E-commerce platforms and DTC channels have provided new opportunities to reach consumers directly

Bibechana Shrestha is a marketing leader with 14 years of experience driving success in Nepal’s competitive FMCG industry. Recognised for her strategic thinking and ability to navigate challenging markets, Shrestha excels in brand management, marketing campaigns, media planning and on-ground activations. Her expertise encompasses e-commerce as well, ensuring all efforts align with stakeholder needs. Shrestha’s impressive career path includes leading marketing at MAW Enterprises and flourishing at Bottlers Nepal as Channel Marketing Manager. Bottlers Nepal recognised her potential within a year, sending her to Coca-Cola University’s Women Leadership programme and promoting her within two years.

Shrestha’s journey began at Business Advantage before transitioning to Dabur Nepal in 2010. Her dedication to excellence fuelled steady promotions, starting as a Product Executive and rising to Joint Manager by 2016. Throughout her career, Shrestha has consistently demonstrated self-motivation, hard work and a commitment to achieving both personal and organisational goals. The HRM Nepal recently interviewed Shrestha to gain insights into her marketing expertise and experience. Excerpts:

Q: With over 14 years of experience in FMCG marketing, what is the biggest shift you have observed in the industry’s landscape?
A: Nepal’s FMCG market is a fast-growing scene, offering exciting opportunities for companies seeking a foothold. However, it is also a fiercely competitive landscape. Urban areas remain the market leaders, but rural areas hold immense potential. The government’s push for rural development is creating more urban spaces and satellite cities, ripe for market expansion. Consumer aspirations are rising, fuelled by exposure to international brands and trends. This translates to a demand for products that reflect social status and personal preferences.

Convenience, quality and health are becoming top priorities. The digital revolution, marked by affordable smartphones and internet access, is transforming consumer behaviour. Nepali consumers are now digital natives, discovering, researching and purchasing products online. E-commerce platforms and direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels are emerging as powerful sales channels, allowing companies to connect directly with customers. Even mass-produced goods are leveraging digital platforms for targeted marketing. A significant challenge remains: limited access to reliable market research, consumer insights, and data analytics. This hinders a deep understanding of consumer behaviour, market trends and competitor dynamics. Fortunately, the growing use of smartphones and the internet is gradually improving data availability.

Q: What is the most successful marketing campaign you have been involved in while working with different companies?
A: Over my 16-year career, I have had the privilege of working on countless marketing campaigns for international brands. Among them, Coca-Cola’s ‘Momo Utsav’ stands out as a masterfully executed integrated marketing effort. The campaign brilliantly established a strong link between Coke and meals by leveraging the immense popularity of momos, Nepal’s beloved food. It combined powerful ATL (Above-the-Line) communication with engaging on-ground activations, specifically targeting top-selling momo outlets and promoting the perfect Coke and momo pairing. This winning strategy created value for both consumers and outlets. Consumers enjoyed an irresistible dining proposition with the momo and Coke combo deal, enhancing their overall experience. Outlets, on the other hand, saw increased volume and satisfied customers. By reaching consumers across various touchpoints and channels, the campaign leveraged strategic partnerships and innovative marketing tactics to solidify the association between Coke and meals. Ultimately, it delivered value across the entire ecosystem.

Q: While framing strategies and implementation roadmap for marketing and brand promotion, how did you internalise the diverse consumer society in Nepal?
A: Nepal boasts a rich and diverse consumer society, characterised by a variety of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our diverse geography, ranging from the flat plains of Terai region to the rugged mountains of the Himalayas, has led to unique regional variations in consumer preferences and lifestyle choices. To cater to these consumer needs, one has to understand the core TG the product is targeted to. Segmentation and customer identification are very critical to understand the TG better. Today, the various digital channels offer numerous touch points for customer interactions such as websites, mobile apps, email, Chabot and social media messaging. Each interaction provides valuable data about the consumer preferences, needs and pain points which help us identify and categorise customers more effectively. It also helps us reach out to the right audience more clearly identifying the most relevant channels and platforms for communication. By leveraging digital technologies and data-driven insights, the right TG is defined and targeted marketing campaigns are created delivering personalised experiences to those specific clusters. Customised marketing messages, imagery and content to resonate with the regional cultural values, traditions and other preferences is needed to communicate the messages clearly and effectively leading to better engagement, purchase and customer satisfaction.

