Archies Superbrand Article
Before the advent of Archies, the Indian social expression
industry – as gifting has come to be defined –
was controlled entirely by the unorganised sector. The
gifts comprised such standard offerings as flowers,
books, sweets, garments – and in some exceptional
cases – silver and semi-precious stone trinkets.
The arrival of Archies began to slowly change this
predictable Indian mindset. A whole new range of unique
items were now available and lent a dash of élan
and colour to gifting. At the same time the quality
of merchandise, too, underwent a complete transformation.
The evolving consumer base with its increasing exposure
to developed markets, rising per capita and disposable
incomes, a more liberal view of western cultural practices
and the sheer joy of being alive that Indians are
wont to display, have added a whole new dimension
to social occasions. For every one of these, Archies
has developed a range of merchandise designed to best
express the sentiment.
Today, Archies is India’s apex market leader
in the social expressions industry with over 50% market
share in the organized sector (Source: ?). Having
championed the path-breaking concept of branded retailing
in India, Archies has expanded its operations in sync
with market needs. The brand currently operates 120
company stores in fourteen states and 36 cities across
India, in addition to more than 350 franchise outlets
in 100 Indian cities and five countries. Though still
in its formative years – per capita consumption
of greeting cards is estimated at a low 0.5 compared
to over 50 in the UK and about 40 in the US –
the social expressions market is growing at an exciting
15%-20% per annum.
Archies now has evolved from a cards-only outfit to
a complete social expressions company. With each gallery
stocking more than 5000 inimitable objects, Archies
has demonstrated exemplary mastery over its large
network of distributors, retailers and franchisees.
This company is a textbook example of how supply
can sometimes create its own demand. If increasing
numbers of Indians are celebrating special occasions
like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, in
great measure it is because of the ability of Archies
to bring focus on them and develop sales and marketing
strategies that are at once brilliant and unique.
Friendship Day – which is widely celebrated
nationwide on the first Sunday of August every year
– is also an Archies conception.
There is no better illustration of the company’s
inventiveness than 2007 when Archies instituted the
4th Sunday in September as Daughter’s Day. With
more people using the occasion to openly express their
affection towards their girl child, this enterprise,
backed by an effective communications campaign, is
helping change the otherwise narrow and orthodox view,
much of Indian society has held about girls.
Founder Anil Moolchandani started his business career
in a family owned sari shop in Delhi, after graduating
from college. One day a customer presented him with
two posters brought from the US which he displayed
in his shop. When visitors expressed interest in buying
them, he seized upon a business opportunity. He started
putting up posters for sale and, in a deft move, set
up Archies as a mail order operation. His first order,
worth Rs. 12 (now US$ 0.25) came from a customer in
Lucknow. As sales picked up, Archies introduced its
first greeting cards. Initially, these were simply
miniaturized copies of posters. The success of the
P-Series, which still sells, led to the creation of
a distribution channel. The business mounted, and
in 1981, the company held its first distributors'
meet in New Delhi.
In 1984, Archies acquired its first foreign license
from Walt Disney. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck began
appearing on Indian greeting cards. The products soon
attained international lustre and appeal. In a short
few years, Archies had become a recognised brand –
and a household name.
Tie-ups with global players enabled Archies to present
a range of special-occasion cards. The Archies Gallery
chain came next. This first-of-its kind concept-store
opened in Kamla Nagar,
Delhi, in 1987 and was an instant success. By introducing
organised franchising, Archies continued to grow by
leaps and bounds. The year 1993 marked the opening
of the 100th Archies Gallery store. By the mid 1990s,
the brand had not only become a public limited company,
it had also established itself as a clear leader.
As the market environment continued to evolve and
internet became an important aspect of urban life,
Archies kept pace by introducing e-cards and offering
online gifting opportunities through its e-commerce
Archies’ strap line ‘The Most Special
Way to Say You Care’ aptly echoes its position
in the market. Today, Archies offers a product portfolio
containing all-occasion greeting cards, gift items
such as curios, photo albums, photo frames, soft toys,
mugs, quotation plaques, key chains and a wide range
of stationery. Emotions have always been at the heart
of the Archies collections. With unmatchable quality
and unique variety, Archies provides its customers
a choice ranging from a three inch mini-greeting card
to a five-and-a-half foot teddy bear.
The company's strategic tie-up with Paramount Cards
in 1988 led to the introduction of new lines of everyday
cards such as ‘Thinking of you’, ‘Hello’,
‘Miss you’ and ‘Get well soon’,
among others. To give buyers a truly intercontinental
experience, Archies has successfully maintained its
licensing arrangement with American Greetings since
1993. In addition, it has exclusive distribution tie
ups with Keel Toys (UK), Paper Island (UK) for Fizzy
Moon, Russ Berrie (US) and Gund (US). Each of these
is an internationally recognised brand and Archies’
arrangement simply means that Indians now have access
A unique programme in the Archies product portfolio
is ‘Gift of the Month.’ In this marketing
initiative a product is chosen and sold at Rs. 99
(US$ 2.06) – well below its normal printed price
– for an entire month. The idea was to create
excitement within the store and thus attract customers
to the outlet.
Gifting isn’t an expression restricted to individuals.
Gradually even corporate India is falling prey to
its charms and seeking out innovative products that
match their brand identity.
Under the Giftworks brand, Archies has custom-made
a wide selection of innovative and compelling items
such as wine boxes, exquisite chess sets, candle stands
as also traditional wares such as desk sets, executive
table clocks and photo frames. In its traditional
role of satisfying the needs of individuals, Archies
upped the ante; it has tied up with Carte Blanche
Greetings of the UK for Me to You – the grey
bear with a blue nose. The character has been extended
into keepsakes, key chains, umbrellas and a vast range
of social expression stationery.
Archies has also produced the MTV Roadies merchandise.
This range of products includes boldly designed bags,
sippers, caps, mugs, photo frames, wallets and key
The latest addition to the Archies greetings cards
range is the singing card. This electronic chip embedded
collection of greeting cards, when opened, plays an
original licensed soundtrack. These cards are the
newest rage to hit India.
Archies now utilises the complete media canvas. Its
partnership with MTV has led to building an even stronger
relationship with its consumer base. Archies-sponsored
MTV Roadies 6.0 is a cult programme on Indian television
which, in a very brief span of time, has generated
a huge following. The programme is iconic in its appeal,
enjoys high television rating points (TRPs) and caters
to the most adventurous of the young generation.
The company has also worked out strategies like direct
mailers and contact systems for corporate houses.
Archies communications – using radio, print
and POP – directly highlight its brand proposition.
In recent times Archies advertising campaign carrying
the message ‘When you love someone your heart
celebrates’ has garnered a very affirmative
response from its customers and associates.
As a Superbrand, Archies has contributed significantly
towards its corporate social responsibility. Its tie
up with Help Age and CRY – both charitable organisations
– has helped bring smiles to many underprivileged
adults and children. Its stores market greeting cards
and social expressions stationery bearing the Help
Age and CRY logos. Both the organizations receive
royalty from the sale of these products.
Adorability and sentiment drive the brands’
appeal to all age groups and demographics. The key
to Archies’ success is the fact that the company
has consistently focussed on emotions and feelings.
Sentiments lend effervescence to the brand. Although
a market leader with no serious competition, Archies
never lets its guard down. It has always explored
ways to successfully keep the brand young and desirable.
No other brand evokes the same feelings of love and
romance that Archies does. It is unlikely that any
other brand, in the near future, will.