Challenges are beautiful. Some are deliciously ambiguous. While others seem deceptively simple. Some are apparently unyielding. While others, cloak themselves in disguise. To us, all problems or challenges, at their source are human.
Be it addressing a powerful consumer need or finding one. Be it finding real growth, or reversing steep decline. Be it finding a brand’s purpose, or changing an existing social behavior.
As long as we don’t surrender our thinking, imagination, and ingenuity to frameworks, models and packaged software, the pursuit is seductive. The results usually very successful. The experience, deeply enriching. For nearly a decade and half.
Our approach to Company Vision is not based on frameworks but a deep enquiry of the leadership team’s personal relationship with the company, the category and the impact that they want to have on the world.
When we get people to feel, rather than think about why they do what they do, magic happens. When we evoke those powerful feelings, a pattern emerges, which can then be easily used to frame the vision. It is not about clever wordsmithery but a poetic rendition of their feelings about that brand, product, or category. This then becomes a collective consciousness that rests on the walls of the Organisation as a reminder of the vision, rather than a bunch of empty words on a mantle piece. To know more read our seminal article on Humanizing the Company Vision featured at the Yale School of Management’s blog www.som.yale.edu/blog/humanizing-the-company-vision.
While organisations develop strategies based on customer insights, very often the life context of people is never considered or explored. One giant fallacy is to think of people as ‘customers’ - i.e. people who have bought or likely to buy my product or service. The ‘Why of things’, why different people buy differently, or behave they way they do is seldom explored deeply. We believe that understanding people deeply as human beings, spending a lot of time sensing who they are, how do they relate to the world around them, why are they different from some other cohort, what differentiates them from the others, motivates them etc. is the basic foundation block. It is in this context that any brand should be understood. Based on this rich contextual understanding, we guide organizations to take actions that actually help people, not merely create “target audiences”. Time after time, we have seen it lead to powerful businesses results, and the creation of unique brands. The process we follow is highly collaborative (working together with the client team) and builds empathy for customers. It ensures that the organisation starts to rally around the customer. Alignment therefore is baked into the process. This unique human-centered consulting work has been the bedrock of our work for the last 15 years.
Brands are conversations. There is a shared ownership of powerful brands between companies and their customers. This prophetic statement in the seminal work, The Cluetrain Manifesto is at the heart of our belief that is borne out in the Digital Age. Therefore, to us it is absurd, that in the course of brand stewardship, customers don't have a seat at the table. Organizations are finding it difficult to be ‘always listening’ for all their brands to take any kind of decisions. Most often, there are prioritizations, and the smaller brands tend to fall by the wayside, in the fight for market research dollars. To overcome this challenge, we have pioneered a by invitation, branded private online community for a brand. When a brand engages its customers in the spirit of true friendship (shows its vulnerabilities), and asks their help to become better, they willingly help, without seeking rewards. This creates a powerful social contract between brands and its fans. They are then willing to speak their minds, and help craft the future of the brand, as long as the brand is willing to listen, respond, and act. In short, be a human brand. Importantly, organisations can now take decisions informed by customer insight at the speed of business vs. at the speed of market research.
The dominant trend today is customers choosing organisations to give their business to or work for, based on the organisation’s culture and how it resonates with their own self-identity. Most of these decisions taken are based on the stories that they have either heard, felt, or told about the brand, or the organisation. Stories are in fact a natural way in which human beings absorb, and make sense of the world around them. Organisations are waking up to the fact that, be it reputation management (beyond internal processes etc.), attracting talent, or differentiating their brands can be achieved by amplifying powerful internal stories. And, all of these finally boils down to the top line of the organisation. At Centre of Gravity, we have developed our own way of uncovering, classifying and prioritizing the stories that brands or organisations need to tell. And multiple ways of delivering these stories powerfully. These have applications to help organisations differentiate themselves as well as their brands, help internalise vision and values, to align teams, to train sales force among many others.
Spirit of the homeHow Piramal Realty launched a highly successful real estate brand in a downturn in Mumbai.
