The field of marketing is exciting and equally challenging. In my earlier stint, I have written a large number of articles on the different aspect of marketing and brand building. If there was one person, I would rely on for a point of view on many things, it was Harish Bijoor, founder of Harish Bijoor Consults. After spending sometime with Hindustan Lever and Tata Coffee, Harish ventured very early on into the space of entrepreneurship and today is a well-known speaker, author, blogger and columnist on various things related to brands. YourStory recently caught up with him in Bangalore to ask about his view on branding, marketing for startups and things related. Excerpts.
On branding and entrepreneurship
Branding and entrepreneurship Harish says are two opposed faculties, because in entrepreneurship the individual has a very amebic mindset and branding today is a rigid kind of a format. “Entrepreneurs hit on branding the last, because it is something that is anathema to them. They know they are not good at it, neither do they believe much in it, because it is not something they are capable of focusing, due to their very amorphous way of working,” says Harish. There are good and bad things about this format, because the entrepreneur is wired in such a way that he does great new things, different things, experiments with various things at different point in time, comes across failures and moves on to a different thing, but when it comes to discipline an entrepreneur is a worry point and branding, says Harish is a discipline at the end of the day.
“Branding is an art, science and philosophy all packed into one. The art portion of branding & the philosophy portion of branding is something they don’t understand, the science portion they do understand. Science is only 30%, philosophy & art is 70%,” says Harish. So the best thing for an entrepreneur to do is sit back and say that I don’t understand branding and get in someone from outside who understands brands and tell that he will be my brand person. “Investing in someone as your brand person, someone who will understand and take your brand to a new level is the first thing to do in entrepreneurship,” advises Harish.
It is very important that an entrepreneur does not assume himself to be a 360-degree animal who can bite into anything and consider branding to be something he is also capable of. Similarly getting an external brand person may also not be the best thing to do for a startup. Instead insourcing of branding is something the entrepreneur must do. Once there is an internal brand person, the entrepreneur should invest in the branding exercise and invest ahead of the curve. ROI on branding is a delayed thing and an entrepreneur should remember that. So delayed gratification is something that an entrepreneur should have an appetite for.
“I always say that patience is the fifth ‘P’ of marketing that an entrepreneur should learn. He must be patient. The next thing is being consistent. The ability to back a person, the ability to not sack your brand manager and back up his ideas is something the entrepreneur should learn,” suggests Harish. The ability to back your brand manager and learn from mistakes that he makes, could be a valuable lesson for both the entrepreneur and the brand manager to learn.
Harish offers that entrepreneurs should not start a business thinking of branding. “You have taken several baby steps and when you come to bit of a standstill, and are not too sure what to do next, that might be the stage to look at branding,” suggests Harish. The work that Harish Bijoor Consults does today is 80% for the big clients and 20% small clients. This 20% maybe guys who have a patent, want to go into the market, someone who’s got an idea and such. Harish candidly admits that this 20% of the work that he does is what he finds exciting, the remaining 80%, he calls it very dumb, dull, boring as it is being done for companies that have already established and made a mark for themselves.
Harish says that he has refused almost 50 entrepreneurs who have come to him with a request to get him aboard as an outsourced branding partner, but he has refused them because it was too early for them to join hands. “And normally I am kicked in my company for this, but now they have also understood. We are postponing gratification and money, but I think that person will respect my company that much more and when he is ready for branding he will come back to me. And it does not sully my reputation as well,” says Harish objectively.
In entrepreneurship there is a tipping point when you should think branding, and a great way to do this is to be in touch with that external branding person to try and find out what that tipping point might be. For instance, in an eCommerce outfit the tipping point would come after 8 months of being there. Harish does a fair bit of work with ecommerce companies and he confidently says 8 months is a good time for them to look for branding. Similarly anyone who is doing content related work, for them the tipping point could come 4 - 4.5 years later, because in the early years is spent just creating stuff. In case of an analytics firm it is 22-24 months – a big data guy; while for an online research company it would take about six years to need branding, says Harish. "So it depends on what you are doing, whether you are an ecommerce firm or content dissemination -- now I have a palette and without even seeing the enterprise I can tell them, that you should come to me after 6 years if you are a data analytics firm. In the meantime what you can do, is get your own person,” suggests Harish.
Tomorrow we will present the second part of this interview with Harish, where he discusses his favourite startup brand and more. Stay tuned.