Innovator Article

Marketing Dynamics Conference
Ideas Transforming Nations and Communities

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by Jacqueline Romo

Recognizing India’s transformative role in the global economy, Professor Prasad Naik and Assistant Professor Ashwin Aravindakshan co-chaired the 8th Annual Global Marketing Dynamics Conference in Jaipur in July. The international forum engaged more than 100 leading academics, C-level executives and senior managers at the intersection of cutting-edge marketing theory and successful practice.

Delegates and speakers included executives from BBDO, Cisco, Wipro Technologies, United Breweries Limited and Knowledge Kinetics, and thought leaders from Yale University, Stanford University, The Wharton School, New York University and top Indian business schools.

“It was the first time our marketing conference has been hosted in India and it exceeded all expectations,” Naik said. “India represents an emerging market and generates much interest, which made it an excellent time to bring an American delegation of scholars to Jaipur.”

The first Global Marketing Dynamics Conference was hosted at the Graduate School of Management in 2005 as an open- enrollment summit. The conference has since been held in other U.S. cities, Europe, New Zealand and Turkey.

This year’s conference theme—“Transformative Marketing”—explored not only the classical role of marketing to transform commodities (cars, detergents) into brands (BMW, Surf), but also its modern role to transform communities, consumers, communications and countries. “The final presentations were about innovative initiatives and programs that develop alternative distribution channels to benefit people living at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid,” Naik explained.

For example, S. Sivakumar, the chief executive of the Agri-Business Division of ITC Limited of India, presented his trailblazing initiative, e-Choupal, aimed at increasing incomes and improving the quality of life in India’s rural farming communities while delivering sustainable shareholder value. By introducing effective infrastructure, computers and web access, the program provides rural farmers with real-time weather information and market prices on their crops.

“E-Choupal removed the middle-man from the process and placed power in the hands of the farmers,” said Aravindakshan. “This in turn led to an increase in product quality and gave poor farmers the opportunity to increase their revenue.”

Professor Rhjesh Chandy of the London Business School presented on M-Pesa, or mobile money, in Kenya. He explained that Kenyan micro-entrepreneurs have a cash flow problem and were unable to save the surplus they earn to sustain them during bad economic times. M-pesa allows micro-entrepreneurs and individuals to save and exchange their money in the form of cell phone minutes. The system worked so well in Kenya that it is being used in other emerging markets, including Egypt and India.

“Kenyans purchase goods and services by trading cell-phone minutes; it’s a great idea,” Naik said. “M-pesa was just one transformative marketing idea that has made life better for the poorest socio-economic groups.”

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