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May 30, 2011

Marketing a hill station - the case of Kodaikanal

Recently I had visited Kodaikanal the queen of the hill resorts in Southern India. Kodai as it is popularly called is really a queen of the hills. It has very cool climate, great connectivity with major metros and boasts of wonderful tourist attractions. Best of all it is inhabited by very friendly people.

But like many things n India there is lot to be desired in the marketing of the hill station. There is no consortium of hotel owners and resultantly the hotels jack up their prices in the tourist or the peak season. This leads to the fleecing of the tourists in the peak season.

Kodai does not have good sign boards displaying the major tourist attractions and the distance one has to cover to reach them. Suitable signboards and directions are very much needed for trekkers and tourist who want to reach the  tourist spots on their own.

For a hill station with international repute the facilities are abysmally dismal. The author and his family wanted to trek to Fairy falls. We went to the Tamil Nadu tourism department’s office. We were given a map which said that the fairy fall was only 2 kilometers away. The officer said that tourists should not trek by themselves and that a guide is needed as we would be passing through FOREST Area. 

Suitably impressed we asked for the guide fee. WE were told that the guide would charge us 600 rupees (12 Dollars). A jaw dropping price as the distance was hardly 4 kilometers. Finally we did the trek by ourselves. Yes it was easily done and the locals helped us find the directions. Fairy falls is quite safe and there was no thick jungle around the falls.

The next day we wanted to go to the Silver Cascade. Silver cascade is a waterfall that is very famous. The cab drivers quoted a price of 600 rupees (12 dollars – oops is 12 dollars the standard price in Kodai?). We refused and took the bus. The bus charged us 20 rupees one way for four people (40 US cents). Shocking example of not providing even the most basic amenities.

Kodai has beautiful locales but is marred by the noisy and intrusive vendors. They crowd the tourist attractions and in many cases the attraction is hardly visible due to the number of vendors surrounding the tourist attraction. There is lot of noise and tourists are pestered by demanding photographers wanting to take a snap that will freeze the moment for posterity. 

A tourist attraction called Guna caves is totally covered by iron grills. The tour operator proudly proclaimed that he would be taking us to the famous Guna caves (made famous by a south Indian movie which was filmed in the caves). It was a big disappointment to see the caves covered with a grill.

Kodai has not marketed itself well. There are no Kodai Tee shirts, no Kodai souvenirs, no Kodai tea cups, no Kodai magnets nothing. The tourists have to buy Nilgiri tea and coffee or forest produce. Nothing of value that can be displayed in the showcase. Kodai has missed a trick.

Yes Kodai chocolate is available and is tasty. But the display is shocking. Chocolate is piled as slabs and sold like vegetables. The visitors who buy in bulk are bemused to see that the chocolate is packed in disposable containers that in India are used to pack curry.

Just imagine gifting a box of Kodai chocolates to a friend. He would think that you have mistakenly brought him your afternoon lunch!

The only saving grace are the bicycle lenders around the Kodai Lake. They offer the visitors bicycles for an hourly rent of only 20 rupees (forty cents). They ask for no identity proof or do they take any advance. It is a great pleasure to take the bicycles for rent and peddle around the glorious Kodai Lake. It was a very nice sight to see many visitors riding the bicycles and enjoying the ride. Kudos to the bicycle lenders of Kodai.

I think that the management of Kodaikanal needs to brush up its functioning and learn the tricks of the trade of how to market a hill station. That way they would ensure more pleasant memories to their visitors and also enrich their coffers. 

May 29, 2011

CSK wins the IPL 2011 - End of a well orchestrated campaign

Finally the curtains have rung down on the IPL 2011. As expected it was a blockbuster all the way. The spectators, viewers, sponsors and all concerned had a gala time. Chennai Super kings (CSK) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) clashed in the finals and CSK came out the winner.  

Let us analyze the CSK success second time running. The strategy of CSK was very clear right from the start. Unlike the other Franchisees CSK believed in putting cricket before the lucre of money. They retained 3 Indian players M. S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay (All three Indian test players) and one foreign player Albie Morkel. They used up their entire quota of retaining players.  CSK very reluctantly let Michael Hussey go to the auctions.

This is in stark contrast of Deccan chargers (DC) who did not retain even their IPL winning captain Adam Gilchrist. The league almost saw DC finishing at the bottom. Only a late surge saw the chargers finishing at a respectable seventh place.

CSK played it cool at the auctions. They did not bid for Muralidharan and Muralidharan faded right out and took only two wickets for his team the Kochi Tuskers. Similarly Hyden, Jacob Oram, Justin Kemp, Ntini and Parthiv Patel were of no interest to the CSK.

