I met Clayton de Souza after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. Clearly, the young man is a man on the move. Hailing originally from Piedade-Divar, Clayton comes armed with a degree in business studies all the way from the United Kingdom. “Why Goa?” you ask him and he tells you something that makes great copy. “Because this is my land”, he says. With a degree in advertising and marketing, he could perhaps land a good job anywhere in the world, but he chose Goa. Clayton runs his father’s company, which makes the very popular Azul brand of bottled water. For the four and a half years that he has been around, Clayton has tried to get a grip on the market sensibilities of Goa. Compare it to the western market and he says, “The Goan market is very price-sensitive. Even one rupee can make a difference to a customer to switch over to another brand. Besides the socio-economic-religious factor also has a role to play. In the UK, the market is more open.” At his state-of-the-art facility in Sancoale, Clayton’s company makes close to 2000 cases of bottled water per hour. That’s a neat number, considering that his company is still under the SME (Small and Micro Enterprise) banner.
Does he think Goan consumers are brand conscious? ”The younger lot are very choosy about their brands. They are loyal too.” His most prized moments are when people specifically ask for Azul. Why the brand name Azul? Simple – in Portuguese, azul is blue and one cannot but associate blue with water, hence the brand name. For a young man who’s busy looking after his business, Clayton prides on the fact that his bottled water manufacturing facility employs 45 people who are trained to be multi-functional and not the conveyor belt variety. He believes in the Japanese business thought of kaizen where a product goes through small, yet continual stages of refinement, the results of which can be gauged over a period of time. For this, Azul falls back on its impeccable consistency and excellent logistics. “In a highly competitive business like bottled water, one mistake can prove fatal; we have to be focused on the business 24x7. And consistency is the key to survival”. In a market where Goan brands and products don’t enjoy much consumer confidence, Clayton’s brand proudly announces ’Made in Goa’ on every bottle of Azul. “We are extremely confident of the quality of our water. And the first step to earning respect in the market would be to have great regard for the product ourselves”. Profound words for a young man, who prides in working hard at his company. Clayton is adept at handling every function of his business, he even drives the delivery van, if the need arises. What is the one essential element that he feels an entrepreneur should possess? “Lots of emotional intelligence. You may be dealing with inanimate products, but your contact and relationship is with another human being. Be it your customer, distributor, dealer. You have to value relationships to stay in business”. With such mature thought, it is fair to assume that Clayton will be pushing much more than bottled water in the years to come.