Friday, May 02, 2008

Sumeet Mixer: Is the company eroding its own brand?

‘At 60 miles per hour, the loudest noise comes from electric clock’. For me, this advertisement for Rolls-Royce made by Ogilvy remains my all time favorite. The punch line sums up the product attributes without a mention of any of its features. Alleque Padamsee in his book 'A double life' talked about the quandary of creative advertising professionals in India. “Where do we get such products to justify robust creative punch line?”

In India, we have few brands with enviable reputation of product quality, dependable performance and satisfied customer base. One such brand is Sumeet – Mixer Grinder. However, my recent experience made me doubt if great product and happy customers would be enough for the company to sustain its leadership in the industry.

For most Indians with interest culinary adventures, image of Sumeet is subconsciously nurtured from young age. Today’s young generation use Sumeet because they have seen their mom using it and some who have stayed outside India have switched over to Sumeet after seeing other brands not withstanding the rigors of grinding of Indian cooking ingredients. We also decided to change to Sumeet after not so pleasant experience with Maulinex. After years of happy experience with Sumeet, when we decided to buy another one - an ordeal began. A visit to Mustafa in Singapore and visit to LuLu in Dubai (both stores that practically keeps every possible Indian brand) - did not achieve much as the product was not available. A website of the company mentioned its availability in Middle East, UK and USA but without any presence in the south Asia. My Email to the company address bounced back saying that it did not exist. When I googled on Sumeet, it led me to several prospective buyers either asking about its availability or complaining about its after sales service. I was hoping to buy one in Chennai but when I visited two prominent stores –‘Vivek’ and ‘Vasanta’, they had every other brand – Maharaja, Preethi, Phillips but no Sumeet. Sales people in both shops tried hard in convincing me that other brands are as good as Sumeet. As a last hope, I called up Dubai distributor that company website had mentioned and succeeded in locating two pieces in store in Dubai. In today’s customer driven consumer industry, I wonder how long mfr of Sumeet ‘Power Appliances’ would survive when most of its actions tend to antagonize a prospective customer. The chances are that management of this company is either far too complacent with the past laurels of sales figures or they have lost zeal in doing the business. Whatever it is, my personal experience makes me feel that brand value of this product is receding at faster rate from every possible direction and the company organization is doing more damage than its competitors would do in undermining its presence in the market.

The origin of brands is a blog dedicated to various nuances of brand building and demolition. Author Laura talks about the ‘letting go’ as one of the way to have a brand innovation. She says some companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble refused to relinquish control and in turn undermined the potentiality of the brand. Sumeet appears to have perfected this diabolical art of brand innovation. Mixer Grinder is a matured technology and except perhaps a ‘user interface’ one cannot differentiate one product to another. In order to develop or even ape Sumeet mixer, one would not need a battery of R & D engineers. Laura says, “The best way to run a company is by managing your brands much like you would manage a stable of race horses. Don’t over-train, over-race or over-fed”. Sumeet seems to have taken Laura’s advice far too seriously. They neither feed their product to distributors, nor provide correct communication channels for prospective customers.

I am sure, for Sumeet, it must have taken many years to reach brand recognition, but in an era of white goods explosion in Indian market, it is sitting on an edge of the precipice only to be overturned by the competitor who is hungry for success. Before that happens, I hope the company either transforms herself or sell the brand to a company that knows its worth.

I am generally cautious of being critical of any company or a product unless I have consistent unpleasant experience that goes beyond occasional personal bitter interaction. Sumeet unfortunately tested my endurance much the same way Air India did. Asian Brand Survey mentions Wipro, Colgate India, TATA, Hindustan Lever as top Indian Brands. For me; Amul, Nirma, Haldiram, Parle G, Jet Airways, Kingfisher are the toast of Indian success as these brands not just withstood competition from reputed international brands but made successful foray in their own domain. Some brands like Nirula, Bedekar, Milan Supari, Hawkins, Thums Up. Amritanjan are dwindling at rapid are from the mind of Indian Consumers. Is it because of inept management? I do not know. However, I would be keen to observe the way Sumeet would go in coming years.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Sap said...

I totally agree with your comments.
However, 3 years back when I looked up the internet and found the sumeet website on www.sumeet.net, I order Sumeet Asia Kitchen and received it promptly in 15 days. But then when as usual, after rigorous use of the grinder especially the small jar, the coupler keeps breaking, and its a struggle till now to get it fixed or either get its spare parts :)

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Joethump said...

I purchased my Sumeet Asia Grinder way back in 1991.Six months later the motor burnt out.
I took it to the service center and they replaced the motor free of cost.
Since the grinder came without a small jar, I purchased the small jar of a Sumeet INT 842(no longer in production)
For the past 18 odd years the grinder has been going strong.In the course of the years some bushes, carbon brushes and washers were all that have been changed.Maybe a total of Rs 1000 worth of parts.
Genuine parts are still available.
Maybe Sumeet made the mistake of making a product that was too good.
By the way, have you noticed the shape of all the grinder/mixies available in the Indian market recently.Nearly all of them are clones(copies) of the original Sumeet.
I knew so many tourists from Canada and Britain (non-ethnic) in the 80’s & 90’s who carried home Sumeet machines because they claimed the Sumeet left even old international brands like Kenwood and Sunbeam behind in performance.
I am aware that there was some kind of family feud that forced the Sumeet company to split up.Even then both branches of the family still brought out quality products.
If, as you claim Sumeet is no longer available, it would be an Indian tragedy because newer generations would never experience one of the most reliable products ever made, anywhere in the world

5:40 PM  
Blogger IRSHAD said...

Thank you for dis post sir...i had same xpriance... i feel sory abt dis company or i should feel sorry about myself cuz i can't use dis wonderful product anymore...
ven i googled sumeet i got 3 official websites n i'm confused vich iz da ryt 1.
i wonder if dis company still exist...
i wanted to gift it to my mom...
i'm from bangalore...
PLZ HELP ME I WANT SUMEET MIXER...

4:46 PM  

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