This book is singular because it doesn’t have an author. Delhi-based Anisha Motwani, billed as “business strategist, speaker and columnist” is named in capitals on the cover and browsers are likely to presume she is the author. Closer inspection, however, reveals four words in small print above her name, which say “Conceptualised and edited by”. Who wrote the manuscript she has edited is not mentioned anywhere.
Be that as it may, Anisha Motwani’s market-driven concept of creating a book by collating anonymously authored analyses of 20 successful brands works. Today, the country teems with management practitioners and aspiring-to-be-yuppie students who clamour for reliable information about successful homespun businesses. Indian entrepreneurs continue to anxiously keep even their success stories private. To Motwani’s credit, she has managed to get them to reveal information that has hitherto been kept away from public scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the author has also been tempted to use the tired cliché of promising to tell “untold stories”. This promise adorns the book’s cover. True, 20 companies with successful brands have collaborated with her to depict the whys and wherefores of brand success. This is also the book’s weakness.
Each of the 20 chapters only narrates one-sided details of facts the featured companies were willing to reveal. This weakness resides in the chasm between how? and how much? This reviewer found only a sparse mention of costs incurred by each company on important heads such as brand reconstruction work, hiring senior personnel savvy in rebranding techniques, soft media time and print media column centimeter costs, amongst others.
To be specific, how much did it cost Marico to recast Saffola’s heart-health pitch from ‘fear’ to ‘care’? A brilliant strategy but how did numbers crunch? Another example picked at random: PVR’s plan to reach the monstrously large tally of 1,000 multiplex screens in the country was seen through. Details of how are told but not funding figures. Motwani hasn’t been able to peek through the veils of corporate secrecy. Of course, not everyone is interested in knowing the nitty-gritties of cost details and is quite satisfied with this much information.
Despite this shortcoming, some chapters are excellent. The one on Cadbury India entitled “How a Foreign chocolate Won Indian Hearts” stands out. Motwani recognizes and cogently sustains the claim that, thanks to its groundbreaking campaigns for many years, Cadbury has most remarkably been able “to pull off the near impossible challenge of integrating itself into the food habits of a nation strongly habituated to eating indigenous sweets.” Cadbury persevered and overcame prolonged periods of stagnation to “become part of the cultural fabric without localizing the taste.” By all accounts, Cadbury India has proved the permanence of its brand recognition in a foreign market.
The book has some penetrating observations about the contemporary Indian woman: “Today’s homemaker does not wish to spend more time than absolutely necessary in looking [at brands] as she is juggling more responsibilities than her mother ever did.” At “an interesting cusp of tradition and modernity...” she straddles the worlds of “yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
It appears that Motwani’s book too has been able to straddle this cusp.
Sujoy Gupta is a business historian and corporate biographer