Move over, IPL!


T20 is passé. A seven-over cricket tourney hopes to capture the imagination of consumers across the desert State

The Rajasthan Royals might be banned from the IPL for some time. But that’s not the main reason why a smaller version of cricket hopes to capture the attention of the State. Launched by a North-based cement maker, Wonder, the idea behind this state-wide initiative that was recently launched in Rajasthan, is to bring everybody together as in Hindi, Saath:7, as this tournament is called, translates to togetherness. Every team will have only seven members on the field. And each side will be facing only seven overs.

The special pitch: each team that has at least one female member will get a maximum of seven runs as bonus, even before the match begins. That’s a big stance in a State that has the worst record when it comes to female foeticide.

This tournament is currently open to all districts in Rajasthan with a special focus on rural areas. “There is no bigger medium in India than cricket. We expect to reach every corner of Rajasthan with this initiative to engage consumers,” says Tarun Singh Chauhan, founder, TSC consulting who’s advising Wonder on this initiative.

Over the next couple of months this tournament will attract a total of 3,984 teams from 249 tehsils across Rajasthan. To ensure that players at each level get treated as stars, the organisers plan to rope in local administration and educational institutions.

Well-timed stroke

Just a couple of years ago, Wonder was just another cement brand in a crowded Rajasthan market that has more than 15 players. So what’s changed in the last couple of years that has prompted the company to launch what it claims is “a large sports-based citizen engagement initiative”? Three years ago, when Wonder cement was launched by the RK Marble Group, a significant player in the marble tiles business, the odds were stacked against the brand.

In Rajasthan, where the brand was launched, the major national brands dominated the business. As even Wonder cement executives admit, while Ultratech Cement and Ambuja Cement were leading in brand perception there were others like Shree Cement which led in volumes.

Currently, as the brand is available across Rajasthan and in parts of neighbouring States such as Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi, Western UP and Punjab, it has doubled in size. As Vinay Wadhwa, executive president, marketing, Wonder Cement, points out, the brand which started off with an annual capacity of 3.25 million tonnes has now expanded capacity to 6.75 million tonnes and hopes to touch a production of 10 million tonnes over the next four years.

In Rajasthan, with a market share of about 8 per cent, the brand claims to be among the top five players running neck to neck with well entrenched players like Binani. Even though the leaders like Shree, Ambuja and Ultratech would still be twice that size, Wonder has come a long way in a short time.

Wadhwa claims it was possible because the company focused on getting the right product in place that compared on strength, setting time and other parameters with the best of the industry. He says the brand also paid attention to details like fine-grounding, adding less fly ash to the product and so on.

But all this could well be par for the course in a business that’s as commoditised as branded cement. It’s very difficult to command a price premium. Most end-consumers do not interfere with the brand of cement and leave it to the masons or engineers, as the case may be, to do the decision making. Wadhwa admits that, but says that to be in the reckoning, a cement brand that establishes a comfort level with the consumer will not be struck down if it is proposed by the contractor, architect or engineer. Also, in rural areas, individual consumers who are building, repairing or rebuilding their houses get personally involved in the brand of cement they choose.

That’s where the cricket initiative kicks in. While connecting consumers with the brand using cricket, the company is also ensuring that its 1,500-odd dealer outlets across Rajasthan become the hotspots during the lead-up to the tourney. All teams can enrol themselves only through the dealer outlets. In a cluttered category such as cement, this may ensure that consumers take the trouble of finding out who is the local dealer for Wonder Cement. One could call that a well-timed stroke.

(This writer was in Jaipur at the invitation of Wonder Cement)

Published on November 05, 2015


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