Decidedly consumerist but scenic Kerala has marketed itself well as ‘God’s Own Country’. The retail trade complements its tourism business. Within retail, textiles and gold jewellery account for much of the visible growth in the State, with a number of entrepreneurs setting up retail chains.
Last week, legendary footballer Diego Maradona inaugurated a jewellery store in the State. ( (He also shot for a commercial clad in a mundu.) Boby Chemmanur, who heads the retail chain which brought Maradona to football-crazy Kannur, says he has to go the whole hog to counter the competition. He plans to launch a Maradona line of white gold, diamond and platinum products.
Chemmanur is right. There is intense competition in the retail sector, particularly in jewellery and textiles. The promoters of these retail chains are vying with each other to rope in celebrities to endorse their products. Last year, Emmanuval Silks brought in Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to inaugurate its largest showroom in Kochi.
Recently, Kalyan Jewellers roped in Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to open its showroom in Kerala. Word has it that Lionel Messi would be the next to be roped in, by a textile giant.
It has become a trend in Kerala for mega gold and textile retail stores to be promoted as ‘store-brands’ by celebrity endorsers. There may be national brands and store brands. But the ‘whole store’ as a brand is something Kerala is trying to celebrate, with stars and fanfare, says an analyst tracking the retail sector.
Front-runners in this mega brand promotion campaign are the Kalyan Group and Joy Alukkas Group (jewellery and silks), Emmanuval Silks and lately Bobby Chemmannur International.
It was Malabar Gold and Diamonds that started it all by getting Hema Malini to Kochi two years ago. But it was left to Emmanuval Silks to deliver a surprise by flying in Shah Rukh Khan to Kochi.
T. O. Byju, Managing Director, Emmanuval Silks, says the objective was to increase the ‘shop’s recall’ and keep it ‘top of mind.’
“We have achieved more business than expected; sales have grown beyond expectation,” he said. So much so that his Kochi showroom is now known as ‘SRK showroom’. This is something a company needs for brand promotion as well as more customers, he adds. Emmanuval plans to have celebrities open two more stores this year.
For T. S. Kalyanaraman, chairman and managing director of Kalyan Jewellers, tying up with a celebrity means a long-term business strategy. The company has Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai to endorse its mega stores.
“We have many in-house brands and promotional campaigns. When we choose a brand, we are particular that legends or their kin add glitter,” Kalayanaraman says.
Boby Chemmannur, Chairman and Managing Director of Boby Chemmannur International Jewellers, said he expects a niche market will open up for this exclusive design named for Maradona. The football star would also help with the group’s global launch. It has reached an agreement with Maradona for a campaign, which will unfold soon.
Dominic Savio, vice-president and head of DDB Mudra, Kerala says celebrities are often used to break communication clutter to get immediate attention. The powerful and persuasive persona of the celebrity will help galvanise brand recall.
Seasoned and established stars add their own personality and credibility to budding brands when they are launched outside Kerala. That explains the craze among home-grown jeweller brands with national aspirations to go shopping for Bollywood biggies, says Savio.
In most cases, this stems from the need to proclaim the brand owner’s might and not for any strong marketing communication needs. And this is why Kerala tops in the number of celebrity endorsements in the country.
The size of the Indian ad industry is estimated at Rs 29,000 crore and Kerala’s contribution is Rs 1,100 crore, just 3.5 per cent of the national average. However, the size of the endorsement industry in India is Rs 1,000 crore and Kerala delivers a whopping 20 per cent, Savio says.
Political parties in the State may protest FDI in retail, but a strong mall culture is growing in Kerala. This is visible across the State. Kerala tops all other States in gold sales. Whether the investment is coming from within the State or outside seems to be irrelevant. More and more gold and sari showrooms are opened.