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Why staying small is powerful: A strong local brand vs a weak national brand

Aditya Jaishankar, Brand Consultant, discusses the diverse potential of the Indian market, success stories of niche-focused SMEs, local food brand strategies, and the strength of regional identity in marketing.

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India is a land where countless stories are born every day. There are millions of consumers across the country with diverse tastes, cultures, subcultures and lifestyles .The myriad India’s and their multiple audiences offer a huge potential that can get any entrepreneurs go greedy, really greedy! 

It's like saying the winner takes it all right? Why leave any stone unturned when the ever diverse Indian market sounds so exciting.

So one would assume that the greed to try and become a national brand sounds super inviting and difficult to resist especially if you are already on the super  growth path? Especially in the food and beverages sector there are examples like Hector beverages, Raw and several other products that have acquired national status.

We constantly hear about startups becoming unicorns and taking over the country. Stories of start us and even once upon a time local SME brands turning national is the toast of the media. 

But we often overlook the inspiring stories of hundreds of SMEs and family-owned businesses that have built loyal fan bases over the years, albeit with a smaller audience. While we celebrate brands that satisfy consumers across India's diverse landscape, we must also respect the entrepreneurs who focus on narrower segments to create dedicated fan bases over the years. Perhaps their stories need to be celebrated a little more in the media landscape.

They are the true experts of narrowcasting, mastering their niche long before the era of Facebook and Instagram where you can choose your audience as narrowly as you wish.

Take, for instance, a few food entrepreneurs who have painstakingly raised the quality benchmarks over the years. One such food  brand, sells premium assorted atta, ranging from multigrain to diabetic-specific blends. They even customize different mixes, like soya, to meet their customers' exact needs. Another is the creator or should I say curator  of masalas like mutton and chicken masala nestled in the region of Amravati. 

In the heart of Mumbai, a local ready-to-eat brand has become a symbol of regional pride, offering a culinary experience that rivals even the most established national brands. Its products, revered for their authentic flavours, have garnered a  loyal base  that is testament to the brand’s quality and appeal. Another brand nestled in the heart of Amravati is renowned for it's mutton masala in the regions of Amravati Kholapur and Solapur. Despite their success in delighting consumers every day at  the dining table these brand owners harbour a reluctance to expand beyond certain local markets.

Let's dive into the strategy of the Mumbai based food brand . The brand’s multi-pronged sales approach, including home deliveries and offline sales in select outlets, has helped expand their business. It's  loyal customer base exists primarily in the suburbs of Parle and Borivali, where they eagerly try out various other products of his even  in the ready-mix category, like dhokla and omelettes which are more extended categories for him 

Positive word of mouth, long before the digital era, has made this brand popular among homemakers. A small team of homemakers and sales professionals have a deeper understanding of changing consumer tastes than perhaps any large consumer research firm would have in certain pockets . In places like Pune and even further markets like Gujarat there are pockets where his brand is valued due to being able to satisfy a particular sweet taste in chapatis when required  . While this again makes the need to expand inviting, the entrepreneur continues to innovate slowly and satisfy the taste palettes of smaller audiences in these extended markets .

Another example is a brand selling masalas, with mutton masala as their hero product for eons. Nestled in Amravati and called Gharrkul Masala  this is a food brand that has focused on selling in Kolhapur and Sholapur, delighting the taste palettes of mutton lovers over the past few decades. Gharrkul's mutton masala has become a household name, unchallenged even by bigger brands in certain areas where consumers swear by it. Building deep relationships with local farmers also enables Gharrkul to purchase the freshest produce and keep the quality high.

While there's a temptation to expand to markets like Pune the brand is taking baby steps by selling at select outlets where consumers seem to be lapping up his mutton masala.

There is also a conscious effort to maximize their masala's potential by expanding into other flavours like chicken and attracting the existing base of customers with this new SKU.

Both these entrepreneurs have received countless offers from investors and experts to expand their brands, but they have flatly refused. Maybe the joy of delighting their customers every time they sit at the dining table is far greater than anything else for them.

A near obsession with consumer feedback, they have ensured that their taste benchmarks are never compromised on .This has paid off as they are able to charge a premium on certain products with great support and positive word of mouth among their loyal base.

In the broader market it stands as a powerful reminder that in a world where bigger often seems better there is profound strength in maintaining a strong regional identity and excelling within one’s niche.

So as marketing folks let’s celebrate these stories more often and remember: Small is beautiful indeed even in the world of marketing!

This article is penned by Aditya Jaishankar, Brand Consultant.

Disclaimer: The article features the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the stance of the publication.

Small Business Niche Markets Regional SMEs