1st February 2022
25th January 2022
31st December 2021
30th June 2021
17th March 2022
20th March 2020
1st January 2020
20th November 2017
15th May 2022
17th February 2022
11th January 2022
2nd February 2022
22nd September 2021
30th August 2021
7th August 2021
15th March 2022
21st January 2022
14th January 2022
20th October 2021
25th April 2021
12th February 2021
31st May 2020
25th April 2022
14th February 2022
1st June 2021
9th August 2020
2nd June 2018
30th March 2021
19th June 2020
13th December 2019
20th November 2020
20th February 2020
17th August 2014
18th July 2019
17th September 2021
15th September 2021
28th January 2021
10th January 2021
12th May 2022
8th March 2022
22nd February 2022
16th January 2022
16th April 2021
15th November 2014
25th October 2021
8th March 2020
7th August 2018
27th December 2016
17th February 2021
29th September 2020
24th September 2020
26th July 2020
20th January 2020
15th October 2018
26th June 2018
13th June 2017
Mr. Banga is a partner at Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, one of the oldest PE firms in the world. He’s also had a tremendous and a very successful stint as part of Unilever – first at Hindustan Unilever, India’s premier FMCG company and then as part of the global leadership team at Unilever. A man who has seen it all in India and knows a great deal about building businesses and consumer brands.
On this episode we cover
Vindi's journey as a CEO at Hindustan Unilever and rise of D2C brands
Re-igniting growth for core consumers
Building a brand in India vs the West
An investors view of the FMCG space
Business 101 with Mr. Vindi Banga
Sid: Most of you probably know Vindi as the head of HUL for a very long time. He’s seen FMCG change over the years, his journey at HUL and a PE investor
Sid: You decide to get an MBA and not follow through on that and didn’t even get a job in what you studied. Why is that?
Vindi: Well, look, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at IIIT-Delhi. I think engineering is a great educational background. It's very numerate and quantitative, so you become very comfortable with numbers, which I think is a great asset in life and whatever you do after that, I think it also helps you become a better problem solver because that's what engineering is all about. So I thoroughly actually enjoyed the the time at the IIT., but when I was close to graduating and I looked at the kind of jobs that were open, I felt that they tended to be extremely narrow and did not give much of an opportunity to engage with the business as a whole. One tended to be either in manufacturing or logistics or something. And that's when I thought I should actually take up an MBA and gain a perspective of the business as a whole. Before I started working and I was fortunate enough to get admission into one of the IIM's - Ahemdabad and therefore I went off that.
Sid: and your change in track and graduation – what kind of led you into the FMCG market and this space?
Vindi: Yes, I would say so, so at the IIM, I studied all of the subjects, as one might imagine, and was particularly fascinated by marketing. I thought it was a very, very interesting area and hugely challenging, and therefore I decided to look for a career with that focus. And at the time, I mean, Hindustan Lever was the preeminent marketing company in India and probably still is. And therefore, I applied for that and I was hugely fortunate to be selected. As a management trainee, that's how you got in then.
Sid: How do you describe the time that you because CEO, challenges that you faced at that time are very similar with the way companies have to deal with it in times today. We heard you say in an earlier podcast that when you became CEO, the company was had not been growing, liberalization was in India and as a team you were really relying on a combination of capacity and distribution network and you had to become more innovative as a company. As investors in consumer brands, we see this happening in a large way because of the combination of the internet and PE money allowing to build brands quickly and rely on a distribution network that makes it difficult to enter. Domestic brands getting funding and massive internet – where do you see a lot of this ending up. If you had to re-define that in todays context – what would you do differently today.
