In Conversation with Badri Beriwal

CMO, Veeba Food Services
Thursday, 16 Mar 2017
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Badri Beriwal is the CMO at Veeba Food Services. Prior to this he was the General Manager, Marketing at GlaxoSmithKline, from July 2013 to December 2016. Badri joined GlaxoSmithKline in February 2010 as GPM, Horlicks Innovation, thereby holding various positions with the company. He has also served as the DGM - Brand Management at Wal-Mart and worked with the Britannia Industries Ltd.
About
Badri Beriwal is the CMO at Veeba Food Services. Prior to this he was the General Manager, Marketing at GlaxoSmithKline, from July 2013 to December 2016. Badri joined GlaxoSmithKline in February 2010 as GPM, Horlicks Innovation, thereby holding various positions with the company. He has also served as the DGM - Brand Management at Wal-Mart and worked with the Britannia Industries Ltd.

You have work experience of over a decade in established organisations. What prompted your shift to a startup?

If you look at established organisations, rules are defined, vision and purpose is defined. The trend of startup culture started two decades ago in the US when entrepreneurs started different ventures, bringing in their experience from different industries. Today, India is at that cusp when suddenly youngsters with ideas and capabilities are getting a chance to do what they think is right. I genuinely think, a lot of needs of consumers can be met and problems can be solved if this new generation of budding entrepreneurs are given a chance.

What are the learnings you have brought from your previous experience to a startup?

Having worked in an established company where rules are set, a startup is an ‘open field’. It is a blessing in that you can set your own rules but it is also overwhelming because you have to clearly understand – and implement – just how you want to operate, in which direction should you steer the brand and organisation towards… That’s where the fun lies: The ecosystem is there, the opportunity is there. Today, if you have the capability and confidence, the whole system provides you the ability with what you want.

Veeba’s launch had everyone curious. It came with a bang, suddenly emerging on shelves of neighbourhood market stores as well as branded food outlets. What will be Veeba’s marketing strategy in the coming years?

As an organisation and as a brand, Veeba has essentially focused on providing the best product experience, authentic taste and flavor. We have been confident of our product and we have let that confidence come on the shelves of several stores, we have let that confidence come through our advertising, urging consumers to experience our product. Fortunately, consumers have been extremely supportive, writing positively on social media sending us feedback… So, more than us driving the brand, our product experience continues driving the brand. As we continue to grow, one of the things that I am trying to ensure is that we built a complete ‘marketing organisation’, which is geared for that future – our focus is on having the right set of capabilities in-house to drive our brand further. Our strategy is to be able to provide the right experience and product consistently for years. We are clear that every product offering of Veeba is in sync with our brand’s ethos, so that is one clearly big area of focus. Another area of focus is that consumers are evolving, aware of new flavours and global cuisine. As this community develops, we at Veeba are understanding our role to address the consumer needs in this area of growth.

How do you respond to strategies getting tweaked or pulled back despite them looking good on paper?

It’s something that happens with brands all the time. On our part, while we know we have a winning brand with a variety of products, we have enough room for debates, for honest conversations. It is alright for my team to come to me and admit if something works or doesn’t.We know we have a winning brand with a variety of products, we have enough room for debates, for honest conversations.

What are some of the behavioral patterns and trends of your target consumer?

There are clearly two or three trends that we are currently latching on. First, Indians are fast becoming ‘foodies’; though the definition is loosely defined, there’s no denying that an increasing number of Indians love trying global cuisine whether they are well-travelled or not. Restaurants are opening up, people are venturing out and that trend is on a rise. Second, the new-age Indian is not in a gender divide game – kitchen is not just a domain of a woman because an increasing number of young men want to cook. The only condition: They also want convenience and the ease of cooking global cuisine. These are youngsters who don’t have all the time to cook but they genuinely want to cook. I still remember a specific consumer interaction with a youngster: He works really hard in his company from Monday to Friday, parties hard on Saturdays but on Sundays, he’s home, unwinding, wanting to cook something interesting at home. That’s where Veeba steps in as a brand for this target consumer. That said, there is room for lot more brands and categories to come in.

How important is having clarity on consumer behavior? Can it be a strategy to creating other fruitful plans in terms of brand marketing, distribution and advertising?

Yes. We know our consumer well. When you are clear on your TG, when you know the role you are going to fulfil, it makes your marketing, R&D, distribution and other strategies much easier to implement. It cuts your wastage and saves you from distributing in places where you may not get sales immediately, it saves you from spending money on marketing to those who may not be ready for your product yet. I call it the ‘theory of connected pipes’ – if you are connected with your TG well, you can build a pipe through which your product and distribution and marketing, everything can all go in. If you don’t have a ‘connected pipe’ with your consumer, there will be unnecessary leakages.

How important is digital media as a strategy for growth of Veeba?

Our TG consumers are netizens, therefore, for these consumers we need to influence, inform and connect with them digitally. We continue to build on that, reaching out to social media influencers, even as our consumers continue talking about the brand on their own.

Given that you have joined a startup, how are you striking a balance between your personal and professional life?

No matter how much we love our respective work, there has to be a balance. I figured this out maybe the hard way. There was a time when I was completely clogged in terms of my time. I will admit that my professional life was eating into my personal life. I realised that life cannot be that way – there has to be a distinction between your personal and professional life. It is very important to realise this and build your own ecosystem so personal and professional life is kept sacrosanct. From Monday to Friday, I am completely dedicated to work while my weekends are dedicated to family or personal time. I always start my work on time. More importantly, I cut out any unplanned and unproductive discussions. In case there are media interviews to be scheduled, it’s done when I have some ‘idle time’ and not when I am busy with work schedules and meetings. I take a helicopter view every week to understand where am I using my time wisely, whether I’m managing my professional time and spending it on activities that give me results…There was a time when I was completely clogged in terms of my time. I will admit that my professional life was eating into my personal life. I realised that life cannot be that way.

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