November 17, 2012

How the politicians find what people want ?

Political parties in a democracy are answerable to the electorate goes the cliche, but do our parties undertake any scientific research to enumerate the priorities of the masses? Well in India leaders assume that majority of the people do not vote on a rational basis. Those leaders are right as the results of elections indicate.
Majority still vote for caste, religion, regional and ideological orientations. Economic issues do not seem to motivate the masses to vote in large numbers. But how do the parties find out what the people are thinking in their constituency? Politician in India seems to go by judgement approach and expert panel opinion taken from experts from within the party.
I have undertaken a focus group exercise in the youth segment to unravel their mind and the issues that they think are extremely important for the nation. The list in the order of priority is given under;
1. Population: Surprisingly no political party has talked about it in 2009 elections. What can the electorate do? Population growth remains the most critical issue that is slowing down the growth of India.
2. Respect for talent: Most participants feel that there is no room for talent & talented individuals in India. Youth is perturbed that the talented individuals do not stand a fair chance of achievement in our society. People still give too much importance to other factors over the talent of an individual. Students believe that it stifles the growth of talent, consequently growth of country.
3. Corruption: Why we have accepted bribery and corruption as part of life in India?Corruption weakens the country but no party seem to make it as an election issue and has offered no solutions to curb corruption in public life.
4. Economic policy: Major political parties do not present a clear cut industrialisation plan that could create jobs for the educated. All parties make similar noise about their economic policy.
5. Removal of poverty: Youth do not find mention of how much growth in per capita income would the political party would like to achieve in their tenure of five years.

November 8, 2012

Distribution Strategy for the MSMEs

Several Small & Medium Enterprises [MSME] go through the pain of trying to set up a distribution network and most seem to set it up by trail & error method than in a planned manner.  So you have seen many flourishing & established businesses in north India that have been struggling to strategise their distribution  network to match the sales objectives, financial strategy and the production capacity. Many firms find it impossible to balance sales force’s strengths & weaknesses to the cumbersome traditional system that it has got saddled with. 

For consumer facing business it’s extremely critical to leverage the distribution network in order to stay competitive for a medium to long term. The myth of financial leverage associated with existing trade channels has long been dispelled by many players across India. Just having a good product, an attractive trade policy and transport network is no longer enough. You need to have great packaging, trained sales force, marketing support and strategic & tactical plan to get your share of the market. You need to benchmark  certain percent of repeat sales from your market otherwise you may look like those primary agriculturists who used to burn the jungles and cultivate it once and then move on to the new pastures. 

You must ask yourself how much repeat sales are you getting from your served markets and which direction you are headed? Generally we start thinking about marketing & sales after manufacturing has been taken care of.  Recently I came across a firm from ludhiana, Punjab that faced classical dilemma. The CEO wanted a sales & Marketing network that could handle higher volumes, whereas the Sales & Marketing Head would blame bad production planning for poor sales. The conflict between production & marketing is normal until the organization is not riddled with inventories.

Having no inventories or moving all your production could not be the aim of a good CEO/CMO, you must strive to get the max share of market on a given day & plan for that. If you are happy with moving everything you make then you are complacent about the competition just eating away your share. That in turn would lead to fierce competition in future.

It’s wise to plan marketing well in advance & test the network before you get into real battle. Integrate all nodes of supply chain into one whole with help of readily available solutions. Must look for contract manufacturing and concentrate on brand building and supply chain. There are many suppliers for manufacturing operations available but hardly any for managing the distribution in a manner that amy suit your growth plan.

Start up companies must negotiate the trap of creating a corporate brand in comparison to product brand. A product brand is easier to market than communicate the umbrella brand. I have observed many SMEs trying to do a corporate brand. Most ludhiana based hosiery & apparels companies suffer from this problem they spread their brand too thin. They thought they were emulating a Nike or Adidas without understanding the nature of those companies. Its necessary to have a well oiled distribution network served by a motivated sales & marketing team to match the competition in the growing India.

November 6, 2012

Political Giants & Media Monsters !

Media and the Political players are like married couple. Both understand each other’s temptations so readily forgive the flings unless it becomes damaging affair for either of the stakeholder.  They fight but make up soon for sake of continuation of the relationship with renewed vow to support each other every time.  Like most marriages this too is an unequal relationship wherein the political player can lose reputation and elections but the media firm can lose its existence. 

Politicians need media to put across their promotional communication to citizens at large and media need them for advertising money and sensational content. News Channels use no holds barred approach to find content that brings highest TRP to their business so that they could charge premium from advertisers. Therefore the so called Breaking News stories have not much to do with journalistic mission or nation building pronouncements for sake of audience benefit but a direct greedy tactic to get better TRP for raking in the moolah.

Let us also resolve the conundrum of politics for nation and people or politics for pure self aggrandizement.  In my considered opinion all Political players work for themselves only and some of them are more open to sharing the windfall gains with some number of people. There is no political party that has worked for all the people of a country. Show me one and I’ll show you people the victimized and marginalized in some clear manner.

Let’s get back to the issue of how political parties should handle media or leverage the communication opportunities presented to them. Firstly in pays to have own dedicated mass media machine that is run professionally. Most parties in democracies have ‘close’ linkages with media houses but since last decade in India many parties own pretty powerful media monsters of their own to unleash at the opponents. The serious weakness in all those strategic assets is lack of professionalism as toadies generally lack competence to get audience interest. Such dedicated media firms must be run by professionals with Editorial policy control with the party. Aligning with an outside media firm is more expensive & less effective.

Political players generally get carried away by the media attention and tend to speak endlessly on any topic under the sun. Have you ever heard a politician say on camera that they need some time to answer the question if the muck racking seems to be working to their advantage? When you target the opponent it’s better to go prepared for your best shot. You must always depend on written prepared communication for better results and always desist from off the cuff shibboleths.

Political parties must plan the media rendezvous and must not exceed a given limit. Please note that more communication may lead to more confusion so in order to have positive impression on masses keep all political communication around few specific points that a binds your politics with your target audience.  A political player must avoid expressing views on topics that strengthen the opponent camp as bad publicity is also welcome publicity in politics.

Finally political parties would benefit if the work of communication management be left to professionals than party managers because the insiders can’t have a 360 degree view of a communication situation. 

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