Friday, 21 October 2011

Lessons in branding from a remote village

What will you do when you are overwhelmed by copycats producing your brand? On my recent trip to Eastern Nepal, I was puzzled to see around two dozen shops producing the same brand. Peda – a sweet made from milk is not only delicious but is also offered to Hindu Gods and Goddesses as offering. The pedas from Barmajhiya, a village in Eastern Nepal, have earned reputation not only in Nepal but even in the adjoining districts of India.

Perseverance pays
It all started with an old man’s perseverance to make and sell the sweet. When he started making pedas, there were no other shops making and selling the sweet. He just had a small hut and when nobody was interested in eating pedas, he started selling the pedas to the locals and the passengers travelling from other parts of the country to the Eastern Nepal. The taste of his pedas started making place in the hearts of local people and the word spread to the surrounding villages.

The tipping point
When the passengers travelling from the capital Kathmandu and other major cities started liking the taste of his pedas, the word of mouth advertising did the trick and the brand was talked about throughout Nepal. The pedas were so tasty and marvelous that people soon started flocking to the shop, journalists started writing about him and his pedas, making not only the pedas famous but also making the place Barmajhiya famous.

The amount of milk he used to collect from the local farmers increased by leaps and bounds, his profits soared up, and the area around his shop started developing into a cluster of shops. Seeing the old man’s prospering business, many started considering him as role model while others started looking at him with envy.

The bandwagon effect
Then started the bandwagon effect – other nearby shopkeepers started making pedas and to the chagrin of many, all of them put boards claiming to be the “original old man’s peda shop”. As a result, the passengers travelling through the highway were duped by the “me-too brands”. Still most of the passengers travelling don’t know which one the original shop is.

Differentiating from others
The old man, Baidhyanath Sah’s business, is however, flourishing as usual. To differentiate himself from other shops, he has put his picture on the board – which can’t be copied by other shops. And I say, that is a clear-cut clever move to prove his genuineness.

Quality matters
Not only the size and shape of the old man’s pedas but the taste itself stands out among the other pedas sold by the two dozen copycats. The locals and businessmen in the area know his shop and pedas. The businessmen purchase pedas only from his shop which is further sold across the country. Even near the Patan Durbar Square in the Kathmandu Valley people can purchase the genuine pedas from the old man’s shop.

The old man needs no advertising to refresh his brand. He just keeps sticking to his brand – the quality remains constant – and it does the rest for his business.