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We have managed to get top-of-mind recall from young India: Usha International’s Dinesh Chhabbra

Innovative product launches and consistent service offerings have not just built consumer trust but also breathed new life into Usha International. BestMediaInfo caught up with Dinesh Chhabra, CEO Usha International, who has been instrumental in giving the brand a new face Rashi Bisaria | Delhi | December 16, 2015
Dinesh-Chhabra Dinesh Chhabbra
In an annual survey by Nielsen which covers a base of 7200 respondents, Usha International has emerged as the biggest gainer in the top 100 Brands of 2015 and among the top 4 consumer durable brands in India. From being ranked 116th last year, it has risen to become the 75th most trusted brand in the country this year.  Building on its 75 year old heritage, the brand has embarked on the path of rejuvenation and in the last five years has been laying the groundwork for a revival. The result is there for all to see. Innovative product launches and consistent service offerings have not just built consumer trust but also breathed new life into the brand. BestMediaInfo caught up with Dinesh Chhabra, CEO Usha International, who provides an insider’s view about how the revamp took place. Excerpts: What made you think about rejuvenation of the brand and how was it managed? People associated this brand with quality, trust, performance, respect, but a lot of dust had got accumulated on the brand. It was becoming an ancient brand. India is a young country and the future of India lies in the hands of people in the age group between 25 to 35 years. We took a step back to strengthen our own brand and revive it. We relooked at the product quality, services, our approach towards the market, our distribution. We invested a lot in the infrastructure of the organisation before we went to town announcing the revival. This happened over 2010-2012. We changed the product, its aesthetics, quality, and servicing. We created a full-fledged test and design centre in China, backed by 30 people. Their job was to test all products for Indian conditions. It took us 2-3 years to strengthen the backbone of the organisation. Between 2011 and 2014 we introduced 200 odd products, all addressing the needs of the modern kitchen. The Black sewing machine was more of a financial need but today’s digital sewing machine caters to the creative person inside you and is serving a different purpose altogether. The campaign around creativity clicked with the consumers. We are selling 300,000 sewing machines today. You introduced some innovative products in the kitchen appliances space. Can you tell us about them? Kitchen is the backbone for the growth of the small appliances industry and not much innovation has happened in this space. We wanted to lead this space. We led it quite well when we introduced the Halogen oven. It’s a modern product for the health conscious Indian.It’s a product that stands out for its innovation, aesthetics and meets the desire of young India to be healthy. We launched products like the Power Blender which is again a blender for the health conscious young Indian. The product has done very well. What did you do right in the last one year to have achieved this position in the Nielson rankings? I think the way we have communicated to our customers, whether through our channel partners or through other means of communication, it has all clicked well. It has been backed by efficient service, and much improved availability of spare parts. I think it is the consistency of efforts that customers are looking for and that have formed the basis. It is the consistency of our offerings and the youthful perception of the brand which has helped us reach where we are today. What is your biggest category at the moment? Fan has been and still is the biggest category for us. The fan contributes almost 45 per cent of our revenue, followed by the sewing machine, appliances and power products. Fans are the most non-involved category of products but we changed this perception. Our E Series fans were noticed for  automotive quality, aerodynamic blades, dust resistant paints. It was the first time anyone gave a gloss to the fan. It gives you a feeling of being young. It also facilitated choice of colours. We simultaneously added characters to the fan which has been liked by kids. We gave choice to the men and the women and got them involved in the category. We offered 30 odd colours in fans. This forces the consumer to step out of the home and select the fan of his choice. This brings the brand closer to the consumer. Usha has made excellent inroads into the rural market. Tell us a bit about your initiatives in rural India. It’s an initiative not many durable product brands have taken. The markets in rural India have grown a lot and disposable cash in rural India has gone up. It gives them prestige. We started participating in ITC haats and now we have started introducing Integrated Rural Distributors. This year we’ll appoint 200 such distributors. These distributors will deal with all our products in one basket. We will help them to link with the retail chains existing in rural India. We will build a market for our products. These distributors will become sources to deliver material to the last mile. Our ‘silai school initiative’ has strengthened our brand in rural India. We have launched 10500 ‘silai schools’ in rural India empowering the women. Through these schools we have touched millions of families and this has consolidated the brand in rural India. Now we need to reach these people and hence we are creating a distribution network which will go to the last mile. Last year we won the Golden Flame award which was a recognition of our efforts in this area, to build the last mile connect. We are also linking this last mile to our IT framework. So all retail availability will be linked back to us and we will have complete visibility of the last mile, which will allow us to reach the last mile at a faster pace. We started in Eastern UP and now that we have learnt enough from our experiments, we are taking it to other parts of the country. Are you looking at ecommerce and how are you adapting to digital media? We are looking at launching our own ecommerce brand store sometime in the first quarter of 2016 to reach out to the customer directly, get their feedback. Ours is a legacy brand but is being run by people accustomed to modern India. We believe that as a brand we are very close to people and this is a medium to remain close to the people. Digital media gives you direct access to people’s minds.  Each new product category has microsites, campaigns built around it. We engage with consumers beyond just selling the products. What is Usha’s biggest strength on today’s date? Our biggest strength is our customers’ belief in us. We need to work towards strengthening that belief. Our biggest strength is being able to continuously launch good quality products and keep innovating. Product experience creates consumers. Have customers started perceiving you as a young brand? We have crossed many hurdles to reach where we are but there is still some ground to cover. But we have managed to get top-of-mind recall from youngsters. What are Usha’s plans for 2016? 2016 will be the year of consolidation for us. We will be bringing the innovation in the fan category to a new level. We will be launching newer products which meet modern India’s aesthetic requirements, and creating more products related to health.
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