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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
K.K.Srivastava Guest Column
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It’s the 21th largest oil company in the world with over 8,900 km of pipeline. It’s one of India’s most valuable brands.
Issue Date - 23/09/2010
Talk about oil, and adjectives that come to mind are – slippery, dense, dirty. Famed and respected? Not sure?! But when the Incas called it ‘liquid gold’, they certainly understood the power it could generate. And going by the fact that Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL) garnered revenues and profits to the tune of $54.28 billion and $2.25 billion respectively during FY10 alone, the corporation seems to have long understood why the Incas were known for their prosperity!

In fact, the value of the IndianOil brand is not just limited to its commercial role as an energy provider but straddles the entire gamut of exploration & production, refining, transportation & marketing, petrochemicals & natural gas and downstream marketing. It’s a brand that generates immediate trust in minds of Indians! And why not? Battling against odds in a challenging business environment (thanks to last year’s slowdown), India’s No.1 commercial enterprise and flagship oil major, IndianOil notched up another year of sterling performance for FY2009-10. It not only once again outperformed other Indian corporates to lead the pack (followed by biggies like RIL, SBI, BPCL, HPCL, Tata Steel, ONGC and Tata Motors) in Fortune ‘Global 500’ listing of the world’s largest companies by sales for the year 2010, but also got listed as India’s ‘Most Trusted Brand’ in the ‘Gasoline’ category in a Readers’ Digest-AC Nielsen Survey. What’s more? Ranked at 125, IndianOil emerged as the 21st largest petroleum company in the world in the Fortune’s list. In fact, the brand has steadfastly climbed from 226 in the year 2002 to 191 in 2003, 189 in 2004 to 170 in 2005, 153 in 2006, 135 in 2007, 116 in 2008 and 105 in 2009 in the Fortune ‘Global 500’ club.

This all has been possible because it dared to get into brand differentiation of petroleum and oil. Petroleum was an unglamorous business, a commodity arena where brands had no role to play, at least in India. But IOCL changed that paradigm through its continuous efforts at building its brand and establishing itself as a trusted name. The ever popular ‘Servo’ brand of lubes is one such example (leave aside brands like Indane LPG, XtraPremium petrol, XtraMile diesel) of how sound investment in branding and an unflinching focus on the customer can create marketing magic. “There are two aspects to our promotion to promote brands which need support by way of ads and through brand building strategies,” an IndianOil official tells 4Ps B&M. The approach, besides the run-of-the-mill dealer incentives and on-field activities, involves agreements with other trusted brands like Citibank and Coca Cola, which further helps IOCL leverage its brand image.

Besides, what makes it a leader is not just its market share or profitability but also its ability to understand the complex psyche of the Indian market. The swathe of marketing initiatives launched by IndianOil over the years, truly showcases its ability to be nimble footed in customising solutions across different demand requirements. A case in point, is its Kisan Seva Kendra model which has been universally acknowledged as one making a huge difference to the country’s rural belt. And for this it has not only been recognised by several forums, but has also gone on to win awards from the Rural Marketing Association of India and the Asia Retail Congress in 2009. “IndianOil, a fine-tuned marketing machine, working to precision round-the-clock, round-the-year, is powered by a passion to serve, even against odds,” says G. C. Daga, Director Marketing, IOCL.

Certainly over the last decade, IndianOil has transformed the Indian petroleum retail market by enormously widening the retail basket of products and services. From a simple model retailing petrol and diesel, its outlets have metamorphosed into multi-brand, multi-product and multi-service entities. In fact, today this model has evolved as the industry’s benchmark in India. And all because of the trust that the brand has been able to generate in the minds of its consumers.

After all, when your brands touch the lives of a billion people everyday and literally keep them on the move, it is the trust factor that is the most important ingredient to make the brand last. IndianOil, in general, and its most well known brand Servo, in particular have done that duty superbly, constantly innovating and making their products better and improving choice. The upshot has been a nation full of customers who swear by their experience with these brands and know that when it says ‘100% Performance. Everytime.’, there are no two ways about it.

Manish K. Pandey           
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