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Monday, March 29, 2010

Aktel becomes Robi, how rebranding gets robbed by Robiuls

No wonder naming a new born is one of the most beatiful activities undertaken by proud parents. In some cases, this graceful responsbility is handed over to grand-parents or next to kins who care about the family and ofcourse the new born. Techno savvy new parents also take help from Google to find out most uncommon and 'never-used-before' Arabic or Bangla names for their offsprings. You must have come across a lot of new mom's in your Facebook friend list who have asked for recommendations for baby names, instantly responded by enthusiast friends with an array of names to choose from. Surely if Bangladeshi mom's on Facebook can practice crowdsourcing then I wonder what held back Aktel, the Bangladeshi telecom operator, from not involving its friends, enemies, frenemies, users and non-users alike to save its face from renaming itself to 'Robi'.

I am not sure if Facebook has the technology to search for the most prominent keywords in status updates of people at a given point of time, but if they had it like Twitter search, it would have been revealed that a great deal of Bangladeshi users of mobile services are all abuzz about the recent renaming exercise executed by the 3rd largest telecom operator in Bangladesh. Some of the witty reactions are as following as found from status updates and the Corporate Blog's Facebook page.

Tausif Choudhury
i m disgusted wid the name :s thanks god i m not a subscriber of ROBI

Syed Almas Kabir
If it is Robi, what phone shall we use on Shome, Mangal, Budh, Brihashpati, Shukra & Shani?? ...And if they spell the name as ROBI instead of RAVI (correct transliteration), doesn't it seem like they're trying to 'rob' the consumers?!

Shahed Mustafa Mujahid
Can we now call the people working there as ROBIul? (this is my favorite!)

Soumya Bardhan - Rahul
its a sad name! and their outdoor publicity looks so cheap!

Mushroof Ahmed
Forget the name..this is one of the worst executed relaunches ever..the atl, btl colors, execution everything..

Arif Chowdhury
Next year it will be renamed as 'shom'

Abu Jafar Sadiq
Can the company recover this blow on itself? A stupid move.

Njmul Haider Mukul
branding name jara select korcjey tader uchit,job cherey deoa. Oh jogonnno

It seems it would help Robi to immediately undertake a post-mortem of their brand value after this akika which seems to be generating mixed, if not negative, reactions. I called up a Robiul friend of mine, who works in Robi actually, to ask him about his reactions. He made sure that his name doesn't show anywhere on this blog and expressed his utter disappointment and embarassment to have been rebranded like this. We ran through a few assumptions, albeit jokingly.

1. Although its common knowledge is that Asiatic was involved in this grand Aktel akika, its possible that the Goverment's representative from the Ministry of Renaming was involved in the task force. This is the person who is charged with renaming major establishments around Bangladesh with a political motive. Its possible that he tried his F2 (keyboard shortcut for renaming) skills in the business sector too.

2. It is possible that the new DoCoMo and Axiata management became so obsessed with local heritage that they decided to go for brand names straight from Bangla Academy dictionaries, rather than considering some local acceptance and norms in terms of linguistic preferences. No wonder Michael Kuehner has some excessive doses of Rabindranath to keep justifying the name with that of the poet's name and its proximity with the mass people of Bangladesh. Surely Rabindranath is close to our hearts, but his name as the brand name of a telecom operator? Spend some more time around Bangladesh Mikey, you will realise what you are smoking.

3. It might be that a talented baby elephant works in the agency hired by Robi, who can paint as well from time to time. So the baby elephant got paid to come up with his best efforts for this renaming of Aktel.

We also discussed how this wave of negativity could have been mitigated to some extent if Aktel would have decided to experiment in certain cases. Assuming that we refrain from criticising the very name, but focusing on the process to arrive there. Lets look at some scenarios.

1. Internal Staff Survey:

According to Robiuls, staff was never consulted or involved in any way in this process. I wonder if an internal competition or consultation could have taken place or not,to ask for suggestions. Certainly Asiatic made sure that this was not required, otherwise why they are there for?

2. Involving Aktel customers:

Say Aktel sends an SMS to its existing users asking them to send naming suggestions to a certain shortcode for free. The lucky user whose suggestion would be accepted would win some trip or something. Or even users whose suggestions would reach the top 10 shortlisted names, would receive some sort of act of 'free love' from the mobile operator. Did that happen?

3. Involving ordinary consumers:

Then there is the traditional way of print and electronic media where Aktel could have tried to create some sort of a collaborative wave of competitions, suggestions by mobile users of all operators, ordinary consumers in this major rebranding effort in its history. What did it do instead? It relied on the elephant who paints and picks up names for brands from Bangla Academy dictionaries. Although it claims that 'Robi will remain beside the people of Bangladesh as they want. Robi will incorporate Bangla in all facet of its work. In Bangladesh, telecommunication sector witnessed massive development during the last decade, mainly due to the penetration of mobile telephony. However, there remain enormous opportunities for further growth as the economic indices grow correspondingly. As the main thrust of development will be rural-based, identification of the name with a Bengali word is expected to add significant value.' What this statement misses is the fact that picking up any Bengali name, as suggested by the elephant, will not reach the rural target audience until they know what that means, if they use it or not, even if its a Bangla word. No wonder their website is still all in English with the new brand name as the only Bangla script around. So much so for rural users of mobile in Bangladesh.

