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'Building confidence and trust vital':

Focus on internal customers too - Panduka Weerasingha

General Manager - Agriculture/Battery and New Business Brown and Company PLC, Panduka Weerasingha, said, "When I joined Browns I had to face many internal as well as external challenges.

"Most of the time, people resisted change. When I took over there were many long-standing employees in the whole group. I had to work very hard and in a short time I was able to change their conservative mindsets and influence them to work as a team to achieve common goals and also to change the perception of external customers as well".

"Most of the time marketeers are more concerned about their external customers. I believe building internal customer's confidence and trust is most important in marketing. When I started, there wasn't a single employee who fell in line with my thinking. However, I'm really proud that today 100 percent of the employees adhere to the procedures we made and I would say that the Exide team is the best team in the whole Brown Group," he said.

Here are his down-to-earth views.

Q. What inspired you to select marketing as your career?


Panduka Weerasingha. Picture by Saliya Rupasinghe

A. When I was young there was a dream in my life to explore many things. During my college days, I was involved in many challenging activities and when I grew older, I decided to choose the field of marketing as my career.

Marketing is a field where you should expect unexpected situations and it's also an innovative job where you come across innovative ideas to sell products or services. Those days marketing was not an exciting job in society. But now it has changed and most people select marketing as their profession. Therefore it is a unique field for those seeking challenge.

Q. Being a front-liner in the company, what are the challenges you face in the field of marketing?

A. For the past 10 to 15 years Browns was really down and there wasn't a proper marketing strategy which was applied in the group. The main reason being that the previous management was not for marketing at all. With the change of management, marketing has now become a priority in the group and we are inspired to restore the lost glory to Browns.

"When I joined Browns I had to face many internal as well as external challenges. Most of the time, people resisted change. When I took over there were many longstanding employees in the whole group. I had to work very hard and in a short time I was able to change their conservative mindsets and influence them to work as a team to achieve common goals and also to change the perception of external customers as well"

Simultaneously, I handled both these areas and brought it up to the expected standard," "Most of the time marketeers are more concerned about their external customers. I believe building internal customer's confidence and trust is most important in marketing. When I started, there wasn't a single employee who fell in line with my thinking. However, I'm really proud that today 100 percent of the employees adhere to the procedures we made and I would say that the Exide team is the best team in the whole Brown Group.

Q. What's the impact of the current economic crisis on your company?

A: There is a financial crisis around the globe and it affected international companies operating in Sri Lanka as well. Browns as a group is very conscious and vigilant about the current situation. However, up to now there has been not a single job cut in the Browns Group and we are managing the business very conscientiously. If you know your limitations and if you are well aware about the current situation around the world you can survive in the business.

Q. In many companies we often see that marketeers are not represented at board room meetings. What do you think?

A. Most of time we see that marketeers are not present at board room meetings. There are many reasons for this problem. Marketing is a balancing act. Marketeers should balance their marketing skills as well as financial skills. Most of the time we see that Marketeers are not financially disciplined. However, I'm fortunate to be in the Browns group where I could be present at the board room meetings and decision making level.

Most of the seniors who take part in the board room meetings at Browns are from a marketing background. There is a myth that marketeers only spend the company's money. Most of them forget that the company earns money because of the marketing activities we do. Now-a-days, nobody can monopolise any product or services due to high competition in the market.

We should not forget that marketeers play a huge role in popularizing the product or services of the company. If every company can have at least one representative from the marketing division at their board room meetings I think it would be better.

Q. What are the advertising strategies that you employ in the company?

A. At Brown and Company the advertising strategies are mainly based on the company's objectives and it also depends on the particular product or service. Browns produces 64 international products. Therefore, it is a must to differentiate advertising as well as the marketing strategies for different products.

Most of the time we practise Below The Line (BTL) strategies for advertising. For products such as Exide batteries we apply Above The Line (ATL) strategies because Exide is a matter of equity in the company.

Q. What are the challenges that you face when it comes to global branding?

A. As I mentioned earlier our brands are available in the global market. Sharp and Olympus are operating really well in the market. It is a matter of blending the local environment to global brands. Then again it depends on the product and also on the segment of the market. Especially if it is a global brand we need to have Sri Lankan taste.

Q. What do you think about local marketers?

A. If I talked about marketing per se, marketing is all about being customer focused, satisfying the customer's needs the end user and taking the product or the service to the next level. Most of the time we realized that people get confused in understanding that marketing is selling.

In Sri Lanka there is enough room to come up as a marketeer. There are many people in the country who are really good at marketing. My advice is that marketeers should learn the basics and rules of marketing and practise them in the real sense and be full fledged marketeers rather than being only a sales person.

 

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