The Hero's JourneyPositioning possibilities through the heroic journey of the small trucker
Beauty on the Outside is Beauty on the Inside.Create exterior decor category.
Coming of AgeCreate company vision for a new corporate entity that grew enormously through mergers and acquisitions.
The Magic of ChildhoodDeveloping a unique differentiator for a builder in Mumbai in a sea of sameness.
Taking on the responsibility for others’ inactionsLaunching a successful waterproofing brand in a market owned by a single goliath.
Finding Your SoulCreating a cult brand in a hyper active market.
The Power of CharacterRekindle the growth for a sterling brand that is going through a stagnant growth phase.
Redefining MachismoDeveloping a powerful communication insight for the Launch of Car/ SUV tyres.
Restore the Identity of the Blue-Collar WorkerEntry into a new category dominated by market leader with entrenched relationships.
Phir Uttam Krishi(Restoring the identity back to the farmers.)Developing meaningful products and services for a pesticide company.
Unleashing the DNA of the brandHow to grow business in an environment where there is deep mistrust of our category and brand in the aftermath of the financial meltdown.
ULIPsUnleashing the DNA of the brand
A whole new worldIn a complex category that is dependent on sellers to sell to customers, how do we generate pull to buy directly online?
Soul of KeralaUnderstand what makes the Malayali ethos and relationship with decor.
Strategy to enter the Bathroom marketAssessing the brand equity of Asian Paints in the bathroom category and evolving the way forward.
Segmenting by Cultural CapitalHow do we segment Indian homes according to their taste & aesthetics preferences - a decor based segmentation.
Creating powerful digital presenceHow do we ensure that Asian Paints becomes one of the leading brands when it comes to digital.
Establishing Decor CredentialsHow do we ensure that our first foray into decor content creation meets the expectations of the leading decor segments while not alienating the masses.
Soul of woodDeveloping a powerful differentiator for Asian Paints wood finishes in a fragmented and commoditized category.
Reason with emotionDemonstrably change handwashing with soap behaviour purely through emotions.
The bottom of the pyramid : One world. Many worldsSegmentation study of the BoP to find targeted opportunities for Microfinance.
Deliver the right to great holidaysUnlock the potential of the category with a new generation of Indian travellers.
Millennials are not a monolithUnderstand Indian youth and their aspirations to find the right mind space for a youth lifestyle brand from the house of Van Heusen.
The height of luxury is human-centerednessHow do we use the power of storytelling to justify the huge premiums for the uber-luxury Savile Row Company collection within the Van Heusen stores.
Reclaim and reuseBrand identity change for the world’s largest rubber reclaim company.
From B2C to B2BEntry strategy of AP into construction chemicals business dominated by MNCs and strong Indian players on one side and a very fragmented one on the other.
Create credibility with ExpertsDeep understanding of Architects and Interior designers through segmentation.
At ACC we were very impressed with the conceptual inputs provided by Rajesh, both at the research stage and thereafter. His skill in taking a large group of people with him in all discussions was critical. His ability to draw on his experiences from earlier assignments built up the confidence and paved the way for a very good understanding of the category as a whole. It would not be out of place to mention that the “down to earth” style gave us a great comfort as a client. The marketing strategy as recommended by Rajesh and team and implemented by the company has shown early success.
We are happy to recommend Rajesh and team for all strategy and branding related projects..
Ravi A. Menon | Vice President, Marketing, ACC
I am delighted to share the feedback on Castrol work for truck portfolio gathered from Bhaskar Jayaraman (Global CT manager ) and the India Team. The insights shared were excellent and can only come from a team who has passion for their work. The approach was strategic in nature and had findings which cut across the geographies. We are now looking forward to more strategic work with COG.
I am sure the approach of bringing alive the underlying issue, can only come by defying the conventional ways of working (which in past has been almost predictable).
Rajeev Govil, Marketing Manager | Castrol
COG helped us (Firstsource) define our vision and values recently. They have a fairly unique approach to this and did make us think hard about where we really want to be as a company and what are the values we should espouse to make our vision a reality.
