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How to 'Build a Brand in a Cluttered Market'
The Life of a Telecom operator in the Indian Market is a rather difficult one. Profits aren't easy to come by. But Deepak Gulati, CEO, TATA Docomo seems to have learnt the art of carving out a space for his brand in a cluttered Telecom Market. Excerpts from an Exclusive Interview with DTDIY
Onkar pandey | Issue Date - 03/02/2012

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Q. What’s your winning strategy? How do you go about retaining customers in a competitive sector like telecom, and create differentiation for brand Tata Docomo?
If you are honest in your intent and purpose, and truly want to serve customers, they will respect and trust you. Don’t treat customers like morons – they will give it back to you. It’s the firm belief we have. That’s what we call the Tata values. And Docomo too believes in that. Our battle is within. It's about how well we continue to deliver on our values, which is our winning proposition. Strategy is something which the competition can see, but can’t replicate. Price is no strategy (unless you have pockets deep enough to wipe out the competition). So if you get into pricing wars, it ends up hurting the entire industry. Strategy is: How you communicate to your customers and how your employees feel about them. We see ourselves as our first customers. If I buy a product, I'll obviously advocate it to others. That’s how we test every product. We'll never sell services that are appealing from outside unless they're as appealing in utility. Because if you don't do that, you'll eventually get caught, and then will be branded a cheater. If that is the case, where will you stand?

Q. You debuted the telecom business at a time when the market was already flooded with competition. What was your elementary approach to breaking out of the clutter?
Through various business ventures, the Tata Group strives for the larger good of the society. And from that larger mission, we've picked up our purpose for Tata Docomo, which is to simplify and enrich lives of all stakeholders and to be the most loved tele-services brand. We never said 'most trusted' because that by default comes with the Tata name. To accomplish the same, we have created a work culture that fosters growth and motivation. That's important because to create outstanding products and services, your employees must feel equally passionate about it.

Q. You have been a pioneer of the pay per second pricing strategy. How has that worked out?
It's no secret how this pricing model has worked out. Almost every player has embraced this model and a lot of competitors even have a significant pay per user customer base. The strategy was in line with the values we hold at Tata. It was primarily the right thing to do. If I'm making a call which lasts for only 15 seconds, why should I pay for an entire minute? Therefore, I think this model is here to stay.

Q. Your un-telecom approach sounds very radical. Can you elaborate further?
Telecom per say comes across as a very serious business. And that might make it look boring to the consumer. Therefore the un-telecom approach. It's our way of positioning ourselves. Behind that un-telecom approach are our two core values – simplifying and enriching. It helps us reinforce brand recall.

Q. Is the late mover advantage working in your favour?
It depends on how one looks at it. I always say that we might be the last, but it makes us the latest. A player who has been around for 15 years does have a significant advantage. And I can't take that away. But by avoiding the mistakes that others made early on, we have managed to become a more stable company

Q. What are your plans for the next fiscal?
More than the number of subscribers, what matters to us is revenue. Therefore, apart from acquiring new customers, we will work on wiping out those who have been dormant. We'll also closely monitor how customers are using our services in order to improve the user experience.
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