Vindi: I think you've captured much of the context. At the time, I'm now in year 2000 in the song, Unilever had not grown its top line for a couple of years, but actually had continued to grow its bottom line and effectively that was coming by reducing the amount of spend behind its brands. And that, as we all know in the consumer business, you can do that for quite a long time until your top line begins to drop, but is bad for the brands. The external context was what you describe. There was a lot of competition India had liberalized, and therefore the global players were all looking at India's big market opportunities. So of course, P&G was already there, but so would the others L'Oreal etc. But there was also extraordinarily good quality local competition that the company would have to deal with, so both global and local. But there was another aspect which was not fully understood the FMCG market was actually declining by three or four percent in a market where the GDP was growing strongly in an economy where the GDP was growing strongly. And this was quite a paradox. And this was actually what the company was finding very hard to deal with to grow. The reason for this is that consumers were suddenly given a plethora of new expenditure opportunities they never had earlier. For example, mobile phones were growing at that stage, and therefore you could spend money on actually a mobile phone or gadgets, electronic gadgets, televisions, etc. So people were spending a bit less on their FMCG products, maybe choosing a slightly more affordable brand. You couldn't stop using them because of course, they are essential products for your day to day life. But people were trading down a little bit, and the FMCG market therefore was not growing. So this was the context in which we had to think through what is the next phase of the company. So we made a couple of choices.
“ I think the first decision we had to take was to choose where we were going to compete and win. And that is basically you've got to decide where you're right to play. Right to win really exists, as the consultants call it ”
Now we were in lots and lots of businesses, which were legacies from the fairer time. If you recollect back in the 70s, the government had said that multinationals could operate in India either. If their core sector turnover was above 50 percent of their total sales, or indeed 10 percent and 10 percent of their sales must be exports to one foreign exchange. Both these conditions had to be met, and in the Hindustan Lever had reacted and gone into a number of businesses which were nontraditional in nature.
Now, as India was opening up, the context was very different. We had a business in nickel catalyst, for instance, where I think our capacity was quite small. It was about 2000 tonnes. But now India was open and we would have to compete with nickel catalyst companies, global companies with manufacturing capacities. Several times in, you know, a magnitude like three hundred thousand tons, 500000 thousand pounds and so on and so forth. So we took a decision that we would have to progressively exit these businesses, which we had entered for protectionist reasons and government regulation reasons. In that period and instead focus all our energies on our core consumer business. And this was quite a difficult decision because if memory serves me right, I think these businesses were quite significant. They accounted for about a third of the company and perhaps only 10 or 15 percent of its profit, so they were a real drain on the company. And we spent a lot of time actually thinking through the exit of each of these businesses. These were difficult choices. We had to make sure that we exited them in a very responsible manner, creating value for the shareholders on the one hand. And these were good businesses and also at the same time, taking care of all the employees who had built these businesses through very challenging times. So we went through a number of options and exited these businesses. Finding different solutions for each case, in some cases, it was an outright sale, in some cases we went through a joint venture route and a number of international players actually bought these businesses as a way to secure a foothold in India. This particular strategy, I think, released a lot of resources. We released a lot of cash and that cash we used partly to rejuvenate the current business, which I'm going to come back to and partly to reward our shareholders as well, who had been patient for quite a while. So. So we did both. So I guess the first decision we had to take was to choose where to win, and we chose to play and focus on our core consumer business and exit all the non-consumer businesses.
I think the second thing was then to figure out how to reignite growth for our core consumer businesses and our brands. And that meant really trying to understand where the innovation should go. That is all about listening to the customer and the consumer. We started a drive in the company to get everybody connected with the customer and the consumer. Unsurprisingly, at times like this, when your top line is not growing and you're trying to grow your bottom line to keep your keeps growing are quality in many of our products had been compromised. We started a system where every four or five months, every single manager in the company would on a couple of days, actually go out and visited the consumer homes or shops. And this was not dedicated only to sales and marketing people. This was every single manager in the company and they had to come back and actually distill what they heard. And one of the big results of this activity was a great focus on product quality because when they went out, they heard that our product quality was not what it used to be. And therefore, you know, they came back and there was a big drive to improve our products. And that, by the way, is also it's like renovation, you know
“ In the FMCG business, what do you have to do is a combination of renovation and innovation ”
Renovation is all about making small improvements that keep your products up to date. Current working really well, well presented. And then there is innovation from time to time. In terms of innovation as well, there was a big focus on the marketing and R&D teams to actually improve products and come out with new ideas that would create attractive businesses. I remember one of the most interesting innovation projects was to produce a laundry detergent that used much less water. This was a huge challenge, as you might imagine in parts of the country where, you know, people had to stand in queues in the south of India to get water. So it was all about finding relevant needs and actually innovating in those spaces to provide the right products for the right time. Now I mentioned right in the beginning that because the company had grown, not grown in top line and yet the bottom line had grown, some of the brand investment had been cut down and it was clear that we needed to reinvest in our brands and improve that spend level. And that could only come by reducing the cost structure of the company. So we launched a very large program to reduce the indirect cost of the business. And that's never easy. But from time to time, I think companies need to do that because over time they just attract cost. It's almost a a just a feature of business. So we really look at.
