The Great American Cheeseburger.

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So here I was, standing with some friends at a McDonald’s in Boulder, Colorado and we’re excited at knowing that there’s a whole menu for just about a dollar for us poor Indian students ­čÖé
We stalk the lady at the counter asking her about the various options we had and we settled on the Cheeseburger as it seemed the most vegetarian and superbly cheap! We then asked her about the ingredients of the cheeseburger to confirm our suspicion that we had found a veg burger in the heart of one of America’s greatest junk food joints! She told us that the Cheeseburger has cucumber, pickles, onion and cheese.
Cheese.
Cheese.
Our ears were ringing and our blood pressure shot through the roof thinking about cheese. We quickly ordered three cheeseburgers and a large coke(another dollar~fixed price for any size) and received our order, filled up our coke, picked up some ketchup and sat down.

The first thing I noticed when we sat down was that the cover of the burger said something odd. It said “100% Pure Beef”.

As I looked at the packed burger and then at the happy faces of my friends, I felt a bit of guilt but I pushed it away and waited with bated breath. They opened the packages and dug their first bites into the burger. They looked at me and I looked at them. I was perplexed at their reaction, either they were supposed to react crazily to the taste of beef or smile at me and tell me that it’s really tasty. But they looked perplexed and were probably wondering why I was not biting into my cheeseburger! I slowly asked them how the burger felt. They responded in the affirmative. I noticed that there was a tikki(cutlet) in the burger. From past experiences in South Africa, I knew that in meat-eating countries, a tikki in a burger is bad news for vegetarians.

So, I got up and went to the lady at the counter and asked her a simple question- Does this burger have beef in it?

She slowly, sweetly, responded- Yes.

Ugh.

I was holding cow’s meat in my hands. I went back to my friends who had dropped their delicious burgers due to my suspicions and told them that there was beef in the burger.

They looked at me wide-eyed. Religion was in question here! They had just bitten into beef! A few remarkable reactions later, we were still confused about what to do. Then, a kind lady sitting next to us asked us what our problem was and told us to be firm and ask for the Manager and ask for a replacement.

We went to the counter, asked for the Manager, explained what our religion states and got the burgers replaced.

My appetite was dead by now and I just ordered a coke(another dollar down the drain) and finished it in peace.

For this strange reason, it wasn’t a typical ending to a day. After all, we had just experienced what the Real American Cheeseburger is all about!

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And, The Price is Wrong!!!

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What was it that the erstwhile Hutch (now Vodafone) did as it’s first move into the Indian Mobile service provider scene? They gave us 1000 free SMSs at an obnoxiusly low price of Rupees 6/- a joke so laughable that we used to message just to get our mobile batteries low, a feat now affordable to people with BSNL Student SIM Cards… And all this was to ensure that the market share was OWNed by Hutch within a few months, riding on the Youth’s need for a cheap communication medium which was hip and happening too…

Now, after the dreaded change called Vodafone, the prices of an SMS have shot up from less than a Paisa to 10 paise per SMS and yet Vodafone leads with the share, partly because people would rather stick to the number they’ve been using for quite some time.

But this post is not about Vodafone, it’s about market share and pricing of goods.

Today, roaming around in the market in the evening, my curiousity led me to a general store to ask the price of the new energy drink named Cloud 9 (or 9 Cloud, whatever it is…) which is being pegged as India’s First Natural Energy Drink which is produced locally. The branding, shape and graphics of the can and the contents point out to only one thing- They’re trying to compete with Red Bull.

Here’s where the brand is going to fail-

a) The price of the drink is put at Rupees 75/- Ring any bells? The Price of a Red Bull, which is imported from outside is also set at Rupees 75/- So if I’m going to pay the same price, why not buy the branded goods which have worldwide acceptance and have proven market value? (I’ve had Red Bull, it’s good, Full Stop)

b) The Ad agency hired by the company for Cloud 9 made it good to rope in players of the Chennai Super Kings, most noticably Mahender Singh Dhoni and also, Shilpa Shetty for the launch and RP Singh as the Brand Ambassador, and then wasting away these big faces in a string of downright Stupid Advertisements that in no way make the Indian Consumer want to go out and buy the drink.

c) The drink is being pegged as India’s First Natural Energy drink. As though the average consumer cares. Haven’t we been having Coke and Pepsi and Vodafone long enough NOT to care if the brand is Indian or Global?? Haven’t we become used to all sorts of Unnatural foods and drinks to not care if the drink is Natural at all? What’s so natural about Coca Cola by the way??