4. What about social media?

Another proof of Aktel's opting for archaic means of consumer involvement is the total disregard for social media. Certainly no other big Bangladeshi brands are considering social media in a large scale, nevertheless, Aktel could have taken this opportunity to set some sort of benchmark in crowdsourcing suggestions and getting users engaged in the rebranding exercise, which if rightly planned, could have taken some viral effect. Its interesting to note that all the comments, positive or negative, about Aktel or Robi is flying around nowhere else more but in social media and through the network effect, bad news is spreading faster for Aktel through the social network. See Aktel unofficial Facebook page for more brouhaha regarding Robi.

There is no denying of the fact that eye-brows might have been raised when Apple decided to call itself 'Apple' and started producing operating systems and computers. But it is to be noted that that is how they started, there has never been any rebranding involved (other than the logo) and consumers identify themselves with the company's products (iPods, Macbooks etc.) and personality more than they do with the brand name itself. Infact the product superiority and innovation has made 'Apple' sound like a renegade and trend-setter in its industry. Same with the case of Grameenphone's Djuice. Although it doesn't make much sense why a telecom product sounds like a fruit juice, they could affort that exercise on a child product brand targeting a certain market segment. Can we claim the same for Aktel or Robi? The lagging third player in the competitive mobile industry in Bangladesh is in the third position never because of its name. So its very unlikely that by putting up a different make up on a Sunday and renaming itself as Robi would be of much help.

I guess the mass consumers and citizens of Bangladesh are wary of renaming exercises. Unless there is no actual value added, or utility created in terms of consumption and the customer service that follows, all this would be futile. By the way, hats off to Asiatic and the baby elephant to pull it off Aktel's pocket real hard. Thank god its Monday today.


Jeeshan said...

Notice all other Axiata subsidiary names
Sri Lanka- Dialog
Cambodia- Hello
India- Idea Cellular
Singapore- M1

And Bangladesh-Robi??? Just wonder how they managed to convince Axiata on this new name.

Tahnia said...

don’t you all think any positive stuffs. Actually, People needs to be creative to accept this name. ROBI is just not a word, it can say lots of thing… Feel the ROBI & its power and watch the theme behind this… I hope everyone will like ROBI….

Tahnia said...

don’t you all think any positive stuffs. Actually, People needs to be creative to accept this name. ROBI is just not a word, it can say lots of thing… Feel the ROBI & its power and watch the theme behind this… I hope everyone will like ROBI….

Faisal said...

take time my friends................ you will start to like in near future. Just open the door....

Simon said...

The funniest brand name i have ever heard.

Shovon said...

how funny the name Robi.I want to ask axiata that have u directly connected with this re branding process?why u have apent lots of money to re brand aktel as the funny name

prantar said...

i m quite certain that by now all of the robi team members r disgusted by hearing negetive approaches to ur new name....along with everyone else i wud also add 'cheers u have successfully highlighted urselves as the worst telecom name holder in the country so far....'
but i m yet to understand how exactly u chose this name. if this robi was ur choice of some nutritious drink or some fertilizer kind of product then i cud exactly do u guyz plan to relate a telecom with robi????is it that aktel phones r now charged by solar power???? or is it that u tried to relate to orange...."orange is round and its a food" so"robi is round as well" like that??? i wonder if aktel ever had some intelligent people working or ever roaming cud they fail to explain the management how stupid the name really is......
pls dont take my comments personally i only felt the need u explain exactly how stupid the name robi is.....
however i was using an aktel sim along with a grameen now i had to replace my old aktel sim with a warid one....congratulations u have earned 1 less client at least as a result of ur new name ROBI

NAIM said...

i also agree with you. from almost five years i use a aktel sim. but after their disgusting relaunch with new name robi, i am demotivated and also replace the robi sim by a warid sim. so now they lose 2 loyal customers. i suggest them to rename the brand as - CELCOM BANGLADESH. Thanks.

Farhad said...

I don't accept this name.I think Aktel is very nice.But Robi (what'a boring name)
AKTEL " Clearly Ahead" is best.

Are you same to me I’m also a webmaster

Anonymous said...

This is a good decision to move as a ROBI Because Robi is associated with Bangla & Muslim culture.Most of the Cell Phone company named their brand with some bangla name. So I think they should have been taken earlier to compete with other. However, only name change will not give them the final result.

ferdous said...

you know guys i have stopped using the ROBI after hearing this name....its disgusting

Momin33 said...

The worst brand name for a mobile phone operator!!!!!!!!!

Towab Muhammad Yusuf said...

Aktel clearly ahead is best.