Sid: Indirect cost means people costs?
Vindi: It was both, it was people. You know, we looked very carefully to see how could how we could make more efficient structures and more agile structures, less levels. And also at reducing other costs known people cost. You know, one of the things that you you realize in business is that. Actually, people attract a lot of known people cost. So when you simplified the structure and make it more lean and agile with few people doing bigger jobs, actually the overall cost comes down not just to people cost, but also the non-people cost. So we did that and we actually put back the money into our into our brands and we can talk more about brand innovation if you like. Is that something you'd like to hear about?
Sid: I think we will, I’ll come back to that. On exits, you mentioned you were looking for where you had the “right to win” and keeping those companies. How did you decide – this is one I want to keep? You were clear number 1 in that space? Competition was limited? High margins? What metrics were you looking for in winners?
Vindi: I think the most important metric was our current position in the market, but also our ability to compete in that market long term because it was partly, of course, your current position. But then you had to work out well, what's going to change in the market in the next five years? Now we had a very strong position in most of our core consumer businesses, and we were clear, therefore, that we could compete very strongly in all our key consumer businesses like tea, personal soap, detergents, skincare. We knew that we'd be very, very strong in these markets because we had good brands, good positions and a very good understanding of these businesses. On the other hand, in businesses, as I was saying, nickle catalyst, a fertilizer. Now these are businesses where we felt long term we would not be able to compete in these businesses because we would have. These are very different from our core consumer business and we would have to spread our investments in those areas, which would not be feasible. So it came from the metrics we used were very much our current presence in those categories, but also our opportunity to compete into the future and how much capital they will draw to be able to compete.
Sid: Did you start the exercise with a number of business you would keep, or just say whichever ones are in a position for leadership – we will keep them irrespective of how many they will be vs what they are today
Vindi: We looked very carefully at our non-core businesses because when I say core, I mean FMCG we looked very carefully at those because we said, Look, these are businesses that are not central to the company, nor are they as central to Unilever outside India. And therefore, these are areas that we would have to compete very much on our own. So we looked at all the non FMCG businesses extremely carefully.
Sid: So nothing core that you looked at?
Vindi: We looked at some and I think one of the businesses that was exited was Vanaspati. And when Vanaspati was exited because of the all trans-fat issue, you know there was a concern around health of those products and as a category, we decided to exit those businesses. Now we could have, of course, exited the Vanaspati business and kept the brand name and tried to reenter other categories of cooking mediums. But we actually took the decision that we would capture more value by selling the business as a whole and the brand as a whole. So we exited those categories.
Sid: I want to spend a little time on innovation and consumer insights – you spent a lot of time in the market and on consumer. If youre making a soap/ detergent, if someone says the quality its not used to be – what does it mean
Vindi: No, it's usually a relative comment, and mostly consumers will tell you, you know what your quality is with respect to the other choices they have. So, for example, on a soap, they might tell you that look, your soap doesn't lather as quickly or rather is not a full lather. Or I don't like the perfume. I can smell the chemicals. So we would get feedback like this.
Sid: Is that because competition had come and you were not good enough?
