How do you define the word ‘leadership’. How is it helpful in shaping a business?
Not sure if shepherding a business has a different definition for leadership. I think any kind of leadership is about multiplying yourself with the team members and having a unified view of goals and objectives. This talent and experience multiplicity can be achieved if the leader understands the genius in the individuals of the team and channels them effectively to achieve the desired goals.
What challenges have you faced to establish a completely new product line beyond the conventional Godrej almirah?
Sometimes challenges are good to have and at other times they are not so nice. One of the biggest challenges for Godrej Interio has been to get this brand out of the 80-year-old Godrej Storwel brand image. We had to get this brand beyond a welded metal cupboard – well known as the almirah – and get consumers to see a wider range of home, office and healthcare furniture and much more.
What role do you think a consumer plays in building a brand?
Brands are built, maintained and driven by people. I think a brand starts with the consumers and ends with them. Often one says that a good advertising campaign can build a long-term brand. I disagree with this completely. People, who represent a brand, whether from a back-end or front-end perspective of it, only manage consumer expectations. This again is no mean task. Today, marketers are on their toes, just to ensure that brand images are managed to the tune that the consumer wants. Sometimes, they go beyond the expectations of the consumers – often this is seen as good and a few times, it backfires. But it’s always about people – both the users of the brand and the custodians.
What is the first thing a consumer looks for in a brand?
A consumer looks for a want (mind you, this is not need, it is want) and then thinks of the product that will fulfil his want. Not sure if a consumer thinks of a brand first. Once a product is positioned rightly in the mind, he starts looking for the brand addressing his wants better than others. Again, this term, ‘better’, is a tricky one. What is better for one may not be good for another. Hence, the precise definition of ‘better’ is what is in the consumer’s mind. What every brand does is they identify the wants of consumers. At Godrej Interio, we look at the cultural and emotional needs of the consumers. This gets translated into pieces of communication, whether they are mass or personalised or even in the form of an interaction. We have been able to put our finger on this aspect for a long time which keeps our customers happy and loyal.
Elaborate on the future of the furniture Industry in India. Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
We are a brand with a turnover of $267 million. This gives us an 18 per cent market share in the organised segment. Our next best competitor has a share of around 6 to 7 per cent. The future of the furniture industry will be a function of the organised segment’s growth and consolidation. We see ourselves maintaining our lead and growing market share by 4 to 5 times of our current size. This number may change if the organised sector grows faster. Today it is growing at half to one per cent a year.
Managing brand operations are extremely taxing roles. How do you cope with the stress? And what do you do to relax?
It is taxing if you are the only one who is driving it. However, if there are multiple heads who are given defined roles and monitoring systems, life becomes much more easier. But yes, one goes through a lot of physical and mental fatigue. For me socialising, photography and painting are the best relaxation methods.
Why do you think the Indian brands are not able to create a mark in the global markets?
I agree with you to a certain extent. However, when we look at brands as that of Tata and Godrej, I think it’s not about global aspirations, great products or unmatched experiences. It’s really about understanding consumers in the markets that you want to operate and dominate, by serving the consumers to the best. Having said this, I think Indian brands are more profit-conscious rather than valuation-conscious. And this is really good. Who has not heard of a good brand called Facebook? Or even WhatsApp? Or Youtube? How many of them are profitable? They have spent more money promoting their brands and worked strongly towards valuation. Today, if you look at brands such as Godrej Interio, I think we will beat them in valuations. People do play a large role for sure. But I do not think there is a dearth of people in India. Some brands do not search and identify the right talent. The successful ones are those who have spent time identifying the right people and believing in them.