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Strategies to survive VUCA: What works in India

VUCAThe marketing world has always been uncertain and volatile. Top marketers agree that even as the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world has been around for a while, the rate of change today is much more accelerated than what was witnessed so far. The need to adapt to these changes and address the uncertainty of the future has never been more critical for a business. In this dynamic world, when consumer behaviour and economic conditions throw innumerable challenges, the volatility in the market needs to be treated as an opportunity.

Even as many markets in the Asia Pacific region are already exhibiting signs of uncertainty, a point of concern especially coming on the back of the growth expectations from these markets, marketers in India particularly are witnessing a two-speed world. For some, the slowdown story in India has become the new norm but for others, the potential for growth is still there, making India a big investment market. As companies fine-tune their strategies to find a balance in India, some of the top marketers outline what strategies work for a market like India.

R Gopalakrishnan, Tata Sons

R Gopalakrishnan, Tata Sons

Rediscover intuition
As R Gopalakrishnan, Director, Tata Sons put it, “Leveraging the turbulence in the market is the sign of success. This can come by rediscovering something as simple as intuition. Indians are known to be inherently intuitive, and thus can utilise this to put itself ahead of competition.”

He elaborated further that marketers need to combine functionality with emotion to develop a WOW factor to connect with the target group.

Invest in brands

Manu Anand, Mondelez

Manu Anand, Mondelez

Manu Anand, President, India and South Asia, Mondelez International and Managing Director, Cadbury India elaborated about reigniting growth in the economically slowing conditions. “It is a misconception that investing in innovations and launching brands during tough times is a bad idea. We at Cadbury India launched the brands Oreo and Tang during the slowdown, besides investing in the innovation of Silk, Bournville and Perk. What worked for us was targeted communication,” he said.

Mr Anand added that media spend on master brand will eventually spill over on other brands and that it is essential to also concentrate greatly on point-of-sale marketing.

Adapt to change faster
For Ravi Kant, Vice Chairman, Tata Motors, lessons from the past indicate that business cycles are an imperative for any market, and any industry. And if observed carefully, businesses give enough indications to devise future strategies that can reduce risks and allow growth.

Ravi Kant, Tata Motors

Ravi Kant, Tata Motors

He pointed out, “The life span of companies is becoming shorter and in this new world, it is expected that only one third will survive. However, if you can get some basics right, chances are that you will survive. For instance, a low break-even point can help in a slow market and give more returns in a better environment. The impact of cyclicality is controlled when you can put enough thought in some of these fundamentals.”

The sustainability of a business is determined by its adaptability to change. When the new reality is characterised by greater uncertainty, rising complexity and rapid changes, the imperatives required are the ability to anticipate, innovate and collaborate.

“You should utilise data and analytics to be able to predict, which way is your business headed. Paint a future scenario and prepare for it. Internal and external creativity should be tapped on and a seamless execution framework must be enabled to innovate. And finally gone are the days when everything was done in-house. Collaboration is key for growth in a VUCA world,” said Mr Kant.