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How Nielsen alerted us to the rise of new Indian mega-brands.... five years ago!

The monthly Nielsen marketshare report is always a major moment of truth for any fmcg marketer. It inevitably leads to some boasting by brand & sales territory managers. But more often, there is a lot of complaining about the panel being wrong. Of course there are flaws, but I've learnt the hard way - any recurring share drop is INEVITABLY a major red flag and must always be investigated with seriousness + prompt action.

How Nielsen alerted us to the rise of new Indian mega-brands.... five years ago!
FIVE YEARS ago, I saw this headline (by Sagar Malviya, Economic Times) of the Unilever global CEO complaining about Nielsen India's marketshare tracking. Now, spats over Nielsen reports are more common than 5-year-olds arguing over who-hit-whom-first. But, given the criticism from such a senior figure and that too in the public eye, I thought - either Nielsen has gone completely haywire, OR for the nth time, Nielsen is probably flagging an epic trend-shift. The article quoted Dabur, Marico, Godrej as having similar 'doubts'. Interestingly, investors (in the same article) hinted that they pay a lot more credence to Nielsen marketshare reports than the companies' spin on the same!

With the benefit of hindsight, we know we missed the the rise of Patanjali (f:2006) when Nielsen tried to point it out, albeit indirectly, in 2011. It took investment firm CLSA's spotlight in 2015 with its now-famous "Wish you were listed" article. Of course, by then, Patanjali had became bigger than most fmcg companies in India!

And many more brand successes are going 'under-celebrated' or completely missed- like Paper Boat, FOGG deo, Kesh King hairoil, Indulekha, Pulse candy, Hokey Pokey ice cream, Ustraa grooming products, Creambell ice creams, the list goes on. Most have gone on to be well-funded or profitable or even acquired by bigger companies (the ultimate compliment to their success!).

Moral of the story: Pay close attention to your marketshare reports and Volume (not value) sales trends. While your senior-role might require you to put up a brave face to the world, don't fall for your own b...s...! Quickly travel to those specific territories / channels, spend time in some shops, talk to some retailers and visit some consumer homes. The truth will be apparent. It's not complicated.

The FMCG industry has always been respected for its consumer-focus, solid-financial profile and highly competitive spirit. This continues to be an epic decade for the Indian consumer landscape. May the best fighters win!

(With gratitude & respect to all my old friends from Nielsen and the legendary practitioners of "Advisor panel" analyses. Hey, I always paid attention! )

Via/ Idi Srinivas Murthy