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Maliban Smart Cream Cracker - The revolutionary brand of Sri Lanka

Exclusive interview with Maliban Sales and Operation Chief Mr.Ashan Kannangara

In marketing a product and to be in the market forever, the best criteria is the maintenance of the quality consistency and then it eventually is respected and accepted by the entire spectrum of consumers as a 'National Wealth" or "National Heritage". Thus the brand name is on top of the mind of the people, for its reliability and quality. The brand name "Maliban" while is synonymous with biscuits in Sri Lanka is ageless and has been on top of the minds of all Sri Lankans ever since the Maliban Biscuits came into the market.

Late A G Hinniappuhamy, the then Chairman, Maliban Group of Companies - the 'God-father' of the biscuit industry in Sri Lanka, his greatest concern in anything that is produced by the Group - the maintenance of highest quality, he would not have visualized that it paved the way for Maliban biscuits to achieve the best place in the market.

Maliban Sales and Operation Chief Ashan Kannangara

With this cardinal principle exemplified by late Mr Hinniappuhamy , the Marketing Force of Maliban Biscuits comprised with the Brand architect and a strategist Mr.Hashan Haputhanthri and the ever experienced maestro in Sales and Opertions, the Chief whip Mr.Ashan Kannangara is very happy duo to celebrate the maiden year of existence of "Maliban Smart Cream Crackers" which has gloriously revolutionized the biscuit industry in Sri Lanka.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Ashan Kannangara, explaining 'Maliban Smart Cream Cracker' revolution in the market places said that when they entered into the new vista of 'Maliban Smart Cream Crackers' an year ago the statistics of Maliban Cream Crackers sales stood at 14% market share. He said that though they were climbing a very rough terrain at the end of the year the new Cream Cracker Brand leaped a 100% jump from 14% market share to 26% a wonderful marketing miracle performed by the Maliban Biscuits Sales Force.

The full interview:

Q: Undoubtedly Maliban Biscuit is significant for its quality and taste - Explain?

(A) It is an obvious fact that is our great endeavour which the legendary A G Hinniappuhamy always pledged and always wanted to achieve and quality stands for superiority. The reason for this significance is clearly elaborated and if you look at Maliban Biscuits winning the National Quality Awards twice is not only a historical event, but also proves the product quality consistency over the years as we won the award, frist, 13 years ago.

Now, the Present Chairman, A G R Samaraweera too following the foot-steps of the Hinniapppuhamy legend takes this concept forward. They are doing everything possible in manufacturing 'the best quality' product. This proves the consistent quality of 'Maliban' .

Q: What was the significant role Maliban Smart Cream Cracker played in the market?

(A) It has revolutionized the entire biscuit planning process together with the marketing game planning. I, categorically say that 'Maliban Smart Cream Cracker is the revolutionary brand within the stiff market forces in the industry, our brand is progressing.

Q: Explain How Maliban invented the brand?

(A) Inventing this brand, the ownership should be given to the chief architect for this invention Mr Hashan Haputhantri, Marketing Manager of our company. Because I can remember that he has spent lot of time. There are times that he has sacrificed his personal life to build up this brand. I can still remember the amount of hardwork and hard times he had to spend to have this "Smart" word attach to our cream crackers.

Q: What was the process of giving birth to this brand?

(A) It is not an easy task. Its all started when we entered into the Cracker Segment with"Thun Rasa Peraliya". It was the turning point and we saw the opportunity and it was our Marketing Manager, Mr Hashan Haputhanthri who consistently concentrated on the right path. His visionary thinking to enter the market with a small cracker and then head for a re-launch was too lethal. He is a maestro in strategic , tactical and non conventional game planning. We entered to the market with Maliban Smart Cream Cracker with tried and tested non conventional plan and today this has become a very powerful brand in the market.

Q:What are the factors to make this brand a success?

(A) There are no factors other than the fact that it is the sheer commitment of the men who made this brand and the guys who are selling this brand.