Vindi: Yes. Exactly, exactly. Somebody had moved the bar and, you know, you had not moved, you were you were actually behind the competition and then you have to diagnose what is the reason for this? Is it the product formulation? Have people weakened the formulation to actually cut cost and therefore increase the margin? Or is it to do with the process of manufacturing? Are there issues in the manufacturing process that you know, controls or whatever that need to be improved? So you have to go through a whole process of diagnosis and then decide what it was that you were going to do? And we did that.
Sid: You had a primary shareholder which was a foregin company, and also a responsibility to local share holders. Entrepreneurs today that have raised money in the private markets face a similar problem, financial investors not as connected to the company which might not directly link to the needs to the shareholders. Managing expectations of parent entity and shareholders was different. What would your advice be to founders today.?
Vindi: Look, I think it's a really good point. It was a very unique company, even within Unilever, because it had, as I said, the principal shareholder, which was Unilever. And at the time, Unilever only had 50 percent of the company, unlike today, when I think it owns probably 70 percent of the company. So they had 50 percent, but of course, they had the golden share. I mean, they could appoint the the chairman and the CEO like I was an appointee of Unilever. And then there was the rest of the shareholding. 50 percent was split almost equally between one hundred thousand one hundred and twenty thousand shareholders. People who had a few thousand shares each or some one hundred and twenty five percent of the shareholding base was the fatalities of the world and the big global investors. So what was really important here was to engage with all the shareholders and explain what we were trying to do. I mean, that was hugely important. You couldn't just talk to either the principal shareholder, Unilever, and then just do whatever else you wished. You know, when we decided what we were going to do, the strategy that I've been discussing earlier, we engaged with all our shareholders and of course, we engaged with Unilever, but we also engaged with all our other shareholders to explain what it is that we were trying to do and to explain the time that it would take for us to come through this journey of reinventing the company for the new India. So I think communication to shareholders is extremely important, and that's a piece of advice for your founders. It's really important to engage with your shareholders. I know it takes time and they'd rather be spending time, you know, running the company, but it is hugely important. Founders have one other opportunity, by the way, which is really important, which is to choose their shareholders. And I think that's a really important aspect because when founders are setting up their company, they need cash, they need investment and there are lots of people out there who can give them investment. But just as investors are choosing founders, founders should also choose investors and make sure to the extent that is possible that they pick like minded investors who share their vision, who share their ambition and will probably be supportive. Not that they shouldn't be challenging, but they would be supportive of the approach that the founder takes.
Sid: This is such an important point that gets lost so much. Young and new entrepreneurs need this advice because there is a level of fear of losing out. You obviously had no choice in choosing your core investor, how much time did you invest in building this relationship esp at a time you were making drastic changes to the company.
Vindi: Yeah. Well, you have to spend quite a bit of time, and I think it's hard to put a number on it, but you have to spend as much as necessary. It's really important. It's a kind of gating condition for foreign leaders. They have to carry their shareholders with them through a transformation journey. I mean, that's what we were trying to do here. We were trying to transform into the New India a company that would be fit for the new India and compete and grow in the new India. It had done extraordinarily well prior to that through all kinds of challenges in all kinds of circumstances, and the question was how to take it to the next phase. And those choices needed to be explained, and therefore we just took whatever time that was necessary. Now you can never get it completely right and there will always be, you know, investors that will criticize your actions and demand more speed and demand more, you know, change and all of those things.
“ So I think what you can do is to try your best to actually communicate as far as possible and then move as quickly as possible and keep moving. Keep acting ”
One other thing I should explain is that in governance terms, for something of this nature, because 50 percent of the company was the majority of the company was owned by Unilever. We had to have a number of non-independent on Unilever directors, independent directors, and they were extremely choosing those directors and and getting their expertize to help us to think through this whole thing was also very, very valuable.
Sid: Did the board change?
Vindi: You had to have a majority of you had to have a majority of independent directors.
Sid: Did the structure of the board change
Vindi: No, no. It was pretty much the Cadbury committee had just about, you know, come out and therefore this structure was just put into place just before I came in.
