‘Branding’ seems to be the key for Indian Cement Producers

“Cement is no longer just a commodity. Prices have remained unaffectedeven during monsoons,” says Anil Singhvi, vice-chairman of RelianceNatural Resources.

(Mumbai, India)  —  Branding their cement with the faces of celebrities seems to be the new tag line for cement producers in India.  So while M S Dhoni, the Indian cricketer with a rock solid reputation endorses Lafarge products, Amitabh Bachhan, the movie industry icon, is lending his name to Binani Cement.

“Brand is a key value driver for Lafarge,” says Ramakrishna Maganti, regional vice president – marketing (East & South West Asia), Lafarge.

Vinod Juneja, managing director of Binani Cement, which has more than doubled its capacity to around 6 million tonnes, agrees. “Nothing sells without branding. Example: sales have zoomed ever since Mr Bachhan started endorsing our products”.

The latest to jump on the b(r)andwagon is Jaypee Cement who has launched a brand new campaign on April 14 with India’s most reliable batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar to endorse its products.

Also, big cement companies such as Aditya Birla group company UltraTech is associated with Rajasthan Royals and India Cements with Chennai Super Kings during the second edition of the Indian Premier League.

With a plethora of creditable brand ambassadors endorsing cement products, analysts feel that the Indian cement producers are finally breaking the cocoon of being perceived as regional commodity players.

The Indian cement industry has nearly doubled its production capacity in the last 10 years to 212 million tonnes and newer players are becoming bigger with manufacturing units across the country.

“Cement is no longer just a commodity. Prices have remained unaffected even during monsoons,” says Anil Singhvi, vice-chairman of Reliance Natural Resources.  There is also an increasing need to ‘brand’ the cement products as home owners now account for almost half the number of cement consumers. In fact, most commercials focus on company executives talking to individual home owners.

 “That’s an extremely brand conscious section, and we have to pamper the retail consumer,” says J DattaGupta, head – commercial services of ACC.

In 2006, ACC switched from multiple product sub-brands to the mother brand after market research proved that consumers placed more trust on brand ACC.

With the rise in competition in the last few years, companies are looking for a unique product positioning through strong brands and are creating separate marketing teams for their different categories of products.

Harimohan Bangur, chairman & managing director Shree Cement Company says, “The market is tough and brand building is crucial. Each brand of ours has separate marketing teams and separate advertisement themes for product differentiation.”

Maganti attributes the premium that Lafarge products enjoy to its high decibel brand campaigns. “M S Dhoni is a brand ambassador for Concreto and the success of this association is reflected in our strong brand equity,” he says.

Even though ‘branding’ cement seems to be the new mantra, several key players are steering clear of the recourse. Ambuja Cements, didn’t have any high-profile ambassador in its campaigns last year even with an expenditure of Rs 54 crore on brand promotion.
Ajay Kapur, head – commercial & marketing of Ambuja Cements, says, “We prefer our customers to be our ambassadors,” he adds.

By:  Rashmi Kalia [ARI-C News]

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