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BW Businessworld

Mondelez' Deepak Iyer Calls For A Level Playing Field In 'Responsible' Marketing

The Managing Director of Mondelez India highlights five key questions facing organisations in a fast-changing technology & consumer landscape

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Hostel life teaches you much about adapting, quips Deepak Iyer, as it becomes apparent it would take a significant deal to keep this managing director of Mondelez India awake at night. In his two-year stint with the company so far, Iyer's leadership style is marked with attention to detail and a firm eye on future readiness.

Addressing over 350 delegates at the BW Businessworld Marketing Whitebook Summit 2018, comprising decision makers from India's media, marketing and advertising fraternity, Iyer reminded that he inherited a portfolio of very strong brands. "Our most modest brand, Gems, is stronger than the strongest brands of some of our competitors," he said.

The task ahead of him was figuring out how to complement it. One part of this was answered in augmenting sales in comparatively weaker markets. In the last two years, Mondelez bolstered its presence in rural India, investing in capabilities required for a heat sensitive product. Revenue contribution from rural markets for the company has consequently grown to 20 per cent from 12 per cent.

"A new world is coming out, growth is no longer a prerogative but a team sport. How do we create a culture where we move from an idea to market in under nine months," Iyer said. He explained that part of the Mondelez ambition is to combine the magic of the big with the agile and the nimble.

Being Responsible
In a fireside conversation with BW Businessworld's chairman and editor-in-chief, Annurag Batra, Iyer also voiced his views on competition. "Anyone who can come and help grow the category is welcome. We will find some way to get the share, but we want people to come with us and grow the category."

Mondelez' focus on growth is not without responsibility. For instance, it does not market to children under the age of 12. Unlike some of its peer, it is not present on kids' channels. Mondelez prints nutrition values on the front of its packs and has practiced portion control. Its large bars component varies between 10-15 per cent of its overall product portfolio.

"We choose not to be apologetic but responsible. We do all this voluntarily, and we know we pay a price, but we know it is the right thing to do. I would, in fact, like to see regulation being brought in this category while marketing to kids, which would create a level playing field," Iyer stated.

In his keynote address at the summit, Iyer posed five questions that marketers and businesses must ask themselves to prepare for the changes that the future will entail.

Changing Realities

Pointing towards the growth of lesser known or non-descript brands due to the growth in e-commerce platforms, his first point was about the importance of a brand and the changing relationships in the ecosystem.

"Whose brand will it be?" Iyer asked. Between a manufacturer and retailer, there is a balance of equation where one knows the consumer and the other knows the shopper. In the age of e-tail, there will be newer ways to partner and be symbiotic as manufacturers and brand owners think about how to keep the brand relevant and refreshed.

He cautioned that even in the new world, brand trust and brand supremacy should not be taken for granted. Marketers must introspect nonetheless on what the changing role of brands should be as newer platforms emerge.

Iyer then drew attention to the newer moments of joy, competing for the same discretionary spends. Where a bar of chocolate once sufficed a good gift, now the fight is with non-category options as well such as a feature phone or a data connection even. "Who is your competition. For a chocolate brand, to say snacking at large is very limiting. And this needs to worry us. We must constantly ask ourselves how we will stay relevant and be in business," Iyer said.

Decoding Digital & Data
Iyer urged companies to be real about their place in a world of new forms of technology, where words and phrases such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things, augmented reality, virtual reality, big data and blockchain among several others, are common play.

"We know data and digital will be our number one competitive advantage," Iyer reflected, adding, "Many of us have begun the journey but it mostly has been about organising data, gaining expertise in digital marketing, conversations around e-commerce and the likes. We have not been able to personalise marketing at scale. We may crack that soon, but will it suffice for an organisation to be digital and data enabled? In my opinion, no."

He reminded that investing in new places alone will fall short in securing business advantage. Legacy media such as television will continue even as digital salience will increase. However, the younger, more tech-led businesses may have some solutions. The open stack architecture, which once again requires various elements to come together to form unprecedented solutions and unlock true potential of sales force or other components of the business, is an example.

A New Generation
The final two of Iyer's questions find a connection in how generations are evolving, creating a new breeds of workforce and consumers.

The fourth question he posed was whether companies were truly being responsible corporate citizens. He pointed out that while many achieved community building, contributing to the planet had lagged. Much has changed on this count too. He shared examples of Mondelez' green initiatives towards water, carbon and waste management. He also reminded of the long-running Cocoa Life programme towards community building.

"Before long, we would have the next generation joining us, and they would want to know the answers to these questions - of whether we are being responsible," Iyer cautioned.

His final question was 'are you ready for GenX, Gen Y, Gen Z'. The MD struck an important chord with this point not only because it stressed upon the absolute need for a company's leadership to understand that these were three different generations which could be present across management tiers, but also because this is among the top challenges facing organisations today.

"Think about your communication, what will your communication talk to and what is the definition of an agile workplace," he asked.

Iyer left the audience with some words of advice as well. He quoted, "if your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough", explaining, "it is about your dream and what you will make of it. Don't expect someone else to give you a session on motivation or galvanise you into action."

Speaking on leadership lessons, he quoted yet another advice from his first boss, saying, "never underestimate the other guy's inefficiency".

Just ahead of launching the 14th edition of the BW Businessworld Marketing Whitebook, Iyer left the audience both inspired and in awe. The Mondelez MD concluded his session, stating, "What is India if you cannot say 'kuch meetha ho Jaye',".


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