Spending
Promotional Blitz and Glitz of Cars Does Lead to Sales
A new report busts marketers’ usual spiel
 
Suddenly, the auto world in India has woken up to the realisation that word-of-mouth is the biggest factor that influences a buying decision and this is something they do not have any ‘control’ over. Years of nurturing the established mainstream media and ‘motoring journalists’, at huge costs of time and money, now appear to have gone bust.
 
Until about the year 2000, nobody bothered about the few motoring journalists who were around. Writing and doing television pieces was more of an extension of a hobby; the Internet was still in its infancy and, in one of my early ventures called ‘cybersteering.com’, the owner’s review column was getting stronger by the day. But there was barely any money in running a motoring magazine online or in print, or on television, without aliging with public relations. In came junkets and gifts. 
 
It was a waste. The recent Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu report on how consumers buy automobiles says it all; it brings out how independent word-of-mouth is now the single most important factor. 
Several auto manufacturers entered India between 1998 and 2003. Each one of these was way bigger than Maruti-Suzuki, if you were to go by worldwide sales. This is when their PR/corporate communications push started becoming ubiquitous. 
 
Starting from the Top 
Maruti Suzuki has traditionally not used media junkets for coverage; even now, their media events are at their offices and dealer locations most of the times. They participate in motor rallies, aimed more at the four-wheel drive segment which is now seemingly moving into city specific events. 
 
Hyundai has concentrated more on factory visits and driving experiences in actual traffic conditions in India. There is no involvement in motor-sports; on the other hand, their response to customer queries pre- and post-sales is now on the top.
 
Tata Motors had a chance with their Indica to take the number one spot; but it blew it with the Tata Nano where they appear to have paid too much attention to the motoring media instead of trusting their own instincts. A confused media policy, with a huge bias towards south Mumbai, when customers are nation-wide.
 
The global leaders, Toyota and VW, have also followed with high-intensity media and PR push; trips to Japan and Europe as well as circuit racing are a part of the corporate communication push. This has failed to yield sales for both car-makers which is the reason for their lack of market share in India. 
 
For the rest, FIAT had the best chance, and blew it. M&M, Nissan, Renault and the others, again, lots of PR, but where are the sales? A special mention here of GM which had the best chance to break the Maruti monopoly with its recently acquired Daewoo line-up. This is one company which had decent products and could still break out. But media noise does not translate into higher sales. Solid hard work at the existing customer base does. The Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu report underlines this. Much of it is available online. Check it out.
 

Take a Bus, Not a Cab

 
Travelling to cities where airports are far away from the city centre, for example Kolkata, Bengaluru and Goa/Dabolim, I’ve increasingly felt that using taxi-cabs is not just a waste of money but also tiring, especially with the increasing number of speed-breakers all over India. However, using the option of luxury buses in Kolkata and Bengaluru, takes care of the bump and fatigue part, to a large extent, for 90% of the journey, at least.
 
The reason is simple—most taxi-cabs do not not get their suspensions re-worked after the first purchase. Luxury buses, on the other hand, are not just maintained regularly, but also have bigger tyres and longer wheel-bases, both of which swallow the worst that our roads can offer. I especially liked the options available at Kolkata. 
 
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.)

 

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ASCI upholds complaints against 62 Advertisers including P&G, Snapdeal, TV 18 and Hyundai Motors
ASCI upheld 62 out of the 97 complaints received by them in December. Almost a third of the advertisements axed are from the Personal and Healthcare category, followed by Education 
 
The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) upheld as many as 62 out of the 97 complaints during December 2014. Some of the companies that will now have to pull out their advertisements include Procter & Gamble Home Products Ltd (Pantene Total Damage Care Shampoo & Conditioner), Rich Feel Trichology Centre (Richfeel Anagrow), Career Launcher (CAT Coaching), TV 18 Broadcast Ltd (CNN-IBN), Hyundai Motors India Limited, Reliance Industries Ltd (Reliance Digital)  and Jasper Infotech P. Ltd (Snapdeal.com). 
 
In a pattern similar to November, most of the complaints upheld were from the Personal and Healthcare category (40 out of 62), followed by Education (11) and others such as Automobiles, News Channels and E-commerce. 
 
Some of the examples are: 
 
Procter & Gamble Home Products Ltd's advertisement for Pantene Total Damage Care Shampoo & Conditioner made an unsubstantiated claim that  3,50,00,000 women got the proof of Pantene’s Split-end protection. The only fact mentioned in the advertisement that could be substantiated from the cited survey was that there were 3,50,00,000 users in the study.
 
An advertisement for Richfeel Anagrow by Rich Feel Trichology Centre claimed that it could treat illnesses that lead to hairfall. These illnesses include thyroid, stress, PCOD and dieting.
 
The advertisement for Pillsbury Fridge Cheesecake (from General Mills India P. Ltd) referred to a healthy diet of vegetables and salads as “sada hua salad”.
  
 
 
The advertisement for The Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CK Birla Hospitals) included no disclaimers when it made the misleading claim of providing free checkups. 
 

