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Lighting a New Venture With Stationery Products
The Financial Express - 21 Feb 2003

ITC Greeting Cards to expand range

Mona Mehta

In a strategic move, ITC Greeting Cards Business, the strategic business unit of ITC Ltd which markets ‘Expressions Greeting Cards’, plans to diversify into marketing stationery products such as notebooks and notepads in soft, hard and spiral form next month. With this move, the company will roll out stationery products under the brand name ‘Expressions Paper Craft’ across the nation.

Prior to the formal launch, the company has been test-marketing these products in metros like Chennai and Hyderabad, informs ITC Ltd’s ITC Greeting Card Business chief executive officer Chand Das.

As for the rationale behind the company’s new plans, explains Mr. Das: "ITC has always had interests in greeting cards, paper and packaging. And now due to our vertical integration capacity, we want to convert commodity products into consumer products."

According to Mr. Das, these consumer products which mostly include notebooks and notepads will be sourced from national vendors and priced between Rs 15 and Rs 100. "These products will be stocked at stationers’ as well as at the retail outlets where Expressions cards are available. Currently the Expressions portfolio includes autograph books, slam books and gift-wrapping paper," he adds.

As part of its marketing strategy, the company is planning to promote its new product range through 30,000 stationery stores and 100 distributors, across the country soon. At present, Expression Greeting Cards are available in around 10,000 outlets across 700 towns, informs Mr. Das.

The company is also looking at the possibilities of converting its existing chain of 300 Expression outlets called ‘Expressions Valued Customers’ (where ITC has developed a scheme in which currently a retailer has to give ITC Greeting Cards business a 50 per cent share at the display counter) into 100 per cent Expression outlets within a year. The scheme has increased visibility and helped step up sales, says Mr. Das.

According to Mr. Das, the company’s brand-building plans for stationery products would centre around point-of-sale (POS) material. "Quality and design would be the two factors which would draw customers away from cheaper alternatives. The Rs 500-crore stationery market, which is currently growing at a rate of 10 per cent at present, is expected to grow at a rate of 10 to 15 per cent next year," he reasons.

In this segment, ‘Expressions Paper Craft’ will compete with other brands such as ‘Navneet Publications’ and ‘Scholar’ among others. "In the greeting cards segment, we have garnered a market share of 15 per cent," he adds. The market leader in this segment is Archies with a market share of 35 per cent.

Further, the company is also in the process of implementing an end-to-end collaborative supply chain model, basically, an enterprise resource planning model covering eight vendors and 100 distributors, sums up Mr. Das.