They bring a cerebral approach to the table, give you insights to the company that you may not be aware of, challenge you to think deeper on every occasion, are not afraid of pushing you back and can get as creative as you want them to be. We had a great time working with them and would unhesitatingly recommend them to anyone who is embarking on a similar exercise.
Aashu Calapa, President,
HR and Country Manager | Firstsoource
If I were to use one word to describe Centre of Gravity it will have to be passion. Their passion, integrity and emphasis on research output to define business strategy clearly sets them apart. Research to them goes beyond just completing a set number of FGDs/PIs/Questionnaires. It is about spending substantial time with the respondent, staying with them, working with them if required, having a genuine interest in knowing what they have to say, actually listening to them and gleaning from the collective experiences of the COG team to arrive at a 'solution' to the business problem/opportunity at hand.
It is always a pleasure to work with their brilliant team of highly driven individuals.
Roopesh Kajrolkar, Head of Marketing | ICICI RMAG group
Centre of Gravity team have been pivotal in helping us move forward with the brand direction and organisational development of Surya Foundation, a UK charity dedicated to improving lives of people with diabetes.
COG are "application experts" in brand marketing i.e. they know how to think great brand strategy, based on data, analysis and insights and they know to apply it in real world to drive an organisation and brand to new levels. In summary, outstanding commitment and ability to immerse in our goals, to understand our stakeholders and to help us create a vision and strategic plan that is motivating us and helping us build sustainable success.”
Achala Patel, Chairperson | Surya Foundation
I have worked with Ashutosh and many of his colleagues for over a decade now – in work that we are doing at Janalakshmi and Janaagraha ; they have helped us think through our work’s value proposition to our “customer”, and related issues of brand positioning etc. Their work goes beyond classic brand strategy work, and they bring not only high competence, but a remarkable sense of commitment and passion to what they do.
Ramesh Ramanathan, Chairman, Janalakshmi Financial Services
It has been a real pleasure working with Rajesh, Dilip and everyone at Centre of Gravity. COG has displayed a good ability to completely open up and analyze issues across the entire spectrum of variables and has helped bring great clarity in every single project that we have worked together on.
The passion of the team for research and discovery has led to the expansion of the scope and scale of most projects and the delivery has always exceeded expectations.
The integration and the coordination with our teams has also been great and these projects have been significant learning and training in put for everyone who has worked along with you Kudos to the entire team for doing a wonderful job.
I personally think that Asian Paints would definitely like to pursue more projects with your organization.
Amit Syngle - Vice President Sales and Marketing
Asian Paints Limited : Mumbai
We have been working with COG for consumer insighting and developing a long-term strategic perspective for our different product segments (Passenger cars, small utility vehicles, farm).
COG’s findings & recommendations have been extremely helpful in formulating our marketing strategy, especially in the area of segmentation, product development & communication. Their inputs tend to have a long term business perspective to it.
COG’s process has tremendous depth and thoroughness which help us get in-depth knowledge about consumer behavior & emerging consumer trends across the relevant categories. It has given us fresh insights which were key to our strategy formulation.
No doubt that this has contributed in developing successful products, as the insights give clear directions to the product development team. At the same time, articulating stated & unstated needs of consumers has helped us in designing appropriate, relevant & credible communication planks.
Vinod Kumar, Head, Marketing | Ceat
We had engaged Centre of Gravity to chart out the future course of direction for cotton world as a brand & as an organisation.
We were extremely impressed with their quick & deep understanding of our category & brand (which they were handling for the first time); and the overall handling of the entire exercise from start till the implementation phase, importantly their readiness to roll up their sleeves & get their hand dirty.
Their passion for what they do, the sincerity with which they do the work is very rarely seen in people. They take a very personal interest in the brand and truly work from the heart.
Even after finishing the project, they have very regularly stayed in touch for the past one year (overseeing the implementation), with the best interest of cotton world at heart.
