In Conversation with Taab Siddiqi
From a bread-only brand, Harvest Gold has now moved to ready-to-eat rotis and even a small but significant gluten-free range. How has the brand continued to evolve since its inception and what's been the overriding marketing strategy for its growth?
When we started the brand in 1993, it was mostly word-of-mouth. It was only later that we started advertising in the print medium. We haven’t tapped electronic media for branding till now but we will be getting more proactive on digital media. We have our painted trucks on the roads – that has roused the interest of people in terms of Harvest Gold’s branding. We no longer emphasise on print media and even today, I will say, word-of-mouth is what’s helping our brand grow. What really aids our brand to get noticed is our strong distribution strategy –getting our brand on the shelves, 365 days a year by being very quality conscious. Bread is a perishable item so our distribution always has to be excellent.I will say, word-of-mouth is what’s helping our brand grow. What really aids our brand to get noticed is our strong distribution strategy –getting our brand on the shelves, 365 days a year by being very quality conscious.
A decade ago, Harvest Gold's advertising allowed the brand to get closely connected to customers -- how do you think the tagline 'Bakwaas Advertising, First Class Bread', which is considered a successful case study in Indian advertising even today, worked for the brand?
It played a huge role in getting the eyeballs. My brief to the agency was that I wanted to develop a property on the back pages of the supplements of national dailies. I was noticing that people had gradually started going back to movie theaters what with the multiplex culture becoming a trend in India. One multiplex major has taking to advertising aggressively in print media on a weekly basis. I wondered if a product like ‘bread’ could look at similar advertising. The challenge was how we could talk about bread week after week. We ran that advertising for almost 8 years and we did that every single week. I thought, we don’t have to talk about Harvest Gold bread every week – what will one say about the bread, other than the fact that it tasty, fresh, soft… So, the advertising agency and I agreed that we should talk about everything else other than the bread. People asked me if I was willing to take such a risk; I’m glad I did because it worked really well.
Was the advertising successful right from the beginning?
My first two ads were very different and I realized they hadn’t made an impact. It didn’t represent us, therefore, I tweaked it. The hook-line, by the third ad, ‘Bakwaas Advertising, First Class Bread’, worked for us. I also feel, those were times when we could talk about everything under the sun about our nation. The hook-line, by the third ad, ‘Bakwaas Advertising, First Class Bread’, worked for us. I also feel, those were times when we could talk about everything under the sun about our nation.
How integral is print media to the branding of Harvest Gold?
Print media is totally out for us, to be honest. It no longer has the sort of impact it used to have earlier. One hardly reads newspapers today – we are reading content and news on hand phones and tablets. Advertising experts also agree that brands today cannot be boosted by merely placing print ads. We are now looking at social media and using our own trucks for distribution. Our branding is also getting prominent at point of purchase and point of sales.
How are you constantly adapting to changes and requirements of the times? Harvest Gold is now offering gluten free products.
I spoke to gastroenterologists and we decided to look into creating gluten-free products. The returns are very limited but for us, this range is not revenue-driven at all. We have been planning this for the last 18-20 months. We have put in a lot of investment in the gluten-free range; we have set up different facilities so there is no contamination at all. Our research showed that there is a huge need for these products so we have to reach out and do it to the best of our ability. More than making money it is to look after the needs of a certain segment of the population, which no one else is doing. The pricing of the product is not astronomical... We will come out with pizza bases, garlic bread and other items in the course of the next few months.I spoke to gastroenterologists and we decided to look into creating gluten-free products. The returns are very limited but for us, this range is not revenue-driven at all.
What’s the overriding strategy for the growth of Harvest Gold?
We don’t look at hurdles, we look for solutions. We look at obstacles as opportunities to learn. We started as a small venture, never dreaming that we could be a company that would eventually become so big, so successful. We have kept building our brand on one strategy – we never cheat the customer, we believe in giving a consistent product all the time. The basic principle is this – it has to be good enough for my own kids to eat. We have never compromised on the quality and that’s the reason why the brand enjoys the brand equity that it does.
What’s the plan of action in the next two years?
We have to continue growing – there are roughly 2 crore people in the NCR who need my bread and I will give it to them. We will have another plant coming up soon, by the end of 2017.We have to continue growing – there are roughly 2 crore people in the NCR who need my bread and I will give it to them.
It is International Women’s Day today. What’s your mantra to balance, both home and office?
It is an attitude – every situation comes to your life to teach you something. Instead of complaining, we have to try and adapt to the changes. I have control over myself so I make sure that negativity doesn’t get the better of me. I have two daughters and my evenings have always been devoted to them. My elder daughter is in college and my younger one is in the 12th grade. I start my day very early in the morning, leave my house by 6:45 am, drop my younger daughter to school, go for my workout after which I reach my office. I wind up by evening, spend time with my family before gearing up to start the next day.