Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lessons from the streetside vendors

Street hawkers, fruits/vegetable vendors by the roadside - these are pretty common sights in India. I was riding with my wife this morning. At a bend, we noticed a couple of fruit vendors - one was selling lichees and the other, mangoes. We passed the bend and had gone further 20-25 meters when Arti tugged at my shirt and said, "The lichees look good. Let's buy some." We took a u-turn and bought some lichees. And then, as we were about to resume our ride, we bought mangoes as well.

Fruits are very often sold this way - one vendor selling one thing. The sight of one thing stocked in a huge quantity leaves quite an impact. Not only does is it visually attractive, but also makes one think that the fruits are of good quality, fresh, and perhaps, with good taste too. It whets one's appetite. If a good mood coincides with the sight, one ends up buying. Recall your own experiences and you'll notice that the same would occur less often if one vendor has stocked many types of fruits.

What's the import? Focus. Yes, focus on one thing, you'll most likely sell more.

Am a fruit lover. Therefore, to an extent this post is personal. But this small little commonplace occurrence by the street-side, I feel, includes a lesson.

Yamaha R1 & Yamaha MTO1

Barring the fact that 99.9999% of the Indians can't afford these bikes, the size and muscle of the these bikes is awe-inspiring.

Yamaha R1

Yamaha MT01

Meanwhile, the Yamaha dealership at Ahmedabad were taking Rs25000 for advance booking of R15. I said I would rather wait for the actual launch.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Amazing Yamaha Gladiators

Yamaha Gladiator

That's Planet Yamaha, the Yamaha showroom in Ahmedabad.

I was in Ahmedabad in early May. And after checking an ad about the launch of R1 and MT01 in Ahmedabad, I decided to visit the Yamaha showroom. Not for booking, just out of curiosity :), of course. Inside I was hoping that R15 might also be on display. It wasn't. Though the biggies were there. And alongside there were these new Gladiators.

I must admit, I was nothing less than thrilled after having seen these Gladiators. Immaculate in fit and finish. Even earlier I didn't think that a Yamaha bike is worth comparing to the others in the category. Not to say that other bikes are bad, but having driven Yamaha RXG135 for 7 long years, and having driven Fazer for a while, I was convinced that other bikes (no matter what the sales say) might not match up in performance.

True to my thinking, very soon after having checked the new Gladiator when I checked the TVS Flame, I rubbished all comparison between the two. Even the Honda Shine or Hero Honda Glamour (or whatever) or Bajaj XCD do not compare to the Gladiator. If it's performance and style, it's the Gladiator. Surprisingly, apart from XCD, even if it comes to fuel efficiency it's the Gladiator that takes the cake. And at the current price-point, definitely Gladiator is the best 125cc bike, if you are considering buying one.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reliance Fresh: Brand Names, Extensions and Troubles

Here's against mindless extensions.

Organized Retail - of all kinds - is booming in India. And all kinds of companies/ individuals have ventured/ have plans to venture into the sector. Notably the big conglomerates like Tata, Reliance, Aditya Birla, etc. Not that they've restricted themselves to one kind of format. They are exploring all sorts of formats and in different product categories.

Is the above paragraph a little vague. How could it have been any clearer; it's just a reflection of the way things are happening? And the initiatives taken by some big conglomerates haven't been without their share of troubles.

Reliance Group named its grocery retailing (dry and wet) chain Reliance Fresh. Just at the same time Aditya Birla Group also opened its grocery retailing chain under the name More. There's another chain of grocery retail stores - Spinach - which opened within the same time-frame. And of course, Subhiksha was already there. There must be other chains too but not so well-known.

All these chains of stores are doing the same thing. Giving a bigger and better shopping experience for your daily needs while charging almost the same (in certain product categories even less) as unorganized retailers/vendors. In effect, replacing the latter or taking a substantial chunk of their business. No wonder, they (More, Reliance Fresh, Spinach, etc.) would face resistance from the affected community. But it wasn't 'they', it was just Reliance which was at (or got sucked into) center of the storm. And one of the reasons is the name 'Reliance'.

What about it? Reliance has gone about branding each of its business areas as 'Reliance _______'. Until the point the company got into sectors (with the name 'Reliance') which were new, niche or additional to the economy, everyone smiled. The moment it sought to replace (under the brand name Reliance) an existing business community, it faced resistance. Obvious isn't it? A threat to your subsistence would make you sit up and react, won't it? Unorganized retailers/vendors did the same. Natural! More so when it is India, where people try so hard to live a simple life.

