Variety

Concepts and humour are the key notes

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on July 14, 2019 Published on July 14, 2019

Harish Bijoor

Harish Bijoor, brand and business strategy consultant, and media commentator on all things marketing, has completed a landmark 15,000 keynote talks.

Bijoor’s 15,000th talk, irreverently titled ‘The curious case of the complicated consumer and the crazy marketer’, was delivered at Daly College, Indore, at an event hosted by Young Indians and the local CII chapter. “It was fun, and loaded with unique brand and marketing concepts that I have researched, and used in the past. I hope my audience, young and old, enjoyed it,” he says.

Bijoor’s first talk, titled baldly, ‘The importance of marketing in a sales organisation’, was in June 1990, at a CII conference in Chennai. “It seems basic now, but that was the start. I remember speaking for two hours! Those days, industry bodies bored people with long lectures that would never end. I contributed to many such, I guess!” says Bijoor, all self-deprecatory.

Along the way, Bijoor, 55, who spent years as a brand marketer with Tata Coffee before striking out on his own in 2000, has spoken on an array of subjects — tech-marketing, consumer behaviour, brand management, marketing, sales and distribution, retail, motivation, business-disruption, business-strategy, consumer research, leadership, food and beverage, digital and social media, traditional media and start-up catalysis.

“I take serious subjects and cushion them with humour, so that the concepts linger in people’s minds,” says Bijoor.

Bijoor’s most memorable talk was delivered in Istanbul to an audience of over 6,000. It was a retail conference at which the heads of most corporations from across the world had assembled. “I remember speaking about a completely different format of Indian retail, mixing in big dollops of philosophy. The captive audience loved it all. The big draw was also because football legend Pele was slated to speak after me. But the buzz my talk created had a chunk of the audience get on stage to speak to me,” recalls Bijoor.

The largest audience he has addressed is 26,000 people, at a stadium in China. “I really hated the talk, as a team of interpreters was translating my talk and conveying it over the audio system. I felt foolish. I was speaking about how a tea country can aspire to become a coffee country,” he says.

Ask him if he hasn’t missed any talk or double-counted one, and Bijoor says that’s unlikely. With a penchant for math since his school days, Bijoor took this further at work, always chasing numbers in terms of targets to achieve. “In the beginning, I did not keep count. And then, on a retro-check, I found that I had spoken all of 280 hours in some five years of public speaking. From then on, I kept track in cricket copy-book style,” he explains.

Bijoor says he works on every talk passionately and adds new elements that are important for the business, or the issue he has to address. “For me every talk has to speak the new. I avoid repeating myself, as that would get boring, even for me.”

Staying abreast is important, he explains. There have been big changes in technology platforms, and in consumer perceptions and responses. While the former comes from wide reading, the latter is about being there in the market and literally living the consumer life, day in and day out.

“My brand and business strategy consulting practice as well as my talks are all about market insights. If you have the insight right, you have an edge,” says Bijoor. With 15,000 talks under his belt, he could well claim to have that edge.

Published on July 14, 2019
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