An advertisement of Max Hospital (from Max Healthcare Institute Ltd) claimed to “save an ill heart” in just 45 minutes. No substantiating evidence or disclaimers were provided. 
 
Along with these, several advertisements for “miracle” drugs and treatments were banned by ASCI. These products make huge claims about being able to cure a wide range of diseases and ailments like diabetes (Shugreen Amrut Drops, Daibinash Churna, GM Pharmacy Range of Products, Aarogya Peeth), hairfall (Biogreen Japakusum, B-Healthy from JM Wellness Private Limited, Krissh Hair Oil from Params Pharma etc.) and impotency (Swapandoshantak Capsule and Krishna Herbal). 
 
Two advertisements from Career Launcher  - one for CAT coaching and the other for the CAT Test Series Program came under scrutiny for making unsubstantiated claims about their ranking and the number of their students who received calls from IIMs. 
 
Complaints against seven other educational institutes were upheld for making false claims about providing 100% placements or about their ranking as Number 1 Institutes. 
 
Jasper Infotech, i.e., Snapdeal.com, in one of its advertisements stated - “1+2 years of warranty valid with Videocon KC50FH (50) Full HD LED Television”, which was misleading. 
 
CNN-IBN of TV 18 Broadcast Ltd also received flak for an advertisement in which it shows a see-saw with one side showing a 'CNN-IBN' with big number 1 outweighing all other numbers on the other end of the see-saw. According to the ASCI Release, “The CCC concluded that the negative portrayal of image of other channels is misleading by implication and disparaging to other competitor channels.” 
 
Complaints against three advertisements from Hyundai Motors India Ltd were upheld – one each against Hyundai Grand i10, Hyundai Grand i20 and Hyundai Xcent. These advertisements violated The Indian Motor Vehicles Act by not showing the registration number displayed in the front of the car while being driven on the road. 
 
Another one from the automobiles category was an advertisement for Bajaj Discover (from Bajaj Auto Ltd), which shows people driving dangerously in a zig-zag manner while also cutting lanes, violating all safety and traffic regulations. 
 
Another advertisement that was axed was one for Reliance Digital, which claimed “zero down payment” without mentioning that the customer did have to pay processing fees while making the purchase. 

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A Sheldon Silver Mystery: Did He Betray New York Renters?

Prosecutors allege the state Assembly speaker made changes to rent regulation on behalf of a developer

 

When New York enacted a major rent regulation law in 2011, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver celebrated the passage of the legislation as a victory over real estate interests.
 
"Despite fierce and well-financed opposition to working families in New York City, we were able to secure important victories for tenants," he said at the time.
 
But the bribery case against Silver unveiled by prosecutors last week raises questions about whether Silver pulled his punches in negotiations on that 2011 bill, potentially at the expense of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who live in rent stabilized apartments.
 
A little-scrutinized section of the criminal complaint alleges a luxury developer implicated in the Silver bribery scheme requested changes to the law. The changes were ultimately adopted.
 
The complaint has tenant advocates who lobbied on the bill, known as the Rent Act of 2011, wondering what really happened. For now, it's a mystery: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara hasn't specified what change Silver made on behalf of a developer who was part of the alleged bribery scheme.
 
"It's hugely important," says Benjamin Dulchin of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. "I hope Preet Bharara tells us someday."
 
The complaint itself provides only a bit of detail.
 
With the legislation pending, it says, "the Lobbyists met, on behalf of Developer 1, with Silver in his State office to advocate for certain proposed terms for the new Real Estate Legislation. The legislation that was enacted included Developer 1's recommendations in substantial part."
 
"Developer 1" is widely reported to be Glenwood Management, the politically influential firm of centenarian developer Leonard Litwin
 
So what might Glenwood have wanted out of the legislation?
 
The heart of the fight that year centered on rent regulation, which limits rent increases on about a million units in New York City, including some of Glenwood's. The state law governing rent regulation comes up for renewal periodically.
 
Landlords can deregulate apartments and begin charging market-rate rents under certain circumstances, such as when an apartment becomes vacant and its rent passes a threshold, at the time $2,000. As a result, over 200,000 units have become deregulated over the past 30 years. In the 2011 negotiations, tenant advocates wanted to stem the flow of units out of the program by tightening the rules. Another focal point was the formula that governs how much landlords can raise rent on regulated apartments when they invest money in improvements.
 
There were other matters the legislation dealt with that could have been of interest to Glenwood Management, including tax exemptions for new development. The firm did not respond to a request for comment.
 
Silver has said he will be vindicated when the case is aired in court. His lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. 
 
The ultimate rent deal struck in 2011 among Silver, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the state Senate did not please tenant advocates.
 
"Both Cuomo and Silver tried to spin the 2011 bill as a great victory for tenants when in fact there were very minor improvements," says Michael McKee, the treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, who lobbied on the bill.
 
He says even at the time – long before the alleged bribery scheme between Silver and the developer was known — it wasn't clear where exactly Silver stood.
 
"Silver was not forthcoming about what he was working to achieve," McKee says. "Silver always presented himself as pro-tenant, but who knows what happened behind closed doors?"
 
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org
 

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