The strategic recommendations made by Centre of Gravity are being currently implemented and have already shown some early success. I would recommend Centre of Gravity 100 percent to anyone.
Lavin lekhraj, Partner | Cottonworld
Brand strategy is a part of longer initiative undertaken by GRRPL to catapult it from an old generation recycling brand to new generation dynamic brand and at the same time revitalization of brand personality with appropriate positioning to stakeholders.
The exercise gained significance and size with Centre of Gravity’s approach to include multiple stakeholders connected with our business. Ashutosh & Vijay have been critical partners in these initiative rather than consultants. They were able to connect effectively with our stakeholders, especially key customers and suppliers and from the subsequent feedback we received, customers spoke highly of their structured questioning and engagement.
They were also instrumental in stirring the internal term and were able to engage all key members of management during their workshops. Few things that make COG remarkable are their experience across categories, their professional approach, and their open-mindedness towards feedback from the client & various stakeholders and their passion for work.
COG has been the right partner of choice for our brand strategy.
Harsh R Gandhi | Executive Director
Gujarat Reclaim & Rubber Products Ltd.,
For over a year now, Centre of Gravity has been working with us on the ways and means to promote fair trade in India. We are delighted by the hard work they put in and the continued and strong attention to every detail, whether it is content, history, logistics management or concept.
Their approach has been professional in the true sense and their strategy development process is very logical; especially for a tough task like launching a new concept like fair trade which seems more heartfelt than logical, where theoretical models are almost non-existent.
They collated impressive range of data to provide authenticity to the concept. Most importantly, the responsive attitude and action of the young COG team have given a sense of assurance that our needs are well understood and suitable action will be taken by COG.
They have a desire to excel and the ability to put that desire into practice even for a social cause. We certainly recommend them in any strategy development and promotion related assignments.
Arun Raste, Director | IRFT
Centre of Gravity's deep understanding of farmer segments, agriculture and the rural landscape, resulted in their producing what we believe has been the highest quality of work for Excel. The project outputs included evolving a renewed core purpose for the organization, understanding the mega-trends in agriculture and orienting the business towards that, evolving the positioning of the company and the design of future policies that help build our businesses and help the farmers across India prosper as well.
Their work on the integrated crop management concept which is being currently delivered through a powerful program called Excel & Me has helped design a crop economics model that would become sustainable, scalable and beneficial to the farmer as well as the organization.
Having worked with other consultant organizations, we find them to be extremely comprehensive, accurate and incisive in the softer aspects of strategy as against the hard numbers alone. Beyond their domain skills, their gentle persuasion and facilitation abilities have helped in creating consensus internally where diverse views and opinions have existed. Their commitment and ability to put the client’s interest above theirs and the depth they bring to the table has been exemplary.
Most importantly a bunch of people with honesty, integrity and passion.
Anil Kakkar, Vice President, Sales and Marketing | Excel Crop Care
The concept of ‘Storytelling’ has been very creatively conceived and launched by Center of Gravity and is in the process of implementation.
‘Storytelling’ consists of the capturing, cataloguing, re-presenting and propagating various cultural facets of BAIF as an organization, through the mechanism of anecdotes and ‘stories’ from the daily experiences of the BAIF team. We have found it to be an excellent means of creating an ‘Internal Brand’ for BAIF – a Brand which can be used to convey ‘BAIF’ to both outsiders as well as insiders, thus making it a mechanism for propagating organizational culture as well as keep it consciously evolving.
COG is also helping BAIF create a Brand Identity for ‘Nahari’ – a chain of highway restaurants serving ethnic food prepared and served by tribal women in an ethnic setting. This endeavour is being promoted by BAIF as one of the many ways of generating dignified self-employment opportunities for the tribal women, based on their own skills and strengths, and also offering a rare value for the customers through interfacing with a different world outside their usual experience. Yet another assignment under discussion with CoG is the creation of a Brand Identity for Vrindavan products - processed farm produce from rural farmer organizations.
