Starkey’s strategy was quite effective. Sales of Starkey expanded ten-fold in the short nine-month period!
Large companies effectively utilise the powerful tool of advertising for marketing. The Chinese telecom company BBK Electronics promotes massively several of its brands – Vivo, Oppo, OnePlus and Realme. One would not have heard of any of these hardly a couple of years ago. Yet, TV screens are full of these ads promoted by superstars, sportspersons and other famous public figures. I pointed to coming across over a kilometre of advertisement poles of Vivo in the road median at Kalinganagar, in rural Odisha. In a recent visit to Bali (Indonesia), I came across such promotions there also!
Effective use of such a blitzkrieg of an advertisement was recently made to great effect for a high-end, expensive, hearing-aid – Starkey. I have been pointing to the cartelisation of hearing aids dominated by just five large manufacturers in Europe and the US.
Along with the Managing Director of Starkey India, Rohit Misra, Rajarajan, CEO of Astra Hearing Care, Chennai launched an impressive campaign in mass media – television and large newspapers. Misra brings with him rich experience in the pharma industry. Rajan studied his Masters in Audiology at the University of Luebeck, Germany. Together they gave a new thrust to promoting Starkey hearing aids; the American giant did not succeed over much in a couple of earlier attempts to market his high-end products in India.
The promotions offered attractive discounts and extended warranties. eg. the 24 channel synergy IQ high-end product, earlier priced Rs 367,500 offered just at Rs 59,999. Assured of the quality the company offered a four-year warranty.
This campaign started in March, continued through the festive season and has been extended till 31 December 2018. The Misra – Rajan duo have special plans to work further on improving their lead through 2019 and beyond.
Rajan has rich experience, has set up posh facilities at his office and is a suave marketer. When I first met him a couple of years ago complaining about the very high prices of his competitor in Nungambakkam, he dealt lucidly with the subject of the loss of hearing in ageing.
I was quite impressed by his in-depth knowledge on hearing issues. I took up the matter of fighting with the cartels, pointing to Amazon offering the same branded products at a fraction of the price. But the cartel was powerful. Audiologists were prevented from tuning products bought from Amazon. I ended up buying the expensive products: the persuasive marketer made me cough up double the price quoted by his competitor!
Huge jump in sales…
Starkey’s strategy was quite effective. Sales of Starkey expanded ten-fold in the short nine-month period! Of course, the ad budget was handsome at around Rs 10 crore but seemed well worth by the massive jump in sales.
Rajan points to hearing problems affecting large sections of the population. Hearing issues unattended, as quoted by a leading American expert, can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. There is thus the need for making the product available to much larger sections through affordable prices.
While I commend the special offers made by Starkey/Astra, I still feel they should adopt C K Prahalad’s bottom of the pyramid theory: aim at a mass market of millions; of course, the margins would be low, but the volumes will be substantial.
I am sure Rajan is familiar with the David vs. Goliath fight between Hindustan Lever and Nirma (Surf vs. Nirma)in which Nirma won! It made washing powder a mass consumption product.
And Hindlever learned a vital lesson for tapping the large, bottom-of-the-pyramid mass market. Adopting the strategy of Nirma’s Karshanbhai Patel, it introduced the low-cost wheel and soon spread this practice to markets as far away as Brazil. I am not sure the multinational paid Nirma any fee for adopting this technique to great profit. – SV