Sid: Lets talk brand and how money was being spent. This is the ultimate brand 101 class getting brand advice from the former CEO of HUL – HUL dosent put their name on products in a noticeable fashion or use trust. There were companies formed later like Patanjali that used their name – whats the difference is and why HUL took that direction?
Vindi: Yes. Well, I think the difference in approach is about where you want to build your “ expertise” You know, if you have an umbrella company brand name, then that brand name is the source of expertise, and you could do it across a certain number of categories which are contiguous in nature are very similar in nature, but it's then hard to stretch that brand name across categories that are different in nature. We followed the alternative approach, which is we said we want to be the best brand expert in every category that we operate in, and to do that, we would need to focus on individual brands. So if you're in the soap business, it's not a Hindustan lever that is going to be having a soap, a single soap. We might want to have a portfolio of brands in the soap business and therefore we had Lifebuoy. We had locks. We had literally we have a whole number of brands. All right. If you had only the Hindustan Lever brand new, you could only have one brand, so your ability to dominate a category with a portfolio of brands and really build core expertize in that category is much better when you follow individual brands.
Sid: So take that and say – I’ve got a brand – how do you decide how far you can expand that brand? Say you have close up and have done tooth paste and moved into mouthwash. How far you can go?
Vindi: Well, the thing is, you well, you've got to start with, what does the brand really stand for? And in the case of close up, the brand stands for mild freshness, fresher breath. That's what it does. So if that's what the brand stands for, then you can go into skincare by definition, because that's not about freshness. Right? But you can. You can stay in any areas which are linked with mild freshness. And for example, of course, mouth mouthwash is a classic example, but there could be others. There could be toothbrushes. You know, or other areas, so you've got to decide what the brand stands for and then really expand into territory where that promise is relevant.
Sid: as youre building them out and using this “promise” does it make sense to be able to have a broader promise that allows for that brand to recognize because you’ve already marketed it to be a certain way and its easier to add to that because your promise is broad rather than build another brand all together.
Vindi: Yeah. Well, the thing is, you've got to be careful with that because. You know, there's no free lunch if you broad base your promise to enter other categories effectively, you are reducing its, let's say, laser expertize in its core category. And let's take the same example as close up. It's you could either say, Look, this is a mouth freshness brand or you say, Well, hang on a minute, let's treat this as a freshness brand. And where else do you need personal freshness? Could it go into, you know, personal freshness? Could it? Could you have a a spray, a body spray? Could you have a deodorant now? Of course you could. But I think the moment you did that, you will start weakening its ability to be the expert in mouth freshness. So I think that's the trade off, and I think you've got to be very careful with brands, building brands is one of the most, I think, of wonderful things to be able to do to choose the territory that you wish to dominate and then dominate that single mindedly.
“ You know what, the one thing that is really interesting is the definition of a brand if you look up the dictionary. You will see that the definition started from the imprint that was used to print on cattle. The name of the owner. That's where the name brand came from”
So think about it that way that you actually want to imprint on a consumer's mind what a brand stands for. And remember that, you know, the consumer has got so much choice. They're not actually sitting there thinking about all of this. They're taking purchasing decisions in nanoseconds as they walk past a shop or in fact, in front of their computer. So, you know, you've got to be really focused, very clear, and your brand has to have a single point and it has to jump out.
Sid: Over and over again, we’re seeing young companies do the later. But they are starting at one product line and expanding into other without having secured a promise effectively enough and not being able to gain traction in anything in the process
Vindi: I agree, I think I agree with you and I every time I've been advising founders, I have actually asked them to think hard about establishing their expertize in one area as opposed to covering the ground. And, you know, gaining scale and there is this tension because there is a feeling that actually you are rewarded for scale and growth. But I think it has to be the right skill and the right growth. If you merely collect apples and oranges and pears, that's going to be less valuable than the best apples.
Sid: What kind of product and promise attached to it has a lot to do with the culture to sell the product, but the umbrella entity already sold a slew globally, was there anything that did well globally, but didn’t work out that did well in Unilever, but not in Hindustan Unilever?
