tata.com: At a CII brand summit in December last year, you were quoted as having said that the Tata brand is like someone who is established but not modern, large but not focussed, profitable but not in top gear, a warm person but not efficient. What's been the progress since then? Can you spell out some measures that the group is taking to bring about a change, to create and establish a dynamic and purposeful group?
RG: The Tata brand is very large in value and is a respected name among the people of India. What I had mentioned at the CII Summit was a summary of what had come out of a survey conducted on the Tata brand in 1997 and 1999.
Talking about whether there is a change, as part of our Year 2000 marketing plans for the brand, we did a qualitative survey through O&M, our ad agency. There has been a positive shift, but the journey has just begun. The real and perceptible shift will come about when the change reflects in the attitude of managers, when their behaviour demonstrates a sense of urgency, when they are able to re-orient themselves to become market savvy, customer-driven and service-oriented. This will preserve and enhance the value of the Tata brand, today pegged at Rs 10,000 crore.
tata.com: What is the relevance and importance of brand building?
RG: I think the world over realisation has dawned that as economies develop and consumers have more spending power, people don’t buy products, they buy a promise. A brand is nothing but a way of expressing a promise. The future will undoubtedly belong to the brand — and the Tatas will not be left far behind.
tata.com: How can one brand cover the wide diversity of products that the group produces and sells?
RG: That's an interesting question. The Tata brand has evolved from the times of our founding fathers and early leaders in the business. They did not obviously then think of brand management, but they were imbued with a zeal to build the Tata name and empire through determination, dedication and discipline.
Today, the Tatas represent assurance, reliability, a sense of nationalism, value for money, and such other attributes that have been built over several decades. Irrespective of the product you are making, those are the attributes you would like to be known for, whether it is through a wrist watch, a piece of software or a car. It is for this reason that the Tata name goes well with a diversity of products — from tea and salt to an Indica car, software development and steel.
tata.com: Does a central brand mean a corresponding centralisation in the group organisation?
RG: Certainly not. I think if you recognise the brand as a promise, then the custodian of the promise is centralised. In simple terms what this means is that nowhere in the vast and sprawling empire of the Tatas would anybody be allowed to act in a way that detracts from the central promise of what the Tata brand means.
It is neither practical to centralise, nor is there any intention to centralise the organisation. In fact, the Tata group’s great strength is that it is spread out, diverse and autonomous in the way our companies are run, and yet they adhere to a central value that is inherent in the Tata brand.
tata.com: What is the role of the Group Executive Office, or GEO, in this entire exercise of brand building?
RG: The Group Executive Office is an extension of the Chairman’s Office at Tata Sons. It has been set up to review the group's business activities as well as to redefine the group purpose. The chairman has reiterated that we would like to double our sales every four years and our profits every three years. We therefore aim to strengthen ties with the Tata companies.
In short, the chief objective of the GEO is to make the group more synergistic than it has been. The brand is part of it. It is not merely the actions of the GEO that will enhance the value of the Tata brand, but of all the managers and employees in the group.
tata.com: Will the brand building be supported by substantial promotional expenditure by the GEO? How will individual companies benefit?
RG: Every company in the group has derived a lot of value from being called a Tata company, and that is why, with considerable promptitude, they have complied with the requirements of the BEBP agreement.
Until recently, we had not operated under a single mark. The signing of the Tata Brand Equity and Business Promotion Agreement (BEBP) with our companies has brought them under a single mark.
When people see a unified Tata brand, they will connect with the Tatas. For instance, when managers from every Tata company, be it Tata Tea, Tata Steel or Tata Electric, display their visiting cards with the same 'group composite mark', can you imagine the impact it will have?
There are two ways in which brand synergy is beginning to emerge. The first is when a company advertises its products or services — it uses the Tata mark in all the advertisements. The second is when the group advertises — with frequency and consistency the message of the Tata brand is reiterated and reinforced in the minds of the consumer and other decision-makers.
tata.com: But, isn’t this being done only in the domestic market? What about the international market?
RG: Well, we want to get our act together first on home turf before we go to the global market. But that will surely happen.
tata.com: Our global ‘sphere of influence’ is confined to the US, mainly through our software presence, and to some countries in Europe. Comment.
RG: Well, nobody has gone global everywhere at the same time. You choose your geography on a number of criteria, including your capacity to support the market, and the propensity of your business portfolio.
tata.com: How will a centralised brand be beneficial to the Tata IT companies, where there are three or four companies offering the same kind of services? Will it not cause more confusion in the minds of customers? How are such issues being addressed?
RG: Nobody would argue that we should have four companies doing the same thing with the same mark. If there are four companies, then they should do different things with a slight overlap. For instance, Tata Technologies is into CAD/CAM, Tata Elxsi is into graphics and animation — which is very different from what Tata Infotech and TCS do. If, however, there is a lot of overlap between companies, then indeed the common mark would cause confusion.
tata.com: So are you saying that the end result of the branding exercise will see every Tata company sporting the group composite mark?
RG: Absolutely. Tata Technologies, for example, is in the process of taking on the new mark. In the next few months, the company should sport it.
tata.com: How do you see the Tata group in the Indian business perspective?
RG: I see the Tata group as a leader, a doyen, a group that will rapidly adjust itself. I really see the Tata group as a microcosm of India.
The group is involved in diverse sectors ranging from automobiles to engineering products to energy and consumer products — all held together by the common pursuit of improving the quality of life of people. The group accomplishes this by targeting sectors that impact the national economy. Pioneering, patriotism and philanthropy, and, of course, profits (our four Ps) led the Tata group to venture into hotels, chemicals and automobiles. The Tata Group is all about "leadership with trust" in chosen areas of national economic significance.
The group is a market leader in many fields. It dominates the heavy and medium utility vehicles market in India, it is the largest manufacturer of soda ash, it has one of the largest infotech and management consulting portfolios in the country, and Indian Hotels manages the country’s largest chain of premium hotels.
The trust that the group has come to symbolise encapsulates the four ‘Ps’. Making a profit is essential for any successful business, but all the market research I have sifted through indicates that for consumers across the board, the Tata Group and trust go hand in hand.