So, we have all bid goodbye to an iconic brand like Strand book store but cannot bid goodbye to all the linked memories.
And within these memories lie many lessons for small and ultra-small enterprises in terms of their marketing strategy.
After all like Strand Bookstore, India is characterised by Micro-Small-Medium-Enterprises (MSMEs ) as they are called . As per an article in the Economic times (January 2018 ) there are 10-50 million Micro-Small-Medium-Enterprises (MSMEs) who offer myriad services in services ranging from astrologers to accountants, caterers to car cleaners, yoga instructors to musical bands, flooring contractors to roof leak repairers, interior decorators to movers and packers and are supposed to be the most powerful engine of India’s growth.
Hence the importance of a solid marketing strategy for these enterprises to help them build their brands and their franchise. Now the core strategies mentioned below may seem contrarian in a territory that is overshadowed and abuzz with terms like social media, digital, search engine optimization etc. but has its own overwhelming resonance.
While a lot has been written about Strand’s core appeal let me articulate some approaches using another example –
“Kajodmal” may not sound like a big brand name and may not be on everyone’s awareness set but ask a community of people living in a suburb of Mumbai in the 70s and the brand acquires a whole new dimension.
Every morning a genial old man for whom one had to deduce whether his smile was bigger or his moustache unfailingly arrived at a fixed time. And all growing up children happily got up early and rushed to see him. With their special glasses in hand.
Kajodmal did not just deliver milk by the litre. He made sure everyone’s morning started with a smile and a grin. And for every child in every home that he delivered milk to, he provided a complimentary milk moustache bigger than his own moustache. Yes, every child was given fresh milk in the morning with a smile over and above the 2 litres or 3 litres delivered for each home at a charge.
Key Concept 1 -Build “Bespoke Powerful Personal” Relationships with Customers
Needless to add the milk was always fresh, healthy and tasty -making children rush to see Kajodmal Bhaiyaaji whenever he rang the bell.
As Sooni Taraporewala wrote about Strand Bookstore -“Unlike corporate bookshops, here the owner was passionate about books and that personal touch filtered down to the other staff who all knew the books they were selling, knew their regular customers’ tastes and made recommendations.
Key Concept 2 -Never compromise on Product Quality. Only focus on improving it
And besides product quality and relationship building there was the aspect of tremendous reliability. In the seventies there used to be instances of Mumbai bandh. But come what may, fresh milk would arrive early in the morning and in case of serious security concerns, it would be delivered the previous night.
Key Concept 3 -Build Reliability as a key attribute in addition to Trust
Not only did Kajodmal have almost all the milk delivery business in a suburb but people even requested him to try delivering to other places and locations when they moved on. The smile stayed the same but the answer also stayed the same that he could only deliver in the area he was based in and where he had developed a strong network. He stuck to this core competency and did not compromise.
Key Concept 4 -Stick to Your Core Competency. Spreading one’s self thin can result in serious brand dilution
After all brands are shaped by consumer experiences and the experiences created by small enterprises like Strand or Rhythm House or Kajodmal stay sharply etched in our minds and hearts even when the brands and institutions have changed or disappeared.
As Amish Tripathi wrote about his memories of Strand Book Store – “In a way, they were a pure bookstore and stocked only books not gifts, stationery or merchandise
It is these 4 key concepts that can help millions of Micro-Small -Medium -Enterprises to evolve into Big Brands embedded in the hearts and minds of their core audience. Just the way readers cannot forget Strand Book Store and a whole community in a suburb of Mumbai cannot forget Kajodmalji.
The author is a senior consumer marketing and financial services professional based in Vietnam who has lived and worked in India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. His book “Marketing Chronicles” is available on Amazon India , Flipkart and at key online/ physical book stores.