Vindi: Well, I think the most things most strong brands globally did. Have appeal in many geographies, but often the market conditions weren't ready, you know, for example, a machine washed detergents were not relevant in India till washing machines were ubiquitous or everywhere. So a number of brands actually were not that relevant in in India because the either the housing conditions or homes or surfaces or consumer needs were not ready. But let me give you a very good example of the reverse. You know, take a brand like Lifebuoy. Now it's really interesting that diarrhea is one of the biggest killers in India, and diarrhea basically spreads through poor hand hygiene. That's very spread strong. And yet in our country, and it's linked with the way in which people actually perform their personal rituals and either don't cleanse their hands adequately, etc. That's actually the problem.
Sid: Im sorry, the problem is that they don’t wash their hands in the right manner
Vindi: Yes, they don't they don't use, you know, a good soap to wash their hands so that they actually get rid of all the germs and they then transmit the germs to their mouth and that's where they get diarrhea. Now this was a huge problem in India, probably still is. And Lifebuoy actually occupied this position because Lifebuoy, as you know, was formulated to kill germs. But it's when we we actually thought about it beyond just killing germs and be linked with this larger idea that, look, this brand was your personal defense against ill health. That that particular connection, when we made that connection, it became a huge success. And that particular campaign really route rejuvenated a life boy that was declining. Interestingly, this this sort of thing is not just about advertising, but to convey this. Our teams actually created Lifebuoy hand-wash demonstrations in schools. They ran educational campaigns in rural India. They associated themselves with associations of doctors to really take the high ground that Lifebuoy was waging a war against ill health. And so that's the sort of thing you need to do to make brands larger than life and become totally expert in their space.
Sid: I was talking to someone recently who quit HUL and he was telling me how lifebuoy was built out vs the stick deodrants and the mentality of sweat vs smelling good we were not able to change. It seemed that it was the way lifebuoy was marketed, better than fog
Vindi: Exactly, that's where I think, you know, marketing is so interesting. I mean, another example was the launch of the brand Wheel was launched to compete against, you know, in the low cost segment, which had been opened up by Nirma and there was very well established at the time that Will was launched. So the question was how do you get people to actually move from Nirma to wheel and. Eventually, as we did lots and lots of consumer studies, we found that one thing about Nirma was that your hands felt slightly warm and almost a slight sensation of burning when you were washing Nirma And that came because it had a very high concentration of carbonate in the formulation. It gave it its efficacy. But equally, it gave you that feeling on your hands. So we actually formulated a product that would give equivalent results, but without as that much of carbonate in the formulation. And therefore, it didn't give you that feeling on your hands, and we were able to position Will as a brand that gave you an excellent wash quality but did not burn your hands, and consumers could immediately recognize that when they tried real, they could feel the difference. On their hands. So it was a great success. So you have to actually find a very relevant point of difference that consumers will experience, not just tell them they have to be able to experience that point of difference.
Sid: At some level is has to be simple enough for them to understand what you are referring to.
Vindi: Exactly, it has to be. I mean, that's the point, but you know, usually when you when you spend enough time with consumers, you have a very good understanding of the challenge. And then, of course. There are so many communication experts who would be able to help you in translating that that idea into very simple language to make sure it gets through.
Sid: Im sure you’ve been seeing the Thrasio model becoming popular right now – being coined as the new way to build business, but its obviously not – but when you look at businesses like this – what do you think winners will look like?
Vindi: Well, I think the point is this that these companies will only be as good or as bad as two things. The first is the quality of the brands underneath them or in the house. So if they collect brands that are unique, that have a point of difference that are relevant to today's consumer and those brands continue to be marketed with that differentiation. Well, that makes sense. The second thing is that when you have more than one brand so you have many brands, then there should be some shared value to that platform. It could be that they can they go to market together, they have the same channel. It could be that they share raw materials and therefore have purchasing synergies. It could be that they have other, you know, platform advantages, but you've got to have some reason for all of them to be together.
Sid: are there certain things they should not be connected with?
