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- Case Study 2 - Kelloggs in India

Kelloggs is, of course, a mighty brand. Its cereals have been consumed around the globe more than any of its rivals. Sub-brands such as Corn Flakes, Frosties and Rice Krispies are the breakfast favorites of millions. In the late 1980s, the company had reached an all-time peak, commanding a staggering 40 per cent of the US ready-to-eat market from its cereal products alone. By that time, Kelloggs had over 20 plants in 18 countries world wide, with yearly sales reaching above US $6 billion. However, in the 1990s Kelloggs began to struggle. Competition was getting tougher as its nearest rivals General Mills increased the pressure with its Cheerios brand. Kelloggs management team was accused of being unimaginative, and of spoiling some of the worlds top brands in a 1997 article in Fortune magazine. In core markets such as the United States and the UK, the cereal industry has been stagnant for over a decade, as there has been little room for growth. Therefore, from the beginning of the 1990s Kelloggs looked beyond its traditional markets in Europe and the United States in search of more cereal-eating consumers. It didnt take the company too long to decide that India was a suitable target for Kelloggs products. After all, here was a country with over 950 million inhabitants, 250 million of whom were middle class, and a completely untapped market potential. In 1994, three years after the barriers to international trade had opened in India; Kelloggs decided to invest US $65 million into launching its number one brand, Corn Flakes. Indian economic experts such as Bhagirat B Merchant, who in 1994 was the director of the Bombay Stock Exchange, greeted the news optimistically. Even if Kelloggs has only a two percent market share, at 18 million consumers they will have a larger market than in the US itself, he said at the time. However, the Indian sub-continent found the whole concept of eating breakfast cereal a new one. Indeed, the most common way to start the day in India was with a bowl of hot vegetables. While this meant that Kelloggs had few direct competitors it also meant that the company had to promote not only its product, but also the very idea of eating breakfast cereal in the first place. The first sales figures were encouraging, and indicated that breakfast cereal consumption was on the rise. However, it soon became apparent that many people had bought Corn Flakes as a one-off, novelty purchase. Even if they liked the taste, the product was too expensive. A 500gram box of Corn Flakes cost a third more than its nearest competitor. However, Kelloggs remained unwilling to bow to price pressure and decided to launch other products in India, without doing any further research of the market. Over the next few years Indian cereal buyers were introduced to Kelloggs Wheat Flakes, Frosties, Rice Flakes, Honey Crunch, All Bran, Special K and Chocos Chocolate Puffs none of which have managed to replicate the success they have encountered in the West. Furthermore, the companys attempts to Indianize its range have been disastrous. Its Mazzabranded series of fusion cereals, with flavors such as mango, coconut and rose, failed to make a lasting impression Acknowledging the relative failure of these brands in India, Kelloggs has come up with a new strategy to establish the companys brand equity in the market. If it

cant sell cereal, its going to try and sell biscuits. The news of this brand extension was covered in depth in the Indian Express newspaper in 2000: The company has been looking at alternate product categories to counter poor off take for its breakfast cereal brands in the Indian market, say sources. Meanwhile, the Kellogg main stay breakfast cereals has seen frenzied marketing activity from the companys end. The idea behind the effort is to establish the Kellogg brand equity in the market. The company is concentrating on establishing its brand name in the market irrespective of the off take. The focus is entirely on being present and visible on the retail shelves with a wide range of products, explains a company dealer in Mumbai. As per the trade, Kellogg India has disclosed to the dealers its intention of launching more than one new product onto the market every month for the next six months. These rapid-fire launches were supported with extensive below-the-line activity, such as consumer offers on half of Kelloggs cereal boxes. Although most of the biscuit ranges have so far been a success with children, due in part to their low price, Kelloggs is still struggling in the cereal category. Although the company tried to be more sensitive to the requirements of the market, through subtle taste alterations, the high price of the cereals remains a deterrent. According to a study conducted by research firm PROMAR international, titled The Sub-Continent in Transition: A strategic assessment of food, beverage, and agribusiness opportunities in India in 2010, the price factor will restrict Kelloggs from further market growth. While Kelloggs has ushered in a shift in Indian breakfast habits and adapted its line of cereal flavors to meet the Indian palate, the price of the product still restricts consumption to urban centres and affluent households, the study reports. Kelloggs tough ride in India has not been unique. As for Kelloggs, it remains to be seen whether its move into other product categories, such as snack food, will be able to help strengthen its brand. The dilemma that it may face is that if it becomes associated with biscuits rather than cereals, core products like Corn Flakes could become a marginal part of the companys brand identity in India. Kelloggs is caught in a bind, one Indian brand analyst remarked in Indias Business Line newspaper. It realizes that cornflakes can make money only in the long haul, so it needs a product which will give it some accelerated growth and the tonnage it is separately looking for. However, its area of strength worldwide lies in breakfast cereal and not in the snack food category. However, other impartial Indian commentators are more optimistic about Kelloggs future prospects within the sub-continent. Among those who believe Kelloggs will eventually succeed is Jagdeep Kapoor, the managing director of Indian marketing firm Samiska Marketing Consultants. With every product offering, Kelloggs chances improve based on its learning in the Indian market, he says.

Lessons from Kelloggs

-Do your homework. Why did Kelloggs cereals have a tough ride in India? It was just clumsy cultural homework, says Titoo Ahluwalia, Chairman of market research company ORG MARG in Bombay. -Dont underestimate local competitors. Although Indian brands were worried they would struggle against a new wave of foreign competition following the market opening of 1991, they were wrong. Multinational corporations must not start with the assumption that India is

a barren field, said C K Prahalad, business professor at the University of Michigan, in a Business Week article. The trick is not to be too big. -Remember that square pegs dont fit into round holes. When Kelloggs first launched Corn Flakes in India it was essentially launching a Western product attempting to appeal to Indian tastes. Globalization may be an increasing trend, but regional identities, customs and tastes are as distinct as ever. It may be easy for brand managers of global brands to view the world as homogenous, where consumer demands are all the same, but the reality is rather different. There is a bigger opportunity in localizing your offerings and the smarter companies are realizing this, says Ramanujan Sridhar, chief executive officer at Indian marketing and advertising consultancy firm Brand Comm.

-Dont try and make consumers strangers to their culture. The rules are very clear, says Wahid Berenjian, the managing director for US Pizza (which has successfully launched a range of pizzas with Indian toppings) in an article for the Hindu newspaper, Business Line. You can alienate me a bit from my culture, but you cannot make me a stranger to my culture. The society is much stronger than any company or product. Brands who want to succeed in India and other culturally distinct markets need to remember this.