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Nestlé creates good brand image:

Market research essential to sustain in global markets

“Most of the time it is an advantage to be in the global and local markets. However, it is always a challenge to compete with global brands as it always depends on the culture, lifestyle, income levels and many other factors. To sustain globally market research is essential,” said Senior Vice President-Commercial, Nestle Lanka Plc, Muhammed Hamza.

“Challenges of the global market cannot be generalized. It can differ from one market to another.

Being in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market for many years, Nestle has already created a good brand image locally as well as internationally,” he said.

Here are his down-to-earth views.

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

A. My father was a businessman and I come from a business family. When I was young I was always interested in business in general. When I was doing my management degree at the University of Peradeniya, marketing was one of the subjects which I was really interested in. Therefore, my desire changed from a businessman to marketeer since I found marketing quite interesting.


Muhammed Hamza. Picture by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

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

A. I have been in Nestle for the past 24 years and in the recent past, the challenge of being a front-liner of the company was to achieve the anticipated growth rates.

When I joined Nestle, the annual turnover of the company was Rs. 360 million while last year the turnover was Rs. 19 billion and we have been growing year on year.

Due to the current economic recession it is quite difficult and challenging to sustain in the market since being in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry there are many competitors in the market and it is always a challenge to keep the market share and face recession at the same time.

As a front-liner it is essential to be alert to consumer behaviour and satisfy his needs according to the requirements.

In a small country like Sri Lanka, the economic and political situation directly affects market growth.

For overseas commodities such as wheat, sugar and many other ingredients the price factor is also quite challenging to sustain in the business.

To sustain in the business profitability and growth are equally essential.

Apart from these, I think to have the right people in the right position is also one of the challenges to sustain in the business.

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

A. Even though there is an economic recession we are managing fairly well since we do not have an excess cadre in the company. Being in the FMCG market we have to seek innovative methods to sustain in the business.

For example, in the past for a standard pack size we always had 450grams and the minimum was 200grams.

However, to evolve in the situation, a substantial amount of our business comes from affordable packs which are priced at Rs. 15 to 20. There are a large number of people who cannot afford to buy the earlier standard size packets due to the low income levels.

Actually, I believe that this concept has helped us to sustain in the business and it also helps people who are under very low income levels to fulfill their day to day necessities.

With the dawn of peace in the country there are many business opportunities in the Northern and Eastern provinces where the business community can get into the new market segments.

We are geared to expand our business in these areas too in the near future.

Q. In many companies we often see that marketeers are not represented at the board room meetings. What is your view?

A. This issue has arisen at many fora. However, at the time I started my career as a marketeer, marketing was not identified as a serious job.

Therefore, most people in the field at that time had only selling experiences. The main reason was because at that time most marketeers were not financially disciplined. Today the situation has changed.

Today, most marketeers are financially well disciplined and capable not only in sales but have also developed as professional marketeers. Nestle is a marketing driven company. At Nestle, most of the managing directors across the globe come from marketing backgrounds. As I believe marketing is also a function of competencies.

As far as Nestle is concerned, marketing is one of the key positions at board room meetings.

If we consider the whole corporate sector, the role of marketing has been positioned well in the business and now it has become one of the most responsible jobs.

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

A. It varies from product to product. Since we are a multi-national company we manufacture global and local brands. The marketing strategies that we employ for global products to local products are completely different and unique. We have a tailor-made strategy for Sri Lanka which depends on the brand.

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

A. Well, sometimes it is an advantage to be in the global and local markets. However, it is always a challenge to compete with global brands, as it always depends on culture, lifestyle, income levels and many other factors. To sustain globally market research is essential. Challenges of the global market cannot be generalized. It can differ from one market to another. Being in the FMCG market for many years, Nestle has already created a good brand image locally as well as internationally.

Q. What is you idea about local marketeers?

A. I have been working as a marketeer in many countries and I do not think that marketing depends only on competency - it depends more on exposure.

Since we are a small country there is a lack of opportunities for marketeers as well as many professionals to be exposed to global markets. It limits our capacity to a certain extent. I always encourage budding marketeers to experience other marketing segments in other countries and interact with different consumers in these marketing segments.

Marketing is an evolving science which develops day by day. Therefore, my message to all budding marketeers is that they should not confine themselves to only one country, to climb the corporate ladder. As a professional marketeer you should be exposed to the global markets as well, he said.

 

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