For 30 years Wai Wai’s presence in India has been driven by word-of-mouth: Varun Chaudhary

Varun Chaudhary Wai Wai marketing strategy

Wai Wai, an instant noodles brand that originated in Thailand & Nepal has been a childhood staple. With digital marketing, the brand is attempting to convert its word-of-mouth-created brand equity into a larger brand footprint. Varun Chaudhary shares more.

Varun Chaudhary, Managing Director, CG Corp Global shares insights on marketing strategy for Wai Wai Noodles in the country, with a focus on micro-influencers and fans who not only help spread the word-of-mouth further but also generate buzz on social media with relevant content.

Read on to understand the construct of their marketing strategy and the tactics at play.

Edited Excerpts

A lot has been said about the pandemic changing consumer behavior, how is this applicable to the Instant noodle category?

Among many lifestyle changes, our at-home consumption habits are also changing at this period.  As pandemic has confined us in our home once again, anxiousness and anticipation could result in boredom, which in turn is associated with a greater energy intake. That’s where the ready-to-eat savories become our instant companions, offering the hunger solutions as well as satisfaction.

The requisite measures taken to manage the pandemic have not only disrupted the global economy, but have also altered consumers’ priorities, expectations, and purchasing behavior.

Within India, a survey revealed that over 70% of urban consumers will prefer to purchase items from retailers that offer home delivery services, with 78% disposed more towards digital payments.

Considering the impact of increasing demand for packaged snacks, many companies are now building liaisons with popular online food delivery service companies, with a view to target the increasingly ‘at home’ customer segment. At such a time, a huge section of the young population was already switching from the regular three-meals-a-day to many small meals. The snacks segment is the obvious gainer.

We were able to clock 40% more revenue than the year before which also propelled Wai Wai to become an INR 1000 crore brand in India.

We aim to grow bigger and better in the coming year and plan to set up new manufacturing units to achieve the organizational goal of becoming an Rs.1500 crore entity by FY22.

How did digital experiences and social media help you keep people hooked and hopeful? What does Wai Wai’s social media marketing look like?

In today’s digitally connected fast-paced world, Wai Wai’s social media strategies have been planned to keep in mind, the dynamic environment of the Internet. The new features have always helped us to engage the audience & connect people to the brand. For Eg, Instagram features like reels, music, filters, etc have helped us to create contests and various digital exercises where audiences got hooked to the page.

Our current Social Media Marketing of Wai Wai involves multiple fresh campaigns being planned and launched periodically. This has been further aided by the latest launch of TVC Campaign ‘Seedhe Pack Se Khao Yaa Pakake Khao’.

We have collectively observed that Facebook & Instagram is the most effective social media platform when it comes to promoting Wai Wai.

It has also been seen that audiences tend to interact more on these platforms regarding product inquiries and distributorship. 

Content and Influencer marketing have found a prominent presence in every marketer’s guide. How has Wai Wai leveraged the trends?

To grow the Wai Wai community better and stronger we have designed our collaboration module to involve more and more Wai Wai fans.

Most of our fans, who keep posting about Wai Wai & other products, comprise micro-influencers who are going stronger with a budding fan base. These micro-influencers continue to shower love by posting, talking, and spreading awareness among their audiences through barter collaborations. Therefore, for promotional purposes instead of doing paid influencer activity, we allowed our own fans to promote the product. With this activity, there is a sense of inclusiveness and exclusivity that has emerged amongst the Wai Wai’s influencer community and audiences online.

How will Wai Wai expand in India, given a difference in the geography and culture from Nepal? Which regions would be of prime focus?

Human values and emotions are universal and are pervasive to various nationalities across the globe. India and Nepal since antiquity have been entwined with cultural, linguistic, and societal habits that have shaped both countries. The states of India that are bordering Nepal especially hilly regions of the north and northeast India witness a strong resemblance of each other’s culture in their day-to-day lives.

