FTMBA students Chris Dulgarian, Joy Henderson, Mijin Sim, and Akshay Yadav traveled to Turkey to complete their Spring 2015 IBD project with Indofood, the world’s largest producer of instant noodles.
Our excitement knew no bounds when we found out who our IBD client was – the world’s largest instant noodle manufacturer, Indofood (brand of noodles is Indomie)! Much to our surprise though, Indofood was facing some hurdles introducing instant noodles to Turkey.
The challenge seemed delicious, but the only problem was that our visit was 4 months after the semester started. Going beyond ourselves as usual, our team valiantly started soaking in the Turkish experience while we were at Berkeley itself, paying visits to yummy Turkish restaurants and reaching out to the Turkish community for insights.
Soon we realized why Turkey was an uphill challenge for Indomie. Not only was the Turkish food delicious, it was also relatively inexpensive and Turkish people were extremely fond of the diversity of the cuisine available to them. Meals typically had many courses, and the cooks in the house were proud of their elaborate food preparations.
When the team arrived in Turkey, we set about talking to as many locals as we could to get a better perspective of the target customers of Indomie. While some families kindly hosted us in their homes, we met other target customers such as youngsters in universities and coffee shops for focused group discussions and noodle tasting sessions.
As we expected, many people instantly fell in love with the taste of noodles. However, there were some concerns ranging from healthiness to awareness and packaging, factors that were potentially keeping customers from buying noodles. The Turkish passion for fresh food and local ingredients was unambiguous and very impressive. The bulk of the local population bought their provisions from bi-weekly organic food bazaars, where one could find an extensive variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and spices.
To gain more insights on customers’ buying habits and concerns, we gathered as much data as we could through ethnographic interviews, surveys and focused group discussions. The team realized that the two biggest bottlenecks in the sales of Indomie noodles were the lack of awareness about the product and perception of noodles as an alien food.
Even though Indomie had been in Turkey for 5 years, they had not invested in marketing their product, and this resulted in very sparse awareness of the noodles. Even when people knew about them, they would hesitate to buy the pack owing to the packaging and perception of flavor of the noodles. The most popular flavors are Eggplant, Beef, Tomato and Yogurt, and a combination of any of these seem to set off hunger bells for any Turkish person. These factors put together yielded in low sales of noodles.
The team ended up giving multiple suggestions for improving sales such as localizing flavors, introducing larger packs etc., all of which fell under one of the 4 P’s of marketing – Product, Price, Placement or Promotions. The suggestions were welcomed by the management, and they reassured the team that their own findings were on similar lines too.
With the final presentation delivered to the customer, the team had some free time to explore the beautiful and conveniently located country. We managed to squeeze in a few trips to different destinations in Turkey and Egypt, which were all affordable and close to Istanbul. The most memorable trip was to Cairo, where the entire team got to visit the pyramids for the first time!
Overall, the IBD trek was a real success, and the team learned significant facts about challenges in running the instant noodles business, especially in a nascent market. Meeting the beautiful people of Turkey and seeing breathtaking sights over the country were just the icing on the cake!
So if you go to Turkey and see Tomato and Yogurt noodles on a shelf in a supermarket, remember that the Haas IBD team of 2015 probably had something to do with it. Elveda Turkey!