Hitting out at competition in public – Watch out for the back lash

Traditional wisdom has usually been in favor or focusing on YOUR product / company strengths in promotional campaigns. In fact, may marketing methods deliberately advice against mentioning competition in your campaigns since it “unnecessarily” provides your competition visibility at your expense. However, in many cases (especially when you are trying to grab market share from that competitor), a feature comparison is pretty common – car companies routinely push out feature to feature comparison with competition. It is usually characterized by a bunch of ticks against your product and a lot of crosses against your competition.

The latest brand war between the Times of India and The Hindu is pretty interesting in many respects. Both these are age old news papers and have a huge circulation. While The Hindu is strong in the South (many Chennaites cannot think of a morning without The Hindu), the TOI has a much higher circulation across India, even though there don’t have a significant presence in South India. In terms of the content, they are as different as chalk and cheese. While TOI (in my opinion) focuses almost entirely on showbiz, celebrity, skin show and a little bit of news, The Hindu (again in my opinion) largely dishes out pretty “boring” but reliable news  – words like “unbiased journalism” and “ethics” are more associated with The Hindu.

See how the story unfolded here – http://whataworldagain.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/brand-wars-the-times-of-india-vs-the-hindu/

and a very good analysis of this at http://forbesindia.com/blog/business-strategy/how-toi-woke-up-the-hindu/

I think there is a lot of truth in both the campaigns, The Hindu doesn’t really “wake you up” and the TOI doesn’t really give you news.

Now coming to TOI’s strategy of initiating this war, I think it was a good move, irrespective of who has the last laugh in this war. I say this in spite of The Hindu hitting back in style (of course, you can expect TOI to hit back again in more style, but we’ll wait and watch). TOI had almost no presence in Chennai and any advantage in terms of the attention (and circulation) that they can get there will be a bonus. Everyone knows that The Hindu lacks spice and by clearly calling that out, TOI has offered itself as an alternative to the spice-hungry among the Chennites. There are people in Chennai who still don’t know that the actress associated with “size zero” is Kareena Kapoor, and I do believe overall, TOI is going to see a push in their circulation in Chennai – even with people who acknowledge that The Hindu’s response was clever. With close to zero cost of the newspapers expect many Chennai homes to even get both The Hindu AND TOI.

Now, coming to why I feel TOI should watch out for the back lash. Even after The Hindu’s clever response, their job is only half done. Now what they need to do is to promote this message in areas where TOI is traditionally strong, and educate TOI’s readers that “All Bollywood and no news makes Jack a dull boy” and tell them that they have been missing out on “news” at the expense of Bollywood and celebrity stuff. How well The Hindu can promote their response across the country (and in this internet age, its comparative easier) will determine how this war pans out. They already have a presence, a rather weak one, in Mumbai and a this could be a great chance to grab some market share in Mumbai

The Hindu clearly has the opportunity now to turn the hunter into the hunted.


Innovation – Type 4 – Core process [Case: Mumbai Dabbawalas]

Dabbawala In part four of the innovation series, let us look at Mumbai Dabbawalas who have achieved six sigma quality in delivering lunch boxes without even knowing what it really means.With zero technology backup their value addition comes from their robust core process. Mumbai city’s dabbawalas, now known the world over.

The story behind the Mumbai Dabbawalas is significant for anyone, who wants to understand the importance of processes. Started in 1890 with 35 Dabbawalas (from the nearby villages), today there are 5000 Dabbawalas who deliver 2,00,000 Dabbas every day. Adding to that number is the pickup service they handle everyday which is a total of 4,00,000. This entire process takes a total of six hours covering 70-80 Kilometers every day. There is absolutely no technology used and no educational intelligence behind this success as 85% Dabbawalas are illiterate. With such a complex system they are able to deliver six sigma Quality, which means there could be only one error in 16 million transactions.

The success of Dabbawalas comes from their core process, which provides true value to their offering. This core process is so robust that it has never broken till date. As it has got to do with food ‘timely delivery’ is the key for customer retention and having a business proposition around its delivery. Their estimated total revenue per month is 50 crore with each Dabbawala getting 3000-4000 rupees per month as salary. By using Mumbai public transport system and cycles to pickup Dabbas in the last leg of the chain, they are able to run the business successfully with zero overhead. Added to that, there is no strike record till date, which makes this system all the more reliable.

The heart of the system comes from the innovative coding mechanism and designing the delivery cycle around it. When a Dabbawala picks up the Dabba from his designated area, it has a unique code associated with it, which has details about the destination and how to reach in terms of railway stations. All Dabbas arrive at centralized station, which are sorted quickly and the destination Dabbawala picks them up for delivering at the appropriate location by reading the coding mechanism. As majority of the Dabbawalas are uneducated folks, they are appropriately guided in the initial days to that they read the coding correctly for an error free delivery. This core process of coding the following is in a disciplined way has earned the success for Dabbawalas, which they truly deserve.

Dabba numbering system

Here is how the timings work for Dabbawalas. Each Dabbawala collects Dabbas between 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM from homes, messes or hotels and boards the train which reaches Church-gate station 11:20 AM. These Dabbas are then sorted according to the destination and delivered by 12:30 AM, everything happens on time, without a single error. The same process is reversed for picking up empty boxes which reach the source by 4 PM. The first leg of 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM is the key time slot which they call as ‘war against time’. Because if any single Dabbawala fails at this point it would end up failing the whole chain as they are very closely connected and dependent.

The example of Dabbawalas and their success is mainly because of their core processes and adhering to that as a practice by every individual Dabbawala. Their core offering of delivering lunch boxes on time is achieved simply because of their process. So next time when you are thinking of designing something – be it a software, greeting card or mud pot, think about having a core process around it for consistently delivering value for your customers.

Related links:

[Introduction to ten types of Innovation]
[Innovation – Type 1 – RangDe]
[Innovation – Type 2 – RedBus]
[Innovation – Type 3 – Narayana Hrudhayalaya]