Small Note to Cloud 9: Don’t even think that a person who’s just come from the gym will go buy your drink for 75 rupees, they’ll buy milk. And even if they do spend money on an energy drink, it’ll be Red Bull. Here’s Why-

What’s Cloud 9 offering that’s different from Red Bull?

ans) Nothing, the price is the same. I have no reason to buy a brand that’s just entered the market instead of a worldwide accepted brand.

Why can Cloud 9 never beat Red Bull in marketing?

ans) Cloud 9 has the worst possible marketing agency, useless. Red Bull has been making innovative ads since they were born. And they have a lot of money which they can squander on popular actors and cricketers.

Now, What’s the solution? Here’s what Cloud 9 must do in order to beat Red Bull for the market share…

a) We all know the drink doesn’t cost more than 25 rupees. Bring down the price to something near that.

b) Fire your marketing agency. No, am not telling you to throw him off the job, drink a case of Cloud 9, load up your gun and fire AT them. They’re useless and they’re wasting your money. Get someone else to make your ads and make sure that they are very very cool.

c) On the Cloud 9 website there’s a video in which the Director of Cloud 9, Priyesh Ganatra accepts very un-suavely that they copied the USPs of all major energy drinks from all over the world in order to create their own. That video is very very UNCOOL. Remove it. Also remove every trace of CORPORATE nonsense from that webiste. Reason- If I visit the website of a Youth Oriented product, I want to see downloads, product Videos and features like games and more sales pitch, not your God Damn Company’s Address. You want a Hint? Go to the Fuel Deo website here.

In the end I just want to say that Indian Brands have yet to realise the importance of market share and how to capture it.

p.s. To my readers- I have cc’ed this post to the Cloud( manufacturers. Lets see if they have the brains to read it and change a LOT about their brand.

A SubPrime Crisis for India

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India is always fast in picking up various trends from the International markets. Whether it be clothing, fashion or foreign policy. Thus how is it possible that India not pick up international faults and repeat them in its own style? Well, I’m not just talking about the cost fluctuations due to Oil Prices and the whims of the Oil Sheikhs and those of the Federal Bank of the US. I’m talking about taking the biggest blunder of the century being adapted to the Indian scenario. We all know what the sub prime crisis has done to the United States, the world’s biggest economy is now at the brink of a recession best remembered way back between the World Wars… And its not even War right now, it least not for a majority of the world (I hate to say this, but I’m wrong, it IS war for most part of the world). But India is Unique in that unknowingly it is having a sub prime crisis too. No, not food grains, Cellular connections. India is currently one of the┬álargest growing cellular markets and in order to woo the populace, the many cell operators in India Introduced very early various schemes for which the ICM (Indian Common Man) fell hook, line and sinker. But these amazing schemes have a draw back. Lifetime prepaid is a dream well dreamt, but most people are not staying with it at all. Thousands of free smses per month are a boon for the college student, but the companies providing these facilities are now facing the heat of not just TRAI but also the fact that they have to earn money in order to buy more spectrum in the coming years. So companies like Hutch (now Vadophone) and Spice┬áhave done a volte-face and upped their prices. MTNL and BSNL still hang on to the Great Dream but they too will soon realise that the government is not interesting in funding their whims and fancies.

 

Worse of all is the fact that the govt will be introducing Number Portability as early as 2009 in many circles. This will give undue power to the consumer in threatening the Cellular Operator into giving away freebies or loosing vital subscriber database which already has their favourite phone number. This will lead the companies to join hands under the Aegis of TRAI and set the minimum standards for call and sms rates. This will also lead to a uniformity not achievable as yet as each operator tries to use some loophole to their benefit.

 

For Example- TRAI told all operators to start charging rupee 1 per sms on goverment denoted holidays or festivals. This was a bane for prepaid consumers who had to develop strange habits of being overpunctual in wishing their relatives a day before the festival in order to save precious talktime. But odd it is when you still recieve many smses on the good day too! These are from PostPaid consumers who, amazingly have been granted the boon of being exempted of such silly reforms.

 

May God only Intervene in the Crisis now ravaging the minds of the mobile happy ICM.

Hoping that solutions be Just a corner away,

Nitin.