CSK later grabbed Michael Hussey at a cheap price of 425,000 US $. Similarly they bought Doug Bollinger at a price of 700,000 US $ and Dwayne Bravo at a price of 200,000 US $. CSK quietly bought up their earlier team mates like Badrinath, Ashwin, Tyagi, George Bailey, Jakati, Srikanth Anirudha and Joginder Singh.

This way CSK retained 12 of its players who played for it in the first three editions. M. S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, Albie Morkel, Michael Hussey,  Badrinath, Ashwin, Tyagi, George Bailey, Jakati, Srikanth Anirudha and Joginder Singh.

And very interestingly 8 of the 11 players who were either retained or were procured again played in the finals of the IPL 2011. The eight who played the final are M. S. Dhoni , Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, Albie Morkel, Michael Hussey, Badrinath, Ashwin,  Jakati. The other three who played in the finals are Doug Bollinger, Dwayne Bravo and Wriddiman Saha.

With such amazing home work it is of no great surprise that CSK performed so well in the IPL. CSK is the only team that made it to all the four semifinals. It played three finals and won two of them.

M. S. Dhoni proved to be a brilliant captain. He nursed young played like Murali Vijay and Ashwin almost with a missionary zeal. Murali Vijay easily outshone Chris Gayle. Murali is not flamboyant like Gayle but sealed the final with his sparkling 95. The other of the Dhoni’s favorite Ashwin finished off the match with his first over where he snapped up Chris Gayle for a naught. Game set and match for M.S. Dhoni.

Dhoni proved to be a brilliant tactician too. He chose to bat first in the final and showed enormous confidence in Vijay and Ashwin. Sachin the  great player that he is proved to be a very poor tactician. In the Mumbiaya mould that he is born with Sachin tried to play safe. We can’t really blame him. Sachin is very influenced by  the great Sunil Gavaskar the great defensive captain.

In the Qualifier Sachin won the toss and elected to field. Instead of paying to his team’s strength he tried to play to his opponent’s weakness. Unlike Dhoni who opened with Ashwin, Sachin tried to hide his best bowler Lasith Malinga. The first over bowled by Mumbai in the second qualifier effectively finished the match. Chris Gayle took the bowler to the cleaners and scored 27 runs. Albeit in the same way Dhoni ensured that the finals finished his way by seeing that Chris Gayle gets out in RCB’s first over itself.

CSK played with a swagger of kings that they were. The other finalist of the last year Mumbai Indians always had a scowl on their face. Their new recruits like Symonds, Rayudu and Suman did not live up to the billing. It is time that Sachin gave up the lucrative 2020 IPL and concentrate on test cricket completely. It is a travesty of justice to miss Sachin for the forthcoming Windies test tour.

Come on Sachin let go of the money. You have nothing to prove. Lest of all trying to win  a lottery called IPL. You are not cut out for it. It is better to you to give your remaining years to test cricket. You would be remembered for your contribution for test and one day cricket and not for your contribution for the bang bang thank you mam version of cricket which is what IPL is.

Tail Piece: The purple cap for the best bowler went to Lasith Malinga with 28 wickets and the Orange cap for the best batman went to Chris Gayle with 608 runs. Lasith Malinga’s team finished third and Chris Gayle’s team finished second.
The winners CSK had their man Ashwin finishing as the 4th best bowler with 21 wickets. Similarly their best batsman Michael Hussey finished as the 5th best batsman with 492 runs. It proves the point that cricket is still a team sport even in the 2020 format. No room for the prima Donnas.

ARTOS slugs it out with the cola giants Coke and Pepsi

A small cola maker from Ramachandrapuram, in East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh, India is showing a way to battle the cola giants. The bottle is not yet won but many initial  skirmishes  have  been  won  by  the  David (ARTOS). ARTOS (Adduri Ramachandra Raju Tonics) is a 91  year  old brand dating back to the British raj in India.

At a time when Coke and Pepsi retail their 300 ml bottle at 12 rupees, ARTOS sells at Rs 6, exactly half the price.

Adduri Ramachandra Raju the founder of ARTOS began his entrepreneurial journey with a small step in 1912 by filling soda water in soda bottles, and selling them in the local market.

No one was willing to consume the soda as they thought that there was a ghost hidden in the bottle. Raju through perseverance and an uncompromising will power traveled miles requesting people to taste the soda.

The First World War came as a boon to Raju. In 1914, a group of British soldiers camped at Ramachandrapuram tasted the soda and became its ardent fans.

The locals observed the soldiers consuming soda and followed suit. In 1919, Raju's younger brother, Jagannatha Raju, started assisting his brother. Jagannatha Raju started marketing the sodas with a dash of sugar, colour and flavour. 

