For any South Indian, idli, dosa and vada are the staple food (more so, a comfort food) that lies close to the heart, wrapping them with a warm, homely hug. All that one needs is a fine rice batter!
With the fast-moving economy, the need for Ready to Eat (RTE) and Ready to Cook (RTC) food items have been on the rise. Today, almost everything is packed in a plastic pouch/container and made ready to eat. And with iD fresh foods, making those fluffy, steamed idlis has never been easier and healthier.
iD Fresh Foods has disrupted the ready to cook food industry. It has changed the dynamics of using ready-made batter–which is locally sold in a transparent, unbranded plastic cover- by being the first to reassure the quality and branding the product by crafting an all-new segment in the market.
iD put an ‘Identity’ to the unbranded rice batter packets. They started selling the exact thing, but with a story. They marketed on the ‘No Added Preservatives ’ and ‘Fresh Ingredients’. People did not want the ‘unhygienic’ unbranded batter packets anymore.
Today, the brand has grown into a dominant player in the ready-made batter sector. To give it to you in terms of numbers, it has the capacity to produce batter for 2.4 million idlis and 4 lakh porotas a day!
What made iD Fresh the successful brand that it is today? The answer lies in their fairly well-played game of branding!
There are key learnings and takeaways from iD’s branding strategy which every business, irrespective of the size or industry, can adopt or inspire from to gear up their brand to its full potential.
What can you learn from iD’s branding strategy?
1. Build your brand to build your business – Build Trust
To build and sustain a business, crafting a brand strategy that aligns the goals of the brand and resonates with the target audience is crucial. Unless you play your branding cards right, building a business may seem like a much steeper road to climb.
In order to help you with branding, we have written a comprehensive article to learn everything about branding.
When iD fresh foods started out, they started with building a brand along with building a product and business. Food is sacrosanct for many households and iD Fresh Food’s focus was to aid the households with the preparation and not replace the task altogether. Hence, the credit of making a perfect Idli or Dosa goes to the homemaker over iD Fresh. Their product positioning was distinct and they intended to serve what they claimed; 100% Natural product with No added preservatives.
iD fresh realized that they were in a business of trust and to reach more homes, they needed customers to trust their products. In order to gain customers trust, iD fresh Food started with trusting their customers in the first place and believed that this action would positively reciprocate over time. Following Gandhi’s philosophy, they set up iD Trust Shops in 2016 wherein unsupervised vending machines were placed in residential complexes and corporate parks.
This concept has been a huge success and they re-introduced it during the tough times of Covid-19 lockdown as well.
Today, the brand has almost become synonymous to ‘Trust’ and that’s the benchmark of brand success every company aspires.
The key takeaway here is that every business needs to focus on it’s branding. iD Fresh built the business on trust. Brand communication and values they stand for was consistent and it made it easier for customers to connect with the brand and recall. And because their branding was strong and storytelling was on point, and that they used the best raw materials, they were able to charge a price premium on the product which the customers were willing to pay for.
Trust shop was a reminder of a value that seems to have been lost in today’s world.
How iD Fresh earns and keeps the customer’s trust and builds a brand?
- They demonstrated that they trust others
- Created relationships that are mutually beneficial
- They directly addressed the concerns
- They told the truth
- iD Fresh as a brand was flexible and patient
- They delivered the unexpected.
Getting customers, clients and employees to trust you can be complicated, but it is imperative for success — perhaps more important than sales. If you get others to trust you, it’s easier to grow and nurture your business and give everyone excellent service. But trust is fragile. If you lose it, it’s very difficult — if not impossible — to restore it – Chelsea Berler
When the other brands were focused on increasing shelf life by adding additives, iD intended on doing the exact opposite.
2. Master one product at a time
When iD started out, it focused on solving one problem- to make the daily task of every households in the kitchen easy.
They established their brand through Idli/Dosa batter and increased their retail network on the foundations of quality and trust. The company also worked on building its own supply chain and distribution system. The brand focused all it’s resources on one product until the systems were in place and the products started selling by picking up on the demand.
Although they were tempted to offer multiple products, they limited the brand with one product success at a time.
“When you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing”. It is also important to not set your foot on the wrong stone. If your brand is not ready to diversify-you’re not ready to diversify. period. Opportunities and ideas may sound futuristic but, if the data predicts otherwise, you may want to wait through the time.
iD is now a $20 million brand, with great projected growth for the coming financial years. Once the brand garnered awareness and the customer’s attention to grow into a household name, the brand diversified its product portfolio by selling iD fresh paneer, curd & recently bread. They sold all kinds of batter & diverse range of products with the same story.