I have also been personally familiar with the excellent work done by CoG to understand the markets and the consumer behaviour as a prelude to launching a Fair Trade marketing initiative in India. In all these assignments, I have found the CoG team to be highly professional, not just in terms of quality and content of the work, but also highly creative as well as sensitive to the demands of such challenging and out-of-box assignments. In particular, they have been able to approach the rural situations and settings with great ease, sensitivity and understanding. It is my great pleasure to recommend Center of Gravity as a reliable partner in similar work.
Girish G Sohani| Executive Vice-President
Close to two years ago, the Ford Foundation provided support to a network of eight civil society organizations across the country. Each of these organizations works with farming communities with the over-arching objective of increasing farmer returns from agriculture. The network was established with the objective of leveraging a possible market premium based on the production of pesticide-free agricultural produce.
Centre of Gravity (COG) became involved in network deliberations fairly early in the project. In the first few meetings, COG took on the role of educating network members on the need for developing a marketing mindset that would focus on the needs of consumers rather than the normal NGO orientation focused on meeting the needs of the very poor. This has been a challenging exercise, given the very different backgrounds that network members have come from. COG has taken a lead role in helping these organizations think through the machinations of getting such a marketing initiative off the ground, including the establishment of a company, the development of an identity for such a company, and the key proposition that will shape an ultimate marketing campaign for pesticide-free agricultural produce.
Through this process COG has demonstrated a wonderful combination of patience in dealing with the complexities of the NGO world, and leadership in forcing network members to confront the realities of a competitive marketing environment. At a very basic level, the network has been impressed by COG’s commitment to the idea of a pesticide-free world. So much so, that COG is no longer seen as just a service-provider. Rather it is seen as an integral part of the group that can legitimately be called upon to help deal with the gamut of problems that the network encounters on a daily basis.
Vasant Sabherwal Program Officer, Environment and Development | Ford foundation
As the person coordinating a large national campaign of consumer awareness and mobilization against Genetically Modified (GM) foods called "I AM NO LAB RAT", I really appreciate the central concept of the campaign that was evolved by Centre of Gravity. It evokes a sense of indignation in consumers, as it very well should, to hear about GM foods with all their associated hazards being tested on them. Trying to tell citizens to resist this onslaught of GM foods through a novel campaign theme called "I am no lab rat" was very effective.
In just a few months' time, we had thousands of consumers all over the country becoming more aware of GM foods and coming forward to take action. The various materials created by CoG for the campaign like posters, viral films, stickers etc., were an instant hit. They served the purpose of taking the GM foods debate further and I would like to thank the CoG team for all the hard work that went into supporting their creative abilities, which in turn meant a very effective campaign across the country. What's more, the CoG friends did this in a democratic fashion, incorporating views from the groups involved in the campaign.
Kavitha Kuruganti, KHETI VIRASAT MISSION | Swissaid
We were introduced to COG through Asian Paints. At that time, we at Piramal Realty were searching for guidance on our product and positioning strategy. Our search was for project partners that would help in getting an insight from a customer point of view, about home and home buying. In the very first meeting we had with Rajesh & Vijay, we were convinced that this team could help us. The authenticity of their previous assignments and the simplicity of individuals were the quality that impressed us.
Though COG had an internal policy to not work in the same sector within a city, they agreed to help us after discussing and getting a clearance from their previous client. This act was quite impressive as this policy in principle is very good but very hard to follow. During the course of the assignment, the process that COG followed was also very detailed and structured. They went into assignment with no prejudices. They worked very hard to accommodate our requirements on deliverables and deadlines.They were kind of our internal team. Their commitment to the commendable and they quickly adapted to given situations. Our senior team also attended nearly all the interviews and this strategy also helped align the team very early in the process and subsequently into the outcomes of the study. The final meeting which was the conclusion of the study was also very impressive as this helped the entireorganization to align to the inference of the study and also concur on the way forward.
