As part of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of the Year 2011 program, Hamish Taylor, international expert on brand management, facilitated an Entrepreneurs' Workshop on Growing Beyond: Lessons on creating high performance by putting the customer at the core. The session was moderated by Shereen Bhan for a special telecast on CNBC-TV18.
"It is not just about data or the numbers, it's not about just understanding what your customers want but it is also about getting your customers to want what you can offer by creating a new product, a new capital."
— Steve Jobs
Today, the increasing variation in customer requirements and volatility in markets requires businesses to not just deliver, but also surpass customer expectations. The Entrepreneurs' Workshop reinforced the outcome of Growing Beyond: How high-performers are competing for growth in difficult times, Ernst & Young's latest global survey. The study, based on a survey of over 900 respondents, identified "customer reach" as a key strategic driver for growth.
Analjit Singh, Founder & Chairman, Max India Group, said, "We grew up in a protected environment, but are now in a liberalized era. Competition has intensified and hence the focus on execution, numbers and soft insights." He cites the case of non-performing assets, which were rolled on earlier, but now act as a key differentiator between success and failure. "Strategy is not just about creating a theme once and then implementing it. Today, strategy has to be malleable and boundary-less," he said.
Soft insights are key
Hamish Taylor's emphasis on "soft insights" resonated with the audience. According to Deep Kalra, Founder & CEO, MakeMyTrip (India), "Soft insights are about being out there with the customer and not in closed cabins". He adds, "For the first five years, we focused on a niche market, but now after seven years of learning the insights of the consumer, we realize the myths about Indian online customers. One such myth was that Indians are wary of online transactions, this was proved wrong because we now have insightful research to prove that online is not the only medium but so is mobile and the tablet."
Dr. Mukesh Batra, Chairman and Managing Director, Dr. Batra Positive Health Care, noted "Taking 'closest to nature' as a proposition, we formulated a shampoo with a pH of 6.5. We communicated that it is not harsh on the hair, which clicked with
The key to winning the customers' trust is right communication. Said Dr. B S Ajai Kumar, Founder & Chairman, Healthcare Global Enterprises, "In the healthcare sector, our customers are often patients or their families, who are normally going through a traumatic experience. The organization seeks to comfort customers in different ways, including ensuring complete transparency in the billing structure."
Another aspect of the discussion was on brand extension. Does this dilute focus and the core offering? According to Hamish, one should keep the focus intact, such that the modifications do not distort the core offering. Taking the example of a leading low-cost airline having a club class with a flat bed, what differentiates it from others is that it provides the cheapest club class amongst all the others.
Businesses in India have recognized that it has to be more than just pricing or low cost arbitrage to get the edge in competitive landscape. Hamish wrapped up the proceedings by saying, "Softer insights come from really breathing the customer. These when implemented, harden business towards growth."