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|January 24, 2000||
The Rediff Business Interview/Ramesh Vangal
'Marketing through the Net will become intuitive and thought-driven'
Ramesh Vangal, chairman, Seagram Asia Pacific, thinks he has “all the credentials” to talk about globalisation because he has “sold soft drinks,
potato chips, liquor, washing powder and everything under the sun.” Vangal,
also Seagram’s joint venture partner in India, is responsible for the
overall operation of Seagram’s Asia Pacific spirits and wines business. He
shot into fame as president (Asia-Pacific) for PepsiCo Foods International
(the Frito Lay division of PepsiCo Inc). Vangal went on to become a case
study at the Harvard Business School for his success in establishing
PepsiCo in India.
Vangal started his career with Procter & Gamble in Geneva, Switzerland, and
subsequently completed several operations and marketing assignments in
Europe, West Asia, central America, the Caribbean and West Asia.
Vangal has been a founder investor/catalyst in a number of India-based
agribusiness ventures and more recently IT start-ups. Now, Vangal wants to
focus his marketing expertise on the development of consumer focused
e-business in Asia using Indian IT capability as the back engine.
Vangal spoke to
Vangal started his career with Procter & Gamble in Geneva, Switzerland, and subsequently completed several operations and marketing assignments in Europe, West Asia, central America, the Caribbean and West Asia. Vangal has been a founder investor/catalyst in a number of India-based agribusiness ventures and more recently IT start-ups. Now, Vangal wants to focus his marketing expertise on the development of consumer focused e-business in Asia using Indian IT capability as the back engine. Vangal spoke toNeena Haridas during his visit to New Delhi to attend the Partnership Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry. Excerpts from the interview.
What prompted this shift from potato chips to computer chips?
Yeah, many think I am off tangent here. But not really. When people talk about information technology, they talk very technical. I mean, the impression created is that IT is all technology-driven. But I don’t subscribe to this idea at all. I think IT is very humane and has to be tackled emotionally. IT makes sense only if it is able to touch the lives of the common man. That is where my role comes in.
I have sold everything from potato chips to washing powder, so I understand consumers very well. I don’t give a damn about technology, but I do give a damn about consumers. And technology should be useful to the common man. And the only way IT can become useful to the common man is when his life becomes easier because of this technology. This is possible through e-commerce.
Hence, I want to demystify technology and really make e-commerce happen and make consumers realise that e-commerce is really the answer to making life easy and convenient. Mind you, I don’t want to do this using borrowed brains and brawn from the West, I want to do this using Indian capability.
But how capable is India on the technology front?
India is on the brink of being able to capture the global change. Now, when I say change I don’t mean technology. The change is not in technology and execution. All this will obviously follow, but the change is in attitude and ideas. Technology is only a means.
Let me explain: Apple had a better technology compared to Microsoft, but when it came to valuation, Microsoft was way ahead. Why? Because Microsoft had touched more lives than any other software company in the world, thanks to Windows. Bill Gates made computer more humane by making Windows the interface between consumers and technology. That is the difference. So, India has the potential, technology will be the means, to become truly global. Well, given the population in this country, we can take on each American one-to-one and beat them to pulp.
So, how will e-commerce become consumer-oriented?
The best thing that has happened is that IT has become interactive today.
And it is this power that I will use to make life easy for consumers. You see, the consumer is evolving everyday -- from impulse buyers they are now turning into focused buyers. My job is to capture the focussed consumers and give them an opportunity to make the right choice and make them buy what they want sitting at home, with as little inconvenience as possible.
For this to happen, there are two things to be done. One, understand the consumer, and two, demand a technology that will close the gap between you and him. In the process if you become a slave of the techonology, you lose the battle.
Does this mean the end of good old retail marketing?
No not at all. People who want to buy Coke or Pepsi will obviously buy it on impulse from his neighbourhood retailer. E-commerce is not going to wipe out retailing, it will only give retailing a new dimension. That is why I used the word ‘focus’. For instance, if you are looking for a refrigerator, what you do right now is go around the town looking for various brands, do a comparitive study and then take the ‘right’ decision. But through e-commerce the entire process of running around can be done sitting right in front of your computer in the comfort of your home or office.
What is the new dimension that you personally see?
Well, I see the entire process of marketing through the Net becoming intuitive. We already have voice-mails, but now it will be thought-driven. The Net is already transnational, and with people like Vinton Cerf talking about trans-solar system, the future is when the society thinks of something and then it happens.
Tell us about the portal on entertainment that you are working on based on this vision?
Yes, I am involved with this major portal on entertainment that Seagram’s Universal Recreation Group is working on. Here what we intend to do is create a face or a character that people can identify with. Now for example, suppose we introduce a character like Bugs Bunny. Now, if a consumer wants information on anything related to entertainment, his interface will be the Bunny. Of course, it is still in the implementation stage, but we will definitely demystify technology.
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