Surge of Amma brand in Tamil Nadu (and clone could emerge elsewhere)

T E Narasimhan has this interesting piece on the Amma brand based on TN Chief Minister Jayalalitha.

It is all ironical really. One would imagine private sector to dominate private sector in Indian economy and a new private player to challenge the incumbents. But the challenges  are coming from babas and politicians. It perhaps goes back to our historical roots where we always believed gods and kings more than anything else:

Nothing, it seems, can deter the rise of J Jayalalithaas Amma brand; neither the protests over the seemingly odious labelling of food packets during the Chennai floods nor, the criticism over the insensitively displayed portrait at the Siachen martyrs funeral service. The Tamil Nadu chief ministers eponymous brand is both omniscient and omnipresent in the state.

Amma is the moniker that was given to her by her followers. The brand which is believed to be her brainchild was meant to keep her engaged with her fan base. And given the remarkable ease with which the brand has straddled the worlds of politics and business for the past four years, many politicians may just take a leaf out of her book.

Brand Amma was launched in 2011 after she took over as CM for the fourth time. It flies in the face of conventional marketing logic – it does not follow a set marketing plan, does not have a single team managing it and extends into seemingly disconnected products and services (cement, bottled water and grievance redressal schemes). Revenues and expenditure numbers are impossible to untangle from the maze of state finances and no profit and loss statements are available.

However there is an underlying philosophy that the brand adheres to. Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O Panneerselvam said that “the people are assured that our chief minister will ensure that they do not suffer the pain of high inflation”. Thus the 530 canteens sell subsidised food, 71 vegetable outlets sell produce at 40 per cent of the market price, a one-litre bottle of Amma mineral water retails at Rs 10 against Rs 20-22 by private players and a bag (50 kg) of Amma Cement is sold “to the poor and needy” at Rs 190, almost half the market price of Rs 300-350 a sack. Besides, there are 106 Amma Marundhagams (pharmacies) that sell medicine at affordable prices. Harish Bijoor, CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults said that the brand name is a clever one because it has four letters, two syllables and is quick on the tongue and essentially means mother in many languages.

After the marketing gurus were scratching their heads over surge of Patanjali as a brand, here is another such case.


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