Q: In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, established brands often engage in price wars and introduce ‘fighter brands’ to counter lower-priced competition. While this strategy aims to maintain market share, it raises ethical concerns. How do price wars and fighter brands impact ethical considerations in the marketplace?
A: Competing with fighter products to counter competitors’ pricing strategies is a common practice. While this approach may seem necessary to remain competitive, it can lead to unethical practices such as price manipulation, misleading advertising or compromising product quality. In the context of Nepal’s market, where smaller businesses and local entrepreneurs coexist alongside larger brands, ethical practices are crucial for fostering trust and sustainability. While these unethical practices may offer temporary advantages, the companies will not be able to sustain in the long run. In today’s digital age, consumers are more empowered and vigilant with access to a wealth of information through the internet, social media, product reviews, etc. making it increasingly difficult for companies to deceive and manipulate them. Consumers are no longer passive recipients of the marketing messages but they actively seek out information, compare products and prices and scrutinise companies’ behaviour before making a purchase decision.

By prioritising ethical behaviour and maintaining integrity in all aspects of the business operations, companies can build a foundation for lasting success, trust and positive relationship with customers, employees and other stakeholders.

Q: Though marketing and branding are important tools for the sale of any product, they are still in low priority. How can marketing professionals bring them to the forefront/limelight so that both companies and people can understand their importance?
A: Marketing and branding are undoubtedly crucial for the sale of any product and with the evolution of market landscape this is being largely recognised by companies, big and small. Today, not only large corporations but also small entrepreneurs running shops understand the significance of promoting their products and services through social media platforms. The accessibility of digital tools and platforms has democratised marketing, allowing businesses of all sizes to reach their target audiences without having to break the bank. However, the challenge now lies in effectively and efficiently communicating the right message to the right consumers amidst the vast amount of content available and high competition to acquire a limited range of ad inventory. With the surge of self-made videos and user-generated content on social media, consumers are overwhelmed with information, making it essential for the marketers to cut through the noise and capture their audience’s attention. To address this, marketers can leverage monitoring and tracking tools to measure the impact of their campaigns and calculate the ROI. By analysing metrics such as engagement rates, click-through rates, conversions and sales attribution, marketers can assess the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and make data-driven decisions to optimise the same or future campaigns to connect more efficiently with their right TG.

Q: The past 15 years have been a rollercoaster ride for the global market. We have witnessed major events like the 2008/09 financial crisis impacting remittances, the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake, economic sanctions disrupting supply chains, the COVID-19 pandemic, and most recently, a period of economic hardship. How can we best prepare for and cope with such challenges to ensure market resilience?
A: In today’s dynamic and ever-changing marketplace, businesses are constantly navigating through external factors that are often beyond our control. Amidst these external headwind, businesses must remain agile and adaptive, constantly innovating and evolving to meet the changing market demands. The focus on innovation has extended beyond product enhancements. Collaboration within the internal team and with external stakeholders is crucial, as it allows businesses to leverage diverse perspectives, resources and expertise to address challenges effectively and seize opportunities for growth.

For instance, in response to the economic slump, last year we launched an innovative initiative- Samsung Insta Finance where users could purchase Samsung mobiles in EMI at 0% interest rate. This initiative aims to make Samsung mobiles more affordable to consumers with a hassle-free process. The development of this initiative was a result of collaborative efforts between internal teams and national distributors (NDs). By leveraging internal expertise and partnering with NDs, we were able to streamline the process and make it more consumer-friendly. To further increase accessibility, the process has been more simplified now as one can easily process for Samsung Insta Finance with just their citizenship as a required document through the authorised Samsung outlets across the country which is a ground breaking step in consumerism in Nepal.

In case of communication, Samsung Insta Finance was a new product therefore we drafted a communication plan where in first phase was to aware the consumer that this kind of product exist with its features and USPs. Later in the second wave we have been striving to educate the consumers to showcase how easy and hassle-free the process is. With all those collective efforts, we have introduced a strong unrivalled product in the market which is definitely taking right movement towards success.

Q: Companies with a dominant market share enjoy a significant advantage. However, this position also presents unique challenges. How difficult is it to navigate these challenges, particularly when competitors are constantly striving to capture market share?
A: Working with companies that have a dominant market share, while facing competitors striving to seize opportunities can be incredibly challenging. Companies with a winning market share often face immense pressure to maintain their position. With new players entering and also a surge in homegrown companies, there is definitely an increased competitiveness in most industries.
We must constantly monitor the competitive landscape and adapt our strategies to maintain or gain shares. While intense competition presents challenges, it also brings benefits to both companies and consumers. Competition fosters innovation, drives efficiency and spurs companies to constantly improve their products and services to stay ahead. This not only benefits companies by keeping them on their toes but also enhances the quality and variety of offerings available to consumers.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: In the fast-paced world of marketing, it is essential to stay adaptable and embrace change. As we navigate through evolving consumer preference, emerging technologies and shifting industry trends, it is crucial to approach challenges with creativity, resilience and an open mind. The dynamics of marketing world is ever changing specially with the growth of digital mediums, therefore we have to always be present and future ready by expanding our knowledge. With access to trillions of information on the web, there is an immense prospect to learn and keep updated with the dynamic marketing world. All in all, we can say is, a capable marketer is a well-informed marketer.

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