Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On visibility

Some months back, we (me and my bro) had a discussion on some company strategies. The discussion was themed along the lines of "big" and "small". Loosely the points we discussed were these...

ISB recently tripled or quadrupled its student intake.
IITs are doubling their intake this year, IIMs are also taking a similar route.
ITC can be seen on shop shelves with its ready to eat range, biscuits, agarbattis, ready mixes and now plans to move into personal care products.

The common thread across all these questions is, "Arent these institutions/companies, diluting their brand?" or "Spreading themselves too thin?". So, shouldnt they focus on getting better than getting bigger? There are many answers to this question, but one of the answers to getting bigger is about the topic of this post.

Visibility is a key. With 30 students or 2 products in 20 cities, you are hardly visible. If you arent visible in the market, or barely visible, you are invisible. Nobody sees you, nobody buys you. But if you are visible across the spectrum, chances are that the growth will be a self fulfilling cycle in itself (for that you need deep pockets or your brand needs depth). For the IITs and IIMs, quality wont be affected because more than the current intake of the IITs or the IIMs, there are a lot of students who fall out of this elite group, not because they are not capable, but because they do not manage to get in.

The greater the brand spread, the greater is the visibility (if you have deep pockets or if your brand is deeply entrenched, otherwise it is a case of squandering good money). If quality drops, then it is a cause of concern, but with the levels of exams for IITs and IIMs, that should not be a real concern. Of course they need to get better profs to conduct their courses.

As for a company like ITC or a new brand like ISB, with a few products and students, they would still be rarefied. To make a mark in the market, you need muscle and this will come with quantity (alumni power, network, brands across categories), rarely with anything else.

Needless to say, it is not the only strategy. You can stay small, be a niche player. Which is why visibility is a key if you want to be a biggie. Especially when you are taking on global biggies like Harvard and Stanford et al, or if you are taking on a biggie like HLL.

1 comment:

Paddy said...

Absolutely bang on, IIM's were hardly known during the 80s coz of a very small alumni. Now its all prevasive

Interestingly, its that ever blurr line of diluting your brand vs expanding scale.

Marico is using its parachute brand to promote other categories, will it be successful? Time will tell