3. Choose the right customers and serve them right
“Everyone is not your customer”- Seth Godin.
Cherry pick the customers that serve the best for you. When starting out, everybody in the market may seem like your customers, but you need to sit down to identify and serve just the right ones.
With iD’s approach of catering 100% natural, preservatives-free products, the shelf-life reduces drastically. To cope up with the natural phenomenon, the products must be refrigerated 24/7.
Bangalore has over 65,000 retail outlets, only roughly 25,000 of which have refrigeration facilities. Customers of iD are now these outlets with proper refrigeration facilities. However, not all of them sell iD products. The reason?
It was found that many of the outlets either fail to maintain the facility or tend to switch off the refrigerators at night. This serves no good for perishable products like iD’s. So the company further resorted to identifying and partnering with the ‘right’ customers – the 5,000 outlets that kept their refrigerators on throughout the day and night.
Customer experience is a key factor to garner trust and loyalty. In order to serve them better, you need to get inside their psyche, understand them on a personal level and connect emotionally.
They also choose the cities to target carefully, the addressable market size matter when you are building a product which needs scale. One size does not fit all. Each market has its own unique challenges. iD claims that it has a 95% market share in Mumbai, 70% market share in Bangalore & 10% in Chennai, in the idly-dosa batter space.
4.Distruption through innovation- the iD fresh strategy
iD’s branding aims at disruption through innovation. And not just innovation using technology but predominantly using common sense.
“When common sense meets science, innovation happens”- iD Fresh Food CEO and Co-founder Musthafa PC
iD Fresh’s product and packaging innovation is conceptually super simple and they make innovation seem easy and convenience-oriented.
Their idli and dosa batter is sold in a packaging which the brand calls as the “transformer pouch”. It is a zip-lock sealed pouch with a boat-like bottom which takes the shape of a tub when opened— making it convenient to use, lock and store. This unique shape helps users to avoid the hassle of transferring the contents into a container to store it in the fridge.
Although an innovation worth notable, soon after its launch, it was found that Fresh to Home, another company selling Idli-Dose batters replicated the same packaging design.
Another packaging innovation is with their Squeeze-and-Fry Vada batter. The final product is a result of a three year long effort. It is made available in a pouch with an attached spout through which the vada can be conveniently squeezed out in a perfectly round shape and a hole in the middle.
The brilliance of the packaging lies in its ease of use.
Most recently, iD came up with yet another brilliant packaging innovation. They have launched iD Grated Coconut in a Coconut, in an innovative and eco-friendly packaging.
Wait, there’s more.
With iD Fresh Food’s resolution for the year 2020 i.e. to come closer to the nature and reduce carbon footprint, they went ahead to experiment innovating with nature’s closest; Tender Coconut— a predominantly unorganized market. The underlying message is to #KnowYourCoconut. iD Fresh’s Smart Sip Tender Coconut provides valuable information at the disposal of the customer without opening the coconut. Information such as the water content, pulp, sweetness and the total edible quantity are all predicted at about 95% accuracy, enabling customers to make a need-based choice.
iD fresh is driven to make the lives of a home maker easier. Be it catering ready-made batter to innovating a perfect dosa maker. Innovation drives them to stand out, serve their customers right and build a brand.
“Brands that are perceived as innovative by consumers grow nine times faster than those seen as less innovative”- Kantar’s BrandZ ranking
iD as a brand is driven by innovation. They focus on innovating products that solve the common person’s problems. This is exactly why they are successful. When you solve a problem, you provide value. Innovation in the form of visual appeal and/or technology aside, consumers are concerned with the value addition from a product or a service and if a brand can innovate keeping that in mind, it is bound to succeed.
You can deep-dive to learn about Brand Innovation Strategy here.
5. Utilize the power of marketing for brand building
“At iD we’ve a 360 degree marketing strategy which includes ATL, BTL, PR, Digital etc. We apportion the budgets across various marketing mix to ensure brand visibility and ROI”- Musthafa PC.
iD Fresh Food has launched several campaigns and most of them have garnered immense success. Their marketing approach roots from an emotional stand point. Be it #KhaanaKhaaya, #TheirLoveMixedWithOurs, Meet your neighbor or the iD Trust Shop. They make use of emotional appeal; love, care, affection and all in all a homely feeling in every marketing and advertising efforts aligning with the brand’s larger picture.
