Stormers Decision making has to be intuitive & instinctive: Anisha Motwani

Business strategist, corporate speaker and columnist Anisha Motwani takes a fresh look at brands that have gone beyond the usual and tried and tested to achieve huge success in her new book, ‘Storm the Norm’.

In conversation with Adgully, Motwani traces the journey of how the book came into being, the criteria for selecting the 20 brands that make for interesting case studies, what sets apart the ‘stormers’ and more. Excerpts:

Adgully (AG): An interesting and very apt title – ‘Storm the Norm’. What is the story behind the title?

Anisha Motwani (AM): It was not the original title. The holding title was something like what Indian brands do differently. When we were sending invites to companies to participate in the book, we created a holding title. But I was not very comfortable as it was not only about doing things differently, it was much more beyond that. The whole process of selecting a brand, the criteria one put in place was not only about how brands think differently. When I actually finished the book and it was time to design the cover, people kept telling me that we needed to close it and finalise the cover. I spent three years writing and editing these stories and realised that these companies have done something completely unconventional and it was a breakthrough. I did not want to use the word innovation. Yes, on a broad level they were innovation brands, but it was more important for me not to call as innovative brands. We were trying to create phrases and there were a lot of options generated which were not falling in place. Eventually when I and Ranjan Malik, who did the afterword, were doing the brainstorming in the lobby of the Taj Palace Hotel and were discussing on finding something unique and how the title should do justice to the story, intuitively I decided that ‘Storm the Norm’ was it. After doing marketing and all, I go a lot with my intuitions now.

AG: What were your parameters for shortlisting these 20 brands for your book?

AM: I did not want to go category specific. Out of these 20 brands, I tried to represent as many categories as possible. So, from FMCG, beverages, personal care, textiles, media, travel, telecom, I was very keen on expanding the categories. Within automobiles also, two-wheelers and four-wheelers have been taken separately. So that was the first filter.

Second filter was that I was very keen on getting four kinds of brands. One was the start-up brands that were around 15 years old. Secondly, old brands which were 100 years old like Raymond, MTR and TOI. Third was challenger brands. They are not leaders, but they challenged the leaders in some or the other way. For example, between Airtel and Vodafone, I went for Idea. Also, I went for Fiama Di Wills, which challenged the norm. Lastly, since I have bundled up the book, category creators. There are brands like Real fruit juices, which came and created a category of packaged juice in India or Kurkure, which created a namkeen category in India. It wasn’t there, they created it.

Third filter was, they should have done something significantly different which needs to be breakthrough and unconventional. They should have stormed the norm in some way. Though I got the name later, but my selection criteria was very clear.

AG: What is common between these 20 brands?

AM: I will tell you what makes a brand or person behind a brand a ‘Stormer’. In my mind, I have zeroed in on five criteria that make a good stormer. The people who are founders like Ajay Bijli of PVR or Darbari Seth of Tata Tea, who are stormers and are good storytellers. The reason why I am calling them storytellers is that stories first begin in somebody’s head. You cannot tell a story till you have some idea or thought in your mind. It is similar to having a fantasy in your head. Only then you can write a good story. Stormers have lots of ideas in their head, which they put together in the narrative form. They know the end, the means can change. How do I reach there? Where I begin can change, but they know their destination.

Second is somebody who is uncomfortable with the tyranny of majority. The minute they find themselves on the side of majority, they know it is time to reflect and introspect and do something to get out of that majority. The moment you are part of the majority, you become comfortable about it and start thinking about incremental growth.

Thridly, they also have perseverance and have not given up. They are stubborn in the face of overwhelming odds.

Also, they don’t just buy opportunity. They also have the ability to spot a mistake. It is very easy to find solutions to mistakes. Some of these people are not even able to spot the mistakes. So, spotting mistakes faster and also quickly fixing them is the fourth criteria of a stormer.

Their decision making is almost intuitive and instinctive. If the decision making cannot be democratic, then it cannot be storm the norm. So these are the five intangibles that applies to all the 20 brands.

AG: ‘Storm the Norm’ has been described as an ‘innovation tool’. How will it help brands break out of the predictable mold?

AM: The book has an afterword, which was written by Ranjan Malik. We have tried to create a five-page framework. And that framework, even though it has been done in hindsight, after we read all the stories and how these businesses have broken the norm, there is a lot of detail in that.

It begins with stale norms, which means something that is stale which is not right. For example, the movie watching business. One would pay Rs 20 and watch the movie. So that was becoming the stale norm. So they identified the stale norm, which is the first stage of the five-stage process.

Then, they are able to spot the sub-optimal within the stale norm. So there is a stale segment market. These are norms that have not changed for years – commoditised offerings, routine operations, etc. So the markets generated very little surplus. The stormers are able to spot the sub-optimal, which means that these are not people who are looking at new answers to old questions, but also discovering new questions which no one is asking.

Third one is basically once you spot the sub-optimal, you conceive a breakthrough. They find a breakthrough idea. Once they find it, it then it becomes a different path.

Then, you have to iterate to elegance. When you see multiplexes, they have no tyranny of timing. Earlier, the movies were of fixed timings, either after lunch or after dinner. The movie timings were determined by peoples’ meal timings. Today it doesn’t matter. So, they have questioned why movie timings should be after lunch or dinner. If I am opening a market, I should be able to watch as and when I feel like. So in hindsight, all this looks very elegantly simple. So they breakthrough and then iterate it to elegance.

So once you have got solid protocol right that you know will prove to be a success in the market, what you call as early adopters. For this to become mainstream fresh norm, it is important that it leads towards a critical path. It should not take many years to adopt. The consumers should be able to adopt and follow it very quickly. The idea which is strong should have consumers quickly adopting it and from there emerges the fresh market. If you apply this framework, it works across all 20 brands.

AG: What do you think are the main roadblocks for brands to think out of the box?

AM: That is why I said perseverance is important. The roadblocks are different for different categories. For example, for MakeMyTrip the roadblock was that consumers were not Internet savvy. In those days, people were not even opening the net and Internet adoption was very limited. So, while they launched for the Indian market, they got rejected by Indians initially and were accepted by the NRIs. The roadblock for them was net adoption. The company was founded in 2000, but till 2005 they catered to the NRI market. But they did not give up. They re-launched the site in 2005 for the Indian market and look at the heights they have reached now!

AG: Do you see more brands breaking the norm in 2016?

AM: All I can say is that the time is right for India. With the facilitative environment, with the Prime Minister personally wanting India to storm the norm, I think India is there on a world stage. We have all the raw material and a facilitative government which is trying very hard. Our GDP is going to grow at 7.6 per cent. Time is right for India to storm the norm. The breakthrough happens is in the intention to execution path. The intention needs to translate into execution and not just at one industry level to another, but across industries. For example, Make in India, which everyone started accepting. The barriers needs to be overcomed.

AG: The key takeaways for readers from your book, especially the youth? 

AM: The message is the world is your platform. Only you can be a limitation for yourself and there is nothing that can stop you except for yourself. There are immense opportunities to storm the norm!



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