Be driven by consumer insights only

K. Ramakrishnan ofCafé Coffee Day

Café Coffee Day's President (marketing) K. Ramakrishnan shares learnings gained over the past 16 years selling a range of products.

From non-stick cookware to two-wheelers moving on to computers, tea and coffee, Ramki, as he is popularly known, has skilfully sold a variety of products in his over 16-year career. Brought up in Chennai, Ramki cut his marketing teeth at TTK Prestige, before moving on to a brand management role at Tata Tea. If his stint at TVS Motor Company gave him insights into the automotive sector, then as country manager (marketing) at Lenovo, he learnt the bits and bytes of selling hardware. Now, he's busy smelling the coffee. He describes his key strength areas as consumer insight mining and translating the same into business results.

My most memorable marketing initiative

It's a current one actually. The whole concept of building the social media commitment for Café Coffee Day, which has resulted in 1.2 million fans for the brand.

Like many others, we too stumbled upon social media, starting it off only because it didn't require very high investments. But very quickly we saw the power of the media, and the high involvement of fans in co-creating our offerings. Over the last 12 months, this growing base has kept us on our toes, helped us listen and, importantly, reassured us that the brand is indeed owned by its customers.

My first product launch

This was a non-stick cookware range for TTK Prestige. We were not the first to introduce this category, but when we entered (sometime in 1995), it was still a nascent category. Since we were not the first to launch non-stick in the country, we believed that it may not be right to position it on a generis benefit. So we decided to build on Prestige's strength of durability and use that as a plank to sell the non-stick cookware range too. At that time, the public perception about non-stick cookware was that it was not long lasting. So we extended the “durability” plank to our non-stick ware, and to back it, even offered a two-year warranty.

A great idea that never took off

This was in the two-wheeler business. This was a service idea that centred on creating motorcycling hubs, a community of motorcycle riders who would get together, go on rides together, or watch moto GP together. We called this Project Vroom, and we felt it was a hot idea. At that time there were no bikers' clubs in the country, and building the club we thought was one way of engaging our customers. However, it did not fit the priorities of the organisation at that time and, hence, had to be put in cold storage.

A setback that I have learnt from

No career can be devoid of setbacks and my career has had its share as well. To name a few, a launch of kitchen knives, a couple of bike launches, the launch of a tea blend as well as a couple of promotions in coffee. When I look back at these, there is a common thread in all of them. Any action that is driven by the brand intent rather than consumer intent is sure to have its share of failures unless the action is just about to change the world. While this sounds like a truism, this repeatedly comes back to haunt us. Therefore, the only way to avoid such lists is to begin with and be driven by consumer insights only.

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Published on January 11, 2012
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