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Last Updated Wednesday November 20 2019 09:16 PM IST
Other Stories in Bussiness Boom

Luscious halwa and lissom shirt: Lessons in branding

P. Kishore
Special Correspondent @ Malayala Manorama
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Ever heard of the soft and succulent halwa of Tirunelveli...? Well, the lissom and luscious halwa definitely has something common with the CD shirts of Mumbai. The MBA types may call it exclusive distribution, but they both are sterling examples of the success story of keeping the brand strong through exclusivity and creating aspiration to make masses want it.

If you happen to go to Tirunelveli, no need to ask anyone where you can get the famed halwa. Just go to Madurai Road behind the bus stand, and lo, you see a big crowd in front of a small, nothing special looking shop. There is a small blue board calling it 'Santhi Sweets.' The crowd jostles to get a small morsel of mouth-watering halwa.

We, the visitors could wonder, what's all this 'helluva' about? But it's an everyday wonder in Tirunelveli. Night or day a crowd jostles, pushes to buy halwa which is sold at a price of Rs140/kg. The locals buy the hot halwa just off the kitchen just as they buy a packet of peanuts. Auto rickshaw wallahs to Automobile millioners do so.

This is a kind of halwa that can not be cut to pieces. It has to be eaten with a small spoon. Other two shops named Iruttu Kada and Lakshmi Vilas also sell them. They are also brands on their own. Iruttu Kada is called so because it opens shutters only after dark. Iruttu means darkness in Tamil. The brand lesson for all the management experts here is that, these are three independent brands that are not available anywhere else, yet people come from all over to buy from these shops.

Many others have tried to imitate them but failed miserably. Near these shops there are other shops set up by those smarties to cash in on the halwa hullabulloo. Some of them have named themselves Santhi Sweets too, to cheat unsuspecting customers from outside the city, but lost their shirt in business. Such is the power of these brands.

Anyone can make halwa with wheat, sugar and ghee, but it's the brand that sells. It has been going on for more than a century, and yet none of the new generation owners have bothered to start more shops elsewhere and dilute the brand. The Tirunelveli Halwa sold in these three shops may well be one of the best examples of not diluting a brand, and keeping the aspiration high. Management experts from world over should take a leaf out of this lesson.

Bombay Charagh Din shirts

Another example of exclusive distribution is the Bombay CD shirt. The Charagh Din story is fairly well documented. It's a brand that caught the imagination of the youth of the eighties. There was nothing special about the shirt or design, but youth from all over the country craved for it. It was a mark of your money power, if you wore a shirt with the two letters, CD etched on the pocket.

CD shirts were sold in a small shop in Wodehouse in Colaba and people from all over took train or flight to go to Bombay (not Mumbai then) to buy them. Many a lad with a streak of making a quick buck attitude, bought the shirts in bulk and resold them to those who could afford in their little towns. These shirts were sold at Rs170 to 200 but these were princely sums then. Many Malayalees with aspiration to flash a CD shirt but purse not big enough, moved to the middle east, made money and took a flight to Bombay, to make that long awaited bee-line to Colaba and fulfil their dream.

The Daswanis of Charagh Din have tried hard to preserve their brand and not dilute it. In the place of old shop now stands a four storied air-conditioned showroom. Many middle-aged men still make that bee-line to buy them too. These men are trying to claim a part of their youth,which is passé now. The shirts are available online too.

The branding technique is the same in Tirunelveli Halwa and CD. Make the product rare, keep demand much more than supply. Make people aspire for it. Buying that brand becomes fulfilment of aspiration.

Last post: These days it's the automobile companies that try this trick. Ever wondered why a new brand of car or SUV is not easily available? Why there is a six month wait to buy them? Production of the model is kept low deliberately. Make consumers aspire, dream and wait for the motorised version of halwa.

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