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The Four As Of Marketing
     (31 August 1999 - Advertising & Marketing)

Samsika has used some original thinking - and four As - to establish a sound reputation.

Five years old, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt Ltd, claims to be on its way to hit a billings figure of Rs 12 crore this year. The man who gets credit is Jagdeep Kapoor, managing director, who started Samsika with his wife as a partner. Samsika played an impressive role in Nirma's image transformation. The success of Enkay's Onjus was next - a brand-creation feather in Kapoor's cap. Today, he boasts of clients as prestigious as Godrej Soaps and Pidilite. Smaller clients include Mongini's, ISP Roltanet and Motilal Oswal securities.

What makes Samsika what it is? It could be the integrated marketing services it offers - everything, from business conceptualisation and strategic brand building to customer service strategy, strategic perception management, franchising strategy and customised training. It could also be the array of marketing tools it has to offer, ranging from its strategic marketing module, retail barometer and candidate profile format to dealer training module, triangular perception management module, intra-department support matrix and relationship marketing module. Jargon ripped out of some text book? Not quite. For it's peppered with local learnings, and every module is designed to work in the Indian market.

Moreover, Samsika doesn't just spout knowledge and leave it at that. For success, it says, depth of knowledge must be accompanied by full involvement. The consultancy believes in being intricately involved from the market research stage to market segmentation, brand positioning, advertising and distribution. Take Samsika's work for Navneet Publication's stationery division; it oversaw everything, including the setting up of the sales and distribution system, formulating the advertising brief and even suggested the baseline ('Jiske haath mein, uski jeet. Hey Navneet Hey Navneet'). Navneet was positioned as the convenient stationer, and sales started doubling every year. Onjus was even more exciting, since Enkay, a textiles exporter, wanted to build a consumer brand in India. Samsika advised the company on virtually everything, while creating for it a sales and distribution network covering over 300 towns.

Many of Samsika's clients have full-fledged marketing departments, but Kapoor feels that he has a lot to contribute. Largely because he has new thoughts and new ideas to offer. Sometimes, even a  whole new perspective. "Take the four Ps but the four As." His basic approach is to look at four Ps through the consumer's eyes. So, instead of an emphasis on the Product, there must be a focus on Acceptance. "Having a niche in the market is not sufficient," he continues, by way of explanatory example, "you have to have a market for that niche." Willingness to pay counts. The second A is Availability as opposed to Place. His brand mantra here: 'Jo dikhta hai woh bikta hai'. Then he believes that Awareness should be the focal issue rather than Promotion. One of his brand mantras says: 'Advertising must be used in the right proportion, like salt.' And this shift in perspective could help save money. "Ad agencies don't like me for this reason," he smiles, "I tell clients that if you can get free publicity, why pay for it?" The last A is Affordability instead of Price.

On the face of it, these dictums seem to be common sense. As applied to market realities. "Sure these are home truths," he admits, "but how many apply it?" Moreover, the basics always sound fairly simple on paper. The trick lies in understanding the true import of the shift in perspective, and then making it work. Developing a 'consumer focus' is not a question of merely acknowledging the consumer's importance.

Samsika's success has promoted many marketing minds to try setting themselves up as consultancies. A few years ago, few would have imagined that this was a viable specialisation. But now, Kapoor expects his billings to double every two years.

One high-potential area, apart from infotech (which has started turning market-savvy in the FMCGs sense, of late), adds Kapoor, is that of Fast Moving Consumer Services (FMCSs). New ideas are bound to come up, he feels. "Why can't we have franchised, branded barber shops?" he asks.

Old-fashioned as it sounds, Samsika wants to project his business, and marketing in general, as an activity based on complete honesty. "Some people think marketing is a con game," he regrets, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Actually, it boils down to understanding the target consumer.