For Shriram Group, building its brand was never a priority, says G S Sundarajan, group director. What was important to the company was to consistently produce results and in doing so, build goodwill for itself
Shriram Group was founded on the basic premise of serving the underserved. While building a brand was never a priority for this group, the Shriram brand automatically got built through the company’s sheer performance and word-of-mouth appreciation by its customers. In fact, a Brand Health Study performed two years ago established that the Shriram brand possesses the most exceptional brand equity in the financial space and enjoys high trust among all its stakeholders. It currently employs 45,000 people in over 2,400 branches across India. It has over Rs. 60,000 crore of assets under management, 9.50 million customers and a market capitalisation in excess of Rs. 16,000 crore.
Building the community
The growth of the Shriram brand started very slowly as its objective was not to build a brand but to build a business which was useful to the community. Efficiency in operations, integrity and a strong focus on catering to the needs of the common man, by offering him high quality and cost-effective products and services, are the values driving the organisation. Its very description – empowering people through prosperity – states its ultimate objective.
While the company’s beginning was humble, its vision and philosophy was clear even three decades ago. Rapid growth was not its growth philosophy. While it ensured a slow and steady growth, the group expanded only after creating milestones for itself. Profit was not the end game.
In the year 1970, the group commenced operations with Shriram Chits as the parent company. It later went on to launch Shriram Transport Finance in 1979 and then expanded and currently has around eight companies within it. Despite all the negatives that are associated with chits across the country, Shriram Chits carries a good reputation. In the Commercial Vehicle Finance business, the company finances small truck operators who account for 80 per cent of the trucks on the roads. In the year 2000, the group partnered with the 90-year-old South African Insurance giant, Sanlam Group, for life and non-life insurance businesses. “Subsequently, we became the first private life insurer in the country to report profits in the first year and for three consecutive years of operations,” states Sundarajan.
Making the difference
Shriram’s views on brands and market places are significantly different from the others. “We do not propagate our brand on our own. We believe that brands are a business’s social manifestation,” says Sundarajan, attributing the entire growth of the brand to the group’s performance.
However, what guides the group is its purpose of serving the underserved, promoting entrepreneurship, frugal management, transparency to customers and empowerment of employees. It believes in treating all partners and investors equally and in creating sustainable roles for employees in the organisation according to their skill sets. It recruits employees from local communities to help build a relationship with customers.
This apart, the group believes in communicating its purpose to all the internal and external audiences. “We are the only large financial conglomerate that does not have a standard operating procedure. And yet, if you talk to 10 different branches you will find them all talking the same language,” says Sundarajan. This is because the company has internalised its philosophy and purpose and as its teams are empowered, they are able to see success in what they are doing.
In the last three to four years, the Shriram group has started communicating what it has done in the market place over the last 30 years. “As everyone started talking about financial inclusion, we felt that we need to let people know that serving the aam aadmi has never been a social obligation for us. It is our business strategy,” says Sundarajan.
“While profit is not the reason why we are in business, now with 23 PE investors in our various entities, profit also is important for us,” declares Sundarajan. But that has come after two decades of laying the foundation. Once the group started having support in the form of capital, it began expanding.
To build a good brand, stand for something – ask yourself if you have an authentic product; build relationships – is your customer satisfied with your product or service; do your employees believe in your brand? Answer these and build a sustainable brand, the Shriram way!
COMPANY: Shriram Group
GROUP DIRECTOR: G S Sundarajan
Shriram Group was founded on the basic premise of serving the underserved and building a brand was never a priority for this group. The brand actually got built on its own through the company’s sheer performance and word-of-mouth appreciation by its customers. The company does not propagate its brand and believes that brands are a business’s social manifestation. However, what guides the group is its purpose of serving the underserved, promoting entrepreneurship, frugal management, transparency to customers and empowerment of employees. It believes in treating all partners and investors equally and believes in creating sustainable roles for employees in the organisation according to their skill sets.