Nirma’s horror show

In its attempt to modernise, Nirma seems to have lost its way

There was a time when Karsanbhai Patel made the Lever buggers spend sleepless nights with his low-cost detergent powder, Nirma. In fact, it was Nirma that inspired the birth of Surf’s Lalitaji. Which then led to price wars in the category, and Lever launched its own mass brands. (At the time, Nirma’s success story was case study material in India’s B-schools.) Nirma, sadly, had no counter-strategy in place, and has since been reduced to being just another brand in a market infested with low-cost lookalikes. Failure to contemporize with changing times was the key reason.
Of late, however, makers of Nirma have gone into a solid image change-over drive. First arrived the mermaids performing an underwater ballet. No product demos, and even the famed Nirma jingle got chucked into the ocean. Funnily enough, the packaging continued to be as shoddy as ever. Clearly, this approach did nothing for the brand, and it appears that Nirma has drowned the dancing mermaids.
So now it’s back to the ‘dhoodh si safedi’ jingle. And it’s back to dealing with hard dirt. But this time, things have gone totally unreal and profoundly silly. In the new TVC, a dirty puddle is all set to unload itself on a woman, who’s passing by. Much like a feisty bahu admonishing a dirty saas, the woman orders the puddle to behave itself. And her oral whip? Nirma washing powder. And the ancient jingle. The frightened puddle freezes in its tracks. The promise? Ab daagh ki phat gayee! In not so many words.
This sort of bizarre advertising tells you only one thing: Nirma is very confused on which way to take the brand. First they tried to super modernise it overnight and that strategy tanked. Then they have tried to make it more middle classy while breaking the clutter using a horror-like commercial. Frankly, the frozen puddle reminds me of a bad special effect from a 1970 FU Ramsay flick. Yes, it’s that corny. Sad to see David finally lose the war to the mighty Goliath.

This is where I think things have gone horribly wrong for the brand: In its attempts at mad modernisation, Nirma went straight from the first to the fifth gear. And the result naturally was a disaster. And now they are trying to quickly turn back to the third gear, so their gaadi is going nowhere. They need to go back to the basics, and up the image in a slow and steady manner. First sort out the packaging, then gradually contemporise the advertising.

Funny, that we need to teach this basic stuff to a man who once shook the Lever citadel!


Worst is over; bumps and opportunity go together: Wipro head

Wipro chairman and co-Chair of the WEF, Azim Premji, has said that the past 12-18 months have been very difficult for the global economy. However, he feels that the worst is over, and 2010 looks positive

The outlook for the global economy has turned positive this year and the worst is over, even though the road ahead is full of challenges, Wipro chairman and a co-Chair of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Azim Premji has said, reports PTI.

"The past 12-18 months have been very difficult for the global economy. However, I think the worst is over, 2010 looks positive," Mr Premji said in his message to global business and government leaders for the annual WEF meeting at Davos.

The road to recovery, however, would vary in different economies, he said. "While the mature economies are taking time, emerging economies like India, Brazil and China have already started to show smart growth recovery."

Mr Premji is the sole Indian chief executive officer (CEO) who has been placed among the top six global CEOs by the WEF, that has sought to influence policy-makers, businesses and civil societies across the world for the past four decades.

Mr Premji shares the position with Josef Ackermann, chairman of the management board of Deutsche Bank; Melinda French Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Peter Sands, group CEO, Standard Chartered Bank; Eric Schmidt, chairman of the executive committee and CEO, Google Inc; Ronald A Williams, chairman and CEO, Aetna and Patricia Woertz, chairman, president and CEO, Archer Daniels Midland.

Mr Premji, who could be often seen in a bus ferrying delegates from their hotels to the Congress Centre, the venue of the meeting, said he is particularly positive about the information technology industry. "It (IT) is the basic tool for efficiency and improvement. Given the challenges, most companies are looking at IT."

In fact, several Indian IT companies have posted better-than-expected results for the third quarter ended December.

This year's WEF meeting, which has a theme of 'rethink, redesign and rebuild the world', comes after 18 months of economic crisis and a global outcry for tackling climate change.

"These two issues seem almost disparate but to me they are not. They form the basis of my agenda as co-Chair. Both are global challenges and need co-ordinated, rapid and overwhelming response from the global community," Mr Premji said.

He said that the combination of economic crisis and tackling greenhouse gases presents an opportunity in terms of markets at the bottom of the economic pyramid and green growth.

However, the world needs to resolve issues like financing green technologies and increasing purchasing power of the poor in developing countries. The WEF meeting, which has 2,500 influential people participating, would try and deliberate on these issues.


India is a land of a billion opportunities, say experts

India is a land of a billion opportunities that has a potential to achieve a double-digit growth rate, said experts at a high-profile event at LSE in London

Making a strong pitch for economic optimism, speakers at a high-profile event at the elite London School of Economics (LSE), said India, 'a land of a billion opportunities', had a potential to achieve a double-digit growth rate, reports PTI.

Hosted by LSE's India Observatory, the event included release of Rajya Sabha MP and economist NK Singh's book 'Not by Reason Alone: The Politics of Change' by Shobhana Bhartia, chairman of HT Media, and an engaging panel discussion and interaction with students.

The panel included Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Lord Meghnad Desai, LSE-based economist and academic, Lord Chris Patten, chancellor of the University of Oxford, and Lord Nicholas Stern, I G Patel professor of Economics & Government at the LSE.

In the book, Mr Singh, who has played a key role in India's economic reforms, draws on his diverse experiences to comment on the past and present of the politics of change. He said good politics led to good economics and mentioned the unprecedented 11% rate of growth recorded by Bihar in the latest official estimates.

"I see India as a land of a billion opportunities, not a land of a billion problems. Lot of good things are happening. We should be optimistic," Mr Ambani said.

Compared to other recession-hit countries, India had “less baggage” and a “strong balance sheet”, and was in a “great position to start off”, he said.

According to Mr Ambani, 9% should be India's default growth rate when it had the potential of at least 11%. "We need more responsible government, a change of governance, and build more institutions. India is in a fortunate position compared to the rest of the world. We have less baggage, a young population. India's strength is all about soft power," he said.

Noting that India recorded 7% rate of growth in the last two years of the economic downturn, Mr Ahluwalia said that India has done “exceptionally well” to manage the global recession.
"Surely, we are doing something well," he said, adding that reforms were all about restructuring the government.

Lord Patten paid tributes to India's resilience as a nation-state despite diversity, and said though he was a fan of China's economic success, India had been more successful in developing global brands.

"India does not lock up people; it does not have famines and there has not been a single Indian member of the Al Qaeda. That says something about India's stability," Lord Patten said.

India, Lord Patten said, needed to invest in higher education and research, and noted that Hong Kong alone had two of the best universities in the world.


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