Trout & Partners - Global Leaders in Strategic Positioning

Trout & Partners

Global Leaders in Strategic Positioning

All the World's a Marketing Problem

Nothing Illustrates the point better than India

India’s economy is slowing down as is the rest of the world. The answer to this problem is that corporate India must find a way to sell more inside and outside of India. That means get better at selling or marketing and find more places to which to sell.

Getting better means getting better at “Positioning” strategy. In simple terms that’s about getting into your customers’ minds with an important reason to buy. During the recent downturn in the U.S., the consumer economy was an important factor keeping things from getting worse and it certainly has helped our recovery as people are buying cars and houses again. Of course what has been driving things is corporate America’s marketing which is behind all of the products people are once again buying. While India’s business management is making progress at getting better at marketing and positioning, it has a long way to go. Marketing is still a relatively new business function to them.

Another factor in this regard is the Indian government. Their responsibility is to create the right environment for doing business. This means less rules and regulations that only get in the way. Corporate India should organize and make it clear to the government what it needs and doesn’t need to do business and restore India’s strong economy. The lead item on this list should be better infrastructure. If you look at India and compare it to China, you quickly appreciate what a difference better infrastructure can make. But of course, this costs money so from where is the money to come? I have a suggestion that answers that question as well as where to sell more outside of India. In a single word, it’s Pakistan.

So how do you turn Pakistan from an enemy to a trading partner? After all, No. 1 trading partner of the U.S. is Canada. So it could be for India.

In my estimation, the ball is in the hands of India. They are the bigger and more powerful player and in a position to start the ball rolling. This should be done in dramatic fashion by “Declaring peace.” The point is that two nuclear armed enemies can cause only big trouble for themselves as well as their neighbors. In addition, both countries desperately need prosperity to build infrastructure and improve healthcare and education. This also would free up the military to chase the real bad guys which are the Taliban in Pakistan and Maoists in India. Both countries have lawless areas that desperately need more law and order.

So if Pakistan is to become a trading partner, how much business is there to be done? This is not an easy answer but let me speak to one area with which I’m familiar. It’s the category of motorcycles. For several years I’ve been consulting with Bajaj on their motorcycle business. They have become India’s global powerhouse in motorcycles in some measure because of a large export business that far exceeds that of Hero, a bigger competitor. When I asked about exporting motorcycles to Pakistan, I learned that they had to ship them via Dubai because of trade restrictions. Now that’s the long and expensive way to Pakistan. So I asked, what could they sell if they could ship them directly to their next door neighbor? The answer was close to a million motorcycles. Now that’s a lot of prosperity for a lot of Indians making and selling them. And that’s only one business. I have no doubt that you could multiply that kind of business many times over with products going in both directions.

But here is the problem. Solutions like this are easy. It’s selling solutions that is the tough part. In this case, more “Prosperity” is the way to sell this kind of bold move to the public. When all else fails, people put aside whatever their misgivings if making more money is offered. More business means more jobs which means more money. And the people paying those salaries are corporate India.

Finally, who should do the selling in this case? From my experience, in India it has to be the next or younger generation of leaders. The old generation now in power is burdened by too much of the past. They are more backward looking than forward looking. They don’t trust Pakistan and they probably never will. Nor are they good at marketing. What they are good at is connections with what we call in America, the old boys’ network. New thinking is something that young people do better than older people. And this is new thinking.

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