Vindi: Well, the thing is that, you know, if this ban different categories, let's say that you have a skin care brand and would be brand now those two don't share much consumer knowledge because they are two completely separate categories. But on the other hand, a skincare brand or deodorant brand, a personal wash brand, those share a knowledge of the consumer who's actually looking after his or her personal, you know, appearance and personal health. So I think that you've got to figure out what's the synergy between categories of brands.
Sid: A lot of money has gone in to young companies that are buying out majority portions into these companies. This insight is really helpful – a lot of them are using PnLs of what to buy and what not to – not sure how many are doing that
Sid: Team is a good Segway – I wanted to touch on team, for incredible time in modern history – HUL has been known to cultivate talent like anyone else. The relevance of a management trainee is a lot. As people start new businesses what does it take to build a culture where people want to join you and those that do want to be nurtured. What needs to happen? You had to re-cultivate it and change culture – can you talk more about it?
Vindi: I think. Yeah, sure. I think it's really important to believe that people make all the difference. You know, you hear this a lot, but. You know, you have to believe this passionately. And I saw this in practice in perhaps my sales training days itself when I joined the company and I was working in Madhya Pradesh and I could see the difference in different towns in terms of, you know, brand shares and so on. The products were the same. The consumer was roughly the same. The the competition was roughly the same, but our brand shares would vary and it would very often be down to the local distributor how good he was or she was and how good our local sales force was in that particular town. People make a difference at every level, you know, they make a difference, not just at the top of the company. They make a difference in every possible activity. So that is, I think, something that's a fundamental belief that I have always carried. Now to your point, what attracts people into organizations? I think people today join organizations for their values. Secondly, they join them to learn and they stay in them as long as they feel they are evolving themselves positively, they are getting something from that organization. And thirdly, they want personal growth. So I think those three things are really important. Values, learning and personal growth. That is in my book, at least a very, very important to attracting and retaining the right talent. I think it's being very clear as to what are the values that you actually want that company to stand for and then living those values. So as a founder, you've got to be very clear on that.
Sid: And when you have to inculcate this, what differentiates a good company vs a great company. Is it time spent with manager? Communication? What the driving force from an operational standpoint? How do you make sure that it sustains as your business scales
Vindi: Being clear as to what are the values of this business? What do you really, really passionately believe in? You know, if you believe, for example, that you will always deliver the best product for the consumer, then do you live those values? Do you actually make every choice, every decision by thinking like that? If you say that this company stands for meritocracy, then do you actually make every decision in that way? So is choosing the values, it's communicating the values, and it's living the values.
Sid: As an investor today, as you look at consumer brands in India today – what would you look for in a brand and how would that be different than 20 years ago.
Vindi: I think that to me, the way I look at investment opportunities, first of all, if I look at the product or the brand, I'd like to make sure that it is servicing a very relevant need or it's solving a life problem and it's doing that or it's got ambition to do that better than anybody else. So that's the first thing.
1. It's going to be a product or brand that's going to make a difference to somebody's life, a consumer or a customer, depending on what kind of a business is it?
2. second point, and perhaps even the more important point is the founder, the entrepreneur, because in the end, people make the difference back to what we were saying earlier. So to me, the founder and his qualities are.
You know, in some ways, far more important than the product or brand idea. Because if you're backing the right person, that person will make a business is more likely to make a business a success.
Sid: Is there a skill set you need for someone starting a consumer brand?
Vindi Yeah, I would say so, I would say that I think that I welcome people who have the following qualities:
The best thing a startup can do for its brand is to invest in creating experiences that make people whip their phones out to tweet or instagram immediately. Your brand isn’t what you say about yourself, it’s what people say about you.
Hitendra and I discovered this opportunity through an iterative set of conversations that took place prior to funding the business. It was this deep engagement and exchange of ideas, even before there was an economic incentive that allowed for a strong relationship with an open exchange of ideas to develop.
You will receive the next newsletter in your inbox.
The monthly Gazette is your source of happenings within Lightbox - updates, blogs, deep dives, opinion pieces and all things consumer tech
Join the thousands who hear from us