Verghese Kurien On Building A Successful Brand
September 10, 2012 4 Comments
The success of the Amul brand name has, no doubt, resulted in my being asked to comment on its history and the reasons for its success. I have, therefore, reflected on the long history of the brand to see if I could distill reasons why Amul is a name widely recognised and respected, not just in our cities and towns, but in our villages as well.
Probably the easy, but nonetheless wrong, answer is that Amul has been advertised well. Certainly it has helped that those responsible for keeping the Amul name in the public eye have used considerable imagination and, if I do say so, ‘The Taste of India’ is nothing short of brilliant. However, there is much more to it.
A successful consumer product is the object of thousands, even tens of thousands of transactions every day. In these transactions, the brand name serves in lieu of a contract. It is the assurance to the buyer that her specifications will be met. It is the seller’s assurance that quality is being provided at a fair price.
If Amul has become a successful brand – if, in the trade lingo, it enjoys brand equity – then it is because we have honoured our contract with consumers for close to fifty years. If we had failed to do so, then Amul would have been consigned to the dustbin of history, along with thousands of other brands.
The tough part of the use of a brand as a contract is that every day is a renewal; if, just once, the brand fails to meet the customer’s expectations or, more exactly, if it fails to delight the customer, then the contract loses its value. If Amul’s sales continue to rise, it is because that contract has been honoured, again and again. I would like to think that the granddaughters of some of our first customers are now ‘contracting’ with us to buy their butter, cheese, baby food, chocolates and other fine Amul products. It is also a fact that when we first thought of exporting to West Asia and even to the United States, it was because of the loyalty of Amul customers who, even when far from home, still craved our ‘Taste of India’.
What goes into the ‘contract’ that is a brand name? First is quality.
No brand survives long if its quality does not equal or exceed what the buyer expects. There simply can be no compromise. That’s the essence of the contract. In the case of a food product, this means that the brand must always represent the highest hygienic, bacteriological and organoleptic standards. It must taste good, and it must be good.
Second, the contract requires value for money. If our customer buys an Amul product, she gets what she pays for, and more. We have always taken pride in the fact that while we earn a good income for our owners – the dairy farmers of Gujarat – we don’t do it at the cost of exploiting the consumer. Even when adverse conditions have reduced supplies of products like butter, we have resisted the common practice of raising prices, charging what the market would bear. Rather, we have kept prices fair and done our best to ensure that retailers do not gain at the consumers’ expense.
The third element of the contract is availability. A brand should be available when and where the customer wants it. There is no benefit achieved in creating a positive brand image, and then being unable to supply the customer who wants to buy it. In our case, over the years we have built what is probably the nation’s finest distribution network. We reach hundreds of cities and towns through a cold chain that not only ensures that our products are available, but they reach the customer at the farthest end of the country with the same quality as you would find in Ahmedabad or Vadodara.
The fourth part is service. We have a commitment to total quality.
But, occasionally, we may make a mistake – or, our customer may think we’ve made a mistake, and the customer, as they say, is always right. That is why, for Amul, every customer complaint must be heard – not just listened to. And, every customer complaint must be rectified to the extent humanly possible.
For close to fifty years now, Amul has honoured its contract with the consumer. The contract that is symbolised by the Amul brand means quality. It means value for money. It means availability. And it means service.
- Excerpted from Dr Verghese Kurien’s speech in 2001 on ‘Markets in Motion’