The flurry of festivity associated with Diwali (the festival of lights) has just subsided leaving us all gasping for breath. Unlike important days in the west (such as the Independence Day and Christmas) which are celebrated by the city's governing council (through a ceremonial display of fireworks at some important location) Diwali is more of a household affair. Over the years I have often wondered about the economics involved in manufacturing firecrackers and was intrigued by the ability of some brands to regularly turn in profits in the face of increasing competition. This year (with a freshly graduated MBA mind) I want to put forth some ideas which could help a brand differentiate itself from the competition and attract the attention of customers.
The domestic firecrackers industry is estimated at around Rs 1200 crore (approximately $250 million). Here in South India we have three major brands which occupy a significant market share: Standard, Kaliswari and Ayyan all of which are heads and shoulders above the rest in terms of variety, pricing and most importantly reliability. Reliability of a brand which can be simply measured by the formula is indeed one of the major factors affecting the buying patterns of customers because nobody wants to buy crackers which burn a hole in their pocket and fizzle out. Now assuming that Standard, Kaliswari and Ayyan hold no significant advantage over one another in terms of the aforementioned factors; how does somebody like Ayyan gain visibility over market leaders such as Standard and Kaliswari?
There is of course one often neglected major factor which if properly emphasized can stand as a significant point of differentiation from the competition and also attract the attention of the customers. That factor is safety. The crackers that we buy come in all sorts of colorful packages which unfortunately mention very little information about the product (Does it blow up? or Does it light up the sky? With the volumes they sell even the salesmen aren’t sure most of the times). I guess the point can’t be argued enough that safety of the customers is directly proportional to the amount of knowledge they have about the product. Therefore wouldn’t it be benfecial if the package contained safety instructions?
There is a higher margin for the manufacturers with the special firecrackers (the ones which form great formations in the sky) rather than with the ordinary ones. Most of these specials require supports/stands which hold them still and prevent them from overturning when ignited. The sad part is not many specials come with these accessories which only elevates the amount of danger/responsibility for the customer. Now wouldn’t bundling accessories such as these with the product make it easier for the customers to choose the product over the others.
A lot of people have different requirements some only want noise, some want formations in the sky and some want less smoke. Wouldn’t be useful if you had a grid on the box which could actually rate the product on all these parameters? I believe this is a fantastic way of setting the right expectations for the customers before they make a purchase.
In conclusion a lot of people might argue that none of these ideas would make any difference to the visibility of a brand but I beg to differ. I reckon there is a section in the audience which is willing to pay that extra premium for crackers that don’t throw up unruly surprises and also ensure their safety. Therefore targeting this customer segment might not be a bad idea after all.
Until Next time.