Harsh Pamnani is a brand storyteller. His bestselling book series Booming Brands, covering inspiring journeys of new-age ‘Made in India’ brands, is published by CNBC. Besides, he has written 70 plus articles in publications such as Forbes. In Booming Brands Volume -2, he covered the journey of Zoomcar. We caught up in a quick chat with him to discuss his book series and why he chose Zoomcar’s story. Excerpts from the conversation: 

WHAT MADE YOU WRITE BOOMING BRANDS?

Since childhood, I have been curious to understand how a few entrepreneurs create admirable brands while many struggle. To satisfy my curiosity, I have read numerous biographies and case studies.

One of the problems with these resources was that they were filled with American examples. Every market is different. The brand-building strategies, which worked in developed markets like America, may not work in developing markets like India. Some literature is available around Indian corporates, but many large corporates were born in the pre-liberalization and pre-digital era, and have grown over the decades. Their approaches might not be directly applicable to many businesses of the new era. Moreover, I had interacted with many professionals, MBA students, and professors, who expressed that they want to know in detail about the journeys of new-age Indian brands like Zoomcar.  

Noticing this void, I felt I could create a resource that could be leveraged by people interested in understanding how new age ‘Made in India’ brands are getting created.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO INCLUDE ZOOMCAR AS A CASE STUDY IN YOUR BOOK?

Zoomcar is a pioneer. It has created the category of self-drive car rental service in India. By becoming an intermediary between car owners and consumers who don’t know each other, Zoomcar is not only facilitating an economic exchange, cost savings, and convenience, but also enabling environmental benefits on a large scale.

Personally speaking, Mr. Greg Moran’s journey has inspired me a lot. I admire how he identified an enormous opportunity in India, dropped out of a top business school in America, came to a new country, fought multiple challenges, and built a popular brand.  Besides, the kind of innovations Zoomcar has introduced and the kind of employee development programs it has started are commendable.

Additionally, the stories of Indians like Vinod Khosla and Sabeer Bhatia, who moved from India to Silicon Valley and founded companies like Sun Microsystems and Hotmail, are very popular. But the inspiring stories of Americans who moved to India and made their mark here are mostly unheard of. This is one such story, and I wanted to take it to the masses.

WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ABOUT ZOOMCAR’S STORYTELLING? WHY SHOULD CONSUMERS, STUDENTS & THE START-UP ECOSYSTEM KNOW MORE ABOUT IT?

As you can imagine, in today’s crowded market, when customers’ attention span is short, creating brand awareness is a difficult task. Interestingly, Zoomcar stands out in a crowded market. I think, Zoomcar’s interesting experiments, innovations, and campaigns have become sources of numerous stories that have played an instrumental role in popularizing the brand.

For instance, when Zoomcar started, car vendors charged an absurd amount of deposit money while giving a car on rent. However, Zoomcar made it possible with only Rs. 5,000 refundable deposit.  Around Friendship Day, Zoomcar replicated a car from the movie called ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ This car named ‘K9 Cruiser’ looked like a dog and was taken around many cities. Also, during Ganesh Chaturthi, Zoomcar created a car that looked like a mouse, and they called it ‘Mushak’. Amusingly, the Zoomcar team listed a horse named ‘Dhanno’ and an auto on the platform. Interestingly, these experiments gave birth to many stories and contributed to a lot of word of mouth.

Also, Zoomcar’s YouTube music video that conveys the story of a group of friends who use Zoomcar for their next trip became viral and connected people with the brand. Then, Zoomcar’s partnership with digital channel Filter Copy for a web series – ‘What The Folks’ made the brand very popular among youngsters. Besides, your ZAP Subscribe TV advertisements have also been very catchy.

HOW HAS THE RESPONSE TO THE BOOK BEEN TO DATE?

Booming Brands has received a tremendous response. I would like to express my gratitude to leaders like Mr. Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & Managing Director, Nestle India; Mr. Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman, Hero Enterprise; Prof. Rishikesha Krishnan, Director, IIM Bangalore; Mr. Harsh Goenka, Chairman, RPG Enterprises; Ms. Samina Hamied, Executive Vice Chairperson, Cipla and others who gave me their precious testimonials.

I am very grateful to CNBC TV18 for publishing my book. I received great feedback from many marketing professors from prestigious business schools. For example, Booming Brands was released at XLRI, Jamshedpur, and professors of international business schools such as Prof. Kartik Hosanagar and Prof. David Bell from Wharton, and Prof. Anand Narasimhan from IMD have appreciated Booming Brands. Recently, the Marketing and Advertising Club at Vinod Gupta School of Management (VGSoM), IIT Kharagpur, also appreciated Booming Brands!

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR LEARNINGS AS AN AUTHOR OF TWO BOOKS NOW, ESPECIALLY ON THE PUBLICITY & MARKETING SIDE?

Content is the king! People love stories. Readers found stories in Booming Brands helpful, and that led to a lot of word of mouth. Further, tweets by leaders like Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, Government of India, and Mr. Harsh Mariwala, Chairman of Marico, helped a lot. Also, coverage by reputed media platforms was beneficial.

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