Book Review : Storm The Norm – 20 Brands That Did It Best

Published April 10, 2016 by vishalvkale



By Anisha Motwani


Image result for storm the norm reviewThis book is yet another milestone in Indian writing on our internal marketing and business success stories; for way too long we have been fed Western success stories in our marketing books and cases, virtually 100% of which have little direct applicability in India and consequently learnings from them. There is precious little literature on our own stories, of which we have examples aplenty. The complete lack of quality research on and writing on Indian cases is a major lacuna we face; one that is now being slowly bridged.

I recall reading only 3 books so far – one a book on Positioning giving Indian case studies, another a more recent book by Anuradha Goyal on Ecommerce companies, and this – the third one. And sadly, not one of these is available on book stores prominently; while I can spot an entire series of books by Western authors, Harvard and what not; as I mentioned in my review on HBR Case Studies book on Decisions, I can understand the concepts; but the setting is totally alien and inapplicable to the business atmosphere in India, rendering the much-vaunted HBR useless to me as a practicing business manager in the Indian Economy.


This book takes out 20 case studies from contemporary India – making it a treasure trove for all Business Managers. These are companies we have worked in, producing products we have purchased in a socio-cultural atmosphere we are comfortable in, and in a geography we understand. The chosen case studies are basis brands that have challenged norms, redefined markets or created new ones, brands which have been transformational in their impact and approach; all in all – brands which have done things out of the ordinary.

These brands can be categorised into 3 – Legacy businesses {Cadbury, Kissan, Raymond, Saffola, MTR, TOI}, Entrepreneurial {PVR, Makemytrip, Mirchi, Real} and Challengers {Tata Tea, Sprite, Axis Bank, Cheetah, Kurkure, Honda, Sensodyne, Idea, Ford Ecosport, Fiama Di Wills}. Challenger category represents brands which came from behind and launched an attack on the market leader/s; Legacy represents stories of old & established companies that have constantly reinvented and reinvigorated themselves to maintain contemporary relevance –and Entrepreneurial, representing brands that created new categories, and start-ups which defined a clear space for themselves in in emerging markets and product lines.

It is this varied approach, which attempts to cover most types of business challenges a brand can face in the market, that is the best part of the book. It also makes for a riveting read, as you are treated to an entirely different market, business environment and reality every few pages, breaking the monotony. It also gives deep learnings and fascinating insights for industry specialists like self, as it gives a peek into processes, best practices from other industries, which is a vital aspect.

I would not like to make any comment on the choice of brands; we are such a large and diverse market that a different author would like as not find 20 other cases as well; what matters is we are seeing a write-up on a wide spectrum of business cases cutting across industries – and this may just be a first. Earlier books I have read have been pretty much industry-specific. There is a crying need for more such quality research – I hope and wish Management Institutes and Top Professionals are reading this, and will in future place before us more such quality output.


All in all, rated 4.5 stars out of 5; it was a tough call – 4 stars or 5; and, as befits a man who has studied Decision Making in detail, I simply used elementary statistics to arrive at this scholarly evaluation. 5 stars for the reasons mentioned above, and 4 stars {minus one} for one case study that I found to be inaccurate both as an professional as well as a person, for reasons I shall withhold; as well as due to undue focus on what I perceived to be Urban Indian Case studies. Be that as it may, the remains that this book is one of the best I have read for practicing managers and educationists alike, unlike all those HBR Books which I found to be impractical and  theoretical in the extreme.

The approach that I liked the best was getting the companies that actually did the tasks to write about how they did it within a framework developed by the author and her team; while this approach may have it downsides, it does bring an interval view, a cockpit view to the entire matter, and gives a realistic vision and exposure to thought processes, analysis of business realities, and how they planned it out, what decisions and risks they took. This obviously comprises valuable insights; what I would have loved , and what would have elevated this book to the level of 5 stars overcoming all other objections is if each case had an external expert analysis as well, giving a complete view to the professional. I especially felt the need for more numbers, and industry analysis to be present. But what is there is way more than enough, that is also a truism.

The learnings one can glean from these cases are diverse, and stretch across the fabled 4 Ps of marketing, giving a full insight to the thinking reader, as well as the practicing manager. The impact of each decision, the way it was taken, the approach taken in each case and the focus of the leaders on the various elements are covered in detail, which is valuable. In reading all, one gets a deep insight from the level of importance and emphasis placed on each component “P” by each company. Given that they are from diverse industries, it becomes a valuable learning when in the process of reading each case, you attempt to place the decisions and the marketing mix in the context of the industry it is from; this is what actually furthers your own personal growth, imho.

The book is a fast read, written in easy simple language and thankfully devoid of any jargon. It covers a diverse set of industries and Sectors – FMCG, Auto, Banking, Ecommerce, Services, Telecom, Media, Entertainment. What I felt lacking was that a couple of cases exclusively focussed on rural India could have been used; having rural sales experience, I am aware that what is applicable in our cities is not applicable in the interiors in many, many cases. Then, I also realise that it is not feasible for one book to do all –  and given the relative paucity of such material, this is a really class book, all things considered… 

2 comments on “Book Review : Storm The Norm – 20 Brands That Did It Best

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