Each time I am served frozen Vietnamese Basa fish, the restaurant fails a fundamental test of integrity. That of forsaking rigorous and sincere distinctiveness in sourcing, in favour of a commoditised half-hearted solution available easily at a consistent price point. More than being just a gourmand fancy, the Basa Test is about the choice between the ownership or abdication of key elements in the brand experience, especially those involving sensitive human skills or exceptional logistics.
For further evidence, we need to look no farther than the QSR industry, a valid comparison being Dominoâ€™s Pizza versus their legion of competitors. Having worked very closely with the former in a previous professional capacity, it is plainly apparent that the ownership of the delivery process, leading to the 30-minute-or-free promise, is a key strategic advantage for this business. Every deliverer is an employee of the company and motivated highly not just through a remunerative career track but also through various soft inspirational measures as per modern human resource practices. This is certainly not easy for the organisation, involving considerable investment in time and money, but leads to an ownable strategic advantage unlike those who have chosen Swiggy and its peers. In the latter it is often impossible to ensure professionalism in delivery and one can easily forget about being an advocate of the brand or engaging in happy conversations. You will certainly vouch that most interactions with last-mile aggregators are considerably inferior to own networks, impacting the brand experience quite seriously. Dominoâ€™s Pizza certainly passes the Basa Test with flying colours quite unlike most established or emerging peers.
To understand the ownership or abdication of key experience elements, a few other cases can also be examined. Karimâ€™s or any heritage eatery will never outsource the marinate of the meats or the mixing of sweetmeats while they may well rent newer locations to open restaurants instead of ownership. Ferrero Rocher thrives on the quality of the hazelnut, which is rigorously procured while Toblerone, until recently at least, manufactured every chocolate from a single Swiss factory. Ever since the branded garments industry started outsourcing production, arguably a business necessity, the quality of tailoring dipped sharply. A hospital may sub-contract its pathology services but never its operating theatres. Advertising agencies try to save money by offshoring their art studio but get into trouble when it comes to freelance creative resources, core to the end product.
The temptation to deliberately let go strategic points of value emerges largely from the increasing influence of the CFO on customer experience, from airlines to confectionary. At its current stage of growth, it may make great sense for a mid-sized eatery to sign up with a delivery aggregator but the impact of sub-optimal fulfilment may certainly affect its long-term potential. Luxury brands will never compromise on in-house design talent however long and expensive the investment incubation may be while technology leaders like Samsung or Apple own their secret sauce, while leaving the execution to process-controlled others. When education brands diversify too quickly, be it DPS or IIM, they run the risk of failing the Basa Test, as it is often impossible to extend the rigorous consistency of formidable IPR, exactly why Fine Dining restaurants are not stretchable. It eventually rests a lot on management, the equation between growth and divestment always tricky, requiring an intelligent combination of vision, patience and courage.
Apart from year-long price stability, restaurant owners in India are in love with the Basa as it eliminates the pressure of procurement and storage, local fish requiring intuitive time-consuming judgement to identify daily. The Vietnamese import is quite like the chicken of fish, not being stale considered equal to being fresh, competent refrigeration and adherence to packaged date of expiry the only qualifying criteria, just like packaged dahi versus fresh curd. Thus, the favourite of the lazy chef and the unschooled customer who believe that they are enjoying Omega 3 benefits while actually consuming pollutants and endangering their good taste in the process. It is harmful for the restaurant business in every sense; irritating the discerning fish-lover of today and eventually alienating the future customer as its disreputable health antecedents will catch up shortly.
Your brand needs to pass the Basa Test, holding on zealously to valuable elements of the customer experience while being plainly operational about the commoditised elements. The specific criteria will change with every industry and even brand, what must remain is being rigorously choosy and not dangerously cost-obsessed or plain lazy. In this age of experience, we must hold on dearly to what makes us precious as that will keep us going. Â
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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