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Anand Mahindra's big plans to transform the company

Last updated on: January 20, 2011 14:38 IST

Anand Mahindra's big plans to transform the company

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Preeti Khicha in Mumbai

Rise, the new branding initiative, is in tune with the group's growing global footprint, but experts say the real work has just begun.

Mahindra Group vice chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra says 'Rise', the group's new brand positioning unveiled earlier this week, is an effort to become 'tomorrow's company'.

The outcome of a year-long brainstorming, it is going to be the Rs 32,000 crore (Rs 320 billion) group's new credo.

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Image: Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman and MD, Mahindra and Mahindra.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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Rise, says Mahindra, is a bigger milestone than the launch of Scorpio, the group's top-selling sports utility vehicle launched nearly a decade ago.

For, "from tomorrow, the reason why people work for Mahindra or buy our products will change", he adds.

Mahindra's enthusiasm can be infectious. Preeti Vyas, chairperson of Vyas Giannetti Creative, believes the new positioning is a great message to corporate India.

"It is important for Indian businesses with a legacy and heritage to have to look back into the future. Many more Indian businesses will adopt this approach," she adds.

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Image: Mahindra Scorpio.

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In fact, a lot of them have already adopted this approach of articulating a group philosophy. Multinationals have long used taglines to convey their core purpose.

The last five years have also seen many Indian corporate giants such as Godrej, Bajaj, Airtel etc opting for a new corporate identity.

There are enough reasons why the Mahindra group went in for a rebranding now. In a somewhat similar exercise 13 years ago, the group had articulated its core purpose as "Indians are second to none".

Today, with 10 per cent of Mahindra's 112,00-strong workforce being foreign nationals, the group needed a new rallying cry, says Ruzbeh Irani, Mahindra's Chief Brand Officer.

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Image: Mahindra employees.

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And 'Rise', formulated by UK-based agency Strawberry Frog, was chosen as the word cuts across cultures and countries.

"We found that it resonated with people everywhere. Everyone has the aspiration to rise above their lot," says Irani whose team visited several countries where the group operates before taking the final decision.

That was important as the group now has a presence in 79 countries across the globe.

The federation of companies that make up the group include an Australian aerospace company and South Korean automaker Ssangyong Motor Company, which Mahindra acquired last year.

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Image: Mahindra brand.

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Anand Mahindra puts that in context. "There was a view that why should our fast-growing non-Indian employees get up every day and come to work to prove that Indians were second to none?

Our strategy management office then got into the act to find out a more relevant core purpose so that everyone in Mahindra speaks in one voice.

Hence, "Rise", he says.Brand and corporate image experts agree. Viren Razdan, MD, Interbrand India explains, "As Indian companies go global, it is important for them to recast their intrinsic framework - who they are, what they believe in, what businesses are they in?. As the context becomes global, the evaluation parameters magnify."

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Image: Anand Mahindra.

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Lulu Raghavan, Country Manager, Landor Associates India, says "If the brand wants to be a global player, it is a smart move."

National Creative Director, Leo Burnett India, KV Sridhar shares a similar view:"It aptly captures the confidence and ambition exuberated by a company (similar to Bajaj) which has silently transformed itself drastically over the years."

Almost everyone says Rise is just the beginning of a long journey for the group. Unni Krishnan, CEO and MD, Brand Finance, believes that while the repositioning reflects a fundamental change in corporate strategy, it will be a challenge to see how the aspiration 'Rise' is translated into action.

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Image: Rise is just the beginning of a long journey for the group.

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"While making such announcements is glamorous, the difficulty lies in implementing the change in strategy at the grass-root level," adds Krishnan. "If someone walks into a Mahindra showroom, they should actually feel the change."

While expectations have been set, success will also depend on how well the brand promise is delivered.

"If you think of the word Rise, any corporation can own it as it is essentially about waking up and moving forward. So at some level it is a basic thought," says Vyas, adding, "one has to evaluate how the corporation will live up to the positioning strategy."

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Image: 1947, Mahindras introduced the utility vehicle.

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Mahindras are aware of the fact that just an aesthetic change in terms of brand logo, tagline etc. can never help a brand unless the change is strongly inculcated internally.

That explains why HR Head Rajeev Dubey has devised a specific metric called EPS (employee as promoter) score to see whether employees are enthusiastic enough to recommend Mahindra products to customers.

The group will spend Rs 120 crore (Rs 1.2 billion) to promote Rise over the next three years and Group CFO Bharat Doshi is confident that the increased ad spend will pay for itself.

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Image: Flying high , Mahindras' aerospace biz.

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"We're aiming for outperformance - 10x," he says without specifying exact numbers. But Mahindra clarifies saying 10X is a state of mind - it could be 10 times revenues, 10 times profit or 10 times market share.

M&M has been an outperformer over the last decade. The first half of 2001-2005 saw M&M blitz a compounded annual growth of 25 per cent in revenues and 118 per cent in profits.

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Image: Mahindra employees.

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The second half of the decade saw it maintain the brisk growth on a high base, growing at 26 per cent, with profits growing at 29 per cent. The growth was reflected in its share price, which grew 60 times by 2010.

Doshi now says "those were our sprints, but we need to run the marathon." M&M top brass would be hoping employees and customers would indeed 'Rise' to the occasion.


Image: Mahindra and National Basketball Association promote the sport.

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