Q:Explain the reason strategies behind the brand?

(A) I would have given the traditional answer by covering the marketing mix - 4 P's. But, let me tell you frankly, our strategies are purely dependent on common sense and business experience. Instead of the traditional 4 P's what the Marketing Guru's have described, we adopt a 5 P's mix which is not in the 'book' but which we have ourselves developed.

They are 01) Practical sense, 02) Practical leadership; 03) Psychology of the consumer and the retailer and 04) Planning techniques 05)Placing techniques for above the line and below the line advertising.
I agree with our Marketing Manager Mr.Hashan Haputhanthri's philosophy. Instead of the book - work, we used our wealth of experience to develop consumer friendly strategies to give birth to a new orientation called "Brand selling orientation". In this orientation the core strategy is to move the brand closer to the end user rather than the moving a product.

Q:What are the conventional techniques that used to build the brand?

(A) We used totally non-conventional techniques. For an example 'Maliban Smart Cream Cracker promotion - THE SMART AIR RAID that started last week totally a novel and a non conventional exercise. We used a helicopter to carry out a consumer promotion. And the best thing is every card that drops from air has a something for the consumer. There are no "try - again" cards. Once again I must thank Mr.Hashan Haputhanthri for bringing such a novel concept to attack the bases. This is the first time in the Sales and Marketing history of Sri Lanka such an effective sales promotion concept and plan being executed.

(Q) What is your genuine idea about Maliban Smart Cream Cracker brand position today?
(A) I categorically say that this is the turn around brand of the year. Critics can say anything, I can further endorse that this brand created a huge revolution. This brand has created a massive impact in the biscuit industry as an innovative brand with a unique game plan. I further state that Sri Lankan consumers should be proud and they should rally round this brand.

Q:What is the retailer reaction?

(A) There was a need for another brand of cracker and it was requested by the retailers.
Retailers have requested us to introduce a new brand of crackers that is tastier and with high quality product for the last so many years. We managed to fulfill this request last year and retailers indeed are very happy for breaking the market for a new cracker brand. Now the Maliban Company is represented in 90% of the retail market in the country and Maliban Smart Cream Crackers are available with 85 to 90,000 of the retailers in the country. The brand dominance is significant in the retail sector and in the modern trade.

Q:What is the consumer reaction?

(A) Consumers have very well accepted this brand and our sales figures are goining up month after month, We had a cracker market share of 14% and with the introduction of new Maliban Smart Cream Crackers within the first year the share has shot up to 27%. In actual fact the consumers are proud to associated with the 'Smart Cream Crackers, which is the only healthier and tastier Cream Cracker in Sri Lanka

Q:What is the role of the sales force?

(A) I strongly say that as the leader who is leading the side, we are very strong, well disciplined and a very intelligent force. Our Sales Force have always learnt to look at the competition as an opportunity and the entire sales force with great responsibility acts as leaders not as followers.

My belief is that leadership starts from the bottom and not from the top. Today our consumers are privileged to purchase 'Smart Cream Crackers backed by making available in all the outlets island wide. This is due to sheer hard work and dedication of the Sales Force. Their contribution, indeed , unforgettable.

Q:Is the top management help you to build this brand?

(A) Our present Chairman, A G R Samaraweera is a great visionary who always back the sales force and offers whole-hearted commitment to our Marketing Manager Hashan Haputhanthri and to my dear sales force to battle it out on this brand and if not for this great backing this brand would never come to existence. Further our great leader, Chief Executive Officer, Lakshman Weerasooriya who is a hard believer on non-conventional techniques gives us the correct leadership to vitiate all negative forces. The superior support given by the Director Board is immeasurable and difficult to explain with words.

Q: Any particular milestone that the brand achieved so far?

(A) The biggest milestone we have achieve is the stable confidence of the consumer to be happy and satisfied with the quality consistent product. That why I say, "so far you selected the REST but time has come to select the "BEST".

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