand, etc.
Cement is seen more as a commodity than as a specialised product. In such a scenario, how do you create brand differentiation?
There are in fact, more ways than one to do this. Highlighting USP in the marketing promotions, maintaining consistent quality of the product, insisting on TQM till the cement is used and customers are fully satisfied, go a long way in establishing a brand identity. Apart from this, value additions, innovative schemes for dealers, masons, customers and other such ways help the brand develop a loyal following.
How do you reach construction professionals at different levels, ranging from civil engineers and consultants to contractors and masons?
We maintain a strong communication channel by organising regular meets and get-togethers of different fraternities and by continuous efforts to strengthen our associations. For masons we have devised a plan and it has been implemented very regularly. Under this ´Masons contact programme,´ small masons meet at our dealers counter. The meet fosters knowledge sharing and community building. We also distribute useful gifts to dealers and offer schemes at regular intervals. This, over the years, has built a strong mason loyalty towards our brand.
Quality perception of cement varies from customer to customer. How is this reflected in your marketing plan?
We do it by highlighting that USP of the brand which directly impacts the quality; freshness is linked to shortest period of delivery by road and therefore, achievement of best results. We create awareness amongst all our quality- conscious customers, mainly about the important projects. This creates strong trust in the brand.
Other than price and quality, which other factors influence buying decisions?
The strong will of the dealer to promote the brand and technical advice of the masons influence buying decisions, as also the freshness of cement and packing matters to a significant number of buyers.
What are marketing plans for promoting your products?
In short, adding value to the product in more than one way, highlighting the USP of my product, which gives it a competitive edge (but with all honesty), innovative ideas and schemes for dealers and masons, new means of advertising and involving one and all in maintaining quality at all levels and in whatever that is done.
What is your mantra for effective brand- building?
Effective brand- building involves everything that I have already said but over and above all, it is most important to be truthful in whatever message that is being given to the market and to be very sincere in the talk and deeds that follow.
Selling cement like hot cakes
When Faisal Alam, took charge of promoting Kalyanpur Cement brand, the company was going through a very rough patch. The financial situation was very critical and the market was highly competitive, with giants in the field. With an educational background of CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and MBA and an industrial experience gained at Modi Xerox and Kuwait Oil Company, Faisal had the task to turn this situation around. He first started with examining the ground reality. In his words, ´I saw the actual ground level scenario in the market, and it was very different from what we studied as MBAs or in academics. I had to apply local solutions and at times had to even go against conventional logic.´
Alam started with a multi-pronged approach, looking at improvements in production to stimulating the market about his brand. He started developing the market as close as possible to the plant to cut down cost of logistics. He was one of the pioneers in starting the Masons Meet programme in his region. ´Everybody targets dealers, but masons are very important and their influence of buying decision cannot be ignored,´ he says. It was this interaction that helped Alam realise the importance of freshness factor for the masons. The company came up with the Hindi slogan ´Garma garm cement,´ meaning `hot cement, ` perceived as an indicator of freshness by masons. And this struck the cord with masons. As a result of his continued efforts, not only did the company make it out of tough times but today, the demand for the brand is more than twice its production capacity.
Also, as an entrepreneur within the company, he started many projects mainly of cement- based building materials and real estate business. At the moment they stand amongst the top builders in the State of Bihar. Kalyanpur Cement still has a long way to go but it is on the right track, being consumer focused.