COG team is very good at hearing and inferring. This was clearly tested during the process with customers and also our internal teams. To be able to hear everyone’s point of view and answer and address their concern requires lot of patience and moreover requires the art of convincing. COG team has done that very methodically, by getting the majority of the team aligned.
Subsequently we have implemented some of the results of the study within our organization. We have adopted clear strategies within our company that will surely try to answer the consumer anxieties and aspiration of homebuyers. Although, COG assignment is over sometime back, they still are on the call to assist and offer any guidance that we want from them, with a genuine interest in the future of the organization. Some strategies that we have adopted on product designs, customer strategies are showing signs of impact in our early launches which are clearly evident from the feedback from the customer feedback. Further, very rarely you meet good like-minded individuals whom you connect beyond professional assignment also. They are group of good people. We wish them good luck for their future and would highly recommend them.
Anand Piramal, Executive Director | Piramal
We had engaged Centre of Gravity to carry out an entire brand identity & positioning exercise with critical specifications that included implementation as roll out across organization.
After a few months since their final recommendations, we are in a position to say that we have benefited immensely from the association. The 360 approach led by strong insights derived from interactions with various stakeholders has helped us understand and clarify the values of our brand very clearly. Their ability to delve deeper into real issues across stakeholders has been key to building these insights. However, beyond the insights, it is the intuitive thought process, depth and brutal honesty that they bring to the table which has added genuine value to us at Rustomjee.
But all this can easily be good/great at the strategy recommendation level – which is where the experience with Centre of Gravity stands out. Their “intent – coupled with action” on execution of the strategy (e.g. briefing/debriefing the agency on every piece of communication, helping identify suppliers to help execute various elements of the strategy, understanding training needs for the organization & accordingly briefing people/suppliers to develop relevant programs and other detailing) is what has been heartening & indeed greatly helpful.
We believe this is driven by their need to ensure that the client they engage with finds real quantifiable success with their recommendations. What’s really commending is that despite no financial involvement with us, they continue to be proactively engaged with the progress of work. Based on their recommendations, we had made strategic changes to the brand (including our architecture and land acquisition plans) and had rolled out our communication. The initial responses have been very good and have had an organisation wide impact. We wish them the best and would recommend them to anyone.
Percy Chowdhry, Director | Rustomjee
COG is a delight to work with, as they bring the rare combination of strategic insights, with the power of execution, which in my mind is a rare find. They were able to work the large organization to get the people communication plan executed at break neck speed.
Sangita Singh, Senior VP –EAS | Wipro
We are Centre of Gravity, 11 years old We work with the big - Asian Paints, ICICI, Van Heusen, Ceat & Piramal We work with the small - Cottonworld, Richfeel, and Fertility Focus We work with the mid sized - Excel, Sterling and GRC We work with the social - Janalakshmi, Ratan Tata Trust and Arghyam We are a small firm. We are about 10 in strategy We are about 6 in creative. 5 as support We have a large almond, a mango & few coconut trees We are in Bangalore. Mumbai. Pune. Cochin. Singapore. We have an office only in Bangalore. As of now. We are a small firm. We help companies craft their vision and values. We help brands grow, rejuvenate or just get launched We help position brands for uniqueness We run CSR and behavior change projects We run digital communities to aid business decisions We run training and storytelling workshops We are a small firm. We run large complex projects We work with CEOs, Founders, Presidents, Senior VPs We don't negotiate on quality or depth We have delivered powerful results. Almost always We are trusted advisors to our clients We are a small firm. But we are big. We feel organizations can be more human. We feel they can relate to customers as humans We feel they can relate to employees as humans We feel they can speak the language of humans. We hope to bring out the inherent humanity in institutions. We are a human-centred strategy consulting firm We are a small firm. But we are dreaming big. We are painters and poets We are dancers and singers We are mountaineers and marathoners. We are artists and animators. We are film buffs and bikers We are foodies and insomniacs We are a small firm. But we are different. You will need to be sensitive, creative and simple. You will need to believe in excellence You will need to learn and just be. You will grow. Because we going to do the same.
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