At the IAA Knowledge Conclave hosted in Mumbai on 26 October on 'Emerging agencies', BS Nagesh, vice chairman, Shoppers Stop, mused that he had ‘nothing to say’ on the topic ‘Preparing to win in a hyper competitive environment’ he had been assigned.
He offered some valuable tips instead, besides insights and revelations from his career.
The Shoppers Stop experience
He said, “I was the first employee of Shoppers Stop. People generally talk about how successful I’ve been, but the truth is that I’ve had three failures, thought of six or seven ventures that didn’t take off, one success - one which has achieved moderate success, and another which will hopefully be successful in the future.”
He then explained how the Shoppers Stop bond was created with Contract Advertising. “When we started Shoppers Stop, I had no idea about advertising. I only knew that Puma worked with Contract and so I called Ishan Raina and told him we have to make it a corporate brand. The agency was willing to do the business only if we signed a contract of Rs 1,00,000 per month. We didn’t sign on immediately but did so a few months after that and we’re still with them for the last 21 years. The role we’d given them was to create a jam outside SV Road, Andheri (western suburb in Mumbai),” said Nagesh.
On the path taken to achieve it, he said, “Members from the agency and a few of us from Shoppers Stop thought it couldn’t be achieved by thinking in a room. We decided to hit the shopping streets at Linking Road in Mumbai. At the end of the day, we sat together and we said whatever the category was, the key word was experience. So the byline, ‘Feel the Experience, while you shop’ was created.”
Compete against yourselves
The retail veteran urged people not to get emotional with business decisions. He explained, “When people get emotional, they can’t let go. Amongst the many hindrances caused would be creating leadership succession.”
He then cited one mistake Shoppers Stop made. “When we got to know Reliance was entering retail, we spent our time at three consecutive board meetings to figure how to compete against them. This made us forget our goals. Similarly, small agencies shouldn’t talk about taking on agencies like Ogilvy & Mather; they should look to compete with themselves. Desire is good, but everyone starts small. People fail because they look to ape competition.”
Nagesh urged smaller agencies to look to build capacity, by building capability. “Trust is a must for growth, but trust can only be built if there’s transparency and empowerment. Only the number one should not be taking decisions. That’s the only way succession can be created and it can run after you. These factors can make organisations buyable,” said Nagesh.
Create accounts rather than win accounts
Nagesh’s next piece of advice for people running smaller agencies was on pitching for business. One example of a market that could be tapped into, he said, was shopping streets. “Everyone wants to win an account of a mall. Some agencies should look at streets like Linking Road and Colaba Causeway, and look to advertise that. With such innovations they should be looking to create accounts rather than winning (existing) accounts,” he surmised.