How the brand was built Ground up – part 2
In the previous episode, we read about the origins of the Cycle brand of agarbattis. We have seen how in the year 1948, the patriarch ‘N Ranga Rao’ founded his business, and how he and his family grew it into a successful enterprise selling their Agarbattis, fragrances, etc across India and the world. In this part, we briefly look into the strategies they adopted to grow their business into a multi-product conglomerate.
Any business can only grow if the right STRATEGIES are in place. There should also be a BLUEPRINT ready to execute them. It is critically important to crack the following 5 first.
- Top quality products – Companies can only survive in the competitive market if their products are of standard quality. To sell in the market, the products need to be of top-notch quality, or else consumers will reject them.
- Product pricing – The pricing of the product should be right and based on the product quality and utility factor.
- Product promotion – People should know about the product, which calls for effective product promotion or marketing.
- Product accessibility – The product should be easily available to people.
- Market research – Through regular market research it is important to know what customer wants and their preferences.
- Product innovation – The product should be on par with the latest trends. For this to happen, companies have to invest in R&D and innovation.
How did Cycle brand Agarbattis conquer the market?
Quality: Agarbatti making has been a cottage industry for ages. The late N Ranga Rao, the founder of the Cycle brand Agarbattis, noticed that the industry was mostly unorganized, and hence there was no product standardization. That means, the quality of the products available at those times was varying – some were good and some were very bad. The first thing Mr. Ranga Rao did through his company was to fix the quality issues by using the best ingredients available at that time. He used product standardization techniques to bring uniformity across products.
Pricing – With the usage of the best ingredients, the price of Cycle brand Agarbattis went high. A marketing blitzkrieg was set in introducing the products to people with the narration that Cycle brand agarbattis are pure, so are best for “POOJAS and PRAYERS” because they can induce an atmosphere of divinity. This made sense to the customers and they lapped up the products.
Accessibility – The founders of Cycle brand Agarbattis used the best distribution network to distribute their wares across India and made sure their products are easily available across India.
Market research – The founders did extensive market research to know what customers “do not want” and what do they “want”. With this, they could come out only with those products that customers want.
Innovation – One thing the customers did not want was too much smoke coming out of burning incense sticks, a strong smell, and frequent extinguishment. The R&D team came out with such incense sticks that burn evenly till the end, with little smoke releasing the sweet & light smell. This was well accepted by the customers.
Product promotion – The founders understood product promotion from the beginning itself and aggressively engaged professional agencies to promote their products through advertisements. They branded their product as an “indulgence” and was built by relentless focus on a narrative (prayer is useful for every occasion). With people treating cricket as their second religion in this country, they were encouraged to use Agarbattis to pray for winning. Price being almost the same in a commoditized category, consumers will prefer the brand they have heard enough,” says Jessie Paul, founder, and CEO of Paul Writer Strategic Advisory, a market services and advisory company.
Cycle brand is the only certified carbon-neutral brand in its category, and its library has around 500 fragrances. In 2015, as part of its pan-India expansion plans, the brand roped in Amitabh Bachchan, cricketer Sourav Ganguly and actor Ramesh Aravind as brand ambassadors. A memorable ‘India Prays with Cycle’ campaign was set rolling since then. In 2017, the company re-engaged the media company “OMD MudraMax” to take care of advertisements and media management for the entire NR Group of companies. Cycle brand Agarbattis is a part of that group.
Cricket: The brand is also known for its long-standing support for cricket and owns the Mysuru Warriors franchise in the Karnataka Premier League. Actively involved in sponsorships, Cycle Incense was the title sponsor of the Sri Lanka Vs South Africa Series in 2021.
Market capture: With aggressive marketing and product promotions, the brand has a 15% market share of the all-India market size of Rs. 7000 Crores. They sell 12 billion sticks with a revenue of Rs. 1000 crores. Cycle Agarbattis today exports to 65 countries, wafting Indian fragrances across the world.
Best places to work
NRRS group, the maker of NRRS, makers of Cycle Pure Agarbathi, ranked among the top 50 Great Places to Work. That endorses the quality of leadership at the helm leading the business from the front. This is the outcome when the leadership goes behind excellence. News can be read here
Though there are many agarbatti-making companies in India, why none grew to the extent of the Cycle brand? The answer lies in the low level of ambition of the founders. When ambition gels with passion, the outcome will be another Cycle brand OR may be more.
In the next concluding part, we shall look into other group companies.