Later they established contacts with soda makers in London and imported glass bottles, sugar, CO2 gas and flavours for making aerated drinks. Thus was born AP's first soft drink in 1920 - Artos - with the tag line of ”exhilarating, invigorating, aids digestion”.

The industry started flourishing and sales picked up gradually. The Second World War came as a severe jolt with imports coming to a virtual halt. All the soft drink industries (Duke's from Bombay, Spencer's from Madras, Roger's from Delhi and Vincent from Madurai) had to shut down due to non-availability of raw material.

But the Raju brothers did not lose confidence. They brought oranges growing in the forests, peeled them off and extracted fruit juice concentrate.

They purchased lemons from the market and made acids; jaggery was refined and liquid sugar was made. Though the whole process was costly and tedious, the indefatigable brothers went on making soft drinks until after the war. Their sheer hard work paid dividends.

In the late 50’s, many new soft drink companies came up all over the country. Coca Cola entered the Indian market in the sixties. Among the Indian brands, Parle from Bombay started putting up franchisees in Andhra Pradesh from 1968.

With the onslaught of multinationals, almost all the Indian soft drink manufacturers suffered and ARTOS was no different. Despite losing tax reliefs and other related benefits from the state government and having to pay taxes on par with MNCs the company according to Raju has not compromised on quality. The company was forced to hike its MRP from Rs 5 to 5.50 in 1 April 2001. Presently selling at a rate of 6 rupees ARTOS is still doing well in the Godavari district but only time will tell whether it would be another Thums up an Indian soft drink brand  that is doing well Inspite of the presence of Coca-Cola and Pepsi or will end up as victim of the relentless charge of the multinationals.

May 06, 2011

Make Your day - send a greeting card!

A greeting card is an illustrated, folded card featuring an expression of friendship or other sentiment. Although greeting cards are usually given on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, Diwali, Ramadan, New Year day or other holidays, they are also sent to convey thanks or express other feeling.

The sending of greeting cards had reached a stage where there are occasions for father’s day, mother’s day, Grandparents day, Pet’s day, get well cards,  and what is touted as the ultimate marketing gimmick no occasion day. That is a card is sent Chumma (Simply like that) – without any occasion.

Some occasions have become popular mostly due to the greeting card companies. For example Valentines day was a celebration of love before it was turned into a mega celebration and a spree of card and gift giving, all courtesy - greeting card companies like the Hallmark. 

Greeting cards, usually packaged with an envelope, come in a variety of styles. There are both mass-produced as well as handmade versions that are distributed by hundreds of companies large and small.

Hallmark Cards and American Greetings are the largest producers of greeting cards in the world. An Indian company called Archies does excellent Work in India and is highly profitable.

Many people traditionally mail or post seasonally themed cards to their friends and relatives in December. Many businesses also send cards to their customers in this season, usually with a universally acceptable message such as "happy holidays" or "seasons’ greetings".

Types of greeting cards

Standard Greeting Cards: A standard greeting card is printed on high-quality paper and is rectangular and folded, with a picture on the front. Inside is a preprinted message appropriate for the occasion, along with a blank space for the sender to add a signature or handwritten message. A matching envelope is sold with the card.

Photo Greeting Cards: In recent years, photo greeting cards have gained widespread popularity and come in two main types. The first type is a photo insert card in which a hole has been cut in the center. The sender’s photo slides in just like a frame. The second type is a printed photo card in which the photo is combined with artwork and printed, usually on a high-end digital press, directly onto the face of the card.

Personalized Greeting Cards: Websites using special personalization technology, such as Moonpig, allow consumers to personalize a card which is then printed and sent directly to the recipient.

Musical Greeting Cards: Musical greeting cards have been conceived which play music or sound when they are opened. They commonly have 3D handmade birthday cards which play traditional celebration songs such as Happy Birthday to You.

Electronic Greeting Cards: (also called E-cards) Greeting cards can also be sent electronically. Flash-based cards can be sent by email, and many sites such as Facebook enable one to send greetings. More recently, services have launched which enable the sender to send greetings to a mobile phone by text message.

Two Greeting cards that I remember:(Both were pranks that were played out by my classmates on other classmates) 

The greeting card says “You are a legend”. The recipient excitedly opens the card. Inside it is written “In your own eyes”

The second card says “Eat shit” Shocked by the profanity the recipient opens the card to find a message that says “25 trillion insects eat shit, why don’t you?”

Any which way a greeting card is a very personalized way of greeting someone. So greet some one with a card and make her day and make your own day better!