How entrepreneurs can survive turbulent economy

The Marketing Director of Friesland Campina WAMCO, Tarang Gupta, has advised that entrepreneurs and enterprises need to stay true to their vision and purpose to survive a troubled economy. He stated this and more in an interview with The Guardian recently. Describing business in the last 28 months in Nigeria, Gupta said consumer spending has diminished, as well as escalating operational challenges, rising inflation, high input cost and so on.


“Personally, the most important learning I have had during this period is the balancing act of short term and long term. But I am also optimistic with the early signs of recovery in the economy. I have learnt three key principles to manage brands and business during a crisis: staying true. Always stay true and honest to your consumer. Never think that a consumer does not know what you are doing. Secondly, being balanced: During moments of crises, organisations and business managers shift to short term goals, thus losing sight of long term purpose and vision. And thirdly, think positively. The most important asset any business has is its people and it is this asset that can be the competitive advantage for any organisation, especially during a crisis.”

For Gupta, every market in the world is unique as its history, culture and people define it. He, however, said there were a few distinctive things about Nigeria, noting, “The three-in-one country; I am talking about the cultural diversity between North, East and South plus West. It also poses a challenge for national brands to stay regionally relevant, nationally connected, both via type of content and media channels.

“I have personally been surprised looking at the positive ‘no wahala’ attitude of Nigerians; they know how to stay happy even in tough times.”According to the Marketing Director, the generation of Nigerians between 18 years (60 per cent and 25 years) is massively digitally connected and globally aware. Thus brands need to keep in mind that the future evolution of this country would be much faster and steeper than any comparable benchmark.

He further stated that religious beliefs are strongly entrenched in the country and they define how the country operates ‘on Hope.’ Thus, he said, marketers need to ensure they connect to this deep-rooted belief system and not stay superficial.

In his assessment of the Nigerian market in terms of marketing communications and brand building experiences, Gupta volunteered that Nigerian marketing communication is still more traditional but evolving at a rapid pace.

“What makes it unique and interesting is that to reach a Nigerian consumer, the media strategy needs to be wide and cut across channels – traditional and new age. Also the media consuming habits are highly diverse and segmented between regions and demographics. Following the principle of How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp, my strong recommendation is to leverage traditional media to create awareness and reach and through digital means, especially among youths in the South and West of the country, to create engagement.

“In terms of creativity, I think Nigeria stands to be highly upbeat, music-oriented and emotional. The route to the head of a Nigerian consumer is through his heart. Thus in terms of creative content, marketers focus on ‘Touching the Heart first and then connecting with the Head.”

He described Nigerian consumers as believers rather than skeptics, adding that it is a big advantage for the advertisers, though it comes with huge responsibility of being truthful and honest.

Reflecting on what has been the toughest aspect of managing two top dairy brands in the Nigerian market, Gupta said, “When I was a sportsman in my youth days, my coach always told me that reaching the top is easier than staying at the top. Friesland Campina WAMCO’s brands, Peak and Three Crowns, are not just iconic but are part of the culture and life of the Nigerian consumer. Peak is synonymous to milk but also seen as the gold standard in the minds of the consumers.”

To him, brands should not be described by their DNA but rather by their ‘purpose’, that is, their reason for existence. For Peak, the purpose lies in its name itself, ‘to help Nigerian consumers unlock their potentials and reach for their peak.’

The impact of PECADOMO campaign, which stands for ‘Peak Can Do More,’ he said, is not just a campaign, but also an initiative to expand the usage of milk in Nigeria. The response to this campaign has been extremely positive both from the consumers and from the industry.

On the role of Three Crowns among Nigerian diary brands, Gupta said Three Crowns “wants to inspire mothers to stay healthy so they can stay fit and take better care of themselves and their families. The woman of the house is the pillar of the family and the stronger the pillar, the more stable the family would be. Three Crowns supports and nourishes this pillar so it can keep the family healthy and happy. Three Crowns milk, with low cholesterol and great taste, is the ideal partner to the woman of the family in keeping herself and her family healthy and happy.”

In assessing his tenure as Marketing Director, Gupta said credit for some of the fabulous and award-winning creatives goes to the entire marketing team and agency partners, adding, “It is the result of their zeal, passion and relentless rigor. These awards are signs of external recognition and they motivate us to keep raising the bar. We sincerely thank different institutions and bodies for honouring us with these awards and appreciation.”

While giving an overview of Nigeria’s dairy industry, Gupta said, “Futuristically, the per capita consumption of milk in Nigeria is a fraction compared to some of the other more developed countries, and I personally believe that this segment would continue to rapidly grow. Moreover, with health consciousness on a rapid rise, dairy solutions will continue to have increased relevance in the lives of consumers.

Narrating his foray into marketing, Gupta said having lived in three continents and 13 cities around the world, diversity is part of his DNA. “Likewise, the last 15 years of my career, started with my marketing career in Unilever India, then Global Marketing with Sara Lee responsible for personal care for Asia Pacific and finally joining Friesland Campina global marketing in 2010 before moving to Nigeria. My most self-enduring times have been in Nigeria, in the last three years, with the economic crisis. But I am happy to see how we as a team have not just sailed through the storm but have grown stronger and sharper to take our brands to the next level. I am really fortunate to have a great team that believes ‘I’m possible.’”

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