Mind your Marketing

You cannot build a brand by spending money

| Updated on November 29, 2019 Published on November 28, 2019

PC Musthafa, Co-Founder and CEO, iD Fresh Food

Today, we are in conversation with Musthafa PC, CEO and Co-founder, iD Fresh Food. A school dropout, who went on to do his Engineering in Computer Science from NIT Calicut and MBA from IIM-Bangalore, he is the brain behind iD, one of India’s largest fresh-food brands. Musthafa has been lauded with many prestigious awards, such as the Forbes Tycoons of Tomorrow, India Today Make in India Award, JCI National Award, Vocational Excellence Award and Entrepreneur India Award, IIMB Distinguished Alumni Award and more. He is also part of the Prime Minister’s ‘Champions of Change’ team with a vision to build a new India by 2022. He has been invited to share his success story at various esteemed platforms, including the Harvard Business School, MIT-Sloan and United Nations. 


How did you successfully launch and grow a brand without spending much money?

I think these days you cannot build a brand by spending money. It's extremely important to focus on three aspects – the product, experience for the consumer and well-crafted storytelling. And that's where companies like iD have done a great job in creating a brand without spending money.


What are some of the best ways to connect with and sell to the younger generation?

It is extremely important for us to speak the NewGen language. Words they relate with, like ‘Dude’ or ‘Cool’. They would understand the communication much better. But it's also important for a person like me to understand and sell them the right product. For example, I am selling idly batter and the NewGen may not like it or go for it. But if I bring in the goodness of idly and the importance of having a nutritious breakfast in the morning, they are more likely to respond. So, they understand that language better than the talk about authenticity or tradition. Idly is the most nutritious food in the world -they would appreciate that. But if our grandma says, “Make idly,” or we say, “Our grandparents used to eat idly and therefore you should eat it too,” that's not something that will go down well with them.


How have you taken advantage of social media to build your brand?

Social media with platforms like Whatsapp has really transformed the way communication is happening today. NewGen consumers usually love to do something on their own and then share it on social media. 


For example, when we wanted to launch our vada in the market, we had the option to take the actual vada to the consumers. We decided against that and instead launched the vada batter. Everyone started making his or her own vadas. Maybe the first vada in their life and they shared it too, on social media. These types of strategies really helped us to become the strong brand that we are today. It is extremely important to give an experience to the end-consumers.


What do you need to win in the marketplace - better technology or better ideas? 

First is the product. The product should be a hero.


In these days of cut-throat competition, how does one consistently keep consumers interested in their brand? 

In my experience, today's luxury becomes tomorrow's basic need. It is extremely important for you to upgrade yourself, constantly. At iD for example, when we started our packaging, it was rated best in the market. But within 4 or 5 years it became outdated. So, it was important for me to have a fresh look for the packaging. And about four years ago we did that. And now, I feel the pressure to upgrade again. So, it's extremely important for you to keep up. Whether it is in terms of your brand’s colours, logo, packaging, overall position in the market or even the product to some extent, it's important to upgrade. For example, in the case of idly, as we all know, idly is the most nutritious food in the world, but then people have become even more health-conscious. So, we introduced ragi batter for the more health-conscious people. It is important for us to give variety as well as an upgrade to the existing product. 


What does it take for brands to stay competitive in today's dynamic economy and market?

Three steps - great product, wonderful experience for the end-consumer and well-crafted storytelling. These are the three aspects that will build a brand. 


What are the challenges in localisation for a brand?

We created the world's best idly batter from rice, dal and methi.  When we launched our production in Hyderabad, we learned that the idly out there is a bit different, they add rava in it. So, I had to create a differentiated product for that market. And of course, I had to create a differentiated campaign for the market. Clearly, it is extremely important to think local as well. But then, I can't end up creating 'n' number of products for the market. When you are dealing with food, for every four kilometres there's a different taste preference. For example, if you look at Bengaluru, idly in Malleswaram is different from the idly in Whitefield, versus idly in Indiranagar. I can't be creating multiple batters for these markets. So, we create a base and sell that and a Malleswaram customer would keep the idly batter outside for eight hours before using it, whereas a Whitefield customer might keep the batter outside for just two hours.  This customisation we leave to the end-consumers rather than creating multiple products for them. 


How does your brand approach the Southern market when it comes to branding and consumer engagement?

We are mostly a Southern brand. We have just launched our operations in Delhi. It's too early for me to

comment about it. I'm not the right person to differentiate these two. But what I've learned is, independent of

the state or the country, these three aspects are extremely important – great product, memorable user

experience and a well-crafted story.


Musthafa says…

a)  One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020

I think, I would trust my customers more.


b)  My top three marketing buzzwords

Digital, trust and viral


c)  Three words I believe define a hot brand

Cool, healthy and ethical


d)  A powerful ad campaign I liked

I loved the Google ad campaign, the one with the Partition concept. 


This article is part of a brand initiative by The Hindu BusinessLine to profile marketing professionals from across India.


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Published on November 28, 2019
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