How do you define the word ‘leadership’ when it comes to shepherding a business?
In the context of our business, I would see leadership when our brand has more loyal followers in terms of consumers than others. I see leadership when our brand is the most preferred and trusted in the category and we are the first to look at fulfilling the needs of consumers better than all others.
What is the toughest challenge you have faced?
When a brand has a history of 80 years, it carries a lot of legacy and equity. One of the challenges we face is when we have to modernise the brand without diluting its long equity. And, in an attempt to connect with today’s children, we cannot break the bond with yesterday’s children – who are parents of today. The other challenge for a brand like Camlin is not to lose its character while communicating multiple benefits of a very diverse range – pencils to markers and from crayons to fine art products.
How central are people or employees to Camlin?
Almost all employees have grown up using Camlin as a brand during their childhood and continue to be loyal consumers of the brand. In fact, the brand always brings a smile to the face of the employees as it reminds them of the wonder years. While we check products and communication amongst consumers as a process, our job becomes easier as we find the consumers in office itself. Also the employees are the primary spokespersons of the brand. It’s very important for them to be engaged with the brand and communicate about it with a lot of pride.
What is the first thing that strikes a consumer’s mind when he thinks of Camlin? How do you make this clear through your brand communication?
The first association with brand Camlin we find lies in the moments of joy the brand brought in the growing up years of people. Consumers seldom forget their first brand – in most cases the first brand has been Camlin – whether it was wooden pencil or whether it was crayon.
Camlin brand is positioned on the emotional benefit of fun with its selling line “let’s have fun”. Camlin believes in the philosophy that when children enjoy education, they perform best and hence it’s important to have fun in education.
What’s the annual turnover of the brand and where do you see things five years down the line? Please throw some light on the market share too.
Camlin has been the market leader in the categories of all colour products, geometry boxes, mechanical pencils, markers and a strong player in most of the categories of the $2 billion stationery market. It has ambitious plans in the coming years with plenty of action in the stationery category with the entry of many new players, both Indian and global. We also look at establishing the global brand Kokuyo which offers premium and very innovative range of office products like pinless stapler and many others.
Leading and managing brand operations are extremely taxing roles. How do you work on your concentration levels? And what do you do to relax?
If you enjoy your work, it will never be taxing. And working on a brand like Camlin is always very energising. Our core consumers – children are so exciting unlike adult consumers and that also makes work interesting. The best way to relax is to spend time with my consumers.
Although we have the talent and wherewithal, Indians have not managed to create an iconic brand like Google or Apple from the scratch. Where do you think we lose out?
One of the reasons for this has been that for so many years very few talented Indian professionals have taken it to entrepreneurship and have preferred to take up assured professional jobs instead and this includes me as well.
While so many Indians would have a role to play in the development of these iconic brands as employees, very few would try to launch them on their own. Fortunately, today’s generation of management graduates who are passing out are very dynamic and are taking up entrepreneurship even before graduating.
We already see so many young Indians creating brands so fast and in no time. They will very soon dominate the world.
What are the future plans for your brand? Any exciting future product launches that our readers should look forward to?
Yes! We plan to launch exciting products for children as well as adult consumers. Last month, we tried to revive the stagnating fountain pen category by launching cartridge fountain pens, which give the consumers great experience of the classic fountain pen without the messy ink filling experience. In Kokuyo portfolio, we launched the innovative pinless stapler. So, our consumers should look forward to new and refreshing products all the time.