3 Things Nestle should have done differently in India

Posted by in Business, Leadership, Management, Retail

viewimageThis is fast becoming a key case studies in Business Schools. Not for what they have done (they have done a tremendous amount of market innovation till date), but on what they have NOT done.

Nestle, almost single handedly created this market for Instant Noodles in India, and India today ranks 5th worldwide in this segment. That may all change since the Maggi fiasco has hit the industry as a whole. The sales have dropped by almost 80% for most of the leading brands, according to Economic Times.

But here are some interesting facts –
– Almost 39% of the Nestle Revenues in India comes from the sale of the Maggi 2 Minute Noodle.
– Nestle has a distribution network of around 2M Outlets/ distributors/ Sub distributors, where they sell their products. However, and according to Nielsen’s data, the Maggi Noodle reaches a whopping 47% of the country’s 8.8M Retail outlets – which means an additional 2M outlets sell these products.
– Out of the 450Cr Ad spend that Nestle has, almost 150Cr is spent on Maggi itself.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most critical products in their inventory- and they have achieved a significant reach of an extremely complex Indian market. Through sweat and blood.

And hence this question – Why is Nestle silent?

Here are 3 things, in my opinion, Nestle could have done differently to avoid reaching this rather desperate stage.

1. Reached out to their customers immediately– Possibly there really is an issue with the product. Possibly Nestle was worried about the fallout from this. Possibly they never thought it would snowball into such a big issue. But any way you look at it- Nestle should have reached out to the customers immediately and highlighted the issues that had been raised. They should have given a perspective of their own- and created a dialogue with customers. In a world driven by Social Media, Nestle was not visible. Period. And the customers had access to only one source- the Press.
2. Acted Immediately – Nestle should have taken immediate action and picked up products themselves and done the study immediately. They should have pulled out the products if they felt this was not appropriate. It should have given a refund to customers who had bought the products. It should have signed up all their resellers – and got them to be their agents in their messaging out to the customers. Ideally taken action when the first complaints were received. Nestle missed a great opportunity to do this.
3. Got their leadership team in front of the media – Nestle is a global giant. They know how to leverage the PR engines. They have great leaders. It was, and continues to be, quite surprising at the total lack of any visibility of their leaders at this time. The entire leadership team was missing – and possibly the biggest lesson. The Leadership team needed to take responsibility, and handle the entire fallout from this.

This offers some good lessons on leadership and strategic direction a company should take in times like this. Nestle failed. Now the wave has gone beyond their means -and even if the Government backs down, the loss of trust from the end users, will take a long time to overcome, if at all.

The above points are from my perspective and I would love to hear from you on more insights as to what you think Nestle should have done- differently and better.