Reliance is perceived to be massive. All know what it is. They might not be aware of the numbers but they know its might. You might not know how heavy an elephant is, but you know its might when you see it. Indeed, when it got into grocery retail, small vendors would've shuddered thinking about the loss of business. They know the power of 'Reliance'. Here's where extension of the brand Reliance creates problems.

What if the chain was called 'Morning Fresh'? What if the brand 'Reliance' were simply kept away from the chain store brand. Perhaps, it wouldn't have stirred the imagination of small vendors/retailers so violently. They would've known the adverse impact but would've just considered it like 'More' or 'Spinach'. The moment one hears Reliance, it only conjures up an image of elephant - huge, massive, dominating. When it gets mad, it is trampling! Not just that, Reliance name has become all pervasive. Wherever you go, you find something that is Reliance. Is it a God? Is it trying to play God? We don't know but people might think so; they'll react in the same spirit - in the way they best know. Medium is the massage. When all the places are painted with Reliance and all the places you buy from become Reliance, I'm sure you're gonna lose it one way or the other.

So, it would have been more appropriate, for various reasons, for Reliance to use a different brand name, especially when it seeks to so conspicuously replace the existing businesses and small businessmen. Telecom was new (new in people's lives), something additional. Naming it Reliance brought in kudos for the company. Context matters. Understanding the context matters as much.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Divine Dance

Divine Dance
Originally uploaded by twentyfourbees
This is the path right outside our house compound in our native village, Basera in Rajasthan. The barrenness is stricking, more so in this picture. I had my cousin's Pulsar 220 to roam around the village.

In Rajasthan - On Pulsar 220

In Rajasthan - On Pulsar 220

26th April 08. Clicked just outside Basera, my native place in Rajasthan. As you see from my face (though I'm smiling) it was really hot out there. Late April. Touching 40-41 degree celcius.

While I reached there directly from Jaipur, my cousin (on my insistence) got his bike from Bhilwara. Quite brave to have driven the bike for 70 kms in the simmering afternoon.

We had planned to ride the P220 from Basera to Bhilwara (about 70 odd kms) in the evening on 27th Apr. However, we felt that a morning ride would be better suited - it would be cooler and therefore, much more comfortable. We set out for Bhilwara at 6:00 in the morning. Reached at 7:00am.

One hour of exhilarating drive. The roads in Rajasthan have never been better. P220 was amazing. By far the best ride I've had. I was wondering if P220 is such, how would the CBR and the R1 be! Or for that matter, even the Ninja 250!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Big Dukes in India

It's called HYPERMOTARD; what a name!

Read yesterday morning about the launch of Ducati bikes in India. Of course, these will be imported units and the price range is Rs15lac to Rs50lac! Woohoooooo! Company officials say that they would import just 50 units to begin with this year. Depending on the response, future course would be determined... The engine power of the Ducati superbikes would be in the range of 90 horsepower to 180 horsepower!

Here's a little article from The Economic Times:

Italian motorcycle major, Ducati Motor Holding has arrived in India. The company has brought its five different models including the flagship Monster range. These superbikes were launched in Delhi on Wednesday along with a host of accessories and merchandise from the Ducati stable.

The company launched Hypermotard, the classic 1098, 1098R, 848 and the flagship, Monster. The Monster S4Rs is a bike without compromise, a true superbike in every way. It has all the legendary superbike power and character along with potent desmodromic Testastretta engine. The new, amazingly powerful Ducati Monster S4Rs is as unique as its name and a pace-setter that all other naked models look forward to.

Ducati's Monster S4Rs is a masterpiece of technology and design. Its a harmony of design and precision of the engineering. The styling is that of a spectacular and customs the appeal of size and power. In addition to the common features shared by all Ducati Monsters with single sided swing-arms, like the small upper fairing, vertically stacked twin exhausts exhausts and longitudinal stripe (bigger and centrally positioned on the S4Rs), the S4Rs also incorporates a large number of eye-catching racing components.

The S4Rs features new graphics and colour schemes to enhance the 999-derived front end and the Y-spoke wheels that recall the racing origins of this naked superbikes. In fact, Ducati Corse has contributed a large number of small but important details to this Monster, details that might not be noticed under a full fairing but that cry out for attention on this meanest of all Monsters, like the triangular oil cooler.

You can read a little more here:
The Financial Express
Hindustan Times