BrandSutra: The hunger to do something new every day drives Havmor Ice-cream’s Shekhar Agarwal

Shekhar Agarwal, Head of Marketing, Havmor Ice-cream, who cut his teeth at Titan and Britannia, says just adding flavours is no longer innovation in the ice-cream category; the task is to take the product experience to newer heights.

BY SHAMITA ROY

What are the marketing lessons you have picked up over the years - any special anecdote that’s close to your heart?

My fondest memories go back to Titan, when I was a marketer for Sonata, the economy segment of Titan. Our own in-house brand Fastrack gave us tough competition, which made us launch the sub-brand Sonata Super Fibre, targeting semi-urban youth. The entire journey of creating the brand from scratch taught me one big lesson - that the economy customer is also difficult. Lowering the price-point and extra volume is not going to cut ice with him anymore. He is more discreet and needs a value proposition which works for him. Today, I believe, Sonata Super Fibre is a full-fledged brand because we lived his life and gave him a brilliant value proposition. We also prospered because of it.

The other fond memory I have is when I was in Britannia. We took a regional offering of packaged cakes and went against the established codes of the category and launched it nationally. Mothers had started giving it to their children in their tiffin box because of the goodness of milk, egg and fruits in the cake. Within a couple of years, it grew by Rs 100 crore. The bottomline is that, understanding the consumer and solving his/her challenges go a long way, irrespective of whether the category has envisaged it or not.

What are the innovative marketing strategies employed by Havmor as a brand? Your recent web series, for example, was quite a unique approach.

Gujarat is our core market, and the insight is that as a community, they love to travel, which the pandemic put a stop to. Havmor’s philosophy is about getting more out of life. We married this insight into our philosophy to create a travel-based web-series called Havmor Passport. We take people to eight destinations across the world through our interesting stories for a visual experience. Also, we created digital campaigns during the lockdown to engage with our youth consumers with the #SabsePehleKyaKarega campaign. They told us various stories about what’s the first thing they would do after the lockdown. We wanted them to re-experience happiness which was amiss during the lockdown. This was a great way for them to extract more out of life by expressing themselves. Thirdly, our segment of ice-cream cakes has been a success story. For cake lovers, adding ice-cream to the existing offering becomes even more delightful. We launched four more products which saw tremendous reviews and sales. In fact, Yami Gautam did a video for us on social media saying that ice-cream cakes need no special reason – they can be had anytime.

Comment on the ice-cream category as a whole - what challenges does the category and the brand face?

It’s been a difficult period for the sector. While ice-creams come under the food category, it’s seen as non-essential and hence avoided. The months from March to June usually see 40-45% of the year’s sale for the entire sector, which was spent in lockdown this year. But, it’s been a good recovery since the unlockdown. Direct-to-home consumption increased, due to which we’ve tied up with partners like Swiggy, Dunzo, Big Basket and so on. Through havmoronline.com, we’ve ensured that we deliver to our consumers’ homes. We’ve done well through our ice-cream cakes range in the Christmas, New Year season too. We believe that the worst for this sector is over.

What are the brand's plans going forward?

The key priority for 2021 would be to go national. Our distribution is ready. A new positioning of the brand is in the offing, so that the brand is relatable, and we become a preferred brand in the country. Additionally, we have more product innovations and experiences in the pipeline. We are looking at innovative ways to merge ice-cream with its adjacencies and take the product forward as a category.

Tell us about your personal motivation mantra - what drives you every day at work and in life?

As a marketer, seeing my product being used gives me great excitement and a sense of validation. When I was at Titan, I used to look at people’s wrists to check if they’re wearing a Titan or not. A consumer is always seeking something new and as a marketer, it is our job to do justice to their expectations and aspirations. The hunger to do something better, something new and something before others is what drives me to work every single day.

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