AgTalk | Digital is where FM radio was ten years ago: Brand Comm's Sridhar

Author, columnist, teacher, brand and communications consultant, Ramanujam Sridhar is a versatile man. Currently the Chairman & Principal Consultant of Brand Comm, Sridhar is from an advertising background and was always passionate about brands and excited about the world of marketing. Brand Comm is an integrated brand communications firm that deals with brand consultancy. He strongly believes today's industry lacks good visionary leaders and laments on the paucity of talent. Read on to discover more of this marketing enthusiast as he unwinds in an exclusive interview with Adgully.

Adgully: Can you share with us two key functional areas of Brand Comm?

Ramanujam Sridhar: We are a communication consultancy firm. The company is called integrated brand communications. We are a brand consultancy which deals with identity, positioning, re-positioning and brand architecture. We do advertising with a difference. We do a lot of our work which is in the area of talent. Third area which is the most visible part for us is Public Relations. We do a lot of training programmes and workshops.

Ag: What is the thought process that runs through the company?

RS: In our logo, there is a line that says power of insight. We sincerely believe that behind everything there is a consumer insight. The second is expanding your brand's width.

Ag: Could you elaborate on the changing concept of branding in the last three years?

RS: There is great awareness for the importance of branding. When we started the company twelve years ago, people couldn't even pronounce the word "brand' earlier. Now at least they can. There is a realization now that many of the Indian companies are quite old. And when they had started it fifty years or so ago, it was done as a business propositions and not so much as brand propositions. Today many of them are competing in a global environment and they are competing with international players who have clearly defined positions. So I think there is a greater realization of importance of branding and what it can do for a company. The second big shift is because of the fact that most of India is young, so everyone wants their brand to be young. So I see a greater desire for brands to contemporize themselves today as compared to a few years ago. My only concern is brand is not only about the identity but also about the offering. It cannot be the identity alone if they wish to upgrade themselves, offering has to be a significant part.

Ag: What are the parameters clients look for in the branding process?

RS: What they are looking for is whether the branding company understands the category they are in. Second is whether they have the strategic capability to understand the clients' business and present it in a manner that is differentiating. Third is does it have a long term opportunity? It must at least have a three or five year window. Also you must see if you can realistically be there or not. What companies like ours do is be objective and give them a different perspective to rebrand their products. This is because product managers are too close to their products and cannot be objective.

Ag: Do you think brands are getting more into digital today?

RS: Unfortunately digital is where FM radio was ten or twelve years ago. Suddenly everyone seems to have woken up. Digital is in that stage where clients are still trying to understand this medium. Though mainstream advertising is the way for most products, clients need to understand that there is an emerging customer and we need to capture that segment. There are different points at which we can reach out to the consumer. We need to cover every end of the spectrum. Today I don't think any brand is using the digital medium to its full potential.

Ag: Can you discuss two of your best works?

RS: I would think the work we did for Vajram which is a cement brand is phenomenal. It is one of the largest selling cement brands today. We take immense pride in the work done for Calvin Care also.

Ag: Can you share with us some of the clients you work with?

RS: Some of them are CavinKare, Datacra, Vajram Cement, Ma Foi Randstad, Manipal's entire education, Future Group and so on.

Ag: What kind of goals have you set for Brand Comm in the next five years?

RS: We are not in the mass market business. Our senior management is involved with most of the clients we work. We much rather be known by the quality of our work than the number of clients we have. We believe in long term relationships. We work closely with our clients.

Ag: What are some of the challenges for Band Comm at this point in time?

RS: The biggest challenge would be what the whole industry is facing today, that of attrition. Our future has always been young people. We recruit from management and communications school and many of them have grown with us. I am a teacher; there have been instances where my students have come to work with us.

Ag: You have authored two books already, are there any more books in the pipeline?

RS: Yes I am working on another book with Prof. Nair. The working title of the book is "Bees Saal ke baad' which basically talks about after twenty years of liberalization what's happening to the brands. Hopefully this should be published this year.

Ag: What message do you have for the industry?

RS: I think the basic problem with the industry is that there is no leader. There were people like Mani Iyer, Shubash Ghoshal, R.K Swamy who were visionary leaders and thought beyond their advertising and for the industry. And the second problem is that there is dearth in talent in this industry. The pay scales are too low and hence there is no motivation also to take this profession up by the youngsters. | By Janees Antoo [janees(at)]


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