If you were emotionally touched by this advertisement, you’ll know exactly the power of using emotional advertising.
The brand has also explored advertising in channels such as OTT where majority of millennials could be found. With increasing popularity of OTT, it can help generate brand awareness. iD fresh food hence collaborated with Disney + Hotstar in it’s ‘Above and Beyond: Lessons in Marketing Leadership‘ series. The CMO of iD fresh food talks about how the platform has helped in reaching 10-15 million impressions for each campaign and gained a VTR of 96%.
Brands should start exploring multi-varient possibilities of marketing and reaching out to their customers. Every marketing and advertising effort should communicate the benefits of the product or service over its features.
6. Embrace Technology for brand growth
iD fresh runs on a zero-inventory model and that brings about its own business requirements to meet; selling the right product in the right stores, at the right time.
“iD runs on IT. We are not just a batter company, we are a fresh food distribution company that runs on technology” -Musthafa PC in one of his many interviews.
Every partner store of iD is geo-tagged and geo-fenced to ensure timely service availability. The technology is such that every SKU, store or day-wise data for the last eight years can be pulled out for analytics. This data is also used to predict the demand for tomorrow, per store in order to plan the production and supply just about what is needed.
Technology has helped iD to bring down wastage from 25% in a regular market to about less than 1% today in a matured market.
With the onset of Covid-19, many retail stores and shops were closed. To help consumers they launched the ‘iD Store Finder‘ which identifies local stores that are open and provides information about the quantity of iD fresh products supplied on a given day.
Use of technology in product and packaging innovation-
Using AI modelling, the company is able to imagine and prototype functionally usable products and further produce the final outcome. The company predominantly uses four technology systems: HRMS systems, Microsoft Power BI analytics, SAP for ERP and Bizom for salesforce automation.
Anything that can be automated or improved using technology should be done so for a long-term benefit in terms of reduced cost, labor and increased efficiency.
In response to the massive customer demand for iD Fresh’s Filter coffee, which saw a month-on-month growth of 85%, the company has also launched their very first ecommerce store iD shop. Going digital and embracing technology boosts the company’s efficiency and allows to serve its customers better. As of today, about 15-17% of their total business turnover comes through the E-commerce platform across major cites. Read how brands succeed using digital.
iD fresh food embraces technology in every way possible, from data and predictive analytics, supply chain and distribution monitoring, product, packaging and process innovation to digitizing the brand with an E-commerce store. This holistic approach to adopting technology helps the brand to stay relevant and cater to its customers the best way possible.
7. Brands obsessed with quality will win
A quality product creates unshakeable customer loyalty that generates increased leads. When customers find a product they trust, they make repeat purchases, and recommend the product or service to others.
iD fresh food values product quality. They get the best raw materials and with the best equipment they are able to produce a batter that is of high quality (and just as homely). With absolutely no preservatives and added chemicals, the focus is on preserving the product with the right packaging and storage.
The brand is obsessed with quality and focuses on ‘selling fresh’. However, with that approach, the wastage was very high. To tackle that, iD fresh reinvented the business model– a zero inventory business model. The store-wise, predictive analytics helps iD attain and sustain this model.
iD’s approach, although rooting from ‘trust’ is shaped by supreme product quality. The brand is driven to cater high quality products that the customers are not only willing to buy again and again but are also ready to pay a premium for.
Brands that focus on quality are innately obsessed with customers. Customer obsession entails converting customers into fans who believe in, promote, and return to your brand.
Brands like Vans, Zappos have attained supreme customer loyalty by being customer obsessed. These brands have a cult following where the small but passionate customers deeply associate with the brands and advocate for the same. They create a consumer culture that people want to be a part of—something every company dreams to attain.
In a nutshell,
iD Fresh built the brand upon one concept: Trust. Every communication and customer touch points align to back this brand promise. The brand believes in its positioning i.e. 100% natural and delivers on it. Branding is simple, make a brand promise and keep it.
When brands have a clarity with their purpose, the journey can be streamlined to align and fulfill that purpose. Asking ‘why’ should be every brand’s first approach to innovating and solving a problem. Branding is a collective effort. So, buckle-up to apply these branding strategies that worked wonders for iD fresh.
The simple rule of branding and marketing anything is to keep your promises. If you say your product is excellent, make it so. And communicate it damn well. Want a bigger brand? Make bigger promises. And keep them.