Pooja Ahuja Nagpal
May 18, 2013

Headliner: ‘As consumers flirt, it’s good times for brands’

Alpana Parida takes Pooja Ahuja Nagpal through DY Works’ evolution, focus on entrepreneurs, and vision for the future

Headliner: ‘As consumers flirt, it’s good times for brands’

“Brands are like people and you have to intervene at the level of the whole. When you conceptualise the problem as a whole, you get holistic solutions. If you conceptualise the problem of only packaging, then you can’t solve market share problems,” states Alpana Parida, president, DY Works, underlining the company’s approach to brand building.

An alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, she started her career at Rediffusion which was her only stint with advertising. Two years later, she moved on to the marketing side. A little later (and post marriage), she moved to the United States, where a stint as head of marketing at Preferred Brands for North America exposed her to the many branding opportunities that exist in the retail market beyond advertising. On her return to India in 2007, she joined as head of marketing and merchandise at Tanishq. And she believes that was one of the most enjoyable assignments that she has handled. She explains why.

Branding beyond advertising

Her role involved managing 120 stores not just in terms of customer acquisition, but also product development.  She explains, “The first thing I did was to reduce my marketing budget by half. It was my inherent belief that to recruit a manageable number of customers per store did not require the high spends on advertising we were doing. In spite of cuts in advertising budget, we did extremely well. The Jodha Akbar collection we launched changed the way the entire jewellery industry functioned. Suddenly, the entire category of kundan and polki got a lift.”

In 2009, Future Brands had bought a stake in DMA Branding. It was around this time that Parida moved to Mumbai with her family. On the recommendation of her classmate Santosh Desai who was helming Future Brands, Parida came on board DMA Branding in August the same year. In December 2009, DMA merged another design firm - Yellow - and transitioned into DY Works. What followed was a ‘complete reinvention’ of the agency.

From a packaging-centric company, DY Works transformed into a brand strategy company providing holistic solutions. Apart from design solutions, DY Works also takes up strategy assignments where it provides interventions which do not involve design - like it did for Bournvita, L&T and Kellogg’s, notes Parida. She reasons that this differentiates it from other branding firms that are largely design-centric, and from other marketing consultants who mainly offer business strategies.

According to Parida, another differentiator is that DY Works is able to quantify the direct impact of the solutions it provides. She elaborates, “We have seen the impact in brand share, market valuation and new customer acquisition. This is what excites us - coming from the business background and seeing the results of what we do. For us it’s important that it delivers.”

Business beyond design

Explaining the company’s structure and business areas, Parida says, “We have tripled our turnover in the last four years and are twice as big as our closest competitor. When we started out, packaging and design were the largest contributors but today it accounts only for 35 per cent of our business. The fastest growing units that contribute around 30 per cent are, SMEs and holistic alternative media (online, social media, retail and some ATL); while corporate branding accounts for 30 per cent.”

DY Works also houses a unit for semiotics studies, which helps in decoding cultural symbols to understand consumer mindsets. The study, an alternative to traditional market research, is popular in the UK, explains the company’s president. Using insights gained from one such study, DY Works advised Italian company Mutti to launch its pasta sauce in pouches in India in addition to the glass jars they normally sell in across the world. This recommendation has paid off well according to Parida. In the pilot, the pouches are outselling glass jars 4:1.

There are other such examples of ideas being brought in from outside the country as they are, without being adapted to the local culture. She cites the curds/yoghurt market which remained very small as it was termed ‘yoghurt’ – a term which majority of Indians are unfamiliar with. DY Works’ engagement with Amul saw it change to ‘Masti dahi’.

Eye on entrepreneurs

Seated in a swanky new office that DY Works moved into two days before this interview, Parida states that in earlier days an increase in advertising would result in a direct increase in sales. However, advertising is not as effective today, she reasons. With multiple brands present in every product category and offering variants in different formats, Parida believes that the Indian consumer is spoilt for choice.

Enter branding, which can help in differentiating the products.

She explains, “Consumers have become flirters; they have a consideration set, but they never buy the same thing over and over again. Hence, brands have never had it so good to actually win battles for market share through differentiated structure, pack designs and retail interventions. That opportunity and the clutter in advertising makes it very clear that marketers should not kill themselves spending (all their) money on advertising and channel some of it here as well.”
The vision for the future has a few elements in focus. Parida is gung ho about SMEs. She points out that the current lot of entrepreneurs are dynamic, have a global vision and also access to capital.

She wants to encourage them and be instrumental in their growth, for which DY Works offers special rate cards to entrepreneurs. She states matter of fact: “I have great faith in SMEs today. I believe that they will be the conglomerates of tomorrow and if we have a role in that, then it’s great!”

The Flip Side

Age Turned 50 this year. Happily.

Fun activity Cooking is a lot of fun, as a family activity.

Looking forward to a learn to cook holiday in Italy. .

If not in current job would be politically active

Favorite movie  Sideways

Favorite serial Monk

Mantra Do it well or not at all

Holiday wish Patagonia

Campaign India

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