The Jewel in the Crown


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India’s Tanishq Jewelers Embraces the Whole Customer.

At the height of British Imperial power in 1877, Queen Victoria took the title, “Empress of India” and declared the sub-continent “The Jewel in the Crown” of the British Empire. Well, I’m sure Vicky wouldn’t recognize the economic dynamo that the free and independent people of India have created, especially since the 1990’s-era economic reforms. India’s economy ranks ninth-largest in the world (close behind England which is seventh), mainly because the combination of education and economic liberalization has created the world’s largest and fastest-growing middle class.

Within that context, I was surprised to learn at the 5th Annual Loyalty Summit in Mumbai last week that Jewelry (or “Jewellery” as they spell it) is the third-largest consumer category in India. Traditionally, fine jewelry represent for Indians meaning-filled symbols of life’s most significant milestones, and are purchased with the idea of being not only for the intended recipient, but also for her children and grandchildren as an inheritance. Indians of any economic means with discretionary income mark the birth of the first child, graduation from college, the attainment of the first job, and marriage—most definitely marriage—as occasions to give fine jewelry. Incredibly, there are 500,000 jewelry outlets in India, mostly Mom & Pop neighborhood shops, with branded organized retail making up only 5% of that vast and rapidly growing market.

Into this market, characterized by a knowledgeable and demanding consumer and centuries of local buyer-seller relationships anchored in generations of trust, comes the company called Tanishq (pronounced “tan-EESHK”) and their award-winning Annutara loyalty program. In rough translation, the word “Annutara” means “supreme” as in “supreme enlightenment.”1 Tanishq has become India’s supreme (largest) organized retail jeweler in large part because it looks for and finds the specific and unique actions that delight individual customers and their families—the lifeblood of the business.

Tanishq is a world-class example of how to translate customer data into insight and make “soft” benefits pay off in “hard” bottom-line results. This is an enterprise loyalty paragon.

Sandeep Kulhalli, Tanishq’s VP of Retail & Marketing, explained how Tanishq “decodes” customer transaction data by compiling a broader view of each customer’s interests via a few simple questions whose answers bring forth a 3-D portrait of customer needs and preferences. Of their 1.8 Million customers in the program is broken down into facts, such as name and mother tongue (there are a lot of them in India…English is a second language for most). Additional facts are key, such as birthday, favorite music, professional mindset, and presence and age of children (especially daughters of marriageable age).

From that base, Tanishq’s Annutara program swings into action through direct marketing and, most vitally, through the “living brand” of its store associates, who lavish care and service on their best customers. Annutara is in it for the long term, recognizing not only the lifetime value of an individual customer, but the MULTI-lifetime value of its relationship with that customer’s extended family.

Annutara segments occasions, not just customers—they look at opportunities to enlist best customers as brand ambassadors at the many Indian festivals and holidays, when women display their jewelry. They conduct sweeps of the regions in India to visit rural customers on “customer meets”—where 9000 customers showed up last year. Birthdays are especially important. Annutara store associates actually bake cakes for best customers in the program, and invite them to their local store to share the cake with friends, family, and spouses; a great recognition benefit that exponentially increases the chances for another purchase. After all, it IS her birthday. And he IS her husband, right???

The bottom line: Repeat is up 19%. Attrition down 10%. Across the board, financial metrics are all in the plus column due to Tanishq’s radical focus on recognition benefits that have strengthened the brand in a fiercely local and competitive business.

Loyalty Marketers in the developed economies should take a page from Tanishq’s playbook and recommit to these types of brand-enhancing soft benefits, or risk further undifferentiated commoditization of their brands and loyalty programs. Earn and burn benefits may drive transactions, but, according to Mr. Kulhalli, “soft benefits drive the relationship.”

Jim Sullivan
Jim directs the advancement of enterprise loyalty at COLLOQUY, an endeavor guided by his almost 30 years of managing in marketing, strategic planning, business development, innovation, and communications. Jim also assists with COLLOQUY's loyalty workshops, seminars and conferences, and serves as an academic liaison for colleges, universities and thinking institutions performing research on Enterprise Loyalty.


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