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ITC Targets Gulf, Saarc For Greeting Cards Exports
The Financial Express - 30 Jul 2003

Rajiv Banerjee

Greeting cards & stationery will form the two pivotal planks of ITC Greeting Cards Business. Even as the company looks to increase its marketshare in this business in India, it is also aggressively targeting Saarc nations and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries for export opportunities. For ITC Greetings, the retail plans envisage partnering with multi-brand outlets, which have a similar consumer target. But as a pure brand-building exercise, the company will establish few flagship stores in metropolitan cities in the next couple of years.

ITC Greeting Cards Business CEO Chand Das told FE that new consumer acquisition, both for new and existing products, is the key for growth. Thus, exports of ITC greeting cards and stationery will acquire greater focus in the time to come. "We are looking at Saarc and GCC countries and have exported a few products from our range. The selection of Saarc and GCC countries stems from the fact that the people there have a lot in common with Indians and there is a sizeable Indian population as well," said Mr. Das.

Along with greeting cards, the business unit is looking at the stationery range to acquire consumers both in the domestic and international market. In the greeting cards segment, ITC has garnered a market share of 15 per cent in 2002-2003 which it is looking to increase to 25 per cent by the end of the 2003-2004 financial year.

In the stationery range, ITC has launched Expressions Paper Kraft aimed at colleges and working executives and Expressions Classmate targeted at school children. "The USP of the stationery range is that we are using our own paper which is eco-friendly as we use chlorine-free bleaching at our Bhadrachalam plant. Also the design element is strong as we draw synergy from the greeting cards business," explained Mr. Das.

Focusing on regions in India is a strategy which the division is looking at to enlarge the market. Expressions Matrubasha, which is available in eight languages still rests on Hindi and Marathi. But the focus would be to develop regions through occasion-specific cards like Onam in Kerala and Poila Baishak in West Bengal and graduate the consumers to using everyday cards in their respective mother tongue. "Going by the rise in vernacular medium both in print and electronic media, we are bullish on Expressions Matrubasha gaining acceptance in various regions across the country," said Mr. Das.

Another strategy to garner more market share is launching occasion specific cards like Friendship Day, Doctors’ Day and Teachers’ Day. Apart from the retail approach, the company is looking at a more institutional-driven approach to market these product ranges.

On the retail strategy, Mr. Das said the ITC division is planning to have a few exclusive flagship stores in select metros across the country in the next couple of years.

Mr. Das admitted that placing ITC greeting cards in petrol pumps, cafes and cyber cafes has not been a successful exercise as they have failed to generate the necessary response. Reason: card buying is a planned and organised activity, where customers like to browse through the range before choosing a particular card. "The environment does not exist in such retail outlets where we had just one rack with a limited range," Mr. Das added.

Therefore, the change in approach has been to align with multi-brand outlets selling music and books, which have a similar environment and target audience.