CG Corp Global, the parent company of CG Foods and manufacturers of Wai Wai instant noodles enjoys a 25% market share in the Indian noodle market with some states in the northeast accounting for more than 60% of market share. Having said that, India is one of the most diverse countries, with different taste palates every hundred kilometers distance. With a similar vision, CG Foods, the FMCG arm of CG Corp Global, is constantly working towards creating WAI WAI a household name across the Rest of India- North, South, East, Central & West India equally.

Despite the challenges faced by the entire civilization, we received a genuinely positive response from West India, Central India, and especially Southern India last year.

A lot has been said about Tier II & Tier III consumers being the focal point of economic revival in the country. What is your opinion on the same? How do you plan to connect with these consumers?

With these unprecedented times, the urban and rural economies have both suffered the brunt of this pandemic. We are sure that the markets will recover and pose many opportunities for Wai Wai and other brands. From a social media point of view, our primary objective is to make content that is clear, concise, and relatable to our buzzing community. The connect will also be an extension of the use of social media with more regional content development in local languages.

Also read: Resurgence of demand for decorative painting is seen in Tier II & III cities: Mark Titus, Nippon Paint

With Nestle’s Maggi and ITC’s Sunfeast already in the market, what is Wai Wai’s competitor strategy?

For the last thirty years of Wai Wai’s presence in India, the company has primarily been driven by the ‘word-of-mouth’ tool and the love for the brand that has been built by the youth of the world. This has helped in carving a distinguished niche for the brand in the market, with a market share of over 25%.

The seven sister states of the northeast are the jewels of Wai Wai India’s crown with some states having a share of over 60%. We believe that our brand will continue to grow for the love it receives from various people especially the youth and adrenaline junkies who live by the tanginess, the instant cooking quality, or the straight out of packet experience of our noodles.

Please take us through the distribution strategy for the brand in recent times. With the rise in e-commerce during the pandemic, how do you plan to build an e-retail segment?

Our retail and distribution strategy is different basis the product categories offered. For a brand such as WAI WAI, we are especially focusing on the RTE (Ready-to-Eat) category through integrated marketing strategies largely based on BTL activities. We are largely focusing on driving demand through image and volume distribution strategies by increasing Stock Keeping Units (SKU) extensions in India- large towns and metro cities.

Traditionally, Wai Wai has been distributed through the wholesale and grocery stores channels. In line with our vision to capture a larger share of the market, we have rapidly expanded our presence in Modern Trade and E-Commerce platforms in the last 12 months. We want to ensure we have the right share on the same.

What is the marketing plan for the coming months with the ongoing crisis? What would be the way forward for Wai Wai?

The concept of contactless and doorstop delivery has popularized with the trend of online purchasing has among consumers at this time. Observing the current consumer behavior during the pandemic, we are focusing on increasing Wai Wai placement and availability on e-commerce and modern trade platforms.

For a brand like Wai Wai, we believe the most critical thing is to ensure more trials, especially in geographies where we are not as strong, and to increase our share of the pie. Amplifying the USPs, and taking millennial cues to further enhance brand perception, we are actively focusing on social media.

We have also initiated many campaigns that involve well-recognized chefs, restaurateurs, influencers, celebrities, and connoisseurs to review our products and build a devoted community towards the brand.

How would you define the ‘Marketer of Today’? How much of your marketing skills have evolved with the changing times? Your Mantra for success?

Today’s marketer is the one who keeps observing the changing scenario and proactively plans their brand strategy accordingly. 

Our mantra of success is “Do not wait for the external factors to force you to change. Instead, the desire for change and progress should come from within”.

Hence, we always actively research various new products, raw materials that are used, and other aspects that help us proactively implement changes to stay relevant in the market.

With the second wave of the pandemic, please share the top 3 tips you would like to share with the industry leaders for marketing in the Instant Noodles Category

The top three suggestions for the industry leaders would be

  • To stay true to their products/ services and give customer a wholesome experience providing value for the money paid
  • Be relevant by proactively assessing the rapidly changing environment due to the digitally integrated world of today
  • Aspire to build a community both online and offline that not just like your products or services but back them with facts, figures, and relevant information