In Conversation with Rahul Kansal

Head, Marketing & Strategy, Future Group
Tuesday, 20 Dec 2016
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Rahul Kansal is Head, Marketing & Strategy, Future Group. Prior to this, Rahul was with Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd., wherein he joined as CMO in November 2007 and then got promoted to Executive President in April 2012. As of April 2016, Rahul has been with the Future Group. His previous stints include being Deputy MD at Leo Burnett, Executive Director at Mudra Communications, and ED at Ogilvy & Mather.
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Rahul Kansal is Head, Marketing & Strategy, Future Group. Prior to this, Rahul was with Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd., wherein he joined as CMO in November 2007 and then got promoted to Executive President in April 2012. As of April 2016, Rahul has been with the Future Group. His previous stints include being Deputy MD at Leo Burnett, Executive Director at Mudra Communications, and ED at Ogilvy & Mather.

Future Group is planning a host of launches in the Great Indian Food Market. So what are the plans?

Rahul Kansal: Future Group has ambitious plans to become a major FMCG player in the country. We believe the Indian consumer is changing at a faster pace than the existing FMCG players have recognised. There is a generation of foodies out there, willing to try new tastes like never before. At the same time, there is an increased desire for healthier foods… or foods we may have left behind in our blind race to become ‘modern’. Over the past year our Group’s FMCG company - Future Consumer Ltd - has embarked on an ambitious journey to launch differentiated brands and products that cater to these twin needs for new taste experiences and health. There is a generation of foodies out there, willing to try new tastes like never before. At the same time, there is an increased desire for healthier foods… or foods we may have left behind in our blind race to become ‘modern’.

Future Group seems to be betting big on the heathy grains category and is planning to take on the ITCs, the huge unorganized market as well as a number of boutique brands.. So who do you see as primary competition?

RK: Healthy grains is certainly an important part of our new products journey. We have recently launched a whole range of traditional grains like Ragi, Nachni and Bajra under Desi Atta Company; we've also reintroduced a largely-foreign concept like oats in a way that the average middle class home can relate to. We see both these brands as essentially creating new categories, rather than fighting for share from existing players. Healthy grains is certainly an important part of our new products journey. We have recently launched a whole range of traditional grains and have also reintroduced a largely-foreign concept like oats in a way that the average middle class home can relate to.

There are enormous changes in India's relationship with food... The Future Brands study on Food habits talks about our hedonistic exploration of food... Do tell us about this.

RK: Yes, the Indian consumer’s basic attitudes towards food are changing in an unrecognisable way. From a society that ate to live we are becoming people who happily live to eat. The indian palette (which was felt to be rather conservative till barely a decade or two ago) is now open to all kinds of experimentation. Even highly alien tastes like wasabi, h3 cheese and bitter chocolate are finding acceptance amongst lay consumers. Eating out is becoming a primary avenue of entertainment. From a society that ate to live we are becoming people who happily live to eat. The indian palette (which was felt to be rather conservative till barely a decade or two ago) is now open to all kinds of experimentation.

Does a 'Healthy india' find any space in the Future Group Food Brand Book?

RK: We are developing many brands to cater to the new yearning for health. Apart from Kosh and Desi Atta Co. which I've just talked about, we had Karmiq, a brand offering a range of foods for people who want to take accountability for their own wellbeing. Foods like nuts, dried fruits & berries, trail mixes, healthy oils, green tea etc. We have many other offerings in mind, on which work is happening.

The last decade or so has witnessed a transformation in the way Indians consume Media... So to engage with your customers, what is the focus of your attention and money?

RK: We feel that we have to move directionally from ‘broadcasting’ our messages, to creating one-to-one conversations. For us, the use of the retail environment is a huge opportunity, and we will progressively hone that skill to become best in class. We will also use our massive loyalty databases as well as online marketing, to micro-target consumers based on relevance. And we will surround some of the bigger brands with an appropriate degree of above-the-line advertising.

For us, the use of the retail environment is a huge opportunity, and we will progressively hone that skill to become best in class.

A little bird tells me that you are writing short stories for children... That is such a wonderful thing to do! Tell us about it?

RK: Well, its just some fun I’m trying to have. There used to be these real cock-and-bull tales I’d invent for the kids when they were small. They’d give me a topic (eg; how did the pig become a dirty animal, or how did the giraffe get a long neck) and one had to invent some rubbish on the spot. Well, they exhorted me to write some of those stories down. I’ve done the first of a 3-story series; unfortunately, now that I’ve found a publisher who’s interested, I’m really struggling to find the time to finish them :( 

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